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Production Credits:

Johnny Ryall Click for Lyrics

First Appearance: Paul's Boutique LP 1989
Written by: Beastie Boys & Dust Brothers
Performed by: Beastie Boys
Production Notes: Produced by Beastie Boys & Dust Brothers. Recorded at Mario G's, mixed at Record Plant. Engineered by Mario Caldato, assisted by Allen Abrahamson. Originally released on Capitol Records.

Behind the Beats and Lyrics...

Samples

  • "One of these Days" by Pink Floyd from the album Meddle (1971)
  • "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight from the single "Mr. Big Stuff/You Think You're Hot" (1971)
  • "Fight for Your Right" by Beastie Boys from the album Licensed to Ill (1986)
  • "AJ Scratch" by Kurtis Blow from the album Ego Trip (1984)
  • "Momma Miss America" by Paul McCartney from the album McCartney (1970)
  • "Military Cut-Scratch Mix" by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore from the Wild Style soundtrack (1983)
  • "Sharon" by David Bromberg from the album Demon in Disguise (1972)
  • "The New Style" by Beastie Boys from the album Licensed to Ill (1986)
  • "Magnificent Sanctuary Band" by Donny Hathaway from the album Donny Hathaway (1971)

References

  • Gucci - luxury brand of fashion clothing and accessories
  • Ed Koch (1924-2013) - former mayor of New York City
  • The Bowery - a street in Manhattan, formerly a famous skid row
  • Maggie's Farm - a 1965 song by Bob Dylan
  • Rockabilly - a form of popular music derived from hillbilly styles, characterized by repeticious melody and rhythm and exaggerated vocal mannerisms
  • Rocks - slang for crack, a deadly form of cocaine
  • Pumas - a brand of tennis shoes
  • Tye-dyes - popular style of clothing in the 60's, consisting of brightly colored "trippy" designs
  • Thunderbird - inexpensive wine; also referenced in "Hold It Now Hit It"
  • Memphis - city in Tennessee, famous origin for 50's rockabilly recording artists
  • Boots - Bootsy Collins (1951- ), a bass player who played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic
  • Louis Vuitton - a fashion design company
  • Night Train - a song by James Brown
  • O.E. - Old English Malt Liquor
  • Donald Trump (1946- ) - a well-known New York businessman and real estate developer
  • Wonder Bread - a popular brand of white bread
  • Helter Skelter - a 1968 song by The Beatles
  • Blue Suede Shoes - a 1954 song by Carl Perkins that was later recorded by Elvis Presley
  • Elvis - Elvis Presley (1935-1977), an American singer and actor whose first recordings fused black rural blues with gospel and country

Sample & Reference Breakdown

  • Wind noise - a sample from "One of these Days" by Pink Floyd
  • Chimes - a sample from "Military Cut-Scratch Mix" by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore
  • Various beat samples from "Momma Miss America" by Paul McCartney
  • Bass, rhythm and lead guitar samples from "Sharon" by David Bromberg
  • "Memphis is where he's from (in Tennessee)," "A rockabilly past at which nobody knows," "Remember the good ole days with the rockabilly crowd," "He's a rockabilly star from the days of old" - refers to "a rockabilly past" in the early 1950's, Sun Records (based in Memphis) recorded rockabilly artists who were known to have been the pioneers of rock 'n roll, such as Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley
  • "Thunderbird is the word and you're light as a feather" - a sample from "Slow Ride" by Beastie Boys; also similar to the 1964 surf/rockabilly song lyrics in "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen ("B-b-b-bird is the word")
  • "(Johnny Ryall) who do you think you are?" - a sample from "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight
  • "Takin' the night train, drinkin' the O.E." - a possible reference to James Brown's "Night Train" as well as Old English malt liquor
  • "Elvis shaved his head when he went to the army" - refers to Elvis Presley's hair being shaved off when he was drafted into the army and served from 1958-1960
  • "That's right y'all (his name is Johnny)" - a sample from "AJ Scratch" by Kurtis Blow
  • "Kick it!" - a sample from "Fight for Your Right" by Beastie Boys
  • "Check...the cool...wax" - a sample from "The New Style" by Beastie Boys, their original lyric being "On the cool checkin', center stage on the mic, and we're puttin' it on wax..."

Commentary:

Beastie Boys

"Johnny Ryall is the bum on my stoop. And it was true...He was a vagrant gentleman who lived on our street. That's when I was roommates with the Captain--Sean "the Captain" Carasov--who was our tour manager. Johnny would be on the stoop, and a lot of times I'd be given a Def Jam satin jacket. And I would give this to Johnny to keep him warm for the winter. Russell [Simmons], at the time, lived down a block. He walked by and he'd go, 'This is terrible. Why are you giving him? He's wearing a brand new Def Jam satin jacket!'" - Mike Diamond on Paul's Boutique-20th Anniversary Edition audio commentary, 2009

"I don't remember recording this. I mean, I know we did." - Adam Horovitz on Paul's Boutique-20th Anniversary Edition audio commentary, 2009

Press

"...set against a blues-riff loop and dissonant guitar solo, spray-paints a wry, detailed portrait of a bum living on Mike D's block" - Rolling Stone, 1989

"[A] sympathetic depiction of a homeless man the Beasties knew from around the way in New York" - excerpted from Rhyming & Stealing: A History of the Beastie Boys by Angus Batey, 1998

 

Released Versions:

Johnny Ryall
Johnny Ryall (Demo #2)
Johnny Ryall (Demo)
Johnny Ryall (Instrumental)

Live:

Performed in 4 known Concerts.

First known Performance:
28-Aug-1994 : Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, United States

Last known Performance:
22-May-1995 : Mecca Arena, Milwaukee, WI, United States

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