Entertainment Music

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Beasties' classic couldn't have been made today

Niall Byrne

Since the sad news that Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch passed away at 47 after a battle with cancer, I've been delving into the Beasties' back catalogue pretty frequently. The New York trio were my first musical obsession when I was a teenager.

I still remember vividly the copied cassette of the group's 1994 album Ill Communication I borrowed from my sister that led me into a new world of exciting musical possibilities.

The Beastie Boys taught me that music didn't have to be boxed off into definable genres, that any source was fair game for inspiration, whether that's a flute loop from a jazz track, punk and hardcore, funk, rap, or even a Tibetan monk chant, which was inspired by Yauch's conversion to Buddhism. The band took these sources and formed their own identity that was completely unique to them.

It was the band's 1989 classic album Paul's Boutique that best exemplifies the "good artists borrow, great artists steal" sentiment. The album supposedly features between 100 and 300 different samples. The record is so littered with them that there's a website, paulsboutique.info, dedicated to the album's samples and its myriad pop culture references.

Contrary to popular belief, the Beastie Boys actually cleared the majority of the samples on the album. According to Mario Caldato Jr, the band's producer, they spent around $250,000 on sample clearances.

Nowadays, restrictive and expensive copyright licensing laws mean that a record such as Paul's Boutique would cost something in the region of $20m to clear (according to bit.ly/beastiebreakdown). This makes such an album impossible to release and subsequently influence many people in the way that Paul's Boutique has done over the past 23 years.

The Beastie Boys were pioneers. Rest in peace, Adam Yauch.Pioneer: Adam Yauch

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