A Beastie Revolution: Locations from the early hardcore days of the Beastie Boys in NYC

Posted on May 19, 2012 by peter bell

Early Beastie Boys flyer, A7 annex

Before they were rhymin’ and stealin’, or getting live on the spot (puttin’ all kinds of shame in the game you got), the Beastie Boys were a rag-tag group of punk rockers in New York City. Not just any kind of punk rock– the loud, fast, agro version called hardcore that was popularized by bands like Black Flag (and other California groups) at the end of the 70’s and beginning of the 80’s. In that era, hardcore was rising in southern California and Washington, D.C., but it was also taking hold in New York City.

The Beastie Boys are forever entwined with NYC. Much like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it isn’t difficult to discern what stomping grounds their collective hearts yearn for (sidenote: Anthony Kiedis actually has a highly functioning version of Tourette’s where he has to say the word “California” every other sentence). Since the Beasties name-drop New York more often then an art school grad student, here is a little tour of the NYC locations from those early hardcore days.

The hardcore scene in New York grew out of the punk venues of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. While those venues supported the early versions of punk rock, a new breed of listener/musician was coming up. During that time, the Beastie Boys were attending high schools in various parts of the city, but they would see each other and interact at punk shows and record stores throughout Manhattan.

During that time frame, Michael Diamond (aka Mike D) was receiving a prestigious and progressive private education from the Walden School on the Upper East Side and Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights. The son of prominent Manhattan art dealers, Mike D once remarked upon meeting the president of Capitol records, “I think you bought a Braque from my parents once.” This might explain why Mike D has such mad fashion sense.

"Fight For Your Right" video

Mike D formed a band called The Young Aborigines early on with Kate Schellenbach from Stuyvesant High School on percussion. Kate is the only Beastie to attend the school that is famously represented via AdRock’s t-shirt in the “Fight for Your Right” video. The Young Aborigines played two shows (both in the same night) and broke up. Adam Yauch (MCA) was at that show, told them he liked the band, and that got them talking.

Adam Yauch was born on August 5, 1964, to an architect and public-school administrator in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill. He attended Edward R. Murrow High School and was remembered by a former teacher as being “quiet and unassuming, but always a presence in class.” While in high school, Yauch began to teach himself bass guitar.

On March 15, 1981, Black Flag performed at a show at the Peppermint Lounge in Times Square. Yauch and Diamond were in attendance, and were inspired to start their own hardcore band. The band consisted of Yauch on bass, Kate S. on drums, John Berry on guitar, and Diamond on vocals. They named themselves the Beastie Boys, with the BEASTIE bit being an acronym: Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence. Their first show was at John Berry’s loft on MCA’s 17th birthday (August 5th, 1981 for those lousy at math).

It was at this show that Dave Parsons of Rat Cage Records (a record store in the East Village) talked to the Beastie Boys about recording. Parsons’ record store was a hang-out for hardcore enthusiasts; he would often leave the store open until 4 am for the loitering punks. Parsons was now interested in starting a record label, and he asked the Beastie Boys to be the first recording artists for Ratcage Records. They enthusiastically agreed, but first they started playing out around the city.

Former A7 venue, current Niagara Bar, NYC

The Beastie Boys first gig was at A7, a hardcore venue in the East Village. As Mike D recalls in the liner notes of Some Old Bullshit, “…it was like playing in your aunt’s living room- that is, if your aunt’s living room had cat pee all over it and was a part-time crack house.”

The Beastie Boys opened up for Reagan Youth and Even Worse at the club Trude Heller’s in 1981. HR from Bad Brains saw the Beastie Boys at that show, and asked them to open for Bad Brains at Max’s Kansas City for that famous venue’s final night.

The Beastie Boys played at a variety of hardcore friendly venues around Manhattan: Great Gildersleeves, Tier 3 (TR3), A7 annex and more. One night, some of the Beasties were trying to get into the punk/drag/good times place called the Pyramid Club. The bouncer, a large guy named Mojo, wouldn’t let the crew in because they were underage. The Beasties responded by going to the corner store across the street, buying a couple armfuls of eggs, and getting into an egg-throwing fight with Mojo. The events are immortalized in the song “Egg Raid on Mojo.”

In 1982, Dave Parsons organized for the Beastie Boys to record at 171-A Studio. The space was long with high ceilings, and producer Scott Jarvis utilized a four-track and an Echoplex. The result was the 8-song Polly Wog Stew EP.

The Beasties sold the EP at records stores around town, often delivering themselves and picking up the commissions at places like St. Mark’s Sounds. Around this time, guitarist John Berry left the band. Adam Horovitz, lead singer and guitarist for The Young and the Useless, had been opening up for the Beastie Boys and often covered their songs. He was a natural choice for Berry’s replacement on guitar.

Adam Horovitz (Adrock), son of playwright Israel Horovitz and Doris Horovitz, was a student at City-As-School in the West Village of Manhattan. Known as a funny guy, Horovitz’s sense of humor came into play when the Beastie Boys were recording material for their follow-up release at Celebrate Studios (the same studio where artist Meco recorded his disco version of the “Star Wars Theme).

Beastie Boys, Cooky Puss 12"

A popular flavor of ice cream at the time called Cookie Puss was made by Carval, and the Beasties recorded a prank call that Horovitz made to Carval’s 800 number. The Beastie Boys had been listening to the new sound of hip-hop at that time. They made a mosh of beats and loops behind the crank call, and released “Cooky Puss” and the reggae-tinged “Beastie Revolution” on the Ratcage Records release, Cooky Puss Maxi 12”. Bizarrely, the song became a minor hit, getting played at discos and on college radio. They received more attention for “Cooky Puss” then for any of their other hardcore material.

“Cooky Puss” caught the ear of NYU student and aspiring hip-hop producer Rick Rubin, who was starting a hip-hop label named Def Jam Records out of his dorm room. Shortly after that, the Beastie Boys met Rick at the New York art space, The Kitchen.

The Beasties started hanging out at Rubin’s room, partying and making music. By this time, Kate S. had quit the band and they were getting more invites to perform as a hip-hop act then as a hardcore band. Rubin was hired to DJ for the Beastie Boys, and he assumed the handle DJ Double R. The Beastie Boys dropped the hardcore act and began performing as a rap group.

The Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin released the Rock Hard 12” on Def Jam Records in 1984. It featured a heavy metal sample from AC/DC, set to reverbed bass beats, and a tag-team style of rapping that was entirely unique to the group. This became the formula for a new release they were crafting called Licensed to Ill. But that’s a story for a later time…

New York, NY

Beastie High

Hardcore Clubs and Venues in NYC

Makin’ Some Noise

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