Friday evening, the 4th of may 2012, news broke on Twitter that Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, also also known as Nathanial Hornblower, had passed away. Aged just 47, he sadly lost his near 3 year battle with cancer of the parotid gland. He was a visionary member of a visionary group, the man with a beard like a billy goat who had more rhymes than grey hairs, who as one third of the Beastie Boys defined what was cool for the last 25 years. At first, I didn’t believe it was true. But pretty soon everyone I follow on Twitter was talking about it and the depressing fact that it was true started to sink in. I was shocked and upset, but as the weekend went on I was really surprised just how much the news had upset me.
Living in the constantly updating social networking 24 hour news world that we live in you kind of get used to the news that someone famous has passed on. You see it written somewhere, make a comment to someone and move on. But this news was different. Not since I was a 13 year old kid lying in bed with my brother waking me up to tell me the news that Kurt Cobain had died had news of a famous person had such a gutting effect on me. Since the mid to late 90’s the Beastie Boys had been one of may favourite bands. Even though I was pretty much exclusively into emo/punk/hardcore etc.. those 3 mc’s from New York City remained a constant on my stereo.
A lot has been written about Adam Yauch in the last few days and as a huge fan I thought I would share my favourite Beastie Boys memory with you.
I got to see the Beastie Boys live twice. The 2nd time was the ‘in the round’ show at Wembley arena with the revolving stage on the ‘Hello Nasty’ tour, which was an amazing evening. But it’s the first time I saw them that, to this day, remains one of the best evenings I’ve ever had.
In 1998 I got my first proper job. I had taken a year out of college and found myself working full time in an amusement arcade on Herne Bay seafront. At the time I found it a bit depressing, looking back, however, it was a pretty fun time. My best friend got a job there too soon after me and we spent many a long day making ice cream, candy floss, calling bingo, giving out change and to be honest, dicking about. We also got paid in cash, every sunday, and this was a completely new experience for us. We were used to being young and stupid and having no real responsibilities, but now we had added disposable income into the equation and this opened up new posibilities. That summer we were planning on going to the Reading festival, we had been the previous 3 years and it was becoming an annual holiday for me and my friends and we took it for granted that we would be there. The Beastie Boys were headlining the main stage on the saturday night and this was something we had to be there for. We requested the August bank holiday off as holiday from work in readiness for us to purchase our tickets. Little did we know that that particular weekend was the busiest weekend of the year for amusement arcades in our area, a weekend they would rely on to see them through the winter and we would, under no circumstances, be allowed to take it off. It was either work or quit our jobs. Not being as rock’n’roll as we thought we took the first option and agreed that we would be available to work.
We were gutted. We couldn’t believe that we were being told we can’t go and couldn’t believe that we were going along with this. A few days after we were told this news, my friend Daniel and I had a day off and were sat doing nothing at home in my front room. I was flicking through a copy of that weeks NME and was looking at the gig adverts, and there sat staring at me, almost mockingly so, was an advert for a Beastie Boys show at Brixton Academy. I looked at the date and it just so happened to be on that same day. “SHIT!!” If only we had known we were gonna miss out on seeing them at Reading we could have booked tickets to see them at Brixton. The show was sold out and our chance had passed. Or so we thought.
The fact that we were sat there bored with nothing to do, the fact that were 17/18 years old and one of us had our own car and the fact that we had cash in our pockets all came together to get us to thinking, “Why couldn’t we just go?” We had been to enough gigs in London to know that as soon as you exit the tube nearest the venue that you would be constantly harassed by people wanting to know if you wanted to buy or sell tickets. We had never taken any of them up on this offer but knew there had to be someone there that night wanting to off load tickets. We had cash and a car and suddenly it was a no brainer, we were going to London. My brother wanted in and soon enough we were in the car on the way there.
We approached Brixton Academy as the doors to the venue were opening, it was dark, there were loads of people about and we had to decide how to do this. What’s the protocol when dealing with ticket touts? Do you haggle? Shop around? We had heard stories about how they were organised gangs of tough guys who you weren’t supposed to fuck with. None of us would be handy in any kind of fight so we went with a pretty straightforward strategy: Find man selling tickets, approach said man, ask how much tickets were, give man the requested amount no questions asked, take tickets and head to the entrance. We paid £45 each for a ticket, this was well more than we had ever paid for any other gig before, well more than the £15 face value and the guy probably saw us coming but what did we care? We were about to see one of the coolest bands ever known to mankind when a few hours earlier we were sitting doing nothing at all. Even when inside the venue and we were talking to someone we knew and they had done the same thing as us but had paid £15 for their ticket we couldn’t give a shit. We were being spontaneous and paying the money was all part of the adventure.
We made our way to the front just in time to see the first act of the night. The Beastie Boys new DJ, Mix Master Mike, took the stage with Invisibl Skratch Piklz and did a great job of getting the party started. Next up was the B-Boys resident keyboardist and cabinet maker, Money Mark, who was a brilliant solo artist in his own right. And then came time for the main attraction. I had never before seen a band so insanely brilliant as the Beastie Boys were that night. From start to finish they owned that stage and the whole of Brixton for that matter.
I was used to being in large crowds of people jumping up and down and getting crushed but this was different. People were dancing, proper good dancing, freaky, funky and all the while rappin’ along with the band. I went with it, probably looked a lot less cool then I thought I did at the time but my body couldn’t stop with the body rock. The Beasties were not just the 3 MC’s and one DJ, through the course of the evening would become a Jazz band, Funk band, Hardcore band and back again. All the while never dropping the ball, not even for a milisecond, sounding nothing short of magnificent with hits like ‘Shake your rump’, ‘Pass the mic’, ‘Time for livin’, ‘Root Down’ and so on. They were, of course, funny too. Mike D came out with the lamest of home made capes stuck to his boiler suit and when a loaf of uncut bread landed on the stage, Ad Rock picked it up and instantly announced “A hippy lost a shoe?”.
Having spent 2 hours playing a dream of a set there was only going to be one finisher and the place erupted as they launched into ‘Sabotage’. They sounded huge, the energy was incredible and to top it off Money Mark did the best sprint across stage to flip over his keyboard and land perfectly in time to play the ending of the song. Perfect.
The buzz we felt after the show had ended was incomparable. We looked at each other in some kind of disbelief at what we had just witnessed. We were pumped the whole way home, rappin’ and joking as we drove. No cares whatsoever that we had spent all our money and would be able to do nothing else than work for the rest of the week.
The night was unforgettable. The Beastie Boys will always be an unforgettable band. And the M to the C to the A, for everything you gave us we will always be grateful and you will definitely never be forgotten. Thank you Adam, may you rest in peace.
Lots of love xx