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Beastie Boys 30 Year Tribute: Hot Sauce Committee Essays

Posted by November 24th, 2017 No Comments »

Hot Sauce Committee Party Two
Intro by Darren Selector, Grit Rock

2009 was the 20th anniversary of Paul’s Boutique. To celebrate, the Beastie Boys reissued a large part of their discography: Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty. All the releases would be remastered, available on CD and vinyl, include commentary, and all but Paul’s Boutique included bonus tracks. Very ambitious.

The group also had plans for a double album that they teased as Tadlock’s Glasses. (An inside joke so deep you need to be a master spelunker to get it.) In the meantime, a few lucky fans got a sneak peek at the group’s new material when they included a 7″ single of “Lee Majors “and another 7″ of their song with Nas in select packages of their reissues.

By spring of 2009 they announced the true title as Hot Sauce Committee and a release date of Sept. 15, 2009 for Part 1; and suggested creative, unorthodox release ideas for Part 2 at a later date in early 2011. They announced European and North American tour dates and live debuted new material from the album at that year’s Bonnaroo Festival (their final show).

On July 20 of that same year, MC Adam Yauch revealed that he had cancer of the parotid gland and lymph node. The album’s release was postponed and the tour cancelled. I watched the video when he announced his illness. It didn’t seem like a big deal. They caught it early; he just had to take some time off to get right. I don’t think I really thought about it. After all, this highly successful man would have access to the best to the best medicine money can buy, he’s got clean living on his side, his karma has to be in good standing with his Buddhist activism, and of course he’s an invincible rockstar legend. No worries.

A little over a year later, in autumn 2010, it was announced that Hot Sauce Committee Part One was going to be shelved and not released and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two would be released on time.  After some absurd sessions where the albums were being re-sequenced, it was decided that Part One would be released as Part Two with only minor changes.

A year and a half after the scheduled release date for Hot Sauce Committee, the Beastie Boys dropped their third single for the album and the sequel to the infamous “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” video, “Make Some Noise.” The full 30 minute, Yauch directed, long form version of the video might have the most celebrity cameos in any video ever. Its time traveling storyline is a clever way to connect their beginnings of success to where they had arrived.

Before 2011 ended, the Beastie Boys were announced as inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were introduced by Chuck D and LL Cool J in spring of 2012. Yauch was unable to attend due to his illness, less than a month later on May 4, 2012 ,he passed away. I cried the entire day. Rest in peace, Adam Yauch.

“Lee Majors Come Again” by Jim Biggs

“Lee Majors Come Again” was the first single from what would have been Hot Sauce Committee Part One in 2009 and made its first appearances on a seven inch that came with select copies of the Check Your Head reissue box set (it also popped up on DJ Hero that same year…).

My first exposure to the song came from some kind internet Samaritan dumping a rip of that seven inch on some blog or other I was following around that time. I didn’t know what it was, exactly; I just knew it was something by them I hadn’t yet heard. And it was good.

I had been a fan of the Beasties since my first exposure back in high school. Licensed to Ill seems ubiquitous in my memory, the cassette looping one side into the next on a beat-up Sears boom box as we played basketball… or pouring from the Sony stereo which was probably the most valuable (and certainly the most reliable) thing in my ’82 Ford EXP.

I wasn’t a big music fan in my early youth, but by my mid-teens, I was diving deeply into all manner of sound, leaning heavily into college rock (as it was called at the time) and punk/post-punk (though I likely wouldn’t have recognized that second label). I also had a big thing for early rap music, living just outside of Philadelphia allowed for fairly early and regular exposure to the dawning sound of the city. The Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash were probably the first tastes I got, and Run-DMC was probably the first rap I loved, but the Beasties spoke directly to my teenage id in the way that I imagine Bill Haley did to kids in the fifties and, probably more directly, as the Rolling Stones did to a new set of kids in the sixties. The music was fun, dumb and a little dangerous1, or at least it was to my teenage ears. Just the right mix for a sixteen-year-old boy.

The Beasties were still prominent in my rotation when high school ended, but after that, they faded in and out. I didn’t really “get” Paul’s Boutique at the time, save for the “Hey Ladies” b/w “Shake Your Rump” single, which was the soundtrack to my showers for many years after2. My waning interest probably had something to do with the length of the gaps between albums; it probably also had to do with the access I had to my college radio station’s library, which further expanded my musical knowledge and listening interests. All my new toys were distracting me from my old ones. It wasn’t until Check Your Head that the Beastie Boys caught my full attention again.

Check Your Head‘s mix of rap and punk blew me away and swiftly became the soundtrack to many parties in my first senior year (don’t ask). Somehow they were three albums into their career and each one was a unique and singular work. On Check Your Head they were reconciling their little known (at the time) hardcore roots with the rap that they had defined their career to date without being married to either sound, and then somehow still finding some room for rudimentary funk and other sounds. Paul’s Boutique‘s smorgasbord of samples was largely replaced by live instrumentation. They were taking the blueprint for all their previous successes (not that Paul’s Boutique was considered such at the time…) and tossing them aside in favor of uncharted waters. It still strikes me as a remarkable work to this day. It was way ahead of its time, but not in a way that sounds dated today. It was an instant classic.

