Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock at their finest.
Before they became rap’s biggest act, the Beastie Boys were a hardcore punk band into Black Flag and Bad Brains. Here, Adam Yauch is on bass while adding to the primeval racket are Adam Horovitz on guitar and Michael Diamond on vocals (with, on drums, Kate Schellenbach, later of Luscious Jackson), ahead of their rechristening (as far as Jews can be rechristened) as, respectively, MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D. The footage is from 1984, from a cable TV programme called the Scott and Gary Show, and includes such never-to-be-revisited early “classics” as White Shadow and Egg Raid on Mojo.
The 1986 bracket-fest (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) wasn’t the Beasties’ first single – that honour went to 1985’s She’s On It. It wasn’t even the first single released off their 1986 debut album, Licensed To Ill – in fact, it was the fourth. But the song, helped not a little by the video, was the one that propelled them to global infamy and, at least for the next three years, fixed them in the public imagination as the terminally bratty snot-rap upstarts. Cameos include Def Jam labelmate LL Cool J and their producer Rick Rubin.
Hey Ladies was the only charting single from 1989’s Paul’s Boutique and presented a different Beasties – the astute, adroit sampladelicists with a more far-reaching lyrical and sonic agenda, one way beyond the juvenile dementia of that debut: this is probably the only rap single in history to include snippets of glam rockers the Sweet alongside the more typical Kool and the Gang and James Brown. The 70s fetishism of the video – featuring the Boys in Saturday Night Fever flares playing swaggering Travolta-style disco narcissists – set them up nicely for the classic Sabotage.
Routinely regarded as one of the greatest videos of all time, Sabotage was directed by Spike Jonze and saw our heroes playing detectives in what was meant to be the opening scene of a TV show loosely based on, variously, Starsky & Hutch, the Streets Of San Francisco and Hawaii 5-0. Hardly surprisingly, it won five awards at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, although shamefully they neglected to hand out individual gongs for Best Kicking Down of a Door, Best Use of a Megaphone, and Best Moustache.
Intergalactic, directed by MCA under the pseudonym of Nathanial Hornblower, was the Beasties’ biggest hit in the UK, reaching No 5 in 1998. The video was another superb and affectionate parody that amply reflected their satirical imaginations: this time it was Japanese sci-fi/horror B-movies that got the pastiche treatment. Again, it demolished (movie monster pun intended) all-comers at the MTV Video Music Awards, and the Beasties got to live out their mad professor and cyber worker fantasies. And they got to show their best kung-fu moves while wearing yellow wellington boots.
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