Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

Covert Operations

I’ve Been Watching You by The Southside Movement is exactly the sort of record that could have even the most conservative of Sunday drivers pick up the pace to an even 32 mph and cruise the streets while Detroit leaning like a Fedora’d pimp in heat-hazed Harlem. Its mid 70s groove, a head-nodding amalgamation of on-the-one funk bass lines and metronomic kick drums is tailor-made for the job. One look at the band responsible for putting such a groove together should give you an idea of what it’s like, should you be lucky enough to be listening to the track for the first time.

The Southside Movement I’ve Been Watching You

The mid-paced care-free groove belies that fact that underneath the funk there’s a mildly stalkerish theme going on, essentially the tale of a married man watching unseen as the (married) woman of his desires goes about numerous clandestine affairs. Spy and the Family Stone, if you will.

Its four-to-the-floor funkiness wasn’t at all lost on the Beastie Boys. Where other rap acts take a huge chunk of something groovy and loop it forever in the foreground, I’ve Been Watching You was ‘bitten’ (the band’s term for underhandedly borrowing a desirable part of a record that could be played by the band themselves) and used as the basis for So What’cha Want, one of the Beastie Boys’ greatest tracks.

Starting with the sound of the Southside Movement’s bass drum spinning in full effect on an old Technics turntable, Ad Rock jumped on board, adding extra kicks and snares and building layer upon layer of that huge dunk, kack, da-dunk, kack… rhythm. It’s Trampled Underfoot While The Levee Breaks, the sound of John Bonham playing loudly in a cave. Slightly sloppy but very massive.

Beastie BoysSo What’cha Want

Once the beat was in place, Ad Rock looped it ad infinitum and called his Beastie bandmates in to hear what he’d done with the sample. The vocals came quickly, the trio weaving in and out in trademark fashion, their voices distorted by happy accident through the cheap karaoke mics they were using in place of the more sophisticated microphones normally found in a recording studio. When the track began taking shape, Adam Yauch suggested the band throw away the sample and play the whole thing themselves, which they ultimately did.

So, not quite sampled then (there’s no writing credit at any rate, which wasn’t uncommon in 1991), but if you strip away the layers of noise on top, disregard the whacked-out distorted vocals, dismantle the incessant guitar riff, the squeaky Hammond and the cinematic atmospheric fade-ins, the genesis of the whole record breaks down to that simple kick drum beat. Kick it!, as someone once said.

From the album Check Your Head, So What’cha Want is the product of the band’s relocation to LA, where they built a studio and furnished it with vintage equipment. Such was the era, the studio-based musicians of the day favoured more portable keyboards and digital equipment over bulky, fragile and unreliable vinatge gear from the 70s. The Beasties were eagle-eyed scanners of the classified ads and would be first to react when any listing for Fender Rhodes or Moog synth jumped out at them – a sad irony they said, as the musicians selling the equipment were usually doing so because they’d ‘failed’ to ‘make it’. Here were the Beastie Boys though; forward-thinking, vintage-loving musical magpies.

There’s a terrific Beastie Boys Book out just now, a chronological telling of the band’s history through eye-witness accounts, whacked-out recipes and mix-tape suggestions. Packed full of brilliant candid shots of the band plus associates (and NYC), it goes without saying you should have it on your Christmas list. Expect more Beastie-related stuff in the coming weeks as I work my way through it.

Hard-to-find, Sampled

Shake Your Money Maker

The Beastie Boys might have portrayed themselves as three street-smart, sharp-witted goofballs with expensive tastes in trainers and sports-casual wear, but anyone with half an inkling knows they were much more than that. Behind the facade was a ruthless business empire including a record label, a magazine and their own clothing line, all of which were as undeniably hip as their Brooklyn-based beats. Working alongside the trio (but forever just out of shot) was a handful of trusted associates, pulling the strings, wheeling and dealing, making sure the well-oiled Beastie machine crept forever forwards. Alongside the film makers who captured their good sides on celluloid and the payrolled sneaker pimps who forever kept them in box-fresh trainers were a core of musicians and producers who could be relied upon to enhance the Beastie’s sound in the studio and on the stage. One such entrusted friend was Money Mark.

