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At long last, the Beastie Boys have revealed what exactly "Sabotage" is about

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“I can’t stand it, I know you planned it,” screamed Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, 24 years ago, on the opening lines of The Beastie Boys’ 1994 upper-echelon classic “Sabotage.” Today, those who have long wondered both who the “you” in that sentence is and what exactly the “it” they are being accused of planning is, finally have an answer. They are, respectively, Ill Communication engineer/producer Mario Caldato Jr., and attempting to make The Beastie Boys actually get some work done.

This revelation comes from The Beasties’ new book Beastie Boys Book, which is out today and comes with an A.V. Club seal of approval. In a new except from the book’s audiobook version published in Spin, the surviving Boys explain the evolution of the song, and how it developed from a more traditional rap song into a lighthearted “fuck you” to their exasperated producer. Like most of the tracks from the Ill Communication sessions, MCA’s legendary bass-line spent a while kicking around as a loose idea while The Beasties struggled to decide on the direction their sound should take for the new album. As the group toyed with ideas like layering a Queen Latifah vocal sample over the instrumental track, producer Caldato Jr. grew increasingly frustrated with their inability to finish anything, which in turn would lead to him getting very angry:

“We were totally indecisive about what, when, why and how to complete songs. Mario was getting frustrated. That’s a really calm way of saying that he would blow a fuse and get pissed off at us and scream that we just needed to finish something, anything, a song. He would push awful instrumental tracks we made just to have something moving toward completion.”


Eventually, as The Beasties closed on wrapping Ill Communication, Horovitz decided that the best use of the track (then called “Chris Rock” after a studio engineer named Chris who thought the track rocked) would be to have some fun at the expense of the man who could indeed shut him down with a push of his button: “I decided it would be funny to write a song about how Mario was holding us all down, how he was trying to mess it all up, sabotaging our great works of art.”

The resulting effort would of course go on to be a hit and a signature Beastie Boys track. Just as famous is the accompanying Spike Jonze-directed video, which you should go ahead and rewatch now knowing that its absurd aviators-and-mustaches cop-show dramatics are all born out of The Beastie Boys’ displeasure at being asked to please get some fucking work done.


You can check out the rest of the excerpt, as read by Tim Meadows, over at Spin.

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