|The Guardian, May 23 1987
By Jack Barron:
When the Beastie Boys step on stage in Brixton tonight at the start of
their British tour everyone--the media, authorities, and fans alike--will be holding their breath to see whether the New York rap group
will live up to, or more appropriately get down to, the blaze of publicity which has rolled before them like a carpet of broken
flashbulbs. Only one thing is certain, they enter Britain as the most notorious group since the Sex Pistols.
The band's prankster behaviour at last week's Montreux Pop Festival
has ensured that. They rocked the genteel Swiss town with a 'fight' in
an hotel bar, clambered upon and tried to overturn cars, and allegedly
told a party of handicapped children to 'fuck off' (the group strongly
deny the latter), all of which made the sort of headlines even John
Lydon in his heyday wouldn't have gobbed at.
Subsequently, some Tory MPs like Peter Bruinvels called for the
Beasties to be banned, questions on the subject were raised in the
House of Commons, newspapers ran leaders on the issue, DJs such as
Radio London's Tony Blackburn and Radio 1's Bruno Brookes refused to
play the group's records, while John Sachs of Capital Radio went one
step further and smashed a copy of the band's single, Fight For Your
Right (To Party), on air.
The Beasties--who are all in their early twenties, and whose debut
album, Licensed To Ill, has already sold four million copies, making it the quickest seller ever outpacing the Beatles and Michael Jackson--insist that on this occasion they won't be laughing all the way to
'Have we just been cynically manipulating the press? you gotta be
joking,' said an exasperated Adrock (Adam Horowitz). Together with MCA
(Adam Yauch) and Mike D (Michael Diamond), Adrock makes up the rapping
trio of the group though there are actually four Beastie Boys. The
rhythms and rock guitar over which they sing is provided by Hurricane,
a black DJ who used to be a roadie for Run DMC, the band who,
ironically enough, the Beasties are supporting on their current tour.
'If anything the press are manipulating their readers and us,'
continued Adrock, whose father is the American playwright Israel
Horowitz. 'A year ago I could see us trying to get all this press, now
we don't need it. We don't need to hype our way to the top, we're
already there. The only reason we went to Montreux was because we
thought it would be fun. We didn't expect our every move to be
'Our attitude isn't one of, 'Oh look, there's a camera, let's get our
dicks out and piss in the street. ' Right now our attitude is the
opposite. It has got so bad now that if I see a camera I put my dick
away. The recent press coverage we've had is irrelevant at best and
sick at worst. That story about us telling crippled kids to fuck off
upset us so much that we were wondering if it was even worth
performing in Britain any more. '
Nonetheless, the Beasties are going ahead with the British leg of
their world tour--with or without their controversial 21ft hydraulic
penis stage prop and go-go dancers remains to be seen. And the fact
that the shows sold out months before Fleet Street were even aware of
the Beastie Boys' existence lends credence to Adrock's claim that,
'It's the music that has attracted people, not the stories of outrage.
Who cares if we insist on promoters providing us with boxes of condoms
backstage? The most important thing is the music itself, but the press
aren't interested in that.'
However the worth of the group's music has been fiercely debated in
the trade papers. Since Live Aid, modern music has suffered from a
tyranny of social conscience to the point where a musician's ability
to spout quasi-political rhetoric is deemed more important than any
sheer hell-for-leather enjoyment the music can invoke. It's this
applecart which the lewd and crude Beasties have gaily spilled. And in
the process they've stuck a metaphorical lump of TNT in the generation
Thus, while Licensed To Ill with its hilarious locker room X-rated
raps about sex, drugs, junk food, and bunking off school, has been
welcomed with open arms by millions of teenagers for whom it's a
soundtrack to adolescent rebellion against parental values, the older
critics have sat on the sidelines carping during the day and then gone
out at night dancing to the Beastie Boys in trendy London clubs like
Delerium and Go-Global.
'Most of the critics think they're intellectually superior to
musicians like us and so they brand us as sexist gay-haters,' said
Adrock. 'They don't understand that our whole stance is a parody of
rock cliches. It would never occur to them that we're being sarcastic
or that a bunch of American kids could outwit them.'
Of course, the mega success of these would-be Blutos--Animal House is
their favourite film ever--hasn't happened overnight. The three New
Yorkers first started playing during the heyday of American hardcore
thrash in the early Eighties as The Young And Useless. In the ensuing
years they teamed up with ex-punk guitarist and Hose leader Rik Rubin,
who mixed in heavy metal riffs stolen (the polite word is sampled)
from Led Zepplin and AC/DC. Shortly after, Russell Simmons, manager of
the hot black hip-hop group Run DMC, joined the team, which then
launched the phenomenally successful Def Jam Records organisation and
Run DMC and the Beasties chartwards.
And it's that dovetailing of styles, the crush collision between the
black New York street beatbox rhythms of hip-hop and white heavy metal
guitar, that has made the Beasties music irresistible to many.
Irritated purists hold that Run DMC were historically right in
reclaiming the black man's influence over rock and roll when the
rappers rode to number one around the world on the back of an old
Aerosmith song, Walk This Way. As for the Beasties: they are painted
as cheapening or degrading the hip-hop genre.
