Left: the cover of Paul's Boutique. Right: the same corner in New York, shot in 2012 (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images)
When the Beastie Boys' sophomore album Paul's Boutique dropped 25 years ago today (yes, you're officially old), it was a commercial disappointment. Their debut License To Ill had been a surprise hit — who ever figured these three dudes would ever nab the coveted five mics from The Source? — but people just didn't know what to make of the sonic and lyrical left turn that was Paul's Boutique. In the end, Capitol Records decided to stop promoting it.
Yes, the label was wrong: the album ended up being a critical and financial success, with the double-platinum certification to prove it (remember when people still bought music?).
Here's the video from the album's second track, "Share Your Rump."
If it sounds like there's a new beat every 16 bars or so, that's because that's more or less how the whole album works. Produced by the L.A. duo the Dust Brothers, Paul's Boutique was a breakthrough in the art of sampling, a dizzying tour through funk, soul, jazz and even The Beatles that remains unequalled today (the landmark Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. lawsuit of 1991 against Biz Markie basically brought the freewheeling sampling era to an end).
In "Shake Your Rump" alone, you can hear sounds from the Bar-Kays, the Sugarhill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa, jazz-fusion drummer Alphonse Mouzon, Diana Ross and The Supremes and so much more.
Last May, on the second anniversary of the death of Adam "MCA" Yauch, the Strombo Show put together a Paul's Boutique special, where George deconstructed the album's samples and influences, track by track. You can listen to that episode below, or tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 8 p.m. this Sunday, July 27.
For another tour through the samples behind Paul's Boutique, check out this DJ Food mix, which was three years in the making, and includes over 150 different tracks that help make up the sonic fabric of the album.
And to celebrate the album's 25th anniversary today, an Italian Paul's Boutique superfan named Paolo Gilli released a film he calls Paul's Boutique: A Visual Companion. The hour-long video, which you can watch on this site, is like a video version of the album, pairing the original Beasties music with all kinds of film and TV footage based on the hundreds of cultural references in the music. If you've ever listened to the album with your eyes closed, this is close to what you might see. Here's a trailer:
Finally, if you really want to dig deep into Paul's Boutique, check out a pair of books from author Dan LeRoy: a 33 1/3 book called Paul's Boutique, and For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: 25 Years of Paul's Boutique, which pores over countless archives and outtakes to tell the story of the album (there's an excerpt on the Esquire website).