Yauch Loss Committee Part Two

Instead of jumping on the “R.I.P. to the celebrity” bandwagon, “top ten” train, or writing a straight article, I hoped to give some of my own thoughts and memories intercut with glimpses or additions to what’s already been written about the man I never knew was Nathanial Hörnblowér {I assumed it was a name for the whole band collaborating or Spike Jonze – and can you blame me?}.  Even if you skim this one…make sure to check the very last video.

Getting carried away as usual, I did the smart thing and separated the meat from the milk – the reminiscing from the eye candy (best I could). Since it took so long to get the first part off, I hope this still seems vaguely unique and current: though I feel mourning or reminiscing doesn’t have an expiration date.

If I had to peg a favorite Beastie live television performance, only one comes to mind. The MTV appearance with the band wearing suits and getting way into it was cool – as the old knocking stuff over and prankster days also had great examples; when they assumed everyone was in on the joke (Weird Al had a big presence at the time, so I knew what a good parody was.  Sorry, fratboys).

The epitome of the band was playing it hard and rocking it. No better example would be than 1994. Not only is David Letterman the ultimate playa, a genius of comedic proportions, and knows how to derail a scandal… but he also knows how to get his Root Down rock. Nothing proves the point more than the Beastie Boys attempting to “blow the roof off the dump” by performing “Sabotage” in the Ed Sullivan theater. Apologies for the quality not being broadcast, but what true Beastie fan doesn’t mind a little bit o’ lo-fi?

What’s better than being a trendsetter?  Rocketing through the stratosphere (before becoming Intergalactic). LL Cool J’s Goin’ Back to Cail music video has “Art” as the opening image (and how I love that horn/scratch intro): a statement art can exist in the music video format.

In 1989 the Beastie Boys seemed to take that literally. I won’t lie: I didn’t discover this surreal masterpiece until after its director’s death (Yauch); but if I was told this video was completed last week, I wouldn’t have doubted – being so colorful and vibrant.

A live performance of the song “Shadrach” was rotoscoped by the art studio Klasky Csupo (known best for the first three seasons of Simpsons, but also shows like Duckman and Rugrats): transforming a pedestrian “look at our concert” music video into the piece of art it is. As pointed out by Billy Johnson Jr.’s informative “top 10” article, this was twenty years before Kanye West’s portrait-in-motion “Power” debuted on MTV. My bold statement: “Shadrach” as a music video is still as current and amazing today as Paul’s Boutique; where the song originated.

High school basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot landed on many top lists of the former MCA’s achievements (Adam Yauch directed), even though it didn’t score well with the general public. Despite general opinion, there are two major reasons to consider this doc.

David Roth wrote a great tribute with a sports and filmmaking slant; which points out how current this doc still is. Despite highlighting Harlem’s Rucker Park, it has focus on three current NBA players: Lance Stephenson, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley. The latter two square off against each other on the screen, but are now Minnesota Timberwolves teammates.

Many articles mentioned Oscilloscope Laboratories: the Cerberus of entertainment? a three-headed beast concerning distribution, music, and movie production. I didn’t know what a wide range (or “scope”?) the Lab had, but checking out a list proved over fifty movies associated with Oscilloscope. A couple titles kept getting mentions, but I wasn’t totally impressed. Checking their catalog for myself changed my opinion – especially the trio Exit Through the Gift Shop; Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak; L’Epine danse le Coeur [The Thorn in the Heart].

All three directors have Oscar nominations to their credits: Banksy; Spike Jonze; Michel Gondry, respectively.  Even if two are obviously more cinematic, they are all brilliant artists in their own right. Thinking of all the talent and resources Oscilloscope garnered, and if Adam Yauch had a more cinematic drive… Look at all of the amazing music videos (of which Jonze and Gondry solidified their genius in way before feature film). What could have been? Think about this while watching the Gunnin’ trailer:

[SPECIAL NOTE: Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot will be on the network ESPN Classic May 19th (check local listings), and there is a listing of Oscilloscope flicks available for Netflix instant.  Great time to Ch-Check It out.]

In the tribute department, I read about the Red Hot Chili Peppers having an impromptu Beastie jam (And the New York Mets paying tribute with their team’s walk-ups, but what stirred me most was Coldplay at the Hollywood Bowl. I love it whenever a cover is done that can almost change the entire meaning of the song it honors. Want to hear the most passive rendition of Fight for Your Right to Party rallying for a partier’s rights?

[If you liked the Coldplay cover, grab the track here, free while it lasts…]

The next clip seems out of place, but hear me out.  The Beastie Boys were responsible for a lot of (un)due controversy; especially back in the day.  Though a practicing Buddhist and doing so much to rally against violence or unjust treatment/assumptions towards others, Adam Yauch knew not everything in life had to be taken in context. Otherwise, how could an alternate-history short film be MCA-directed that includes violence and general naughtiness all around?  [I recommend watching the music video first before tackling the full thing.]

This scene is from a series rated TV-MA in the states for a multitude of reasons.  The show’s theme deals with making choices and how far a path can lead someone due to a single decision. The show is Breaking Bad, and the clip is from the season three finale. Even if you haven’t seen the show or don’t want anything spoiled, this is a self-contained scene which could even stand on its own as a short film. I will caution it’s NSFW for reasons of violence.

Violence in a tribute to the multifaceted man who spoke and crusaded for peace on many levels? Exactly! Using the amazing track “Shambala” (from the more amazing album Ill Communication) as a musical bed, entitled by AMC as “Mike’s Killing Spree” – which is true and false all at the same time.  The song’s usage could call for speculation of the scene. Why are they chanting? Is it a warning? Is it to keep the man out of the building? Is it to warn the people inside that something ominous is to happen?

Listening to the song in this context makes me appreciate the parodic nature the band started with. This “song of peace” contradicts the scene’s violence, just as a trio in a “fad” music genre went against their Def Jam beginnings; causing a contradiction with their future selves: true musicians and artists with a myriad of music for their palette.

Unlikely juxtapositions seemed to a trademark for the Beastie Boys.  Bands who co-headlined or opened; and all of the samples used by the trio throughout the years, or even the other artists who sampled off the Beasties (JSBX for example). Out of context, it looks like no rhyme or reason – but when seen in perspective, it all seems to make more sense.

(click here or the above image to watch – I promise it’s worth it)

It’s obvious by now I have much love for Adam Yauch and all else who comprised the band, as their synergistic group and also as individuals. Even when the band was steaming full speed, this track could get me a little misty – so you’ve been warned. I listened to it again, and… Yeah.

Barely anyone from the “general public” heard about The Beastles. This fictional band; “presented” by dj BC; released two ultra-ambitious, and ultra-risky, full-length mashup albums [an amalgamation of The Beatles and Beastie Boys].

Track three off Meet the Beastles is a great way to sign off on this installment of the man who proved it was ok for one to be funky, innovative, and a catalyst for social change while going grey the natural way. Feel something for Yauch and all his legacy with “Buildin’ my Life” – but don’t say I didn’t warn you to find a teddy bear to squeeze first.


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