This is definitely one of those "damn, I feel old moments." When figuring out what song to use for this week's Retro Video of the Week, I discovered that License to Ill -- the album that put Beastie Boys on the map -- was released 30 years ago yesterday. What a great album. My friend Adam dubbed me a copy on cassette, and I listened to the album a lot in the late '80s.
License to Ill was just a mountain of fantastic rock-inspired hip hop, one of the first albums produced by wunderkind producer Rick Rubin. There's really not a bad song on the album. "Fight for You Right," "She's Crafty," "Girls," "Brass Monkey," No Sleep Till Brooklyn," "Paul Revere." These are all classics, not to mention the rest of the album. It's no wonder the album hit #1 on the Billboard album charts and has been certified diamond by the RIAA (meaning it has at least 10 million copies sold in the US alone).
In fourth grade, two of my friends (the aforementioned Adam and another kid named Danny) auditioned for our grade school's talent show, attempting to do a rendition of "Paul Revere." We practiced for weeks. Each of us memorized our lines. I was MCA, Adam was Ad Rock, and Danny was Mike D. We had a loose, but relatively faithful reenactment of the song. There was even a cardboard brick wall that we kicked down at one point. Frankly, it was awesome. Of course, after we auditioned -- sweat pouring down our heads, thinking we nailed it -- the parents and teachers conducting the auditions quickly explained in so many words that there was no way in hell we could perform this song because it references drinking beer, guns, and doing inappropriate things with whiffle ball bats. We were crushed, and had to change our act to a barbershop quartet instead. Brutal.
In addition to introducing me to the concept of doing authority figures' daughters with skinny plastic yellow bats, little did I know as a 9- and 10-year-old that this album would also be my introduction to a bunch of classic rock songs, as the album samples a wide array of songs by other artists, including, but not limited to:
-Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" (now one of my favorite songs of all-time) and Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" on "Rhymin & Stealin";
-Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" on "She's Crafty"; and
-War's "Low Rider" and Steve Miller Band's "Take The Money and Run" on "Slow Ride."
The song from License to Ill that I'm going with is "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," which might be my favorite Beastie Boys song. The song title is a play on Motörhead's live album No Sleep 'til Hammersmith, which I didn't realize until just now, and it makes me like the song even more. On top of that, in one of my favorite little-known guest musician appearances, Slayer's Kerry King plays guitar. And the video parodies hair bands, so I'm doing with it.