Beastie Boys Story

Spike Jonze, USA, 2020

I love them, I love them, I love them! So just to warn you, this particular Film Nibble is a little biased…

This is a film edit of a live show Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) did as a retrospective of Beastie Boys, how they started and what they did. It follows the publication of their book last year, a comprehensive history of stories and photos. With loads of footage from the times they’re talking about, unscripted moments between them, and of course the music, the film complements the book rather than simply replicating it in a different format.

The trajectory of the band is interesting, particularly the early days. Beastie Boys started out as four NYC kids into punk, trying to copy their heroes Bad Brains. One member left, Horovitz joined, and they continued as a four-piece with Kate Schellenbach on drums. Yep, one of the original Beastie Boys was female.

And it was really good to see them now giving Kate Schellenbach the attention she deserves as a founding member – as they all got into the emerging hip-hop scene, the three guys started hanging out more with other (very influential) people, believed their own hype, and kicked her out of the band as they turned into the Fight For Your Right To Party dickhead louts that first brought them success.

These two middle-aged men are rightfully not entirely proud of the people they were in the mid to late 80s. Sooo misogynistic, some of the stuff they did. Horovitz reads out some of the lyrics to ‘Girls‘. They are appalling. He knows this now. He doesn’t even make a comment, just a bemused look of how shameful and ridiculous they are.

But how they turned it around! 90s Beastie Boys were a re-invention. They learned from their experience, personally and musically. They determinedly forged their own path – no bad management, no selling a product that wasn’t really them, creatively experimental. Musically, I think they created a sound unique to themselves – jazzy, funky, punky rap. They had such integrity and authenticity. To this day they won’t let their music be used to promote or sell something.

Since I discovered them in about 1994, I’ve always been a fan. But as I get older – and as they do, just the two of them now (RIP Adam Yauch) – and I learn more about them, I appreciate them more and more as a wonderful thing to have in my life. I admire how they were so determinedly themselves, that they did what pleased them regardless of what the trends were. For me, this is what made (makes) them cool, not any kind of hip-hop posturing. And luckily for them, thousands agree and they’ve been enormously successful.

I get from Beastie Boys positivity, energy, and the inspiration to just do it, be myself and stop holding back what I can contribute to the world, stop hiding my light under a bushel (as the phrase goes). They give me self-belief. So I am unashamedly a bit of a gooey pre-teen with all things Beasties. They never fail to put me in a good mood. I think they’re brilliant.

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