RIP MCA / a personal recollection of The Beasties

May 4, 2012 at 9:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Yauch is gone.  And so is an era.  To be part of so-called Generation X is to have experienced the Beastie Boys in a myriad of ways, in their journey and ours.  I may not necessarily be within the 20% Nation of Beasties obsessives, but they weaved in and out of the soundtrack of my life and I hold them dear.  They progressed from punks to gap-bridging pioneers of hip hop to elegantly-aging humanitarians and we attempted to run side by side. 

I clearly recall License To Ill as forbidden fruit in its heyday.  It was ranchy and nasty and the parents hated it.  As a result, we preteens revered it and to own a copy of the cassette commanded instant respect.  In my memory, only a cassette of Eddie Murphy’s Raw standup approached this level of taboo and naughtiness.  Though the Beasties themselves would eventually disown this record, it remains an important document of a time when hip hop was relatively young and white kids like me – who had an ear for the hard rock guitar samples – suddenly took notice.  They were snotty and obnoxious – in other words, glorious sonic junk food to the ears of an eleven-year-old boy.

The classic Paul’s Boutique and the return-to-punk-roots Check Your Head were only vaguely on my radar at the time, but you could not ignore 1994’s Ill Communication;  The full-throttle of Sabotage, the Q-Tip cameo on Get It Together; Sure Shot, which transcends a goofy flute sample into one of their finest works.  This remains one of my all-time favorite songs.  I requested it so often at a local bar the DJ simply added it to his set list.

At some point in early 1998, for reasons I cannot remember, my friends and I declared a full-on Beasties revival, revisiting all of their records.  We peppered our driving mix tapes with songs from their entire catalog and played their CD’s relentlessly at our occasional house parties.  This was prelude to their comeback album of that year, Hello Nasty, which served as our soundtrack to the summer of 1998.  We even wrote and recorded some Beasties-inspired rhymes about a road trip to Boston we were about to undertake, though I will spare you those lyrics at this time.

The one and only time I saw the Beasties was in June of 2003 at the ill-fated Field Day Festival.  Initially slated to be a three-day camping festival in the farthest reaches of Long Island, pressure by local residents resulted in the revoking of the festival’s license.  The entire event was in doubt until an 11th hour restructuring resulted in a pared-down one-day concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.  The latter part of the schedule consisted of heavy hitters Blur, Beck, The Beastie Boys and Radiohead.  In many respects, the day was an unmitigated disaster:  A steady down pour prevailed the entire day; and during Blur’s set, a backstage accident sent Beck to the hospital with broken ribs.  His set was cancelled, and the Beasties slid into his time slot.  It was their first live performance in ages and that they were rather rusty was beside the point.  They probably could have benefited from an extra hour of preparation, but they instead opted to keep a cold and soaked crowd entertained, and for that they were nothing short of heroic.

Though my most intimate connections with the Beasties end around that time, they forged on, releasing records and earning induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  When Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I could never have envisioned today.  I mean, who ever could?

One year ago this week, I moved to Brooklyn, birthplace of Yauch.  At the time, lots of No Sleep Til Brooklyn jokes were tossed around.  Tonight, it feels good to be here.

In his passing, Yauch blew up the internet today.  Artists of great diversity gave micro-eulogies on Twitter – even NY Senator Chuck Schumer quoted a Yauch rhyme in tribute.  All of these tweets gave Yauch props as an artist and innovator, but they in equal measure pointed out what a great person he was.  And that’s the best that any of us can hope to be remembered for.  Yauch is gone.  Godspeed, MCA.Image


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Sh*t My Brother Says

March 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Had this text message exchange with my brother when describing a beer I recently tried for the first time….

Me: Barrier Saaz Squash. Made with butternut squash, peppercorns, ginger and honey. Very unique.
Him: Sounds interesting.
Me: Yeah, not quite a session beer. The peppercorns pack a bite.
Him: Wait, it’s a beer? I thought it was one of your hipster recipes, LOL.
Me: No, you asshole. I thought “Barrier” was a giveaway.
Him: Haha. I thought Barrier Saaz was some organic farm upstate that u rode ur bike to on recycled prosthetic children’s legs who died from Bubonic Plague in the 20’s.

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Albums That Remind Me Of Summers Past, Pt. 1

June 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

The Walkmen – Bows & Arrows (2004)

If The Walkmen’s debut LP Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone mastered the exercise of elegant passive-aggressive bitterness, their follow-up Bows & Arrows inflicted an assault of precise punches, in its more sparse and quiet moments just as much as the ones that twist and shout.

This is not a soundtrack to a holiday in the Hamptons. This is a soundtrack to a humid 4th Of July weekend spent cat-sitting for your girlfriend in an airless, unkempt railroad apartment in Hell’s Kitchen with nothing in the cupboard but a can of lentils and half bottles of gin and triple sec. You’re broke and all your friends are out of town and your only companionship (aside from the cat) is a boom box CD player to drown out the relentless whirring of the box fan on the floor.  But this album spins and you square right up to the New York summer and sneer back.  And if you lean your head out the 6th floor window just so, you can see the glittering  pop and fade of the fireworks over the Hudson River.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

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I Wanna Be Your MTV

May 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Out of winter hibernation and feasting on a massive spread of new music.

