I didn’t hear about Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of the Beastie Boys’ death until a day or maybe two after it happened. But I was really sorry to hear that he’d passed away. I hope he made it to whatever bardo he was aiming for. Personally, if I were a Tibetan Buddhist, I’d aim for the Bridgette Bardo!
Ar! Ar! Ar!!
The fact that Adam Yauch was a Buddhist is something that has been brought to my attention by well-meaning people for years now. “Do you know the guy from the Beastie Boys is a Buddhist?” they’d say. Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. Thank you. Now that he was a Buddhist instead of is a Buddhist, I suppose I’ll keep hearing it, but phrased in past tense. Which is fine. I don’t mind. It’s just kind of funny what little Buddhist factoids get pointed out to me repeatedly.
I was never a huge Beastie Boys fan. I liked them. But I never followed their career or bought any of their records except for the greatest hits compilation Sounds of Science. And even that I bought used years after it came out.
I was pretty excited, though, when they came out with their Japanese monster movie inspired video for the song Intergalactic. I can even tell you where exactly they got some of the ideas. The scene where you see the monster’s foot crash through a miniature building from the inside is from something Tsuburaya Productions did a lot beginning around the time of the Ultraman Taro TV series in 1973-74. The octopus head monster appears to be inspired by Emperor Guillotine from Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot (by Toei, not Tsuburaya Pro). I was working for Tsuburaya at the time the video came out and tried desperately to get our management to understand what that meant for us and how we might capitalize on it. But to no avail.
I know that Adam Yauch put his Buddhist faith in song in a tune called Boddhisattva Vow. But I never thought that was one of their best. It was too self-conscious and obvious for me. Not that I think it’s a bad sentiment or anything. It just lacked any subtlety and it wasn’t even a very catchy piece of music. Fight for Your Right to Party was a lot more fun.
When Fight for Your Right to Party came out I remember thinking, “Wow! These guys stole the Beastie Boys’ name!” Because I was aware of a NYC based hardcore band called the Beastie Boys from a couple years before that. At the time it didn’t occur to me that it could possibly be the same guys. What self-respecting hardcore band would do a song like that? Then I found out it was the same guys and I got the idea that the song was a joke. Once you know that it’s hilarious.
I don’t know much about Adam Yauch. But it seems like he saw some of the same things in punkrock that I did and saw the connections between punk and Buddhism. In that sense we shared something. And he was the bass player for the Beastie Boys when they played their own instruments.
A little before Adam Yauch died, Howard Hutchings of the Kent, Ohio band Hyper As Hell died. We (Zero Defex) played a tribute show in his memory last Saturday. Howard, Adam Yauch and I were all born the same year, so it was a reminder to me that we all are gonna pass away one of these days. But Nishijima Roshi said, well into his 80s, that he was always happy to wake up each morning one notice, “Wow! I’m still alive!” Crum the Cat always checks on me in the mornings to make sure I’m still alive to feed him by biting my toes.
He also demonstrated very publicly that you have no obligation to be the asshole you were when you were a 20-year-old asshole. I know that without his example my mind might not have opened to the Dharma. So there are a bunch of us who owe the dude some gratitude…AND THAT’S RIIIIIIIGHT.