Early Days 1981-1984The name of the band harks back to the band's punk rock days, when Beastie stood for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence". Its orginal line-up consisted of MCA on bass, Kate Schellenbach on drums, John Berry on guitars and Mike D on vocals and its first gig was playing at Yauch's 17th birthday party. The band quickly earned support slots for Bad Brains and Reagan Youth at venues such as CBGB and Max's Kansas City playing at the latter venue on its closing night.
The Beastie Boys recorded its first single "Pollywog Stew" at the 171A studios used by the Bad Brains. Released in 1981 on Ratcage Records, it attracts little interest.
John Berry left the group to form Thwig and was replaced by Horovitz who had previously played in punk band the Young and the Useless in 1983. The band also performed its first rap track "Cooky Puss" based on a prank call to Carvel Ice Cream with the song becoming a hit in New York dance clubs on its release by Ratcage.
Licensed to Ill - 1984-1988Influenced by Rick Rubin, the Beastie Boys changed from a punk rock outfit to a three-man hip hop crew. The band and released the 12" single "Rock Hard" in 1984, the second record released by Def Jam, credited to Rubin as producer. Kate Schellenbach left the band in this period due to musical differences over the direction of the band.
"Rock Hard" has been removed from print and is considered a rare collector's item. The song was to reappear on their 1999 The Sounds of Science anthology, but was removed when AC/DC refused permission to use a sample from the song "Back in Black." Beastie Boys member Mike D reportedly talked to the band personally on the phone: "AC/DC could not get with the sample concept. They were just like, ‘Nothing against you guys, but we just don't endorse sampling.'".
In 1985, the band supported Madonna on her North American Virgin tour. Later in the year, the group was on the Raising Hell tour with Run DMC, Whodini, LL Cool J and the Timex Social Club. With their exposure on this tour, the track "Hold It, Now Hit It" mad Billboard's national R&B and dance charts. The track "She's In It" from the Krush Groove soundtrack continued in a rap/metal vein while a double A-side 12" "Paul Revere/The New Style" was a released at the end of the year and became another r&b/dance hit.
The band recorded Licensed to Ill in 1986 and released it at the end of the year. It became a smash success becoming the best selling rap album of the 1980's and the first rap album to go #1 on the Billboard album chart staying there for five weeks - it also reached #2 on the urban album charts. It was Columbia Records fastest selling debut record to that point and sold over five million albums.
The first single from the album was "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was later named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. "Brass Monkey" named after the cocktail also reached #48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other significant tracks from the album include "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" and "Posse In Effect". Kerry King of Slayer played guitar on "No Sleep Til Brooklyn".
The band toured the Licensed to Ill tour around the world. This tour was controversial, featuring female members of the crowd dancing in cages and a giant motorised inflatable penis similar to one used by the Rolling Stones in the 1970's. This tour was troubled by lawsuits and arrests with the band accused of provoking the crowd. In the UK, alleged insults supposedly aimed at leukemia victims almost resulted in the band being kicked out of the country although the Beastie Boys maintains that the incident was a beat up of the band politely declining to sign an autograph.
British comedian Tony Hawks recorded the song "Stutter Rap" under the pseudonym of "Morris Minor and the Majors" as a send up of the Beastie Boys then image. It became a major hit in the UK reaching #4 and #1 in Australia. The Beastie Boys are supposedly the first to use the word "mullet" to describe this hair style during this period.
The Sounds of Science 1988-1994The group matured with their second album, Paul's Boutique, produced mainly by the Dust Brothers recorded in 1988. This extremely sample-heavy oeuvre is still considered one of the best hip hop and rock albums ever and the Beastie Boys best.
The album was released in 1989 by Capitol Records and failed to match the sales of Licensed to Ill reaching #14 on the Billboard 200 and number 10 on the Billboard r&b charts. The lead single "Hey Ladies reached #36 on the Billboard 100 and #10 on the r&b charts. A double a-side 12" of "Hey Ladies/Shake Your Rump" reached the album charts. A Rolling Stone Magazine would describe it as " the Pet Sounds/Dark Side of the Moon of hip hop and Paul's Boutique would eventually sell a million albums.
