With the impending re-release of The Beastie Boy’s classic Paul’s Boutique, I thought back to the first time I ever heard Paul’s boutique, twenty years ago.
It was 1989, and my friend Chris and I were both huge fans of Licensed to Ill. Licensed to Ill was a debut smash, selling over 5 million copies, and making the Beastie Boys a household name. The expectations were huge and for Paul’s Boutique, as were mine. Once school was out I drove to the record store to pick up the single on cassette (or as I like to call it, a “cassingle”) as the album was not released yet. I quickly hustled over to Chris’ house with cassette in hand for my first listen. My ride was a 1982 Ford Fairmont, which rocked an AM only radio and lacked any type of cassette, 8 track or otherwise. I just held the cassette in my hand while I drove, checking out the cover artwork at red lights. Once at Chris’ house we popped in the cassingle of “Hey Ladies/Shake your Rump” into his Panasonic boom box and opened our ears. WOW. This was nothing like Licensed to Ill. The feeling seemed less aggressive, the lyrics smarter and more polished. But what really got under my skin were the samples. The pastiche of sounds that the Dust Brothers used to create the aural experience was just beautiful. That afternoon we listened to “Hey Ladies/Shake your Rump” over and over again, calling out the song titles of the samples that we recognized, starting with Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”. Little did I know that once I had the entire album, I would perform that ritual for each song, and each sample on the album.
The single whet my appetite and I copped the album on its day of release. This was not one of the albums that is a slow burn – that you don’t “get” or “love” until your 100th listen. I feel in love with it upon my first listen. I was hooked and felt the need to evangelize Beastie Boy greatness to all who would listen. Each song is a hit. In fell more credit needs to be given to the Dust Brothers. They had a major hand in creating this rich, layered recording. The music is built sample by sample and the end result is an extraordinary rewarding experience for the listener. Plus, the Beastie Boys just nail the rhymes. When I mentioned I was going to write up a blog entry on Paul’s Boutique to two friends of mine, they both had the exact same response; “I’m so dope, they call me Mr. Roper” (disclosure: the actual line is “I’m so rope…”). See, I am not alone; this is what is meant by classic, two people quoting a rhyme that is 20 years old! Ironically, Paul’s Boutique failed to come close to the success of Licensed to Ill, and the record label stopped promotion and let the album perform on its own merits. As years go by, the album has really stood the test of time. In fact, “Paul’s Boutique” is considered by most critics to be the Beastie Boy’s landmark album. The classic if you will.