New Beastie Boys Book Uncovers Lost Song From ‘Paul’s Boutique’ Sessions
A misunderstood lyric from the Beastie Boys' first album helped break the ice as the group began work on the follow-up masterpiece 'Paul's Boutique.' But, as relayed in Dan LeRoy and Peter Relic's forthcoming book 'For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: 25 Years of Paul's Boutique,' it took some 25 years for a tape of that moment to resurface.
It seems Delicious Vinyl co-founder Matt Dike, in whose apartment these sessions took place, praised the Beastie Boys for a particular line from their song 'Hold It Now, Hit It,' which he thought was, "I'm Mike D and I can do it very Jewish!" Of course, as 'For Whom the Cowbell Tolls' reminds, the original lyric was the similar-sounding "Jerry Lewis," creating a moment of songwriting hilarity ultimately titled 'The Jerry Lewis' -- and a creative spark that propelled them forward.
The Beastie Boys started riffing -- "Hey, yo Mike! Let's do the Jerry Lewis!" Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz says to Michael "Mike D" Diamond in the newly discovered tapes -- and Dike raced off to get a suitable sample. He returned with 'Baby Scratch My Back,' a forgotten cover of an old blues song by Dino, Desi and Billy -- chosen in part because of an in-joke. As LeRoy and Relic write: "Jerry Lewis had been the longtime comedic partner of Dino’s dad Dean Martin."
Ultimately, a portion of 'Baby Scratch My Back' was combined with a looped intro from 'Do It Again' by the Beach Boys, and an improvised bass line from Adam "MCA" Yauch. And that was the genesis -- though not quite fully formed -- for everything that followed, as 'Paul's Boutique' blended the Beastie Boys' brotherhood of rhymes with a series of brilliantly offbeat samples.
And yet, the song remained shelved, only hinted at in a single stage show in 2009. Likely, that's because it called back too much to something the Beastie Boys had already accomplished with their often-hilarious but rather one-dimensional debut. "Had 'The Jerry Lewis' been released as 'Paul’s Boutique’s' first single ahead of the under-performing 'Hey Ladies,'" LeRoy and Relic argue, the "Beastie Boys would likely have been permanently pegged as novelty knuckleheads, never to go on their long, strange journey." Instead, they were aiming to accomplish something more.
And so 'The Jerry Lewis' is revealed in 'For Whom the Cowbell Tolls' (available on July 25 via 6623Press.com in paperback and on Kindle as an e-book) as the sure-fire hit that never was -- and a highlight of the treasures found during the summer of 2013 in a box of Ampex tapes marked, simply, 'Beastie Boys No. 1.' The reel-to-reel had spent the last quarter-century in a public storage facility in L.A., amid all manner of items from the late '80s heyday of Delicious Vinyl. Engineer Mario Caldato Jr. added handwritten working titles but, otherwise, there was no other information about what was contained within.
The Beastie Boys, to that point, had scored the first-ever rap Billboard No. 1 album, and a huge contract with Capitol Records was forthcoming. Dike's ad-hoc studio portrayed none of that promise, however. The Beasties, like Tone-Loc before them, would record 'Paul's Boutique' in a walk-in closet, with scraps of carpet nailed to the walls to muffle the sound. Of course, as Ad Rock said in an interview for the 20th anniversary reissue of their thrillingly complex 'Paul's Boutique,' "The closet was blessed."
Only, they didn't know it yet. First, the Beastie Boys had to get comfortable, and that's where Jerry Lewis -- or, more correctly, 'The Jerry Lewis' -- came in.