The follow-up, Check Your Head, was released the bands Grand Royal label and recorded in its own studio in Atwater Village, California. The band played the instruments on this album with Mike D on drums, Yauch on bass and Horovitz on guitar and Money Mark on keyboards.
Check Your Head was released in 1992 and went double platinum in the US reaching a peak of #10 on the Billboard 200. The first single "So What Cha Want" reached #43 on the Billboard 100 and made both the urban and modern rock charts. "Pass the Mic" became a hit in dance clubs while "Jimmy James" would become a favourite at concert.
The Beastie Boys would sign an eclectic roster of artists to Grand Royal including Luscious Jackson featuring Kate Schellenbach, Sean Lennon, promising Australian artist Ben Lee and Japanese group Cibo Mato. The Beastie Boys would own Grand Royal records until 2001 when it was sold for financial reasons. Grand Royal's first independent release was Luscious Jackson's album In Search Of Manny in 1993.
The Beastie Boys would also publish Grand Royal Magazine with the first edition in 1993 featuring a cover story on Bruce Lee, artwork by George Clinton and interviews with Kareem al-Jabbar and alternative hip hop star Q-Tip. Grand Royal was initially based in the California studio.
Ill Communication 1994-2001Ill Communication, released in 1994 would see the Beastie Boys return to the top of the Billboard album charts and would reach #2 on the r&b/ hip hop album chart. The single "Sabotage" would become a hit on the modern rock charts and the Spike Jonze video would receive extensive play on MTV. "Get It Together" would reach top ten of the Billboard dance charts and would also be an urban hit while "Sure Shot" would be a dance hit. Some Old Bullshit featuring the bands early independent material would also make #50 on the Billboard independent charts.
The Beastie Boys would also headline at Lollapalooza in 1994 together with the Smashing Pumpkins. The band would also perform three concerts in New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to raise money for the Milarepa Fund and would dedicate royalties for "Shambala" and "Bodhisattva Vow" from the Ill Communication album. The Milarepa Fund aims to raise awareness of Tibetan human rights issues and the exile of the Dalai Lama. In 1996, Yauch would organise the Tibetan Freedom Concert a two day festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco attracting 100,000 people. The Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1997 was held at Randall's Island in New York, New York.
In 1995, the populariy of the Beastie Boys was undelrlined when tickets for an arena tail went on sale in US and sold out within minutes. A dollar from each ticket sold went to local charities. The Beastie Boys toured South America and Southeast Asia for the first time. The band also released Aglio e Olio a collection of eight songs lasting for just eleven minutes harking back to their punk roots 1995. The In Sound From Way Out a collection of electronic instrumentals was released on Grand Royal in 1996 with the title and artwork the same as a groundbreaking album by electronic music pioneers Perrey and Kingsley.
The Beastie Boys would return to New York City in 1997 and work on their studio tans in producing Hello Nasty. Released July 14, 1998 Hello Nasty clocked first week sales of nearly 700,000 in the U.S. and goes straight in at #1 in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden, #2 in Canada and Japan, and Top 10 in Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, France and Israel.
The lead single Intergalactic would reach the Canadian top ten, the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and would reach the top 40 in Australia. The track would reach #4 on the Billboard modern rock chart and #6 on the Billboard dance chart. The Beastie Boys would win a MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip Hop Video for the clip for "Intergalactic" in 1999 and the band also won a "Video Vanguard award for Lifetime Achievement a year earlier. "Body Movin" would reach the Billboard modern rock and dance charts and would reach the Australian top 40. "The Negotiation Limerick File" would also make the Billboard modern rock charts.
The Beastie Boys would win two awards in the Grammy Awards of 1999. Hello Nasty would win an award for Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and "Intergalactic" would win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. This was the first and as of 2004 only time that a band has won awards in both rap and alternative categories.
The Beastie Boys started an arena tour in 1998 and tried to make live downloads available for their fans but were temporarily thwarted when Capitol Records removed them from the website. They tried to make downloads available each night on their website but were not always successful. The Wall Street Journal published an article on the bands efforts. Pearl Jam would later attempt a similar feat after its concerts.
