May 08, 2012
Adam Yauch died at the end of last week and it felt very like a punch in the chest. When Yauch was diagnosed with cancer, the boys put up a video recorded in their studio, all together, explaining why the promotion for, and the release of their new album, 'Hot Sauce Committee Volume 1" was now not going ahead.
The video said everything you need to know about the Beasties to understand them. Great friends, relaxed with each other and jokey with the camera on, even then. They welcomed you in as fans. They always seemed to feel that they were on some great project *with you*, because you loved them. I once read a lovely post on their bulletin board on beastieboys.com. Just some guy, who had called up when he bought an item of clothing from Grand Royale, and he realised that it was Yauch who had answered the phone. Amazed and overjoyed at such normal, everyday stuff. It was their thing, so they helped run it. No pop-star fuss involved.
I have many, many memories associated with the Beasties. Buying "Licenced to Ill' and my older brother (a cool hero in my eyes) looking at me bemused - why was I listening to this crap? Heh. So they were *mine*, not his! Then, rushing after college to buy Paul's Boutique on the first day I could get it from the Slough branch of 'Our Price'. Gatefold sleeve, woohoo! Got it home and it nearly blew my head off. What the hell was THIS! And having been brought up on The Clash, I guess, that genre bending guitar band, who dabbled with reggae and funk, worked with rappers and enhanced their music's potential no end as a result... yeah. I really fucking loved it. And pogoing... just pogoing around like a nut at I don't know how many gigs. Not enough. Never enough... damnit.
Now, I realise that the guys were only four years older than I was, and so their world vision and mine moved ever closer. While 'Check Your Head' kind of felt like an extension of Paul's Boutique to me, when Ill Communication came out, you have no idea of the sense of total vindication I smugly felt. The whole of hip London, that tried so achingly hard to be cool, suddenly cottoned on to one of my favourite bands. My then boyfriend had a poster for 'Sabotage' on his wall. And if you look at the imagery surrounding the record, it was reflecting cultural ironies of our generation - the stuff we secretly rather loved: the pisstake Starsky and Hutch video and the gorgeous, sweeping, joyous roar! Fucking A!
Oddly, it's not that album I turn to most. My favourite albums are the comparatively low key 'To the 5 Boroughs' and 'Hello Nasty', partially in the latter because the guys allowed themselves to be as all-out geeky as they liked and just funked the funk out (also including the overwhelmingly joyful Fatboy Slim remix of 'Body Movin' which as I recalled on the weekend, I would, for a whole summer, simply press 'Play' on to keep it on the headphones for hours at a time). The post 9/11 'To The 5 Boroughs' was thoughtful and gave you time to think about what they were saying - showing their hearts on their sleeves at last but still, containing one of my favourite stupido Beasties rhymes of all time, courtesy of Mike D in 'Ch-check it out', brought to life by a totally awesome and ridiculous video, directed by one Nathaniel Hornblower. That Gawker link does a really good job of summing up why just one side of Adam Yauch was so cool. And by extension, the ludicrous, perfect joy that he brought to the Beasties. You were in on a brilliant joke. The best music, made by the best guys, accompanied by the best fun you could possibly have whilst making a living.
Scratch that surface and you found a guy who loved films, had begun to really get in to producing excellent, intelligent movies, and whose personal energy was behind a huge increase in interest in the loss of rights by the Tibetan peoples after the Chinese occupation. There's a lot of good in Buddhism, though I have problems with it too but it definitely veers to the good side, and MCA's respect for it only really came through lyrically on 'To The 5 Boroughs'. He seemed to always be the moral heart of the band though. he was the one who admitted that they'd been teenage dickheads writing songs like 'She's On It', and I well remember standing applauding at Reading festival, listening to him mumbly-drawling out his explanation as to why calling a song 'Smack Your Bitch Up' just wasn't cool in the Beastie Boys universe, when The Prodigy had been on earlier in the day. Of course you couldn't call a song something so stupid, and expect not to be called out about it.
When he couldn't make it to the 'Hall of fame' ceremony, I was worried and assumed that he was too sick to go. And so the news came more as a horribly sad moment rather than a shock. I hope that the peace that Buddhism would have given Yauch in his life helped him through his exit, and I feel desperately sad for his family, and his two best friends.
I don't tend to say 'RIP' because it seems an odd phrase to an atheist, but I think if anyone should deserve it to be said, it's Adam Yauch. RIP.