Firstly, a new discovery.  Titus Andronicus obviously like Shakespeare, but they also pepper their songs with references to New Jersey (hometown: Glen Rock) and the Civil War.  “A More Perfect Union” is a seemingly true tale of an ill-fated relocation to Boston that evolves into a cut-and-paste reconfiguration of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic and The Battle Cry Of Freedom.  If you like the possibilities of Springsteen, The Replacements, and Desaparecidos shaken but not stirred, this may inspire you hoist your flag, whatever it may be.

Jesse Malin is lower Manhattan’s finest ambassador of rock and roll.  For yeares, he’s been providing places for the locals to play music (he owned the late great Coney Island High) and drink while listening to music (he owns the East Village haunt Niagra, notable for it’s cartoonish Joe Strummer mural outside).  He also has an impressive resume as leader of 90’s gutter punks D Generation and his own extensive solo career.  He returns with a new backing band, The St. Marks Social.  The first single, Burning The Bowery is a mighty blast of Lower East Side spirit.

The name Walter Schreifels may not ring a bell, but his fingerprints are all over some bands you may have heard of.  He toiled with New York hardcore staples Youth Of Today and Gorilla Biscuits before fronting Quicksand.  He then led the beloved Rival Schools and sadly overlooked Walking Concert.  Mr. Schreifels returns with a solo record, the earnest Open Letter To The Scene, which mixes the melodic tunefulness and do-right ideals of his previous two respective bands.    And for a former hardcore punk, he sure makes some pleasantly whimsical videos (see also “Society Suckers” and Walking Concert’s “What’s Your New Thing”, both searchable on YouTube).

I’m also currently feasting on the new releases by Gaslight Anthem, The National, and The Hold Steady.  Observations to follow someday.

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Keeping One Step Ahead Of The Kris Kringle Within.

November 18, 2009 at 10:09 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Bob Dylan’s Christmas In The Heart has been out for nearly a month now and I’ve successfully avoided it for the most part, strictly adhering to my no-Christmas-music-before-the-Thanksgiving-dishes-are-dry policy.

But now comes the release of Dylan’s absolutely bonkers video for Must Be Santa.  It is joyful, festive, and completely bizarre.  Further analysis is needed, but my initial thoughts are that it feels like some sort of Mad Men office party gone wrong (minus the John Deere mower and a mangled foot).  Odds are, it’s the first Christmas-themed music video to end with a man jumping through a window (there’s one at every party though, isn’t there?).  Finally, for some odd reason, I keep expecting Shane MacGowan to show up at some point (must be the combination of madness and accordion).  Maybe he should have been cast as Santa.

Needless to say, I love it.


A personal anecdote:  Though well-versed since babyhood in holiday classics, I had never heard Must Be Santa until my first grade teacher made the class sing it.  Because we 6-year-olds had an underdeveloped sense of melody, harmony and diction, I had an awful time trying to figure out the words to the chorus (are they singing “musty Santa”?  Or maybe “frosty Santa”?).

Bonus:  Dylan performing a punky new wave power-pop version of Jokerman on Letterman, circa 1984.  Chicano punk band The Plugz are backing him.

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The Future Is In Eggs

October 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

This morning, I packed myself a sort of odds-and-ends lunch – hard-boiled egg, apple, banana, and a box of raisins.  And by “packed”, I mean “placed in a plastic bag”.  When I got to work, I noticed that the egg (which I consider the crown jewel of this lunch) was gone.  It probably rolled out of my bag when I set it down on the N train.  Somewhere between and Ditmars Blvd and Coney Island is a very smelly N train car.  Interestingly enough, the egg was of the organic cage-free variety.  This gives new meaning to the concept of free-range eggs.

 Also, when I took the banana out of the bag, the peel was rather brown.  I swear when I grabbed it this morning, it was yellow with spots.  Apparently, a 30-minute ride on the NYC subway can age a banana 3 days.

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January 7, 2008 at 1:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Cold symptoms that threatened me all week finally came to a head on Saturday, so I went to the local pharmacy for some Suphedrine .  It’s amazing how much of a hassle it is to get nasal decongestant.  Because people use it to make meth in their garages, you can’t just pick the stuff from the shelves anymore.  You have to take a card from the aisle shelf and bring it to the prescription desk, since they now keep it behind the counter.  So, I stood in a line and listened to this exchange between an elderly lady in search of an inhaler and the pharmacist: 

Lady:  but this is the one I want (waving her old inhaler)

Pharmacist:  the company doesn’t make them anymore.  We have a similar model, but I have to call your doctor to verify.

Lady:  but this is the one I want (waving her old inhaler).  For 40 years….

Pharmacist:  I understand, but the company doesn’t make them anymore.  We have a similar model, but I have to call your doctor to verify…

Lady:  but this is the one I want (waving her old inhaler).  For 40 years I use. 

