When I heard this morning that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys had succumbed to cancer, it hit me hard. I didn’t expect it, and I wasn’t sure why I reacted this way. At first. Of course, there were the obvious reasons—Yauch was only 47, too young to die, and yet another reminder of my own mortality. And there was the fact that it was cancer, a horrible, ugly disease that the National Cancer Institute projects will claim the lives of more than half a million Americans in 2012.
I mean, I didn’t even know the guy. But the more I thought about it—and, of course, began playing Beasties songs in my head—something else became clear: the Beastie Boys’ songs are attached to only happy times in my life. And some of the best. They’re not the group you turned to when you were heartbroken, or angry, or looking for answers. MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock were the guys you went to for a good time—road trips, parties, barbecues, swimming holes—the soundtrack to all of the fun and stupid things I went through when I was younger, and got away with.
The Beastie Boys were unexpected pioneers of hip-hop—all the proof I need is that warped cassette of Paul’s Boutique that now sits in a drawer. Or the stony video for “So What’cha Want” that Yauch directed himself as Nathaniel Hörnblowér. These Boys became men, leaving behind their frat-party lunkhead ways to become sage activists. And Yauch was probably the calmest and coolest of the three. They grew up, I grew up.
But enough with the melodrama. I leave you with my favorite B-Boys video, one that takes me right back to that roach-infested apartment in Chico, California, in 1992 where I saw it for the first time, having some silly times with some of my best friends. Thanks, Mr. Yauch.
Dick Clark passed away on April 18 at the age of 82. It signifies the end of an era in rock and roll. When I say end of an era, I mean he was one of the last—if not the last—link to rock’s Golden Age (Jerry Lee Lewis also comes to mind, a man who wrote Clark off when Clark stopped playing his records after Lewis’ personal life made headlines in 1958).
For more than 30 years, Clark was the guy giving those artists their first breaks, and defending them against disapproving parents. He’s also the one common thread in many people’s early memories of pop music. My parents. Me. Anyone born in the ’80s. Dick Clark was a square, but he still managed to introduce to the world a wide range of artists, including Buddy Holly, Public Image Ltd, Run-D.M.C., Little Richard, X, Conway Twitty, Sparks, The Jam, Madonna, The Seeds, Def Leppard, Captain Beefheart, Chubby Checker … the amazing list goes on.
American Bandstand was as big a part of my Saturday mornings as Looney Tunes. The Barry Manilow version of “Bandstand Boogie” was burned into my tender gray matter for years. And while Clark’s Bandstand came to an end in 1989, and he became more associated with bloopers, $10,000 Pyramids and New Year’s Eve countdowns (not to mention the now infamous scene in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine), he was—and always will be—the World’s Oldest Teenager. Appreciate that for what it is. It’s a position that will probably never be filled.
Don Kirshner—”The Man With the Golden Ear”—had his hands in all things rock ‘n’ roll since the ’50s, working with songwriters from New York’s fabled Brill Building, who in turn provided some of the early hits for The Monkees. He later helped provide the tunes for the Archies ‘toons.
But Kirshner, at least for me, will always be known as the driving force (if not the simply the name) behind Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The show, which ran from 1973 to 1981, shirked the typical pre-recorded lip-synced performances in favor of gritty live performances from a wide range of artists including Sly & the Family Stone, the Ramones, KISS, UFO, Ike & Tina, Sparks, George Harrison, Weather Report, Brian Ferry … wow.
Kirshner died yesterday from heart failure at the age of 76.
I leave you with this 1975 performance from Black Sabbath on Rock Concert, which you gotta think scared the bejesus out of America. Just listen to Tony Iommi’s guitar tone, for fuck’s sakes.