The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #203: Sabotage by Beastie Boys (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #203: Sabotage by The Beastie Boys.

This is one of my favourite songs to see performed live. It is loud and comes at the listener in a sonic assault. The energy of the cadence of “Sabotage” is one that routinely elicits a manic response from those in attendance; furious dancing and jumping and head bobbing are all part of how audiences normally react. However, the funny thing about “Sabotage” is that it became a famous and noteworthy song, not because of how it sounded live but, because of an award-winning video created by director Spike Jonze. For the record, I can’t stand the video but, obviously, that’s just me.

The Beastie Boys no longer perform since the death of member, Adam Yauch. But, in their day, they were one of the most important, creative and influential musical acts anywhere in the world. The Beastie Boys were three white Jewish guys from Brooklyn, NY (Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch and Mike Diamond, better known as “Ad-Rock”, “MCA” and “Mike D.”, respectively, by their fans). The Beastie Boys were important because they picked up the musical torch held up by Hip Hop groups such as Run-DMC, who helped merge the musical genres of Hip-Hop and Rock. The song, “Sabotage” takes this genre-hopping one step further and ends up with a song that is, as much a Hard Rock, Arena-anthem, as it is a Hip Hop song. Because of the creativity of the band members, The Beastie Boys ended up selling over 20 million albums worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame; making them one of only five Hip Hop acts ever inducted (Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Run-DMC, being the others) and, as well, makng them the only white Hip Hop group so honoured.

The song is known for the signature, fuzzy bombastic, heavy bass notes that begin the song. The notes erupt out of the silence that proceeds them and help give this song a lot of its energy, right off of the top. The lyrics to “Sabotage” aren’t that important. (The song is about the band’s frustration with a sound engineer who was trying to force the band to be more productive and efficient with their use of studio time during the making of the album, “ILL Communication” which, for the record, debuted at #1 on the charts when it was released.) But, there are lines that stand out such as “Your crystal ball’s not so crystal clear”. Overall, “Sabotage” stands out as a song because of the strength of the bass notes, the funk-inspired slapping of their guitars and the superlative “scratching” done by the DJ.

“Sabotage” became a cultural phenomenon when it was released because of the video that accompanied it. In the video, directed by Spike Jonze, the Beatise Boys all don disguises and pretend to be police officers in a spoof of 1970s TV detective shows. This video was nominated for almost ever conceivable award upon its release; winning several along the way. I tend to find the video annoying because of the goofiness of it all. In a way, it reminds me of The Beatles and their “Magical Mystery Tour” silliness. But, evidently, enough people liked it to make it one of the highest rated and biggest selling music video ever made. Who am I to quibble, I suppose?

So, without further delay, I am going to give you three (!) different videos for this very same song. First off, like I said, I LOVE this song live. So, I am going to start with my favourite Iive performance, which is from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland. In this video, the band is closing out their set. They are being deliberately awkward in how they close out the show. The crowd gets restless as they are unsure of exactly what the band is doing. The Beastie Boys say goodbye. The lights go out. There is a four-count and then, the song begins and all Hell breaks loose. The band is in top-notch form during this performance and the audience responds with a ton of enthusiasm. To me, this is the magic of rock n’ roll for all to see. What a grand show! In addition to that video, I will, of course, show you the official video that ended up winning so many awards. Finally, I will share another great live version that happened when the album was just released and the band showed up on the David Letterman Show to promote it. Enjoy any or all of these videos and have an awesome day!!!

The link to the video for the song, “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys,, from their Glasgow, Scotland concert, can be found here.

The link to the song, “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys, from their award-winning music video by Spike Jonze, can be found here.

The link to the song, “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys, from their appearance on the David Letterman Show, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beastie Boys, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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