Money Mark was born Mark Ramos Nishita in Detroit to a Japanese-Hawaiian father and Chicano mother. The sounds he continues to coax from his assorted vintage keyboards are as exotic and interesting as his background suggests. He came to the Beastie Boys via producer Mario Caldato Jnr. when the producer asked him if he was able to fix the fence at the studio where the Beastie Boys were recording Paul’s Boutique. Mark was quick to point out that not only could he build fences, he could build recording studios too and, after duly building the Beastie Boys their dream studio, he began helping out with the recordings that followed.

Between 1992 and 2011, Money Mark collaborated on every Beasties’ release. Considered wisdom suggests that Paul’s Boutique is the highest of high points in a flawless discography, but when pushed, I’ll always choose Check Your Head. In no small way that’s due to Money Mark’s Fender Rhodes being allowed to roam all over its 20 tracks without a leash. It’s Mark that drives Sure Shot on Ill Communication, his rudimentary beat box vying for space with the understated keys, trying to reign it all in while the Beasties’ signature Panzer attack vocals spit and snarl from start to finish. It’s Mark who triggers the siren assault on mega-hit Intergalactic, and that’s him again, holding the groove behind the multitude of samples on Triple Trouble from the post 9/11 To The 5 Boroughs. You might not realise it, but Money Mark probably plays on at least 4 out of your top 5 Beastie Boys tracks.

f=”https://philspector.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/money-mark-by-stephane-kardos.jpg”> Money Mark by Stéphane Kardos[/capt
As well as being the Ian Stewart of the Beastie Boys, responsible for much of the general funkiness but stuck stage right, half-hidden behind a bank of speakers, Money Mark makes music in his own name. Push The Button, his second album is a melting pot of stoner grooves, clattering hip hop and gorgeous Fender Rhodes piano. Released in 1998 (shit – that’s 20 years ago!) it’s worth discovering if you’ve never heard it. And if you have, it’s worth a revisit. I bet it’s been a while.

The lead single Hand In Your Head is a mid-paced shuffler that takes its lead from Sly Stone circa There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

Money MarkHand In Your Head

Bass on this track is played by Sean Lennon, himself signed to Grand Royal, the Beasties’ label and drums are provide by Russell Simins, another who’s no stranger to a Beastie Boys record. In short, this has all the ingredients of a prime-era Beasties’ track without the gobby, snotty icing on the cake. And while you might enjoy that gobby, snotty icing, you can’t deny the simple mellowness of it all.

The b-side, if CD singles have b-sides, is just as good. Old track Cry is given a Dust Brothers remake, keeping the original’s downbeat groove and descending bassline – sampled from Quincy Jones’ version of Summer In The City, I think.

Money MarkCry (Dust Brothers remix)

The scratching and stu-stu-stuttering horn samples are very of their time, but the vocals! Man, it’s Sly all over again. Actually, it’s probably more Shuggie Otis. By the time the keyboard solo meanders in, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d regressed to some Hispanic neighborhood in uptown New York in the summer of 1973, fire hydrants gushing their escaping load out and across the stoops of the brownstones as kids play in slo-mo inside it.

Mark wasn’t always kept in the Beastie Boys’ shadows. At a memorable Barrowlands show during the Ill Communication tour, he waited until the encore – So Whatcha Want if I remember correctly, before launching himself over his bank of keyboards and out into the first couple of rows. He reapeared a minute or so later, trainerless but smiling, helped back onto the stage by MCA and a wee baldy G4 security guy who never even noticed him flying over his head in the first place.

Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

Tension Is Rebuilding. Something’s Got To Give.

When the Beastie Boys first appeared, a burping and belching frat boy’s idea of fun (and, KIIIICCCKKK IT!, it was fun when you were 15, let’s not kid ourselves), all backwards baseball caps and crotch grabs and stuck-on sneers, you could’ve been forgiven for presuming they’d have 3, 4 hits at most on the back of one album before disappearing with diminishing returns down the very Noo Yoik sewer from whence they’d crawled. But something happened.

