Diamond: I remember seeing the Funky Four Plus One More at the Rock Lounge on Canal Street. It was a club that we’d all go to anyway, and these hip-hop groups from the Bronx would come downtown. That was a really mind-blowing thing.
Adam Horovitz: We were like 15, so the thought of going up to the Bronx [to see hip-hop]? We stayed downtown. People talk about how awesome Area was. Area was great, but Danceteria was fucking awesome. It was three or four stories. Bands would play on the ground floor, and then there was a hardcore dance club, and then there was a lounge above. You’d see, like, Billy Idol and all these people getting fucked up. And all these kids.
Diamond: The people at the clubs at the time, they liked having kids there just ’cause they were into the music. Fortunately, and I don’t really know why, they were very nice to us.
Horovitz: In high school [at McBurney], me and our friend Nick Cooper were on Saturday-morning detention every week. I remember going to the after-hours club Berlin until three in the morning, then going straight to Saturday-morning detention.
Schellenbach: Sometime in 1982, John Berry left. He wasn’t into playing music. He kind of went off on a drug-induced tangent. Horovitz was already hanging around, he already knew all the songs. As he says, he came up from the minors.
The band recorded a four-track EP, Cooky Puss.The title track—a genre mash-up built around a prank phone call Horovitz made to a Carvel ice-cream franchise asking to speak with Cookie Puss, a character heavily featured in Carvel’s advertising—became an underground hit. It was more comedy than actual hip-hop, but it caught the ear of the burgeoning hip-hop cognoscenti, eventually leading to a working relationship with Rick Rubin, then an NYU student. Rubin would co-found the label Def Jam in 1984 with Russell Simmons, then the manager of many of the genre’s top acts, including his brother’s group, Run DMC. The Beasties would spend a lot of time at Rubin’s dorm, Weinstein, both working and partying, and Rubin would become a close collaborator, instrumental in crafting the Beasties’ new sound—a sound that made rap accessible to white kids everywhere, not only because the three were white but because they incorporated recognizably white music in their beats. But their Beastie Boys personae were entirely their own: reckless, debauched, Budweiser-spewing goofballs.
Schellenbach: There was this friend of Yauch’s dad; I remember him being a commercial-jingle producer. He let us come to the studio after hours to record. They had Popov vodka in the cabinets. We started making prank phone calls, and it was a studio, so we could record everything. I don’t know who had the idea to actually call Carvel and [ask to speak to] Cookie Puss, but Horovitz put on this accent … I never laughed so much in my life.
Diamond: “Cooky Puss” wasn’t a song we really could replicate live. It was a bunch of segments of stuff that we’d played, like, chopped up, and the phone call. But that started getting played in clubs, and all of a sudden we got asked to do shows in places we’d never been.
Nick Cooper, friend: They caught on to everything that was interesting that was happening in music then. There was a real organic sense of purpose around them that I’m not sure they were aware of. They accidentally knew what they were doing.
Schellenbach: You’d see [break-dancers] Rock Steady Crew; they had matching T-shirts, so we all went to Bleecker Street to get matching Carvel T-shirts with our names ironed on. And everyone had to come up with hip-hop names. I think mine was Kate Your Mate.
Horovitz: People used to say “Rock” at the end of their graffiti name. I wish I had come up with something different, like “Delirious.” I might change it.
Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth: I saw the Beastie Boys at [nonprofit art space] the Kitchen, of all places. I remember Mike D looking out at the audience and saying, “I don’t know if we can keep playing, because everybody out here is old and has beards and you’re sitting down.” He was really funny, and when he played, he was phenomenal. He was this rag doll of a singer; he would jump up and fall down on the stage, just like splat.