Sunday, October 10, 2010

Deciphering the 80's: Beastie Boys Edition

In order to keep the generous federal grant that I receive for writing this blog (thank you, mindless beauracrats of the overspending Obama administration) I must occasionally provide an educational service in, as my grant proposal puts it, “Developing a deeper understanding of the art and culture of Generation X.” Or more accurately, deciphering the lyrics and music videos of the 1980’s. Tonight we will address the Beastie Boys classic “Fight for your Right to Party”.

Side Note #1: Did everyone else grow up hearing the rumor that one, or possibly all three, of the Beastie Boys died of a cocaine overdose after this single was released. That was definitely the story in the halls of every grade school and high school that I know of. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it has to be true. If not, how the hell did these guys get to be friends with the Dalai Lama?

Video Note #1: The video starts out with three people who look surprisingly like I did in the late 80’s discussing the makings of a party. For the record I only wore tape on my glasses when they were broken and it was going to take a week to get a new pair. Also, what is wrong with having soda and pie at a party? Who the hell doesn’t like pie? And yes, it is sad that throughout this entire video I am going to be identifying with the nerds.

Video Note #2: It appears that this video takes place in the exact same apartment where Cyndi Lauper wanted to have fun. In reality the only thing that would make this video even more awesome is a Captain Lou Albano appearance.

Kick it
I wish they would be slightly more specific about what it is we are supposed to kick. Are we kicking out the jams? Are we kicking the can? Are we kicking the door down as the video implies? Could we ask for at least a little specificity out of our rap lyrics?

You wake up late for school – man you don’t wanna go
You ask your mom, “Please?” – but she still says “No!”
I’ve always taken that this song is addressed towards high school students as a result of this opening couplet. Only a high school student would ask their parents if they had to go to school and then actually follow the given advice. A college sophomore probably doesn’t feel that way about Geology 101. Or more accurately they just would stay in bed hungover from the Jager shots the night before.

Also, why does waking up late for school make you not want to go? If you had woken up on time would that make you want to go to school? Wouldn’t you rather not go to school regardless? True, there is the sense that by being late you might be able to turn it into a sick day but the logic of needing to sleep late in order to have the right to party seems a little strained.

Video Note #3: For a bunch of nerds they have a surprisingly large number of attractive women at the party prior to the bad people arriving. And setting fire to a Popular Science magazine is just blasphemy.

You missed two classes – and no homework
This line has always troubled me. Ok, you missed two classes but you didn’t miss any homework. Isn’t that a win win? You got to sleep late and you don’t have any homework to do tonight. Sounds like the start of the best day ever in my book.

But your teacher preaches class like you’re some kind of jerk
Love the double meaning of class here as it can reference the physical act of attending a session of learning or the more ethereal sense of style and sophistication.

You’ve gotta fight for your right to party
I was always upset that Thomas Jefferson did not include the right to party in the Declaration of Independence. The right to pursue happiness just isn’t the same thing. We need a specific constitutional amendment guaranteeing our right to throw a bitchin kegger whenever we have a need to. I would fight for that right.

Video Note #4: I love that the video has a cutout segment to indicate that the punch is being spiked with Spanish Fly; a reference that kids today might not get. Also, apropos of nothing but why is it that at every wedding I now attend people are forcing me to drink punch? I don’t want to drink punch. If I’m thirsty I am going to want either a) water or b) beer so why offer me a third choice that just makes me wish I had one of my first two options. I propose a punch ban at weddings for precisely this reason.

Your pop caught you smoking – and he said, “No Way!”
That hypocrite – smokes two packs a day
Again this has to be about teenagers because who else gets yelled at for being caught smoking. Though smoking back in the late 80’s was not as much of a social stigma as it is today as it is now illegal to smoke in offices, bars, restaurants, or basically anywhere outside of a 100 foot radius circle in central Wyoming on alternate Thursdays. No, I did not sneak cigarettes as a teenager. I had my first when I was 29 and my last when I was 30 thus making me the oldest person in history to succumb to peer pressure. Also, I wouldn’t even want to imagine what a two pack a day habit would cost you now given all the taxes.