'I think that anybody who says that obviously doesn't listen to
hip-hop with an open mind,' said MCA. 'If people listen they'll see we
are in fact adding to and expanding the possibilities of hip-hop. Even
our friends Run DMC like what we do, get ideas from us, and encourage
us to experiment.
'We have a lot of influences other hip-hop acts don't. We were brought
up on The Rolling Stones and heavily involved with the punk scene and
dug The Sex Pistols, Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and so on. All those
influences feed into our interpretation of hip-hop. To say we're
ripping off a black genre is completely ignorant and racist.
'The only thing I'm going to be worrying about when we step on stage
in Brixton tonight is that, because of the recent press coverage, fans
will expect us to piss on stage, smash things up and generally go
wild. All we're here to do is give them the best show possible, it
scares me that we might disappoint those who've paid for their
The Beastie Boys begin their British tour knowing the fact that
they've been banned from all Holiday Inns and Eastern Airlines in
America for outrageous behaviour amounts to nothing when confronted
with an audience whose expectations are sky high. When all that is
left is the music, the Beasties are going to have to fight for their
right to party.
The Beastie Boys perform at the Brixton Academy on May 23, 24 and 27.
The Times, May 23, 1987
By David Sinclair:
'There's certain virtue in negative publicity, and a lot of it has
come from us just being ourselves, particularly on stage; but there's
a world of difference between that and beating up cripples, or
whatever we're supposed to have done according to these latest
Mike D of the Beastie Boys is speaking from a hotel room in Berlin,
and far from displaying any of the cocksure belligerence for which his
group has become notorious, he sounds deeply depresed. The 20-year-old
youth, who lives harmoniously with his well-to-do Jewish parents in
Manhattan's West Village, and who will be a millionaire once the
royalties for his group's debut album, Licensed to Ill, have filtered
through, has been learning a painful lesson.
Having courted a degree of bad publicity in the honourable rock 'n'
roll tradition established since 1956, when Elvis Presley was banned
from appearing in certain states because of his 'provocative'
gyrations, the Beasties have fallen foul of the Pandora's box effect
that such a reputation encourages. Mike D is horrified to realize that
a single uncorroborated account, immediately and categorically denied
on all sides, but neverthe less printed in a British tabloid paper,
should be so readily and widely believed.
'We're outraged,' he says, apparently ingenuously.
Among hysterical calls from Peter Bruinvels MP and Mary Whitehouse for
the group's British work permits to be revoked, constant protests from
Tipper Gore's Washington 'clean up rock' campaigners, and a wave of
scorn from the puritan Left, who condemn their 'unsound' politics and
loathe them for their middle-class background, little has been said
about the Beastie Boys' music.
But when they appeared in London last September, supporting Run DMC,
they turned in a staggeringly good 10-minute performance, a blast of
high-energy rap/metal that was reminiscent of the very finest moments
of punk: agressive, exciting, funny and fresh. Licensed to Ill was
voted the critics' No 1 album of 1986 in Melody Maker long before all
the media ballyhoo.
Even less has been said about the Run DMC, who are 'co-headliners' on
this tour, but who will nevertheless be the closing act to appear each
night. They too have had their fair share of bad publicity in America,
where a series of reports linked their concerts to ugly scenes of
violence. Strangely, such stories have dried up in the wake of the
current Beastie Boys' outrages.
Despite their detractors' best efforts the Beastie's giant hydraulic
phallus will be featured on the UK tour. 'When we thought of using it
for a prop, we thought it was pretty much the funniest thing in the entire
world,' Mike D explains. 'But when you get to Boise, Idaho, out in the
sticks, it takes on this whole new meaning as being the worst thing
that the town has seen in 20 years.'
Isn't it time to put a brake on this horseplay? 'I will not go out
there and be responsible for the world, that is not what I do, but . .
. I have learnt to pause a bit longer before I answer any questions.'
Tonight and tomorrow, Brixton Academy, London SW9 (01-326 1022); Mon,
Manchester Apollo (061 273 3775); Tues, Birmingham Odeon (021 643
6101); Wed, Brighton Centre (0273 202881); Thurs, Brixton Academy,
The Times, May 25, 1987
By David Sinclair:
While hardly the end of civilization as we know it, the arrival of hip
hop does represent the first serious attempt at a palace revolution in
rock since the onset of punk in 1976.
Here then were the main protagonists, both from Rick Rubin's Def Jam
label in New York: the over-hyped Beastie Boys and the bosses of the
movement, Run DMC.
The three Beastie Boys came careening on, wheeling and slouching
across the stage, to dispatch a raft of rallying calls in short order
while two go-go dancers wiggled around in an elevated cage to the
Of all the assumptions that the insurgents have challenged, it is the
business of the girls that has most highlighted the new generation gap
that the Beasties are exploiting. Even (perhaps especially) the
hippest members of the old guard have found that one difficult to
swallow, while the group can't understand what the fuss is about.
Run DMC followed with a set of minimalist gravitas that cast the
Beasties in the playful light that their name suggests. With gold
chains like hawsers round their necks, Joseph Simmons (Run) and Daryl
McDaniels (DMC) cussed and chanted across the sparce rhythm tracks
generated by Jam Master Jay's decks, before being joined by the
Beasties for a brisk finale of 'Walk This Way.'
The spirit of camaraderie and sense of occasion were of an order
rarely to be witnessed these days.