She’s On It was the Beastie Boys’ third single. A big, dumb, frat-boy rock/rap crossover, it provided the Beastie Boys with an instantly identifiable sound.
Prior to She’s On It, the Beasties had played tinny, rattly 150mph thrash punk with all the melodic appeal of Courtney Love’s fingers being scraped down a blackboard. She’s On It transformed their outlook towards music and was essentially the blueprint for the Beastie’s early career from thereon in, setting the stall out for what would follow until the end of the 80s – a trio of shouty/whiny/immature white boys’ voices hot-wired to a primitive beat box with a lowest common denominator rock riff welded underneath. Utterly fantastic, of course.
With all the unspoken telepathy of a bickering old married couple finishing one another’s sentences, from She’s On It in ’85 all the way to the band’s 40th and final single, 2011′s Don’t Play No Games, what I really like about the Beastie Boys is that almost every couplet they ever wrote is SHOUTED! for added emphasis;
There’s no conFUSION in her conCLUSION!
She wants to waste my TIME and that’s no deLUSION!
Get on it!
She’s On It has the mercurial hand of Rick Rubin all over it. The guitar riff that underpins the whole thing, something I’d always thought to have been an unlicensed sample from some straight up 70s rock anthem or other, appears to have been written and played by Rubin himself. I’m happy to be corrected, but if you ch-ch-check the credits on the record, that’s what it looks like.
By the time the solo has kicked in, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re actually listening to Fight For Your Right. All that’s missing is a sticky-fingered Volkswagen badge around your neck and the ‘KIIIIIICCCCKKKKK IIIIITTT!’ at the start. Considered too low-brow even for the Licensed To Ill LP, She’s On It was only ever released as a stand-alone single, although it appeared on the soundtrack to pseudo Def Jam biography Krush Groove and subsequent Beastie’s Best Ofs. But if you want the real Best Of the Beastie Boys, you need to buy Check Your Head. The critics might say Paul’s Boutique, but the smarter among us know differently. Don’t we?
Around 1993 I saw the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion open for the Beastie Boys at the Barrowlands. I can’t say I remember too much about their show except that Spencer kept hollerin’ “Bloooze Explozhun!” through one of those distorting 1950s bullet mics like a hooch-soaked preacher from the deep south. That and the fact I ordered then waited about 2 months for the band’s Afro 7″, which, at that point in time was just about the most exciting thing I’d ever heard.
By some strange quirk of coincidence, the JSBX recorded a version of She’s On It for this year’s Record Shop Day.
A group playing sans bass can go one way or t’other, but the Blues Explosion nail She’s On It to the floor, staple it to r’n’b standard Jack the Ripper and give it a good Chelsea-booted, skinny-legged kicking, Big Muffs on overdrive, bullet mics in the red. All that’s missing is that “Bloooze Explozhun!” shout repeated more than once.
By another strange quirk of coincidence when I first heard this, I thought it was just about the most exciting thing I’d heard this year. Not now though. That honour goes to Frank Ocean’s Hero track. Hip hop doo wop with half the Clash on backing instrumentation. You should seek it out.