My Favourite Band: Beastie Boys



It's not often you can buy a slice of genius for a mere £3, but I did in late 1989. There I was, a spotty 15 year old, wandering round my local Our Price (kids, ask your parents), when I saw a cassette (kids, see previous brackets) with an intriguing looking cover. Closer inspection showed it to be the second album by a band I'd probably not even thought about for a couple of years, who had been wildly famous before seeming to disappear. I'd loved that first album, so thought I'd take the plunge... @Ugster1 here to tell you why I'm so glad I did, and why the Beastie Boys are my favourite band.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking 'what, this shouty idiots from the daft video?'. Yes, it's been a lifelong struggle to convince those not in the know that the Beastie Boys are more than 'Fight For Your Right', but it's hardly surprising that that's still the first reference for many. So although the story begins before that, we'll start in 1986 and cover the 'pre-history' later...

Released late in 1986, Licensed to Ill became the first rap album to top the US Billboard album chart, and introduced the world to Michael Diamond, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz (or Mike D, MCA and Ad Rock). From the very opening few seconds of 'Rhymin & Stealin', I knew I'd love it, Introduced to it on a school trip to Germany, I must have listened to it over and over, and despite being in my 40s now, it's still something I'll turn to on a regular basis, just to get that Proustian effect, to be transported back to a different time.

Alan Wilson

Alway good to get a Proust mention on BTM.

Matt (@Ugster1)

Thank you, hoped it would be noted! Chris told me off for using oeuvre though...

I'm not going to do a top ten of tracks - I'd never be able to decide - so instead will be one from each album. It'd be so easy to pick 'Fight For Your Right', but I'll pick my personal favourite...Great video too!

Alan Wilson

Got introduced to this via "No Sleep Till Bedtime" but the original is better.

Licensed to Ill was almost designed to upset people, as was the occasionally crass behaviour of the band themselves - probably the best example of using hype to one's advantage around at that time - but it was a hugely successful album. However, they did seem to have the air of one trick ponies, and before long seemed to have disappeared altogether. But they hadn't...

In the summer of 1989, they emerged with 'Paul's Boutique', one of, if you'll excuse my hyperbole, the greatest albums ever. I know that's quite a claim, so maybe I'll modify it to 'in my lifetime' (apart from 'Songs In The Key Of Life', obviously - they're only human). It was a slow burner, but has come to be recognised as a hugely influential album, across a number of genres. Miles Davies (yes, that Miles Davies) loved it, and Chuck D noted that '...Paul's Boutique had the best beats...'. Quite some fans.

So what's it like? Well, it's wonderful. 15 tracks that flow beautifully into each other, superb rapping as the three bounce off each other, and there's no other album that allows you to play 'spot the sample' to this level (there's a whole mythology about the sampling and how much was, or wasn't paid for). As with all BB albums, the number of lyrical references is mind blowing. The idea that it was viewed as a commercial failure seems laughable now as it is regularly appears on 'Best Album' lists.

Picking one song from this album is impossible (and made trickier by a lack of singles), but I've included 'Car Thief', as it comes second in a particularly excellent run of songs on side two (kids, etc...).

I'd better move on or I'll be here all day. In 1992, Check Your Head came along. This saw the band playing their own instruments in a major way for the first time since the punk stuff in the early 80s, and using all sorts of sounds - lots of bass, lots of distortion - to great effect. There's also a hint of a wider awareness, with several references to Buddhism.

It's a great album (I'll be saying that a lot), and I've gone with 'Gratitude' as the sample track, as it's encapsulates the style of the album: