The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys [Secure eReader (recommended)/Microsoft Reader/Adobe PDF]
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by Alan Light
Category: Sports/Entertainment/General Nonfiction
Description: In 1987, three white Jewish boys from New York City were the most fascinating phenomenon in the burgeoning rap music scene. No, really. The Beastie Boys, barely out of their teens, had just released Licensed to Ill, which quickly became the first hip-hop album to reach number one on the charts. Pairing vulgar and hilarious lyrics with heavy-metal-derived musical backing and a punk DIY attitude, the Beasties--MCA (Adam Yauch), King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), and Mike D (Michael Diamond)--changed the face of rap forever by bringing it into the mainstream. In the years that followed, they would change it again and again--musically, culturally, and politically. To create The Skills to Pay the Bills, Alan Light spent years taping conversations with the group, their friends, roommates, producers, engineers, collaborators, and other artists from Madonna to Chuck D. Here, as told from the inside, is the fascinating tale of three rump-shaking, innovative rappers whose albums still go platinum and whose tours continue to fill arenas after more than two decades of making music. The Skills to Pay the Bills chronicles the Beasties' unique journey from the hardcore New York underground to the top of the Billboard charts. It is a story of larger-than-life personalities, noble causes, funky beats, and truly one of the most influential and ambitious groups of all time. I said, Where'd you get your information from, huh? "The first time I met them, I thought I was on Candid Camera."--D.M.C. "I think I made out with Adam Yauch once in their dressing room."--Madonna ."One of my favorite groups is the Beastie Boys."--Bono
eBook Publisher: Random House, Inc./Crown Publishing Group,
Mundania eBookstore Release Date: January 2006
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure eReader (recommended)/Microsoft Reader/Adobe PDF - What's this?]: SECURE MICROSOFT READER FORMAT [1.6 MB] - Requires Microsoft Reader 2.1.1 for PCs, SECURE EREADER (RECOMMENDED) FORMAT [895 KB], SECURE ADOBE PDF FORMAT [1.8 MB], OEBFF Format (IMP) [1.1 MB]
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"Light’s notably well written presentation of their story explores the Beasties phenomenon with wit and purpose far too rarely manifested in the rock-bio genre. In incidents ranging from their almost accidental introduction to the recording industry to collaborating with reggae god Lee "Scratch" Perry to support for the Dalai Lama (they were instrumental in organizing a benefit concert for Tibet), the Beasties’ story is an engrossing, important chapter of pop-music history." -- Booklist
young and useless: 1981–82
YAUCH: I met this guy John Berry at Tier 3, a little teeny hole-in-the-wall punk club, and we hung out a little. Then a day or two later, John brought Mike with him. They had this band called the Young Aborigines—Mike played drums, John played guitar, Kate Schellenbach played percussion.
BERRY: When I first met Adam Yauch, he was the funniest motherfucker I'd ever met in my life. He had this incredible knack for picking up somebody's voice. He was really into Monty Python. I think a heavy influence of his was the silly-walk skit.
HOROVITZ: I have this memory of seeing Yauch at a record store. He wore an overcoat and boots and just looked funny. I'm not saying that I looked cool, but he looked funny.
FRERE-JONES: I went to Saint Ann's in Brooklyn Heights, this private, progressive school. Mike D came in as a junior. He was from Manhattan, was into punk rock, and instantly started hanging out with all the cool, good-looking girls. He used to wear an Isaac Hayes T-shirt, which was incredibly cool at the time.
CUNNIFF: When I met Mike, he had sort of crazy calico hair. Adam Yauch had a raincoat with "White Riot" spelled out on the back with pieces of tape, and combat boots. We all wanted to be hip, cool punkers.
The first practice was at my house—we called it the Hell House. Just a bunch of fucking noise. I don't think there was any direction, no one really taking any reins or being, like, the creative guru. It was just a bunch of kids dashing around.
SCHELLENBACH: Adam Yauch started hanging around, and after rehearsal he'd start playing the bass. He knew how to play "Public Image" by Public Image and that was it. Like two notes. Then we started switching around—I'd play drums and Yauch would play bass and we'd make up songs about the bodega downstairs, stuff like that. Mike had nothing to do, so we made him the singer. Which was funny because he was so introverted and shy and so he was the least likely candidate to be lead singer.
We went and saw Black Flag one night. It was like when Black Flag first came to New York and Dez [Cadena] was singing, it was before Henry [Rollins]. I think it was actually the first time Henry ever saw Black Flag, too. And when we saw Black Flag, all these kids from D.C. started moshing, and we'd never seen that before, diving off the stage. This was at Peppermint Lounge up on Seventy-seventh, or somewhere in Midtown. But I think we got kind of inspired by that. It was just when hardcore was kind of starting in the U.S., because we were listening to more punk bands coming over from England, Stiff Little Fingers and stuff like that. And things were starting to happen like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image. And that's the kind of stuff that was inspiring us. Young Aborigines was more going toward those kind of P.I.L./Siouxsie sounds.
I think after we saw Black Flag, we thought we should start a hardcore band. There weren't really any New York hardcore bands, so it was kind of like the D.C. hardcore scene, there was sort of an L.A. punk scene. But Bad Brains was the first band that was really starting to play fast. And I guess Minor Threat was probably just coming out. And we were like, Let's start a New York hardcore band, kind of as a joke. And that was called Beastie Boys. We were trying to think of the stupidest name.
When we first saw Black Flag play, we thought it was really funny. Like, Look at these people banging into each other, look at this guy sweating with no shirt on. (laughs.) Like, "What is this?" They started the band as, like, a joke on that. I don't know if they say that about themselves now, but that's really what it was.
Adam Yauch was making buttons for bands, homemade buttons. And he made this "Beastie Boys" button and it was cool-looking. It was just a cool word, and then we adopted it. So the button came first, and then the band.
This may be argued, but I think I actually came up with the name. We decided that we should have a gang, an Elks Lodge–type thing. We had secret handshakes and stuff and we'd wear old-man clothes that we'd find at Salvation Army, and we'd smoke cigars. The thrust was pretty much to walk around and annoy people and just be obnoxious. I don't think there was an agenda, really.
The first gig was a party at John Berry's house. It was my seventeenth birthday, and we bought a whole bunch of beer. I think it was the first time Mike ever got drunk.
That was, like, a notorious party. All our friends came and then people who weren't our friends came and there was a fight, someone got beat up and people had to run. Upper West Side kids, downtown kids, Brooklyn kids. And we showed Super 8 films, we had TVs on, we played—it was a multimedia experience.
Right after we played, Dave Parsons came up. He ran a record store downtown, Ratcage, and he said, "I'm thinking about starting a record label, would you guys want to make a record?" It was the first time we ever played, and we were playing at somebody's house. So—sure!
COUNTEY: Dave Parsons was the focal person in New York, [the reason] why everybody knew each other. He had this brilliant record store in the basement, it was in the same space that Bad Brains recorded upstairs. Dave was bringing records in, you could find all the UK Subs and Cockney Rejects and all this English oi! stuff, all this punk stuff, all the most obscure stuff, and he would just get his hands on copies of everything. We were all there every day, "What's new? What ya get?" "Oh, yeah, Backstage Pass!" All those great records.
Copyright © 2005 by Alan Light