It’s pretty insane how quickly a year has gone by.
The Christmas before my Mom passed away, I gave her a framed print of the photo below. She had said it depicted one of the happiest times in her life: enjoying spending time with both sons before they got too old to hang out with Mom all the time.
Shortly after she passed, my wife Sarah contacted Liz Prince – one of my favorite cartoonists – and commissioned her to do a recreation of that photo. It turned out pretty amazing:
My mom was always hyper-organized about things – she had an entire notebook detailing her arrangements set aside for when the time came. I like to think that the last line in that notebook is a pretty good summary of what she would want us to remember on this anniversary.
I’m kind of amazed by how many of my Facebook connections have been sharing “Firsts” involving the Beastie Boys in the wake of Adam Yauch’s passing. Anyway, I figured I’d throw my story on the pile.
When I was seven years old, an older kid in the neighborhood turned me on to “(You Gotta) Fight for your Right (To Party)” (And also “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi). Somehow, on a subsequent trip to K-Mart, I talked my Mom into buying the “Licensed to Ill” LP.
As I was only seven, I was still very dependent on parental assistance when it came to actually playing records, so there wasn’t much privacy involved in the inaugaral listening. I distinctly remember dancing around in circles in the living room as side one played out, and going extra crazy as “Fight for Your Right” concluded the side. We didn’t make it to side two, but we did loop “Fight for Your Right” a few more times.
My Mom then explained that the record was a little too grown-up for me, and that she’d take me to get any different record I wanted. I agreed to this swap, but made her promise to save the record for me until I was grown-up enough (Genius move: theoretically doubling my record collection, just like that). If I recall correctly, the replacement I selected was the K.I.D.S. Incorporated Soundtrack (Hey, look! You can download it here!) – the look of disbelief on the older neighborhood kid’s face on hearing the details of this swap is another thing I remember well.
At any rate – fast forward to my impossibly awkward high school years. At this point, I had completely forgotten about the Beastie Boys record. I had also become obsessed with all kinds of weird music, and consequently obsessed with all things vinyl. One day, out of the blue, my Mom asks me: “Do you remember this?”
…and so the LP was returned to it’s true and rightful owner (Thanks, Mom!). I no longer have the K.I.D.S. Incorporated Soundtrack, but I still have “Licensed to Ill.”
Cut to today, the day that Adam Yauch lost his life to the same disease that also claimed my Mother. I pulled the record out and started playing it as I sat down to write this. After side one ended, I started to get up to go flip it over, but thought it fitting to leave it at that.
Some insane things I learned while writing this:
Per wikipedia: “The original title for this album was “Don’t Be a Faggot,”” but Columbia Records flatly refused to release the album with this title and pressured Russell Simmons (their manager and Def Jam label head) into having the Beastie Boys come up with another name. Adam Horovitz has since apologized for the band’s earlier title.”
At age seven, I had a mega-crush on the character “Stacy” on K.I.D.S. Incorporated. As a byproduct of googling the Soundtrack while writing this, I have discovered that “Stacy” grew up to be Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas. Do people know this? How did I not know this until now? To be clear: I no longer have any sort of crush on Fergie.
Awesome vintage office supply packaging, rescued from an estate sale by Sarah. I can find no other photographic evidence of this product on the internet. There are plenty of shady sites trying to get you to use them to register the (expired) trademark, though.
One of the best Kickstarter projects I contributed towards in 2011 (and easily the fastest to go from Kickstarter to my mailbox) was Jack Stratton’s “Funklet: Graphic notations of twenty classic funk beats.” (My full Kickstarter history is here. Looks like I’m going to be getting approximately one documentary in the mail every day in Q4 2012.)
So yes: drummers, coded music, and unwieldy and inconvenient print and recording projects, all rolled into one – there was no way I was not giving them my money. Normally, a sentence like “A funky beat is a great design” would make me want to die, but in the context of the Kickstarter pitch, I can almost not even cringe when I read it:
I want to make a book about drumming that looks good. A funky beat is a great design. Some great designers:
– Bernard Purdie
– James Gadson
– Herman Roscoe Ernerst III
– Roger Hawkins
– Clyde Stubblefield
Not long after the project was funded, I got an email with a zip file containing new recordings of 20 isolated funk beats; and shortly thereafter, the Funklet itself showed up in my Mailbox:
The best part: the writeups that accompany each beat are a perfect mix between informative, insightful, and hilarious: what could have been dry dissection and analysis is instead another key part of the package. Listening to the beats while reading the backstory and following along with the graphic notation was the closest thing to a “following along in the liner notes” experience I’ve ever had with an MP3.
If this seems awesome to you, you’re in luck! While the Funklet is now out of print, Stratton has encouraged his backers to pass around the PDF version, and a website presenting interactive versions of roughly half of the beats has been launched at Funklet.com. While the website doesn’t echo the “liner-note-iness” of the print version, it does allow you to slow the beat down to more readily pick it apart, which is nice.
A seemingly random byproduct of this whole project came in the eighth and final update message sent to the Funklet’s Kickstarter backers: several Bernard Purdie beats (including one transcribed in the Funklet) mashed up with Beatles songs, to create “The Funky Beatles” (It’s probably worth noting here that Purdie apparently overdubbed drums onto several Pete Best-era Beatles tracks for US release in 1964 – I didn’t know that). The full four-song playlist is here, but my favorite is “Little Something:”
Ok, that’s all. Its probably a safe bet that I will never use the word “Funk” this much ever, ever again.
The photo below comes from the box to a Japanese “Little Sesame Street” alarm clock that my wife Sarah bought last time we were in New York (Throughout the time we’ve known each other, Sarah has intermittently used Bert and Ernie to describe how she’s feeling about situations, tasks, etc. For example, “I’m Ernie” roughly translates into “Let’s go, I can’t wait!”; whereas “I’m Bert” implies a more apprehensive, tentative demeanor).
Anyway: I just love the fact that “little” Bert is depicted as already having his signature massive unibrow. It looks like a weird, extra, upside-down mouth on his forehead.