Yauch was one of the founding members of hip-hop trio The Beastie Boys, along with his friends Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock). In 1986, The Beastie Boys released their first full-length album, “Licensed to Ill,” which became the first hip hop album to top the Billboard 200.
Recently, The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but Yauch was unable to attend the ceremony.
“Beastie Boys regret that Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch will be unable to join Mike ‘Mike D’ Diamond and Adam ‘Adrock’ Horovitz at the band’s induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in April,” said a statement released by group in April. “Mike, Adam and Adam are truly grateful for the honor but with only two of the three Beastie Boys attending, they will unfortunately not be able to perform at the ceremony.”
Q101’s Mike Noonan: It seems as though if you were a white, skinny teen or pre-teen in the 80s (or was I the only one?), MCA played a role in your youth. I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t blown away with the Beasties and Run D.M.C. when they took the world, thanks to MTV, by storm. The B-Boys seminal, hard-partying frat boy anthem-laden first album, “License to Ill” through their amazing and complex “Hello Nasty” was an unrivaled body of work in my opinion, a fact apparently shared by many given their recent induction into the Rock Hall of Fame. I hear so much back and forth about the validity of certain acts and whether their inclusion in the Cleveland shrine is an indictment on it or an indication of it as a worthless money-grab. Oddly, I didn’t hear anyone say anything bad about the Beasties induction recently. I think that speaks volumes about them and their legacy. Maybe they were overshadowed by Axl and the G ‘n R feud. Or maybe it’s because they are as universally admired as I’d like to think they are. Either way, those three wouldn’t have cared one bit.
I had the pleasure of seeing the three in what, sadly, I now know was the twilight of their career, at Charter One Pavilion in the fall of 2007. It was one of the best nights of music I can recall in the last decade, and perhaps ever. Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond, and Adam Yauch were truly in their element, not only killing each and every song they played, but then hilariously bantering back and forth, joking, smiling, and playfully having the time of their lives (all the while dressed as one might expect “Captain Stubing” from “The Love Boat” might dress for a night on the lakefront). The thing everyone I know who loved the Beastie Boys loved most about them was the way they did things their way: That night in concert, they put on such a great show because they wanted to be there, they loved what they were doing, and, best of all, you got the feeling that if there were no one else there, they would have been acting the exact same way. It was a voyeuristic feeling, and it was as if we were looking in on them in a recording studio in Brooklyn. The only thing missing were copious amounts of weed, and Q-Tip and Biz Markie waiting in the wings, laughing along with them.
I also had the pleasure of brushing, ever so distantly and anonymously, with their greatness in 2001. A good friend of mine, Brian Jones, and I did a cheap, but, to us, fun mockumentary film called “The Academy.” A few people liked it. Many hated it. We didn’t care. We were doing things our way, and it was fun as hell. If you were at the Vic the night in March ’02 we premiered it, I hope you had a tenth of the fun we did.
We approached a multitude of folks to get the rights to use their music in our little independent film. One notable person I personally stalked was Mike Doughty from the band Soul Coughing. I went back and forth with him via email, in fan forums, I called him, and I even had a wonderful confrontation with him in the basement of the Double Door as he was entering to play a show there. That’s right: I bought a ticket just so I could get in his face (nicely). I had high hopes he’d come around.
This guy would not let us use his music. Which was fine. But he wouldn’t give us a “no,” and that drove me crazy. I pursued him for months. This guy took himself very seriously. It was a real bummer.
We got a few yeses, and some were very unexpected. One was from the Beastie Boys. Thanks to Brian’s hard work they granted us the use of a remix of “Hey Ladies.” Their rep noted, bewildered, that “they never allow this sort of thing.” We were thrilled…and it made Mike Doughty’s inability to even utter the words “no”, “yes”, or “screw you and die” via email, let alone to my face, seem like a distant memory. It restored my faith in people. The Beastie Boys carried themselves so much differently then seemingly every other celebrity, superstar, rap star…differently than anyone. Gotta love people who do things their way. That’s something I’ll always admire about them, and people like them, who have a little “Beastie” in them. Do it your way. Critics be damned.
I recall looking for the B-Boys second release, “Paul’s Boutique” it in the early 90s and had little luck. I was in one of my “format changing phases”: The nonsense anyone born before 2000 has likely gone through when a new format is created and you have to replace your albums with tapes, tapes with CDs, and, most recently, CDs with digital copies. “It’s out of print,” I was told. That blew my mind. That album was panned, even though it was clearly genius, because, for one thing, it was so far ahead of its time that it suffered the same fate as many creative and intellectual advances: People reject that which they cannot understand. Perhaps more important, though, the reason it was a commercial flop, at the time of its release, was because it was such a sonic and lyrical departure from the shallow, simplistic, and lowest-common-denominator humor of the first disc. Thank God Adam and the rest didn’t throw up their hands and give in. They said, “We’re doing this our way.” Rather than reverting to safer ground and putting out a third album that was a cookie-cutter rip off of the first-and taking the money, the sure thing, the easy route…they did it their way and continued to break new ground, following “Paul’s” up with one of the best albums of the last 25 years in my book, “Check Your Head.” To think that the trio then served up “Ill Communication” and “Hello Nasty” on the heels of their run of three straight pioneering compilations is mind-boggling (and even enough to make people like me forgive them for their final three efforts in recent years…though time is being kinder to “To The 5 Boroughs” than I ever thought it would. Methinks, “Make Some Noise” aside, the band’s “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2.” disc will not stand up as well in the years to come, unfortunately, but it will not be counted against the band’s incredible resume I hope).
All told, as truncated as his life turned out to be, one would have to say that Yauch had a stretch of 30 years that, from the outside looking in, was as fun, accomplished, and influential as most humans could dream of enjoying.
A champion of the Tibetan cause and the Buddhist way of life, Adam Yauch surely exemplified this Buddhist phrase:
You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere.
He did it for himself. He did it his way. If only we could all be so wise and so free.
Here’s the track those guys signed off on if you never heard the “Count Bass D” remix of “Hey Ladies.”