You know how you can get together with an old friend you haven’t seen for years, and it’s like you were just together yesterday? It happens on the “Broken Record” podcast, when Beastie Boys Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz reunite with Rick Rubin, who was their friend, producer and cowriter of their epochal 1986 debut album “Licensed to Ill.”
And since Horovitz and Rubin hadn’t spoken in more than 20 years (not out of anger, but just because they simply hadn’t), it not only has the joyfulness of reuniting with an old friend, it almost amounts to an oral history of the group’s early years: touring with Run-DMC and Madonna, going to the legendary NYC nightclubs of the 1980s, Rubin’s infamous bubble machine (which has taken on legendary status in Beastie lore) and more. The group’s longtime friend, video director and documentarian Spike Jonze is also along for the Zoom session and weighs in with some questions, but mostly he’s just enjoying the reunion.
The third Beastie Boy, Adam “MCA” Yauch, died of cancer in 2012, but he’s present in many of their recollections. The four are pictured above — from left, Diamond, Rubin, Yauch and Horovitz — in New York’s Washington Square Park in 1984, the very era they’re discussing in the podcast.
There’s plenty of laughter and goofy inside jokes, like most people reunited with friends from their late teens, but in this case, it’s all leading up to the creation of a pivotal album in music history and ensuing superstardom.
And although the Beasties have been on a bit of a retrospective binge over the past couple of years — with a gigantic book, a speaking tour, a documentary and more — one thing that’s been missing is a real reunion with Rubin.
This session is absolutely essential listening for fans of the group and especially its groundbreaking debut, “Licensed to Ill,” because it tells the real story of those early days. How the group first teamed up with Rubin — via hanging out at his NYU dorm, then going out to clubs, which was basically the 18-to-24-month-long process that resulted in “Licensed to Ill”: just being young, trying to be cool and make each other laugh — and the result is one of the defining albums of the hip-hop era.
Along the way we hear about their background and upbringing, and several questions are answered that the group long wondered about — they never understood whether Rubin, who was their DJ at the time, left the Madonna tour because he actually had an ear infection, or whether that was just a cover story.
And where did that bubble machine come from, anyway? All is revealed in this hour well spent…