MCA, the gravel-throated tall one, better known to his ma an’ pa as Adam Yauch, found inner peace. Through Buddhism he left behind the rapper’s trappings of guns, girls and glorified violence and guided his fellow band mates onto the path of righteous being. The Beastie Boys were always a cartoon version of the staple diet of rap to begin with. They had far more wit and wisdom than your average angry boy from the ‘hood to ever truly mean it. To coin a well-worn cliche, he, MCA became a lover, not a fighter and the band gradually dropped the more base stuff in favour of a sophisticated worldly approach.

The signs were there on Paul’s Boutique, the cut ‘n paste meisterwork that is considered by many to be the Beasties’ greatest moment. On the album’s Year And A Day, MCA reports that, “my body and soul and mind are pure.” By the time of 1992’s Check Your Head (the Beasties’ true greatest moment) MCA had written Something’s Got To Give, a call to unite the world as one.

Beastie BoysSomething’s Got To Give

It’s a real turn-up for anyone who thinks of the Beasties as ‘just’ three white boy rappers. Returning to their hardcore punk roots, to a time when the band played as a band, drums, bass, guitars ‘n all, the trio wanted to show the world there was more to them than sexist raps and songs jigsawed from the best bits of other people’s records. The cover of Something’s Got To Give‘s parent album Check Your Head featured the band sitting at a roadside carefully guarding their instrument cases and band ephemera. “We’re a real band,” they’re saying. “We can play our instruments.” And boy, can they!

Something’s Got To Give is a terrific slab of slow-burning rock/rap. And if that has you breaking out in a Chili Pepper-sized rash of disgust, listen to the playing. It’s echoey, live and loose. Built from a tape of the band jamming live in the studio, there’s so much depth and space and separation between the instruments it could almost be a Lee Perry production. There’s great hi-hat action. There’s some spot-on clavinova from 4th Beastie Money Mark who seems to be living out his mid 70s Stevie Wonder fantasies. And there’s that constantly na-na-na-nagging refrain that runs through it like the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson, taking you from beginning to middle to end. Every time I hear it, I hear a subtle new thing; maybe a stray piece of percussion or an Ad Rock adlib, that surely marks Something’s Got To Give down as a great track.

With trigger finger-happy Presidents here and itchy warhead owners there and a growing sense of right wing bully boy tactics over the UK’s stubborn and stupid stance on Europe, we could all do worse than listen to its message. And then jump over a ghetto blaster with giddy abandon, y’all.



Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten

Wee, Sleekit, Cow’rin, Tim’rous Beasties

beastie boys skate

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!

beastie boys shes 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?

jsbx bw

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.



Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

Rapped. Rapt.

A fuggy haze hangs low over the East River between Manhattan’s Financial District and the brownstones of Brooklyn. Clattering like one of those wooden toy snakes across the Williamsburg Bridge weaves a long, low train, lazily rolling its way along the J line. Sprayed in a dulling array of  pinks, greens and primary colours, tagged to within an inch of illegibility to those over 35, its contents sit in silence, oblivious to the multi-coloured carnage in which they are cocooned. Inside is not much different. It looks violent. It feels violent. Doors, windows, seat coverings; every available surface space is thick with the same chunkily inked shout-outs to whoever is reading. Every passenger finds a point in front of themselves and focuses, daring not to lift their head and avert their gaze lest they happen to catch the eye of someone close by. Women clutch their bags and count the stops until they can get off. Men, the good ones, the ones who’d like to think of themselves as the have-a-go hero when something bad kicks off in here, try to look both non-threatening  yet tough. The bad ones just look threatening. And tough.