Pharmacist:  the company doesn’t make them anymore.  We have a similar model, but I have to call your doctor to verify…

Lady:  but this is the one I want (waving her old inhaler).  For 40 years I use.  I come here.

Pharmacist:  Yes, I understand, but the company doesn’t make them anymore.  We have a similar model, but I have to call your doctor to verify… 

On and on for ten minutes.  Finally I get to the counter, give the clerk the card, and she looks at me quizzically.  So I say stupidly, “I’d like these, please”.  And she says to me, “this isn’t a coupon, you know.”  And I say, “I KNOW it isn’t a coupon.  I just need you to get it”.  She finally gets the box of Suphedrine (the 48 pack because they don’t have the 24 pack) and asks for my drivers license so she can enter all my information into the computer.  And then I sign for it.  For COLD MEDICINE.  Jesus.

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Grinches and Scrooges who take off their shoes-es

November 28, 2007 at 12:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

This morning, I watched a ragged man in the subway station continuously punching a Grinch poster while grunting.  Then, when I got on the train, a similarly disheveled man was taking up two seats muttering to himself.  He then proceeded to take off one of his shoes. 

New York City is awesome in a disturbing kind of way like that.



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I was there / I’m Not There

November 10, 2007 at 11:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

My good luck (either directly or by association) continued this week when I scored free tickets from to the Bob Dylan tribute show at the Beacon Theater. The show was put on in conjunction with the forthcoming Todd Haynes Dylan “biopic” I’m Not There. The concert featured several artists on the film’s soundtrack covering songs by His Royal Bobness, with 100% of the proceeds going to 826 National, a non-profit organization that helps students with creative writing.It was a decidedly ramshackle affair, probably hastily assembled with whichever artists were without prior commitments (thus, heavy hitters from the soundtrack such as The Hold Steady, Stephen Malkmus, Eddie Vedder, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, etc. were absent). But amongst those who did show up were My Morning Jacket, Mark Lanegan, Yo La Tengo, J. Mascis, John Doe, Lee Renaldo and others of esteem.There were some sloppy moments, such as the laughably awful rendition of “All I Really Want To Do” by an obviously stoned Edward Shapre & The Magnetic Zeros (complete with utter tunelessness and constantly flubbed lyrics) and the sight of punk legend John Doe in an ill-fitting suit, singing “Ballad Of A Thin Man” with the aid of a lyric sheet.But those cringe-worthy moments were offset by highlights such as Lanegan’s perfectly growly “Man In The Long Black Coat”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by two blokes from the band Gomez, Tift Merritt’s soulful “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, and Mason Jennings’ “Times They Are A-Changing”.  But the most thrilling portion of the evening was The Roots’ re-imagination of “Masters Of War”, which completely brought the house down.

Set list:

When The Ship Comes In’ (Marcus Carl Franklin)

‘Billy 1’ (Calexico)

‘Goin’ To Acapulco’ (Jim James and Calexico)

‘Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)’ (Joe Henry with Calexico)

‘Long Black Coat’ (Mark Lanegan with Calexico)

‘All I Really Wanna Do’ (Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros)

‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ (Al Kooper and the Funky Faculty with the Uptown Horns)

‘As I Went Out One Morning’ (Mira Billotte and the Million Dollar Bashers)

‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ (Ian Ball and Olly Peacock)

‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks)

‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ (Terry Adams)

‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ (Yo La Tengo)

‘Fourth Time Around’ (Yo La Tengo)

‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ (My Morning Jacket)

‘The Times They Are A-Changin” (Mason Jennings)

‘Pressing On’ (John Doe)

‘Buckets Of Rain’ (Jimmy LaFave)

‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ (Tift Merritt)

‘Can’t Leave Her Behind’ (Lee Ranaldo and the Million Dollar Bashers)

‘Santa Fe’ (J Mascis and the Million Dollar Bashers)

‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ (John Doe and the Million Dollar Bashers)

‘Masters Of War’ (The Roots)

‘All Along The Watchtower’ (The Million Dollar Bashers and guests)

The Roots performing Masters Of War at Coachella:

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Read once and destroy…

November 5, 2007 at 8:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I catch onto things slowly. Harry Potter, sushi, cellular phones, sexual activity – fads and institutions I was a bit slow on the uptake on, due to snobbish resistance, obliviousness, or other factors. And now you can ad blogging to the list. Why blog? Why me? Why now? Well, I must admit there has been popular demand, though I suspect it is more because all my friends are bored at work and less because I actually might have something useful, witty, informative or entertaining to say. But hey, Random House isn’t exactly offering me a six-figure advance for my memoirs, and this is probably better than my family morbidly flipping through my journals once I’m ashes and dust. Yes, it’s an indulgence of narcissism, but no more so than your average Woody Allen film. So anyway, feel free to become a faithful reader (if you read my blog, I’ll read yours and such). And if you don’t like it, you can return to downloading porn or stealing music or updating your fantasy football team. Godspeed…

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