Man, living at home is such a drag
Another double meaning here as drag could reference the inhaling of a cigarette or the fact that living under your parents’ roof is a bummer. I bet most people never thought that this song had such lyrical depth.

Now your mom threw away your best porno mag (Bust it!)
I must explain this lyric to the youth of America as due to the internet era I don’t believe that they will understand the reference. Being a male teenager in the late 80’s meant two things: 1) a desire to see pornography and 2) the maddening difficulty of obtaining pornography. With the internet anyone with a connection can see whatever they want at any time. Even obtaining a DVD is a rather simple process and today’s teenager has a DVD drive on their laptop or gaming system. While VHS was available in the late 80’s the average household had one VCR, connected to the main television set in the living room, and thus was unable to be used without the parents’ knowledge. Thus led the rise of the “porno mag”, a printed material consisting of images that some might deem erotic or kind of sad depending on how you view such things. Yes, they actually used trees to make these things. Horrible, I know. I apologize for all generations after Gen X for the fact that global warming is directly a result of the printing of Swank.

You’ve got to fight for your right to party
Much like the request to kick it I really wish the Beastie Boys would be more specific in how we are supposed to fight for our right to party. Is it a call to take up arms? Should we have protest marches and sit ins until our right to party is achieved? Or would a simple petition suffice? You’d think that given how stridently behind the party movement they are the Beastie Boys would have given us direct instructions on how to help the cause.

Video Note #5: At this point the nerd is getting some in the bathroom that we know is a bathroom because it has a hand written sign on it that says “Bathroom.” This implies that either a) in the house that this video takes place they have a need to indicate the bathroom with a handwritten sign or b) that we the viewing audience need to be aware that this is the bathroom as opposed to the bedroom or coat closet. Sadly, I think the answer is A.

Video Note #6: Also, this is the point in the video where the pie fight starts. No one will believe that this is true but this song and the Beastie Boys in general were essentially banned due to being viewed as obscene. In my little suburban world they were the most dangerous band in existence. Yet there video features people throwing pies at each other. Maybe the 80’s were a little nicer than I originally thought.

Don’t step out of this house if that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear
I’ll kick you out of my home if you don’t cut that hair
Personally if I lived in this house I would wear the offensive clothes and not cut my hair thus putting my parents in an utter paradox to the point where I become the Schrödinger Houseguest. Also, these lyrics are perfectly applicable today as the clothes you’re gonna wear references Ed Hardy or Affliction t-shirts and that all of you kids with those damn emo haircuts should cut your hair.

Your mom busted in and said “What’s that noise?”
Aw, mom you’re just jealous – it’s the Beastie Boys
I never quite understood the meta reference here as the band is referencing a teenager listening to the band when this single was their very first release. Thus no kid could actually have been listening to the Beastie Boys when they recorded the song because the Beastie Boys did not technically exist as a commercial act. It creates another paradox in a song that is littered with them. Also, I wouldn’t think that the mom would be jealous. More overly concerned with the noise pollution.

Video Note #7: At this part of the video you get to see my favorite hidden gem of any music video of all time. In the final party scene one of the partygoers is a very young Tabitha Soren. She’s in the center right by the table sporting some awesome mall hair. I know that teenagers today will not get the reference but given that every guy my age had a crush on her due to her continual appearance on MTV News the fact that she partied with the Beastie Boys just made me fall for her even more.

You’ve got to fight for your right to party
So at the end of the video we see that a party is defined as loud music, some random hooking up, the destruction of an analog television set with a hammer and a pie fight. While that is something I would certainly fight for the right to having because again who doesn’t like pie but doesn’t this seem like a rather lame party? Would you leave this party thinking it was the most epic event you had ever attended? Ok, the guy who randomly hooked up with Tabitha Soren would but what about everyone else? And who is leading the anti-party coalition? I need to know who we are up against.

This ends our lesson. Any requests for the next subject?

The five random CDs for the week:
1) The Get Up Kids “Something to Write Home About”
2) Toad the Wet Sprocket “Dulcinea”
3) The Subdudes “Annunciation”
4) U2 “The Joshua Tree”
5) Dave Matthews Band “Live at Red Rocks”

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