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Friday 11 December 2020

Check The Cool Wax

There's nothing like a blast of the Beastie Boys to freshen your day and set your head in the right direction, pick almost anything from any of their albums from 1989's Paul's Boutique through to 1998's Hello Nasty. Like this one...

Johnny Ryall

Johnny Ryall was a homeless man that Mike D used to pass every day when he lived in New York in the mid- to- late 80s. Mike D would as the song states often give him 'fifty cents to buy some soup'. Johnny used to regale people with tales of being a rockabilly star in Memphis in the dim and distant past, with Boots on bass and Checkers on drums, and claimed that he wrote Blue Suede Shoes. Mike, Adam and Adam's wordplay, trading lines in their nasal NY voices is a joy, sounding easy but the writing and the timing must have taken hours of practice. Paul's Boutique is famously made up of hundreds of samples (before anyone really got to grips with sample law) but the lyrics are similarly stitched together from the panoply of Beastie Boys references- Johnny Ryall mentions mayor of New York Ed Koch, Gucci, the Bowery, Maggie's Farm, Puma trainers, Thunderbird (cheap, fortified wine), Louis Vuitton, Wonder Bread, Helter Skelter (the song by The Beatles), the various rockabilly and Elvis nods mentioned before and the currently about- to- depart President of the United Sates Of America. 

'Donald Trump and Donald Tramp living in the men's shelter
Wonder Bread bag shoes and singing "Helter Skelter"
He asks for a dollar you know what it's for
Man, bottle after bottle he'll always need more
He's no less important than you working class stiffs
He drinks a lot of liquor but he don't drink piss
He paid his dues playing the blues
He claims that he wrote the Blue Suede Shoes
Elvis shaved his head when he went into the army
That's right y'all his name is Johnny
Kick it
Johnny Ryall, Johnny Ryall'

The music is similarly dizzying in its samples and sources. Out in LA the Beastie trio hooked up with production duo The Dust Brothers who had constructed loads of instrumentals by sampling and plundering their record collections. They thought the tracks were too dense for anyone to add vocals too but MCA, AD- rock and Mike D found the space. The rhythm track is borrowed from Sharon, a 1972 song by David Bromberg, while Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Donny Hathaway, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and insertion of the vocal line from Mr Big Stuff  by Jean Knight still raises a smile and a shake of the head thirty one years later. 


Jake Sniper said...

I love the Beastie Boys, so much great material.That album run is just amazing.

Swiss Adam said...

I can never decide which is my favourite. Paul's Boutique and Ill Communication are the ones I go to the most.