One of the good guys

If this was the start of a movie, it’d be soundtracked by this, Shambala from The Beastie BoysIll Communication LP. Purveyors of the finest gravel-throated shouty hip hop since 1981, Beastie Boys also did a mean line in often-overlooked instrumentals. Shambala is spacey, droney and built upon a bed of Buddhist chants and brooding wah-wah. Kinda vegetarian funk, I suppose. There’s a nice drop out where the hi-hat does its best Theme From Shaft impersonation before the clipped wah-wah brings us back to the incidental music in a 1976 episode of Starsky And Hutch. That wee scratchy noise you can hear in the background isn’t authentic vinyl hiss – it’s the sound of the Stone Roses taking notes in preparation for their next set of ker-ching! comeback dates.

Also on Ill Communication is Bobo On The Corner, another fantastic slice of Beastie funk. More clipped wah-wah and droney bass, this time the sampled Stubblefield-aping shuffle beat comes from, presumably, one of those New York street musicians who can make 3 oil drums and an empty can of vegetable oil from Chinatown sound like a particularly funky octopus playing Give It Up, Turn It Loose. A bit like this guy…(maybe he’s the real Bobo on the corner. Or maybe not)….


If you prefer yer Ad Rocks ‘n MCAs ‘n Mike Ds rrrrrrappin ‘n rrrrrrhymin’, ch-check this out- Ch-Check It Out from 1997’s Hello Nasty, devoid of loops, samples and other assorted musical flim-flam. Just the 3 voices a-riffin’ and a-goofin’ off one another, like Benny and the Top Cat gang recast as super-bratty teenagers. And, bringing us back to where we came from, a vocal-only Stop That Train. Hot cuppa cwawfee and the do’nuts are dunkin’, Friday night and Jamica Queen’s funkin’. Essential!

Ach. Y’know you’re gettin on a bit when Beastie Boys start dying round about you. Rap on, MCA!

demo, Hard-to-find, Sampled

And I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh.

Yes! My hits per day has taken a sharp increase recently. Don’t know why, as I’m blogging far less than I used to, but thanks a million to you. And you. And you. And you. And… 

sadahura oh

Sadaharu Oh was a baseball player for the Yomiuri Giants in the Nippon Professional  Baseball League in Japan. He hit a world record 868 home runs in his career.  “And I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh” is a line from ‘Hey Ladies’ from the Beastie Boys ‘Pauls Boutique’ album.

Following the success of their globe straddling Licensed To Ill album with its Rick Rubin-produced juvenile rhymes on top of sample after sample of Jimmy Page and John Bonham, the Beastie Boys took themselves to LA and began working in self-imposed exile. With fresh money on their pocket, New York was too full of temptations. They relocated with the Dust Brothers in tow and worked on the demos that would become Paul’s Boutique. Given that it was a commercial disaster, the album was considered something of a failure and EMI quickly stopped promoting it. Yet, the album’s popularity grew and grew quietly. Music fans like me who wouldn’t consider listening to rap suddenly latched onto the facts that the album was constructed from a vast range of rock samples and references. Nowadays, Paul’s Boutique is considered the hippest thing in the Beastie Boys canon of work. Although I prefer Check Your Head.

pauls boutique

With 105 wholly uncredited samples, Paul’s Boutique is on a par with De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising for imagination, inventiveness and downright blatant stealing (I’ve already mentioned De La Soul’s Magnum Opus here) Familiar bits of records jump out at you. James Brown yelps and huhs all over it, hard-to-place bits of Pink Floyd fade in and out, Sly Stone bass lines and drum parts feature regularly, Johnny Cash sings about killing a man in Reno just to watch him die (though not on the demo, as you’ll hear); the album is a trainspotters delight, choc-full of musical refernce points. Even those sacred cows The Beatles get the Beasties treatment. Their late-period catalogue is ransacked and reassembled as ‘The Sounds of Science’. The Back In The USSR jet sound, the crowd noise from the start of the Sgt Peppers album, the Sgt Peppers drums, the oboe and bassline from the start of When I’m 64, the drum track from Abbey Road‘s ‘The End’, the orchestra tuning up at the start of Sgt Peppers, it goes on and on and on and on, all the while the 3 Beastie Boys rapping about Isaac Newton, Galilleo, Muhammed Ali’s ‘Rope A Dope’ boxing technique (which consisted of giving your opponent the opposite of what you lead him to believe he is about to receive) and anything else that comes into their way-too-clever brains….

