Beastie Boys “Check Your Head” vinyl LP record album, signed on the cover in silver by all three members of the Beastie Boys… Adam “MCA” Yauch, Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz, and Michael Diamond “Mike D”.
This album was signed for Burton Snowboards founder Jake Burton, who donated it to a charity auction held during the Burton US Open in Vail, Colorado. It came from his personal collection. Burton was friends with the Beastie Boys, especially Adam Yauch, who was an avid snowboarder (at one time Yauch shared a rented condo at Snowbird Mountain with big-time Pro Snowboarder Mike Basich).
The Beasties rarely licensed their music for videos or commercial enterprises, but made exceptions for the fledgling snowboard industry. Their songs were in the soundtracks for numerous early 1990’s Snowboard Videos as the two cultures style and fashion intertwined and influenced each other.
We have seen very few fully signed authentic Beastie Boys signed albums come to market, so don’t snooze and miss your chance on this rare piece of hip hop history.
All three signatures are clear and legible. MCA and Mike D’s signatures are perfect. Ad Rock’s signature has some imperfection from rubbing against another album.
Signed at an official signing session.
Sold with Certificates of Authenticity from both The Autograph Source and independent third-party authenticator Beckett Authentication Services (BAS).
BEASTIE BOYS ‘CHECK YOUR HEAD’:
In a 1992 interview with Uncut, Mike D. stated, “It’s kind of a drag cause there’s no real established guidelines … You just kind of have to do it and then try to make a deal for it.” In doing so, they ran into a few issues. The Jimi Hendrix estate initially denied a wealth of samples used in the song “Jimmy James,” but later granted the group permission. They were not as lucky when it came to a sample of James Newton who took the group to court over the use of a portion of his track “Choir” in “Pass the Mic.” The band had paid Newton’s label, but the artist was not happy with the situation. Eventually, the Beasties were found not liable for the sample.
But even with the sampling issues, the Beasties were already planning on breaking new ground. They started by building their own G-Son Studio with the help of producer Mario Caldato Jr. and keyboardist Money Mark. After the studio was built, it allowed the band the time and access needed to work out musical ideas without having to worry about studio budgets.
“There was talk of making it an instrumental record for a while,” explained Mike D. on the 2009 Check Your Head reissue commentary. “For the first year and a half where we just came into the studio and played our instruments every day, we didn’t even mess with the vocals for a long time.” As a result, the band ended up with funk-based instrumentals like “Lighten Up” and “Groove Holmes,” while other tracks were more jam-based like “POW” and “Namaste.”
But this approach shouldn’t surprise anyone knowing the Beasties’ history. “Pretty much from our first indie record, we just do what we do in the moment,” Mike D. told Hangin’ With MTV. “We’re just fortunate that other people are able to deal with it.”
“Pass the Mic” was the first song to drop, arriving in April 1992. It featured some big beats, scratching and a distortion-fueled finale. But that was nothing compared to the song that would follow — “So What’cha Want” — the closest thing to a radio hit off the disc. The heavy rocking track with the undeniable beat hit the Modern Rock, Rap and Billboard Hot 100 charts in the summer of 1992. In addition, the track became a bigger hit at MTV, where the Nathaniel Hornblower-directed clip using the photo negative and infrared styles caught the eyes of viewers.
The third single, “Jimmy James,” is the one where the band had to wait it out to see if the Jimi Hendrix estate would allow them to use the various Hendrix samples. You’ll hear a wealth of Hendrix clips from “Foxy Lady” to “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” to “Are You Experienced?” used in the song. And there’s a nod to another great rock moment, with the band pulling Robin Zander’s intro to Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender.”
The fourth single “Gratitude” found the band in full instrumental fuzzed out form, with MCA using a Univox Superfuzz on his bass to get that distorted sound. “I had the Super Fuzz plugged in and began to play the ‘Gratitude’ bass line. I showed Mike the arrangement and we recorded the basic structure of the song,” said Yauch of the song’s origins. But even with that killer bass line, it sat for almost a year until the band took a writing excursion and rediscovered the track. “During that trip [Adam] Horovitz played the instrumental version of ‘Gratitude’ several times,” recalled Yauch. “He had an idea, that he wanted to try singing on it, a flow for the words to fall into, and the song began to take shape.”
In all, Check Your Head became one of the Beasties’ most eclectic pieces, pulling influences from punk, jazz, hardcore, funk, rock, rap and whatever else they could find in the kitchen sink. The album peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 Album chart, and while not as commercially successful as some of the discs that would come before or after, Check Your Head is the one that opened new doors for the group and kept them from being pigeonholed.
They rocked David Letterman and Arsenio Hall‘s late night shows. They grew audiences in rock and rap by touring with the likes of Henry Rollins and Cypress Hill and in the process became an in-demand live act, not just for rap crowds and hip-hop kids, but pretty much across the board. Simply put, Check Your Head changed the Beastie Boys’ career trajectory and helped cement them as a legendary act.
Following the death of founding member Adam “MCA” Yauch, it’s been easy to reminisce about the Beastie Boys. Their music has been a constant for the soundtrack of youth culture and adolescent angst over the past few decades (strange to think they’ve been around for that long).
But after (re-)watching many of their old videos, it struck me that “So Wat’Cha Want,” amazingly now twenty years old, seems like it could’ve been recorded a few months ago, and that its visual style (under the direction of Nathanial Hornblower, aka Yauch) seems to be the very definition of snowboard culture.
The clothing the Beasties wear in the video could have come right out of a Burton catalogue. Their mannerisms mimicked by millions. Their music anchoring scores of snowboard movie soundtracks. The combination of rapping over a bass-heavy beat while strutting through a psychedelic forest on some photo negative sunny day still seeming fresh and notable today, some two decades later.
It may appear natural now, but it’s a testament to the wide range of interests and inspirations the Beastie Boys exhibited and incorporated into their work that they were able to so seamlessly appreciate everything from hip-hop to snowboarding to Tibetan Buddhism, all while being authentically true to themselves.
An ESPN article describes Adam Yauch as “a snowboarder — a real one,” clarifies Melissa Larsen. “He chose Salt Lake City as a winter base because if he was in the country and saw a storm headed that direction, it was easy to fly to. The places he rented were bare bones, meant only for sleeping and showering and storing the busted-up Subaru he used to get to the mountain.”
Check Your Head was released five years before the first X Games. Back at a time when snowboarding had grown significantly in popularity, but was still an outsider’s snow sport. So the Beasties became an easily and eagerly adaptable expression of snowboard culture, and then youthful ski culture, too.
“Snowboarding was born in youthful resistance to the popular sport of skiing and the values of sport it represents,” Rebecca Heino writes in her essay, “What is So Punk about Snowboarding?” “The media has appropriated the image of youthful rebellion in snowboarding and commodified it.”
Which, of course, isn’t surprising. Authentic edgy styles are mass-produced every day. It is an inevitable by-product of our capitalist society.
Still, it feels different to have witnessed the complete arc of the process.