Released today in 1986: She’s On It

Def Jam 6501697/BEAST2

Def Jam 6501697/BEAST2

She’s On It was a single for Beastie Boys three times in the UK, with the sleeve above actually being used for the hit, third version. Today in 1986, the group were attempting (and failing) to chart with the song for the second time. They had emerged as an early 80s post-punk band and turned their attention to rap and hip-hop after the departures of their guitarist and drummer. The use of a short unauthorized sample from a track on one of their early EPs, Cooky Puss, led to the band suing British Airways in 1984 when they heard it on an internationally-syndicated commercial for the company. (Jeremy Healy, ex- of Haysi Fantayzee, was responsible for the advert’s music; he had a white label copy of Cooky Puss but knew little about the band who had recorded it.) Beastie Boys won a significant sum from British Airways and a deal with Def Jam followed. Success didn’t come immediately, but when it did it seemed to happen overnight. Suddenly, in early 1987, they were major stars in America and Britain and quickly established a reputation worldwide. That reputation concerned what it meant to be a ‘beastie boy’; group member MCA (Adam Yauch) explaining: “Basically, we’re thinking about having a good time, we’re thinking towards the consumption of beer, we’re talking about a person who’s more interested in girls than a nine-to-five job, we’re talking about a person who’s involved in endeavours that go beyond the average, we’re talking about a hedonistic attitude to life.” During the peak of their popularity (spring 1987), that reputation also led to a lot of rumours, not all of them true…

Rumour: They were banned from CBS’s head office for stealing a camera.
True (in part). Def Jam was a CBS subsidiary and Beastie Boys weren’t considered by the parent label to be a priority act. CBS had a hard time taking a band recording an album under the working title ‘Don’t Be A Faggot’ seriously for some reason. A lack of interest from any CBS executives in meeting with the group, together with fatigue regarding their anarchic behaviour, was the likely cause of the ban, rather than any one specific incident. MCA denied they had ever stolen anything, saying that rumour was just a convenient excuse for excluding them: “Just because we have a reputation for being obnoxious, doesn’t make us thieves.” When their album (sensibly re-titled Licensed To Ill) became the fasting-selling debut album in CBS’s history, the ban was lifted anyway.

Rumour: They were banned from the Holiday Inn chain worldwide.
True. MCA: “We asked for two adjoining rooms and they gave us two rooms on top of each other so we dragged all these power tools out of the bus – jackhammers and sledgehammers. The hotel security didn’t say anything so we pulled back the carpet and went down through the cement. We were climbing through on a rope. We tried to cover it up with a carpet because it was in a corner where people don’t often stand so we reckoned no one would find out till they trod there and fell through. I didn’t know they had found out till you told me. I guess that must be why we’re banned.”

Rumour: One of them had thrown a broken bottle at a member of Run DMC.
False One of a number of stories originating at 1987’s Montreux Rock Festival, in May. Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz): “What? Run-DMC are possibly our oldest friends in the world. Yauch and Jay [Jason Mizell, AKA Jam Master Jay] did have a little argument – about a girl back in New York who they’re both, er, friends with – but no one smashed a glass or a bottle or anything. That’s crazy.”

Rumour: They cut a photographer’s face throwing a glass at him.
False Ad-Rock denied there were any injuries, as the incident in question was exaggerated. “We did this press conference and when we went into the room the photographers literally broke open the doors and pushed a table over with plates and cups on. So we were just playing around with them – we threw a couple of pieces of bread and they threw them back. It was fun; like a food-fight, playful. I hit a guy in the face with a piece of ham.”

Rumour: They overturned a car in a night of drunkness.
True-ish. There was photographic evidence of them rocking a car, but “we didn’t quite turn it over,” said Ad-Rock. “We were about to and then we decided not to. We thought, how would you feel if you were with a girl you’ve met in a bar and you’re all slick and you say ‘come back to my place’ and suddenly there’s your car and it’s turned over. We thought that if we did it would creep back to us one day in one of our lives so we didn’t.”

Rumour: The Home Secretary banned them from the UK.
False Front-page news in the Daily Mirror in the spring of 1987 was the story that Beastie Boys had refused to meet young, terminally ill fans from the Make A Wish Foundation, saying “Who cares about a bunch of cripples anyway?” and “Go away you fuckin’ cripples,” leaving some of the children in tears. Outrage followed: TV-AM advised their viewers to stop buying Beastie Boys records; Capital Radio snapped a copy of their current single in half live on air; Radio 1’s Mike Smith made a speech about how awful it all was; it was rumoured the Home Secretary was considering refusing them entry to the UK. The group strongly denied any such incident had taken place, and that had they been asked to meet any of the children they’d have happily done so. And the bit about the Home Secretary was nonsense, although owners of Volkswagens across the UK probably wished it wasn’t: keen to copy their idol Mike D (Michael Diamond) who wore a VW insignia as medallion around his neck on a chain, fans were ripping the metal symbol off parked vehicles for months.

The media might have assumed their intended hatchet job had been successful, as after somewhat less than a year of headlines and hits it seemed Beastie Boys’ fifteen minutes of fame was over. There was no new material from them in 1988 and when they returned in the summer of 1989, promotion was low key. Second album Paul’s Boutique was markedly different from their debut, a far more mature offering that used sampling heavily – ironic or entirely appropriate depending on which way you look at it, considering how their big break had come back five years earlier. (They had of course been careful to get clearance for all the samples they used.) Although the album did reasonably well in the US, it barely charted elsewhere and there was no hit single. Following a period of relative obscurity they started to develop a new reputation in the next two decades with some critically and commercially well-received albums. From a humble start, Paul’s Boutique itself eventually emerged as a classic and helped to establish them as one of the longest-running hip-hop bands. The death of MCA from cancer, just days after Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012, brought the group’s career to an end.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Sep. 15
1980
The VAPORS Waiting For The Weekend (United Artists BP365)
1986
BEASTIE BOYS She’s On It [First re-issue] (Def Jam 6501147)
Julian COPE World Shut Your Mouth (Island IS290)
THOMPSON TWINS Nothing In Common (Arista TWINS11)
UB40 All I Want To Do (DEP International DEP24)
ULTRAVOX (Midge Ure) Same Old Story (Chrysalis UV4)

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