Now here we go dropping science dropping it all over
Like bumping around the town like when you’re driving a Range Rover
Expanding the horizons and expanding the parameters
Expanding the rhymes of sucker M.C. amateurs
Naugels, Isaac Newton Scientific E.Z.
Ben Franklin with the kite getting over with the key
Rock shocking the mic as many times times the times tables
Rock well to tell dispel all of the old fables
I’ve been dropping the new science and kicking the new knowledge
An M.C. to a degree that you can’t get in college
The dregs of the earth and the eggs that I eat
I’ve got pegs through my hands and one through my feet
Shea Stadium the radium E M D squared
Got kicked out of the Palladium you think that I cared
It’s the sound of science
Public service announcement time and money for girls covered with honey
You lie and aspire to be as cunning
Reeling and rockin’ and rollin’ B size D cup
Order the quarter deluxe why don’t you wake up
My mind is kinda flowin like an oil projector
Had to get up to get the Jimmy protector
Went berserk and worked and exploded
She woke up in the morning and her face was coated
Buddy you study the man on the mic
D. do what you like
Drunk a skunk am I from the celebration
To peep that freak unique penetration
I figured out who makes the crack
It’s the suckers with the badges and the blue jackets
A professor of science cause I keep droppin’ it
I smell weed ’cause ya’ll keep packin’ it
People always asking what’s the phenomenon
Yo what’s up know what’s going on
No one really knows what I’m talking about
Yeah that’s right my name’s Yauch
Ponce De Leon constantly on
The fountain of youth not Robotron
Peace is a word I’ve heard before
So move and move and move upon the dance floor
I’m gonna die gonna die one day
Cause I’m goin and goin and goin this way
Not like a roach or a piece of toast
I’m going out first class not going out coach
Rock my Adidas never rock Fila
*I do not sniff the coke I only smoke sinsemilla*
With my nose I knows and with my scopes I scope
What I live I write and that is strictly rope
I’ve got science for any occasion
Postulating theorems formulating equations
Cheech wizard in a snow blizzard
Eating chicken gizzards with a girl named Lizzy
Dropping science like when Galileo dropped his orange

Clever stuff, huh, although a bit of googling won’t go amiss while you read the above. Here‘s the original LA demo of The Sounds Of Science’.

beastie boys

Here’s some more demos..

Johnny Ryall demo #2 Samples Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney drums, Jean Knight’s Mr Big Stuff and a whole host of stuff I can’t quite place. Elvis, Bob Dylan and Donald Trump are all mentioned in the lyrics.

Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun demo Samples the big piano chord from Pink Floyd’s ‘Time‘, nicks the drums from Ocean’s ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand‘ and some Incredible Bongo Band bongos. The lyrics feature references to Bruce Willis, A Clockwork Orange and Son Of Sam.

Shake Your Rump demo Samples (if you listen carefully and quickly) Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times drums, lots of Rose Royce’s Carwash (the looped wah wah guitar), some Bob Marley’s ‘Could You Be Loved’ and a million other unheard-by-these-ears 70s funk nuggets. The lyrics make reference to Kangol hats, Fred Flintstone and Pigpen from The Grateful Dead. Nothing if not eclectic.

Egg Man demo liberally steals from Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly‘. Lyrics make reference to Dr Seuss, Cheech and Chong, Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and Public Enemy’s You’re Gonna Get Yours.

Paul’s Boutique has undergone something of a critical reappraisal since it’s initial release. This year saw the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition. Sadly EMI chose not to feature any of the demos that are widely available on t’internet. More fool them. Until they do, enjoy the demos you’ve found here.


paul audio

There’s a fantastic series of books, the 33 1/3 series, where classic albums are untangled and dissected and their mysteries revealed. Paul’s Boutique has been given this treatment not once, but twice –  as a standard book and as an audio book. You can download the audio book free (and legally) here. Whatchawaitinfor?