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Saturday, September 25, 2021

pomp and pageantry
What a coincidence. I was just talking about the Beastie Boys and their latest album, “To the 5 Boroughs”, and now comes this story about the self-proclaimed “pageant” the group is staging for the album tour.

Is it just me, or does the article have a vaguely surrealistic tone to it? I felt it from the very first paragraph:

The members of Beastie Boys are flashing liquor and cash while betting on a street-level parlor game — with a Jewish twist. Instead of a 40-ounce brew, Adrock throttles a bottle of Manischewitz wine. In lieu of dice, MCA tosses a dreidel as Mike D hangs back with a gold Kiddush cup. Moments later, MCA, the band’s self-styled Kung Fu master, chops through a thick stack of matzo bread like Bruce Lee busting through three-ply mahogany.

And it gets better:

“We should make it clear that this is not a concert tour, so much as a traveling pageant,” says MCA, a.k.a. Adam Yauch. “We tried to gather feedback about the kinds of things that children are into and what came back to us was a pageant, repeatedly.”

For the uninitiated, a pageant is a spectacular, colorful display or celebration.

“It involves certain kinds of dress, certain kinds of festivities, celebrations, feasts or food. I’d like to emphasize the feasts, if I might,” Yauch says. “You don’t just nosh, you feast, you don’t just throw on some clothes, you get dressed, and these are the differentiations.”

That must have been some interesting market research they did, to get “more pageantry” in the feedback.

I like the doggie-styled inspiration they’re getting out of this:

“By watching the dog show, I get inspiration,” Yauch admits. “‘Cause you see them and like, they don’t hold back, you know? And they know how to work the crowd. They get up there and they know when to use subtlety.”

Diamond is also quick to underscore how the canine troupe inspires the B Boys’ own show.

“There are times when one dog will jump off the ladder and take a spill — and that’s for the team. You know, there’s no ‘I’ in team,” he deadpans. “We realize when we get out there, it’s a group effort, it’s a team effort and we gotta leave it all on the floor, which the dogs also do.”

And the topper, drawing from the Aerosmith oeuvre:

“We go way back,” Diamond says. “We do some songs from ‘Toys in the Attic,’ ‘Rocks,’ ‘Dream On.’”

Yauch chimes in: “‘Destroyer.’”

But it’s not just about recycling old hits.

“We also do some of our newer songs that we feel really proud of like, ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady,’” Diamond says.

Overall, I’m getting a picture of a mini-Lollapalooza. I never go to concerts, but if this one rolls into town, I’ll just have to get a ticket. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out.

This is a good opportunity for me to reminisce a little bit on the Beasties… I’m afraid I fell into that knee-jerk crowd who, upon learning of three white boys doing rap (shocker!), figured they were a bunch of posers. I made the judgement largely sight unseen; but what little I did hear of “Fight for Your Right to Party” and other tracks off their first record, “License to Ill”, pretty much confirmed my prejudice. The almost-exclusive use of electric guitar riffs and other hard-rock edges told me that this was an engineered attempt at white-tailored rap. Remember, this was the mid-to-late ’80s; rap was still new, and still considered mostly a black thing (lots of people still think that way today). The flop that was their follow-up album, “Paul’s Boutique”, just confirmed this for me.

All that was, of course, unfair. The Beasties proved their chops, and as they managed to sustain their careers, demonstrated their talent as they acquired more creative freedom. The sophomore jinx of “Boutique” happens to every new artist; in fact, I consider that disc to be very underrated, and proudly own most of the tracks today.

Did I ever think they’d still be doing this almost twenty years later? Probably not. But it’s good to see them still hittin’ it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/25/2004 06:07:16 PM
Category: Pop Culture | Permalink |

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  1. Are you joking? Pauls Boutique wasn’t a commercial success initially, but I remember at the time it came out it was lauded as a huge accomplishment in the music press, considering the departure from their first album. I’ve seen Pauls Boutique on many musician ‘top 10′ lists in popular magazines. I owned it when it was new and thought it was great, and I still think it is now.

    You might have considered it a flop when it came out, but I think you were probably in the minority. Most everyone I knew when it came out thought it was the shit. Just sayin’.

    Comment by The Belt — 09/25/2004 @ 07:16:19 PM

  2. When I say “flop”, I just about always mean in the commercial sense, not a creative sense. Personally, I loved Paul’s Boutique pretty much from the start, and loved it more each time I played it.

    Boutique did fall well short of the sales numbers of Licensed to Ill, and produced no hit singles. Again, part of this is the sophomore jinx every new act experiences; but the rather drastic (although not complete) departure from their debut material accounted more for it. Looking back now, it’s no big deal, but plenty of acts have failed to recover commercially from a poorly-recieved followup, and basically dropped from the public eye because of that. That could have happened with the Beasties, but it didn’t, and fortunately so.

    Comment by CT — 09/25/2004 @ 08:05:08 PM

  3. I gotcha, yeah it was definitely not commercially well recieved. Even if they had just made ‘licensed to ill part II’, with similar sounding songs, I don’t think it would have been a success. Their major impact was being a white rap group and creating buzz about themselves with the 40 foot penis onstage and whatnot. I don’t think they could have replicated their sales numbers from Licensed to Ill that way.

    It was better to take the high road, creatively, for sure. It gave them much more credibility in the long run and allowed them to continue making music.

    Comment by The Belt — 09/27/2004 @ 11:32:20 AM

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