|Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1987
By Sue Cummings:
Before the Beastie Boys rode in limos, they rode skateboards--wearing army boots and plaid flannel shirts, with fat marking pens bulging in the pockets of their ripped jeans.
Before the Beastie Boys became the media's bratty darlings--adored by Joan Rivers, smirking on the covers of Rolling Stone, Creem and Spin magazines --their name was scrawled on fire hydrants in seedy parts of downtown Manhattan.
Other names were sometimes written next to theirs: Even Worse, Killer Instinct, Bad Brains, Antidote, Speedies, Artless, Hinckley Fan Club, the Young and the Useless. Five or six years ago, graffiti was how New York hard- core bands, like street gangs, advertised. And while most of the members of these other groups graduated to more responsible careers, the Beasties (who will appear at the Aragon Ballroom on March 13) have made a career out of irresponsibility.
Their debut album, Licensed to Ill, is a breakthrough for the hybrid of heavy metal/rap music pioneered by Beastie Boys producer Rick Rubin. Currently hovering at the top of the charts, Licensed to Ill" has vaulted into the Top 10 faster than any rap record and is the fastest selling debut album in the history of CBS Records. But this break into the mainstream wasn't accompanied by a mellowing of their act. On the record they brag about drug use, illicit sex, theft and violence:
"A lotta beer, a lotta girls, and a lotta cursin'
".22 automatic on my person"
--Beastie Boys, "Paul Revere"
At a time when pop, even rock and roll, becomes increasingly safe and boring, the New York-based Beastie Boys have stepped in to supply teenage outrage-on-demand. What worked for Alice Cooper and Kiss is working again. Beastie Boy Mike D makes it all sound less calculated. "We're kind of doing what Bob McAllister did with 'Wonderama,' " he said of a children's television program in New York, "which is making people realize that kids are people, too. We're saying kids can really do whatever the (heck) they want. Look at us."
As if to demonstrate the point, the Beastie Boys suddenly become unruly during the interview. In vintage iconoclastic style, they indicate that they're getting bored with doing interviews, tired of explaining how they got into rap, what they think of Madonna, talking about Rick Rubin and their manager, Russell Simmons.
"Most interviewers basically just want us to rephrase the bio," Mike D said. "You already know us--why do you need to interview us?
"You already know what we'd say: 'We don't care about what anybody thinks.' Just make it up. Hey, can you say we're the richest teenagers in America?"
Not exactly, since the Beasties--Adam Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (King Ad Rock)--are all over 20. Perhaps they should be considered the oldest teenagers in America.
"No, that's Dick Clark," Mike D said. "Did you hear what happened when we went on 'American Bandstand'? They were really (upset) at us because we were the first band that ever had to be edited! That includes P.I.L. (Public Image Ltd.) and the Sex Pistols," he added, with a touch of pride.
It seems that the Beasties, in the rock-and-roll tradition inspired by Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show," made gestures that kept them from being shown from the waist down on television. Such antics have been a Beastie trademark since they were the opening act on Madonna's tour last year. Usually the Beasties got booed. But they had never cut a set short.
Mike D said that booing hasn't been a problem since the Beastie Boys started headlining shows. "Madonna was different. That was her ticket. If people pay money to see you, they have to cheer. They can't boo, or else they're chumping themselves."
Now that the Beasties are headlining, other things are different, too. The Beasties even have the luxury of hiring personal assistants. But as the Beastie Boys are quick to concede, life on the road has its pitfalls. Mike D, for instance, believes that the group's black fans aren't always aware of Beastie Boys concerts. "Radio is so segregated right now that it's created a situation where everything's segregated--including concerts."
And the Beasties are discovering that the organization of the music business creates problems for a group with a racially mixed following. "A lot of people have recently been asking us if we went to school with black kids," he said. "The press doesn't really understand this, but with black kids we're accepted as just another rap group."
Recently, the University of California/San Diego announced it had canceled the Beasties' sold-out concert there. The promoter's concern was due, in general to the group's reputation for rowdiness. Specifically, the promoter was worried that fans waiting outside the hall for tickets would become upset when they learned the event was sold-out. The problem has arisen because, since their tour was planned, no one predicted the Beastie Boys' following would outgrow the small-to-medium-size venues for which they had been booked. And the Beasties decline to do extra shows when ticket demand runs high.
"It dilutes what you do," Mike D said. "We're going by the blitzkrieg theory on this tour--hit hard, hit fast, get out of there quickly and leave a long-lasting impact."
Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1987
By Daniel Brogan:
The Beastie Boys didn't waste any time making it clear that theirs is not a show for the skittish. Their concert at the Aragon Ballroom Friday opened with a single spotlight focused on a giant bird cage. Inside, a zaftig woman in a leather mini-skirt began to bump and grind. As lights flashed and a pre-recorded rhythm track pounded from the PA, her gyrations quickened. From the wings, the Beastie Boys--three white rappers who go by the names Mike D, MCA and King Ad-Rock--spun onto stage like startled cockroaches. Then things got really wild. Before the end of the first song, "Slow and Low," a 12-pack of beer had been sprayed around the stage and a woman who'd been pulled out of the crowd had her breast exposed by MCA. Unfazed, she wiggled out of her jeans and--wearing a leotard and bobby sox--began go-go dancing near the bird cage. A minute later, Mike D slipped in his own beer puddle and landed flat on his face. MCA showered him with more beer and then jumped up and down on his partner's back. Neither missed a syllable. King Ad-Rock then extracted two more women dancers from the audience. One quickly began unzipping her skirt. "I think this is some kind of record," he grunted, before popping open another Bud. All this during the first song, mind you. So when I say that the Beastie Boys are the vilest, crudest, most reprehensible act that rock and roll has produced in years, you'll know that I'm not exaggerating. Their lyrics degrade women, glorify ignorance and revel in violence. Even so, they're the best thing that could have happened to a atrophying art form. The Beastie Boys' music defies categorization. As illustrated by the wildly diverse crowd at the Aragon Friday, it's part frat-boy beer blast, part punk rumble, part b-boy swagger, part head-banger explosion and part Saturday morning cartoon. More than anything else, though, it's kids blowing off steam. "Livin' at home is such a drag," chant the Beasties. "Now your mother threw away your best porno mag." Unbridled rebellious adolescent anarchy. It's something rock and roll could sure use an infusion of. From Elvis to the Stones to the Pistols, the best rockers have always been those who spit in the eye of polite society. Today, our most revered rockers are polite society. Steve Winwood. Peter Gabriel. Phil Collins. Eric Clapton. David Byrne. Even Bruce Springsteen. All middle-aged men who work long on craft and precision, but parched for sass. Until the Beasties' debut album, Licensed to Ill, hit No. 1 this month, things were getting awfully boring. For my money, three jerks who aren't worried about which fork is for the salad can only bode well for rock. So here's to the Beastie Boys. Long may they offend.