I’ve been listening to the Beastie Boys
for most of my life.
My friend Aaron Thompson introduced me
to them – he had a tape of their first album
which I think belonged to his older brother.
(His older brother was best mates with racing
car driver Greg Murphy – and sometimes we’d
get a ride with him to the video store. Murph was
just a high school student – but he was a kickarse
driver even then).
From that first album I bought Paul’s Boutique – just
after it was first released. And that was the one. That
was my whole world.
It’s now celebrating its 30th birthday. Which is nuts to me.
These anniversary editions come and go and it’s 25 years since
Kurt Cobain died, and 10 since Amy Winehouse, and every
time you hear about these memories you go ‘wow’ and make some
comment about time flying.
But the anniversary of Paul’s Boutique is rocking my world.
First up, I think of all the music I learned because of that album.
Samples of Curtis Mayfield and Idris Muhammad and the musicians
that would go on to be my favourites – and samples of things I already
knew, horror movie soundtracks and The Beatles and
then there were the funny lines and inventive rhymes and slapdash/madcap
Secondly, my son is now a fan of the Beastie Boys. And it happened
quite outside of my interest in the band. He’s heard some songs on some
kids films, he has a friend at school that likes them. From there he’s discovered
I have the records. It’s now not enough for him to listen to the songs on
YouTube or Spotify. He has to have the vinyl cued up. (I’m proud. And scared.
And scarred. All at once).
The first two Beastie Boys albums are funny and crazy and filthy and silly
and I was listening to them when I was too young to fully understand every
joke or reference – and there was a lot of misogynistic bullshit in there too.
Somehow I could just gloss over that, ignore it. Enjoy the music.
And then one of the members of the group (their heart,
their soul – R.I.P. MCA)
addressed the sexism on the opening track of their fourth album.
He said he wanted to say a little something
he felt was long overdue. He said that disrespect
to women had to be through.
And to all the mothers, sisters, wives and friends he
wanted to offer his love and respect to the end.
That was it. A sure shot at redemption. With that
the Beastie Boys were off the hook and on the road
to being hip, elder statesmen.
And it matched my journey in a sense. From being a teenager
and a fucking idiot through my early 20s to trying to grow up, acknowledging
some blowouts and hoping to move on.
It’s lucky they dropped that verse in 1994. It wouldn’t have counted for much
in 2019. They’d have been cancelled. Probably.
Last year a friend of mine cancelled himself – took his life.
Lost the fight. Found a freedom. Ended one part of his journey.
When I got the news I was reading the Beastie Boys book – an amazing
history-grab that the two remaining members of the band put together
over nearly a decade, with love and thought and care.
I was walking around town listening to the audio-book and I was at home
thumbing the pages and trying to make any sense at all about the old bud
that killed himself. We weren’t close in the last few years – but when we
were good buds we would speak to each other in words from the Beastie world.
We would call each other Beastie nicknames, reference songs and lyrics – chant
verses, discuss the samples, the source material.
It was a bonding agent.
My son comes home from school and tells me about his new favourite
Beastie Boys song – which is my old favourite Beastie Boys song, and more importantly
is also the new favourite Beastie Boys song of his best friend from school.
And I’m caught between the back seat thrill-ride of Greg Murphy’s car down
the back-streets out of farmland Hawke’s Bay
and the phone call from last year about my school friend that chose his early
end – or wasn’t able to see to choose anything else…
The soundtrack to it all is the same album.
(“It’s a trip it’s got a funky beat and I can bug out to it”)
It just turned 30.
It seems long ago enough since I turned 30!
I have every Beastie Boys album. They were my Beatles. As much as The Beatles.
And their most important album is Paul’s Boutique.
to Paul’s Boutique.
All the best to Aaron Thompson, wherever you are, whatever
you’re doing. I’m sorry we lost touch. It happens. No malice.
And darling Oscar…not even quite eight,
good luck out there.
I love you more than you’ll ever