In 1986 when this song came out on The Beastie Boys debut album, "Licensed to Ill" - the boys were very different from the socially conscious, married, Buddhism touting boys they are today. Back in 1986 as a band they were younger, unrulier and sillier (I've even heard them described as the snotty Marx Brothers of rock), as you can see from this video for "No Sleep Till Brooklyn".. This video is in the vein of rock stars who like to make comical videos a la David Lee Roth and The Foo Fighters, which is always good fun. In fact, a 2011 New York Magazine quoted member Ad-Rock describing the M.O. of the band over the years as, "“Most of the shit we do is go down to the studio and try to make each other laugh.” This New York Magazine article is a great read, by the way: http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/features/beastie-boys-2011-5/ containing all kinds of early remembrances, including some from Molly Ringwald about drinking the Beastie Boys under the table!
The Beastie Boys: Mike D (Michael Diamond), MCA (Adam Yauch) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) were New Yorkers from Brooklyn and the Upper West Side. In 1979 Mike D and MCA and some other friends John Berry and Kate Schellenback (later of Luscious Jackson) started as a hardcore punk band called The Young Aborigines. They later changed the name to The Beastie Boys. They came up with the name first, and then an acronym for Beastie, which at the time stood for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence". One of their songs appear on a compilation cassette called "New York Thrash".
In 1982 they released their first EP, Polly Wog Stew, and then achieved some local success with the release of a 12-inch hip-hop single called "Cooky Puss" . Around this time they began experimenting more and more with rap, Adam Horovitz who had been fronting his own punk band, The Young and the Useless and often sharing bills with The Beastie Boys, joined the band when Berry and Schellenback left to work on other things. They chose Rick Rubin (then an NYU student, but later to become an important music producer) to work as their DJ. Rubin later formed Def Jam records in 1984 with Russell Simmons in and signed The Beastie Boys to his label (although after "Licensed to Ill" they moved to Capitol Records). In 1986 they released "Licensed to Ill" which spawned many hits, such as today's featured song, as well as "Brass Monkey", "Girls" and "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" which was the song that really brought them to public attention.
In 1985 the band opened for Public Image Limited (John Lydon's band after The Sex Pistols). That made sense to me. They also opened for Madonna on her Like a Virgin tour. I remember hearing that, and it made no sense to me whatsoever. Seems to me they were playing to a different audience, especially at that time. As the Beasties toured the world their on-stage sophomoric antics and smartassery caused lots of controversies, lawsuits, arrests,and accusations of inciting a riot at a London show.
The rest is history. The Beastie Boys' next album, 1988's "Paul's Boutique" which was produced by The Dust Brothers, is considered to be a landmark recording for its use of samples and multi-layering. Over the years, the band matured and put out a bevy of well received albums: "Ill Communication", "Hello Nasty", "To the 5 Boroughs", "The Mix-Up", and "Hot Sauce Committee Part 2". They are still together after nearly 25 years, and are one of the longest lived and most commercially successful hip hop bands around. In 2011 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"No Sleep Till Brooklyn" is one of my favorite songs after Licensed to Ill. My favorite lines (and the way they are delivered) include:
Ain't no faking
Your money I'm taking.
Going cross the country - watch all the girl a'shakin
Ain't seen the light since we started this ban, MCA....get on the mike my man!
Born and bred in Brooklyn, USA.
They call me Adam Yauch, but I'm MCA.
Like a lemon to a lime, a lime to a lemon
I'm super def ill with all the fine women!
I gotta admit, when The Beastie Boys first came out I wasn't really into them, because I wasn't really into rap. By the time they released "Fight for Your Right to Party" I was feeling them much more, because I was a college student, and that's what I was doing....partying! Since then, they have become one of my favorite bands, and regretfully one band that I have yet to see in concert! Earlier attempts got thwarted (band member's illnesses cancelling the tour), and why-o-why I did not go see them when they played the old McCarren pool site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? I will always kick myself about missing that one. I am really partial to their "Ill Communication", "Hello Nasty", "To the 5 Boroughs" albums. The later which was released in 2002, after the 9/11 attacks to soothe New Yorkers and their beloved city after all they had through. One of my favorite songs from that album is "An Open Letter to NYC":
No sleep 'til - Brooklyn
Foot on the pedal never ever false metal
Engine running hotter than a boiling kettle
My job's ain't a job it's a damn good time
City to city I'm running my rhymes
On location touring around the nation
Beastie Boys always on vacation
Itchy trigger finger but a stable turntable
I do what I do best because I'm illing and able
Ain't no faking your money I'm taking
Going coast to coast watching all the girlies shaking
While you're at the job working nine to five
The Beastie Boys at the Garden cold kickin' it live
No sleep 'til -
Another plane another train
Another bottle in the brain
Another girl another fight
Another drive all night
Our manager's crazy he always smokes dust
He's got his own room at the back of the bus
Tour around the world you rock around the clock
Plane to hotel girls on the jock
We're thrashing hotels like it's going out of style
Getting paid along the way cause it's worth your while
Four on the floor Adrock's out the door
M.C.A.'s in the back because he's skeezin' with a whore
We got a safe in the trunk with money in a stack
With dice in the front and Brooklyn's in the back
No sleep 'til -
Ain't seen the light since we started this band
M.C.A. get on the mic my man
Born and bred Brooklyn U.S.A.
They all me Adam Yauch but I'm M.C.A.
Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon
I sip the def ale with all the fly women
Got limos, arena, TV shows
Autograph pictures and classy hos
Step off homes get out of my way
Taxing little girlies form here to L.A.
Waking up before I get to sleep
Cause I'll be rocking this party eight days a week