The 1999 Tibetan Freedom Concerts would feature concerts at East Troy, Wisconsin, Sydney, Tokyo and Amsterdam. On 28 September 1999, the Beastie Boys would join Elvis Costello to play "Radio, Radio" on the 25th anniversary of Saturday Night Live.
The Beastie Boys would release The Sounds of Science a two CD compilation of their works. This album would reach #19 on the Billboard 200, #18 in Canada, #6 on the Internet sales charts and #14 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. The single "Alive" would reach #11 on the Modern Rock charts.
The Beastie Boys had planned to headline a tour in 2000 with Rage Against the Machine, the "Rhyme and Reason" tour, which was cancelled when drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury due to a bicycle accident. The official diagnosis was 5th Degree acromioclavicular joint dislocation meaning he needed surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
To The 5 Boroughs 2001-The Beastie Boys owned their own record label, Grand Royal, for eight years before they decided to close it down in 2001 due to financial reasons. The band increased its level of leftwing political activism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The band organised and headlined the New Yorkers Against Violence on October 28 and 29 2001. Funds from the concert went towards the New York Women's Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA). The line-up included the Strokes, the B-52's, Cibo Matto, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mos Def, N.E.R.D, Rival Schools, the Roots, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Saul Williams, Stretch Armstrong, Afrika Bambaataa, and a surprise two-song set by Moby and Michael Stipe (featuring an impromptu cameo by Bono). Mike D is also a major advocate of the environmental activist program Save Our Environment, which opposes things like drilling for oil in the state of Alaska.
In 2002, the Beastie Boys started building a new studio facility, Oscilloscope, in downtown Manhattan, New York and started work on a new album. The band released a protest song, "In A World Gone Mad", against the 2003 Iraq war as a free download on its web site, the Milarepa web site, the MTV web site, Move On and Win Without War. It was the most downloaded track during April 2003. The 19th and 20th Tibetan Freedom Concerts were held in Tokyo and Taipei - the Beastie Boys first Taiwan appearance. The Beastie Boys also headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
The Beastie Boys released To The Five Boroughs the first album they produced themselves worldwide on 15 June 2004. It reached #1 on the Billboard album charts, #2 in the UK and Australia and #3 in Germany. The first single from the album "Ch-Check It Out" has reached #1 in Canada, #2 on the US modern rock chart and world Internet download charts, and #3 on a composite world modern rock chart.
The album was the cause of some controversy with allegations that it installed spyware when inserted into the CD-ROM of a computer. (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/23/beastie_boy_cd_virus/1) The band has denied this allegation saying there is no copy protection software on the albums sold in the US and UK. While there is Macrovision's CDS-200 copy protection software installed on European copies of the album this is standard practice for all European releases on EMI/Capitol Records released in Europe and it does not install spyware or any form of permanent software.  (http://www.beastieboys.com/news.php/2)
Beastie Boy Ad Rock was briefly part of the side project BS2000.
InfluenceThe Beastie Boys rated #11 on VH1's list of greatest hip hop artists. They were certainly the first white rappers of any significance paving the way for others such as Eminem. Licensed to Ill was the first rap album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 charts and together with the success of Run-DMC's Raising Hell album in 1986 marked a breakthrough for rap music. Licensed to Ill was the most successful album released by any rap artist in the 1980's.
The Beastie Boys are equally influential in rock music history. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledged "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" as one of the 500 most influential tracks in the history of rock music being a major influence on rapcore and incorporation of hip hop into music. The Beastie Boys influence can be seen in many nu metal acts featuring a DJ.
The Beastie Boys were leaders in the use of sampling with Paul's Boutique being notable for its effective use of sameples. The influence of this album can be seen for example on Beck's 1996 Odelay album.
The chart consistency of the Beastie Boys must also be acknowledged. Since 1986, they have had four albums reach the top of the Billboard album charts with Licensed to Ill, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and To The 5 Boroughs all reaching #1 on the Billboard charts. Few if any of the Beastie Boys contemporaries have matched this feat or the feat of having a #1 album in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's.
Band membersAs of 2004, the Beastie Boys consists of:
- Michael Diamond aka Mike D born November 20, 1966;
- Adam Yauch aka MCA born August 5, 1965; and
- Adam Horovitz aka Ad-rock born October 31, 1967.