I was eleven when I first heard, and saw the music video for, Sabotage. Having immersed myself in a pre-adolescent world of string cheese and Jonathan Brandis posters up until that point, the kind of exhilaration I felt upon seeing and hearing it was alien to me. The song was so aggressively thrilling. It wasn’t something you just listened to, it was something that hurled itself at you, like a fucking avalanche. I remember watching the video (insert “back when MTV still played videos” angry diatribe, here) and thinking A. “Wow. I think I might actually like this better than “I’m Ready” by Tevin Campbell” (you have no idea how huge a deal it was that I liked something better than Tevin Campbell) and B. “This video is really funny. I want to make something like that”. The idea of creating Something Like That was a hazy, unformed notion at that point; all I knew was that it was something unbearably cool, creative, smart and funny and I wanted a part of it. It all just felt very punk to me. I had no real idea what the fuck punk was, yet, (my little child’s heart had yet to be introduced to, and then pummeled by, puberty/The Stooges), but some yet-to-be-discovered part of me knew that that was exactly what it was.
I was fifteen when my friend Daniel did donuts in a Ralphs parking lot to The New Style. He was seventeen, I had just started smoking cigarettes, it was summer. I had survived puberty and come out the other side an always-shy, sometimes-good-at-hiding-it teenage girl who listened to Bikini Kill and had read one third of Naked Lunch, which was all I needed to convince myself that I was a wise and complicated person. I had recently dyed a streak of my (then, blonde) hair red that had immediately faded to pink. I played bass in a band and was terrible at it. I was dating a really hot, mean guy with a tribal tattoo who I found to be tragic and fascinating because he wrote poetry about his ex-girlfriend and listened to Cibo Matto. And I was out that night, in the passenger’s seat of my friend Daniel’s massive 1980s Cadillac, going nowhere in particular, a caravan of Friends In Crappy Cars following us. Daniel pulled into the near-empty lot and shouted “Smashed your glasses!” out the window to his friend, Edwin, who had pulled up beside us. They, for some reason, constantly shouted this to each other- at parties, school assemblies, over the phone- and were immensely delighted by it every single time. This particular night, Daniel decided to take it to the next level, shouting “Smashed your glasses!” and then playing The New Style as loudly as possible while doing an impromptu set of donuts in the parking lot. I remember thinking that this was probably THE COOLEST SITUATION I’d, most likely, ever be in. In a car, with a senior, spinning around in circles to the beat of a fucking great Beastie Boys song. I was bad at bass, I had a hot/shitty boyfriend, I was timid, red fades; but the aimless, lazy thrill of that big dumb moment made it okay.
I was twenty-six when I sang Paul Revere for the first time at karaoke. I was just about to quit smoking, it was summer. I had survived adolescence and come out the other side an always-shy, sometimes-good-at-hiding-it woman who watched Woody Allen movies and had read one third of The Savage Detectives which was all I needed to convince myself that I was a wise and complicated person. I was in the process of getting over a hot, mean guy who I found to be tragic and fascinating because he obsessed over his ex-girlfriend and listened to Broadcast. I was at a tiny dive bar with some friends, completely and utterly drunk off my ass. I had been depressed for a while and was determined to “just, like, totally let loose and have fun, you guys!” I don’t remember much at all from that night, except for thinking, with the utmost conviction, that the best possible thing I could do at that moment was blow everybody’s fucking mind with a REALLY GOOD karaoke rendition of Paul Revere. So, I rallied up a couple of also-drunk friends and we proceeded to light up the night with the worst version of Paul Revere anyone has ever heard or will ever hear. We finished to a rousing nobody in the bar giving a shit, and I was happy. So happy, in fact, that it has been my go-to drunken karaoke song ever since.
These are the very first things I thought of when I heard that Adam Yauch had died. Right after the initial shock and sadness, these reflections, strung together by seemingly meaningless moments, leaped to the front of my mind. I instantly recalled being a little girl and discovering real music for the first time; I remembered the simple joys that momentarily eased the endless confusion of being a teenager, and the ones that momentarily eased the endless confusion of being an adult.
That’s because music is such a powerful, personal thing. It creates meaning and a sense of poignancy in the mundane. Every single Beastie Boys fan has these memories, these fleeting pieces of time set to a certain song that shape who we are and who we will eventually become. We think of the big things Adam Yauch, and the Beastie Boys, have done for music and the world, but also the little, significant ways they’ve influenced our lives. And it means everything.