Saturday, May 5, 2012

Conducting Sabotage with "Sabotage:" Remembering MCA

My main gig in the mid 90s was working as a lackey in Blockbuster Music’s flagship store in Lewisville. In a way, the store was the last step in the evolution of music consumerism before the internet made hardcopy obsolete. The store was constructed with a complicated array of directional speakers and taped video that pummeled the customer with images and sounds as they moved through its labyrinthine aisles. When in the country section, you would only hear George Strait and Garth Brooks, but as the customer moved to the rock section, they would magically move into an environment bathed in the newest hits from Soundgarden and Smashmouth.

The screens assigned for each section played music videos of taped point-of-sale items. By today’s standards, they were pretty archaic. Relatively small screens were hooked up to VCRs that had to be rewound every three hours or so. For the casual customer, it worked pretty well. For the employee stuck in this environment for forty hours a week, however, it was incredibly overstimulating.  There was also a large nine-screen display that concentrated on the top sellers in each genre.  Its contents could be heard in the entryways and listening booth areas of the store.

Most of the music on this top-seller tape was utter crap. When the Beastie Boys' Ill Communication came out, however, Sabotage made the cut, and most of us in the store were delighted to have this track end up in rotation. We would always crank the song up when it came on. In fact, as an experiment, we slowly began testing the limits of the store's equipment on Sabotage, pushing it louder and louder each time it came up.

Eventually, the manager came up and complained about how it was so loud. We insisted, however, that the song was just louder on the tape than all of the others, and we began to take great joy in cranking the song up beyond all reason. Then, when the manager came and turned it down, we would turn the rest of the tape down to a barely audible level so that he would have to come back and turn it back up. This continued for nearly a month and a half until the next point of sale tape came in.

This is my most treasured memory of any Beastie Boys track, conducting sabotage with Sabotage, and the one that immediately came to mind when I heard about the untimely death of Adam Yauch, AKA MCA. I knew that he had been fighting cancer for awhile, and his absence in the videos attached to The Hot Sauce Committee made me concerned that the battle might not have been going so well.

Still, I was taken aback yesterday when I heard the news. Although I have many memories associated with the Beastie Boys music, I hope that this story is one that might have made Yauch smile in the way that his music often made me smile.

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