My first concert with the Beastie Boys was in New York City. They were a punk band back then. They released a great punk single, “Polly Wog Stew”. I imported it to the record store in Copenhagen, where I worked. We probably sold around 20 copies.
Then they made a record called “Cooky Puss”. Back then, we still used landlines (and I used a telex machine to order the vinyl records from around the world!). And telephone calls often showed up in songs. This track was especially good. Both entertaining and funky, I personally pushed this record hard in Copenhagen in the eighties. We probably sold a couple of boxes of the 12″ single.
Then they got signed to Def Jam. And Def Jam had a deal with Columbia Records (CBS in Europe). The underground days were over. Their first single for Def Jam was “Rock Hard”. Heavy beats and snotty rap. I don’t think the record company had any idea what to do with it. Initially, it was not released in Europe. I imported the American 12″ single. Sold a couple of boxes of that. Then all hell broke loose.
The first album came out and it was a blockbuster. Now, the record company got interested. It went to number 1 on the Billboard charts. But of course the artist did not get payed. They never made an album for that record company again.
The next single was “She’s On It”. It was a mix of their old punk rock days and their new found hip hop stardom.
I remember seeing The Beastie Boys live again in London at a big event in Brixton. It was a double concert with Run DMC. It was the biggest thing in London that year. All the famous people were there. I remember drinking beer – a lot of beer! – with the actor Matt Dillon [check this movie scene!] in the VIP room. It was fun times. It was good times.
Then came all the hit singles, “Fight for your right…” and so on. The Beastie Boys were huge and a teenage phenomenon.
Then came the “difficult” second album. It turned out to be their masterpiece. “Paul’s Boutique” was a landmark album. Not only in hip hop, but in modern pop music. Again, the new record company Capitol Records (EMI) had no clue. But at least they stuck with the band and continued to release their music. And paying them, I guess. Also, financially supporting their upcoming own label, I think.
Later in life, the Beastie Boys made their own record label, Grand Royal Records. They released the first album by one of my favourite artists, Sean Ono Lennon. Here is the first single with a music video directed by Spike Jonze:
Here is a moving tweet from Sean.
Adam Yauch. You will be missed. R.I.P.