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Saturday, 28 January 2023

Saturday Live

Back in 1994 the Beastie Boys were not merely a three headed, six legged rap group- on the back of two groundbreaking albums (Paul's Boutique and Check Your head, 1989 and 1992 respectively), they  they were a cross cultural, genre hopping phenomenon, three men who knew exactly what time it was and exactly where it was at. Their 1994 album Ill Communication drew not just from rap and hip hop culture (though of course it did do that in spades) but also from soul, funk and punk, fusing samples with live instruments, with increasingly ingenious three way rhymes and a live band that included Money Mark and Eric Bob and guests like Q- Tip and Biz Markie. Ill Communication and the Boys' magazine Grand Royale presented a hermetic world of Beastie Boy influences and likes, that was both hilarious nonsense and totally serious. Grand Royale, running for only six issues in the 90s, had articles on Lee Scratch Perry, ramen (obscure stuff in apre- Wagamamas UK), martial arts, Moog synths, skateboarding and guest articles such as Thurston Moore on atonal jazz. It came with free gifts including iron on transfers and build your own card bass jeeps. The multitudes of rhymes and lyrics on Ill Communication are head- spinningly brilliant; the opening song Sure Shot alone has references to Dr John and Mr Zu Zu, Lee Dorsey, the Pelham 1 2 3 , Kojak, John Woo, Rod Carew, Lee Perry and Vaughn Bode and an apology for the way they behaved in their earlier incarnation- 'the disrespect to women has got to be through', MCA raps towards the end. Musically, Sure Shot is built around a flute sample from a jazz flute album. In 1994, the Beastie Boys, were the best band in the world. 

In the same year they arrived in the UK for some gigs and played a secret show in the basement of Slam City Skates, Neal's Yard, Covent Garden. Slam City was one of those places we'd make sure we visited on trips to London, on the looking for X- Large t- shirts, trainers and records (rather than actual skateboards although I had friends who were skaters back then). Slam City had skateboard clothing and gear upstairs, records in the basement (memory suggests this was a branch of Rough Trade). The footage here is the Beastie Boys, in full live set up mode with drums, percussion, keys, guitars and amps, crammed into the basement of Slam City Skates, playing a blistering thirty minutes secret gig.

Starting out with some of their typically stoned 70s instrumental funk, the cameraman losing the visuals for a while (and the sound quality isn't brilliant but it was an audience handheld camcorder in 1994, so maybe we shouldn't be too picky), Eric Bobo on congas while MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D kick up a storm. It's very close knit, straight out of the rehearsal room stuff, loose and groovy. At fifteen minutes Ad- Rock swaps guitars and moves to the mic, his back to the audience and they blast into Sabotage. Mike D moves from drums to the mic next for Egg Raid On Mofo and Tough Guy and then the three Beasties begin trading rhymes, squeezed in next to each other and finishing with the amped up, slow jam hip hop of Root Down, dropping science and playing the funky shit. 

Root Down

1 comment:

Echorich said...

Brilliant stuff!