I was only 16 when the Beastie Boys came to the (now defunct) Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey. A die hard Beasties fan during that time–I’d flip flop between pretending Adam Horovitz “Ad-Rock” was my boyfriend or that I was Ad-Rock in my fantasy all-girls rap band–and a slew of my guy friends who were going to see the show offered me a ticket. The newspaper headlines told raunchy stories about their 1986 tour. A giant inflatable penis cavorted across the stage. Throngs of crazed teenage boys moshed in an out of control pit. Girls left the concert hysterical because their clothes were ripped off. “Nah, I think I’ll pass.” I said. It wasn’t a place for girls who talked tough, but who were actually into self-preservation. (Me.)
I hadn’t heard of rape culture yet, but I was certain that a Beastie Boys show wasn’t somewhere I needed to be. The next morning, my guy friends talked up the concert–but more, they had witnessed something of a second coming: all three of the group’s members–Adam Yauch “MCA”, Ad-Rock and Mike Diamond “Mike D” –at, yes, in Clifton’s one and only White Castle. The Beasties at White Castle–oh, that’s easy. But in my town? And I missed it? For a long time, I regretted my decision.
Only a few years later, in 1992, the Beastie Boys evolved artistically and politically. They not only donated money to the pro-choice movement, but Adam Yauch created the Tibet Freedom concert series which I was lucky enough to attend in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never heard of the Tibetan monks plight – never knew they were tortured, and had only started learning about Buddhism around the same time, but when I entered the Polo Fields that day, Tibetan flags hung across the grounds and monks stood on the stage chanting. All of a sudden, the band I was afraid to approach in my teenage years abandoned their misogyny and embraced a healing, positive way of life in which women and those less fortunate were embraced. In Ill Communication, Adam Yauch took the time to say this:
I Want To Say a Little Something That’s Long Overdue
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters And the Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The End
Though there’s so much more that the Beasties have done to support women — does anyone remember the speech that Ad-Rock gave on the MTV Awards about the rapes that happened in Woodstock and how it was unacceptable to treat women that way?–but more, as a band they evolved into a living creature that inspired and incited discussion. There are only a few bands that I can think have been able to evolve from a one-note machine into a complex soul-searching unity. That’s the Beatles. Yep. I said it.
True, there have been other bands that have embraced political messages. Yes, of course. This isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about being able to move on from that place of youth where you made mistakes and then make a tremendous, tremendous impact in the world.
THAT my friends, is Adam Yauch. You can call it age or wisdom, but I’d like to think that kind of turn around was spearheaded because of his passion of life, one that will continue in lives to come, impacting us with the same driving momentum he did in this brief stay.
It’s hard to pick one of my favorite Beastie songs because there are so many that I love. But here’s Sure Shot.