Ill Communication came along and it felt like a continuation, a natural extension of Check Your Head, every bit the classic that its predecessor was, but with even more new flavors, including some deep grabs into (the dreaded) genre of jazz. It’s the first piece of the band’s work that breaks no new ground, per se, but builds on the incredibly diverse foundations that preceded it.

In the four year gap that followed (the longest between albums for them to that time), I found that other things interceded, not the least of which was a cross country relocation for me and a new scene to absorb. Once again, my attentions drifted elsewhere.

I’m not sure why, though the long gap in between records and the new set of new musical toys in my life might go a long way toward explaining it, but Hello Nasty never really “hit” for me. “Intergalactic” was an instant classic, and there were some other great cuts, but the ‘punk’ seemed to disappear and the experimentation seemed to take a direction that wasn’t as immediate. Mixmaster Mike’s addition was great in theory, but for some reason it didn’t really click for me. Maybe I just needed another break. “Hey, Beasties, it’s me, not you…”

To the Five Boroughs didn’t do much to bring me back. Again, it was a Beastie’s album that featured a couple of great cuts, but it never held my attention.3The Mix-Up’ was not the antidote to my situation either. I barely even noticed its release, thinking at the time it was another The In Sound From Way Out! – type of compilation. It never had a chance (with me). By the time it came out, I assumed the Beasties had just passed their prime (or at least my idea of their prime) and I moved on.

That brings us to 2009 and the sudden appearance of “Lee Majors Come Again.” I had no idea what I was hearing. It would have fit somewhere between “Gratitude” and “Time for Livin” on Check Your Head, or right next to “Sabotage” on Ill Communication. Could it have been an old out-take? Whatever it was, it quickly made heavy iPod rotation for me.

“Lee Majors Come Again” hearkened back to that early nineties period where they were tying together the musical strands of hardcore with the lyrical cadences of rap in a way that watered down neither and maintained the integrity of both.4 It had more energy than I had heard from them in years, and that in spite of the fact that we were all over (or in my case nearly) 40. They called out to the old days (the line “B Boys bringing it back to A7” a call out to the legendary hardcore club where they played their first paid gig), and made more contemporary references (mocking Apple Bottoms jeans, Ugg boots and Von Dutch caps in one verse). They shouted out to their DJ, Mixmaster Mike, and his plexi glass “sneeze guard” booth, not to mention the title itself referring back to the seventies and the Six Million Dollar star. It had the characteristics of all my favorite Beastie Boys songs crammed into one and was, for my money, the best thing they had done in over a decade. I couldn’t wait for more.

But wait I would. Initially, not too long. Another single dropped later that year (“Too Many Rappers”) which was pretty great (not “Lee Majors” great, but still). Then I started to hear rumors of a delay to the album. MCA was sick…

A couple of years later, Hot Sauce Committee Part One became Hot Sauce Committee Part Two’ That seemed like just the kind of goofy thing the Beastie Boys would do – release a part two without a part one. And what a release, a return to form. One strong cut after another. It sounded like a career retrospective, except it was entirely made up of all new material. They touched all the stylistic bases. The rhymes were tight. The tunes- their catchiest in ages. Would we ever hear Part One?

No, no we wouldn’t.

We all know how this story ends, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

Actually, no. Let’s leave it with “Lee Majors”, which now sounds to me like the last hard kick back against the fading light. It was a helluva kick, too.

1 On the topic of fun, dumb, and a little dangerous, I’d like to take a hot minute to mention “Scenario.” Big fans will immediately recognize this as a lost track from the Licensed to Ill sessions, heard, if not recognized, by many in the “classic” film Pump Up the Volume. It got past me at the time, due in large part, to the lack of existence of the internet. (I mean, I heard a Beastie Boys song that I didn’t know in a movie, but had no idea how to obtain it… the soundtrack album was a dead-end, at least in that respect, and it wasn’t on any of their albums, so what was a boy to do?) Many years later after someone invented the internet (I would like to believe just to solve musical conundrums such as these, instead of creating a forum for the insane ramblings of deeply disturbed individuals to reach a maximum number of shockingly receptive viewers); I was able to own a digital copy of this legendary track. It is fun. It is dumb. It is a little dangerous. The stripped down 808 beats and the idiotic, occasionally misogynistic, definitely juvenile (not too mention violent) lyrics awaken in me a little bit of the 16-year-old who was inexorably drawn to such idiocy. The Beasties disavowed their youthful indiscretions and ignorance, and I certainly don’t subscribe to their old “ideas,” but god dam if I don’t enjoy the shit out of that track every time I hear it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I haven’t had it at my fingertips in one format or another since 1986, and thusly haven’t listened to it a metric shit ton of times, but it’s one of my favorites now.

2 This is not a euphemism for anything, it just so happened that that cassette single sat in the drawer of our bathroom cabinet for a long, long time.

3 Look, man, the Beasties are to me like the Beatles are to most. Their worst record is still worlds better than most. I’m just saying… some of those records didn’t get a lot of play from beginning to end in my house.

4 This is what “rap rock” should have been and could have been, but instead the world got stuck with Limp Bizkit, et al (sorry world-I feel like someone should apologize).

Beastie Boys 30 Year Tribute: To The 5 Boroughs Essays

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