Filed under: Obituaries
At the age of 15, my most treasured asset was a seven ply piece of concaved wood bearing the graphics of a rumored satan worshipper, Natas Kaupas. That deck has fetched over $3000 at auction, and I’m pretty sure mine was snapped in half tackling a rail at the Cupertino library. That summer (1992), Plan B—an upstart skate company—announced themselves to the world via the Questionable VHS tape. Their team was second to none, with Danny Way, Matt Hensley, Sal Barbier, Colin McCay, Mike Carrol, and Rodney Mullen (playing the roll of elder statesman) turning in game changing performances. To say the 57 minute video made me and my cadre of friends feel like total amateurs is an understatement. Our attempts to replicate their complex street style were valiant, but pedestrian. The music in Questionable, however, was much easier to rip.
Using a pair of RCA cables on the VCR out, I managed to cobble together a mix tape of my favorite skate video songs, replete with truck grinds and tail slaps. This tape was on heavy rotation that summer, in various cars, a K-Mart-pilfered boom box, and the Panasonic-brand walkman that accompanied me to and from Lynbook High. And while the tape was culled from half a dozen different videos, it drew heavily from Questionable. Somewhere up in my mom’s rafters is a copy of that tape, and I’m certain the track list is littered with questionable (pun certainly intended) entries that I can’t begin to recall, but I know for certain that the Beastie Boys “Time For Livin'” was on there.
This was hardly my first exposure to the group. My father had gifted me a cassette copy of License To Ill for my 10th birthday, but my parents lax disciplining hardly gave me call to fight for my right to party. In fact, I was more familiar with their material via continuous reruns of The Pick Up Artist on HBO (featuring the infectious “She’s Crafty”) than by their near-constant play on MTV. By 1987 I’d discovered the Dead Kennedys and the Ramones, both of which made the Beastie’s sound downright pedestrian to my pre-pubescent ears. Five years later, a hardcore cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Time For Livin'” provided me with a reintroduction to the group and the soundtrack to that summer.
Ain’t nobody got to spell it for me
Ain’t nobody got to yell I can see
Ain’t nobody got the pain I can hear
But if I have to I’ll yell in your ear
I’d love to know a final tally for the number of times I played “Time For Livin'”–I bet it’s in 400s (it’s less than two minutes long). Angry at everything, including my inability to reach what was then my life’s dream: going pro, it became my anthem, my mantra. That song inspired me to go harder, to try crazier tricks and give even less of a shit what anyone thought. The Beastie Boys have succeeded while doing just that for the last 33 years; my skateboarding career ended two years later with a broken hand.
Friday afternoon’s news of Adam Yauch’s passing didn’t cause me to breakdown in tears, but when I got home I did pull out the three Beastie Boys records I have filed and give them much needed spins. I began with the Pollywog Stew 7″, then Paul’s Boutique, and finally Check Your Head. “Time For Livin” is directly preceded by the 30 second interlude “The Biz vs. The Nuge,” but in my original home dubbed version I thought it was the song’s intro and have mentally left it as so. I added four more plays to my all-time tally, re-sleeved the LP and put it back on the shelf. At 15, the concept of “Time For Livin'” meant pushing the boundaries of my own existence. Twenty years on, I’m still trying.
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