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Anatomy of a Single: Beastie Boys’ “Hey Ladies” (1989)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 4, 2007

I got an open mind, so why don’t y’all get inside

I’ve talked on this blog before about my love of tracking down samples used in songs I love, and on this matter, no artist indulges me more than the Beastie Boys. Namely anything on their ’89 stone classic Paul’s Boutique, and namely “Hey Ladies,” which weaves together probably about as many samples as your average Avalanches record. But unlike The Avalanches, while the rampant borrowing/thieving/pillaging done in “Hey Ladies” is wide enough to create a dialogue with the last 20 or 30 years of killer party jams, it remains totally accessible as a fucking awesome pop song in its own right to boot.

Anyway, entire books have been written on just how awesome the sampling on this record is, so I’m not gonna waste time with that. Instead, I’m just offering up a road map to the song’s dozen or so grabs, complete with mp3s for demonstration purposes. Nearly all the songs are great in their own right, so maybe give ’em a shot (and as always, props to Wikipedia and The-Breaks.com for their invaluable research assistance).

  • The Commodores – “Machine Gun The song gets its main hook from the bridge to this pre-suck Commodores instrumental, probably best known for its use in the Fuck You Martin Scorsese, We Beat You To the Punch on This One montage of Eddie Adams’ burgeoning porno success in Boogie Nights.
  • Kurtis Blow – “Party Time Provides none other than the song’s titular clarion call, from the man who knows how to rock a block party like no other.
  • Sweet – “Ballroom Blitz” “SHE THINKS SHE’S THE PASSIONATE ONE!” Ensures the glam-rock smash’s continuing endurance, even if Crucial Taunt had never existed.
  • The Bar-Kays – “Holy Ghost The cowbell-heavy (err, cowbell-heavier) outro groove here is also used as the cowbell-heavier outro groove to “Hey Ladies.” Used more famously in M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume.”
  • Cameo – “Shake Your PantsReponsible for the cool, bendy guitar riff used in the “All the ladies in the house” bridge, as well as the ridiculous bubbling synth part that leads back into the song’s last verse. Also used as the main hook to Boyz II Men’s significantly underrated “I Can’t Let Her Go“.
  • Kool & the Gang – “Jungle Boogie Possibly the song’s subtlest sample, but Robert “Kool” Bell’s “unh, get it on” exhortations can be heard very briefly towards the end.
  • P-Funk All-Stars – “Pumpin’ It Up Not entirely positive on this one, but I believe the clicky, obviously programmed drum break towards the very end of the song is taken from the groove to this one.
  • Afrika Bambaataa – “Jazzy Sensation “ALL THE LADIES IN THE HOUSE! THE LADIES, THE LADIES!” Not the only time the BBoys sampled this one, or even the only time on Boutique, the animal grunt and glockenspiel sounds were used for the outro to “Shake Your Rump” six tracks earlier.
  • Zapp & Roger – “Dance FloorBABY, BABY, BABY, BABY!” The BBoys proved prescient on this one, as the song’s “Shake, shake it Mama” hook would be used far more prominently in 2Pac & Dr. Dre’s ’96 classic “California Love“.
  • Malcolm McLaren & the World Famous Supreme Team – “Hey DJThe “GET” part of “GET…FUNKY!” Another one that went on to own the mid-90s, with the song’s twinkly piano hook used for Mariah Carey’s 1997 #1 hit / career re-invention “Honey“.
  • James Brown – “Funky PresidentThe “…FUNKY!” part of “GET…FUNKY!” Used in about a billion other songs, before or since.
  • Disco Dave & The Force of the 5 MC’s – “High-Powered RapGIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!!” Yeah, think another rapper might’ve used that one too.
  • James Brown – “Ain’t it Funky NowTitle’s sort of a giveaway on this one.
  • Jeanette “Lady” Day – “Come Let Me Love You Cla-clang-clang, cla-clang-clang, ca-clang-clang-clang! Maybe the 14th most famous cowbell break of all-time. Stay tuned for #s 1 – 13.

Oh, and Sadaharu Oh is a Japanese baseball player who holds the world record for home runs. Would be better if he held the world record for hits, but life is imperfect I suppose.

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