It was the summer of 1992. I was back home in Homestead, Florida and all I did was work at Costco like 12 hours a day and listen to music. I was really into Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, basically what everyone else my age was into. In April the Beastie Boys released the album Check Your Head and it was an instant Gen X classic. Lifted up by the amazing single What Cha Want and their trippy MTV video the album was on heavy rotation in my life.
The summer of 1992 was spent with two other people in large measure. My brother Jonathan and one of my best friends Doug. When I was not at Costco working I was hanging out with these two guys. We did everything together. We went to the movies, watched TV, would go down to the beach, hang out and talk, it was a kind of movie summer of no responsibilities and friends you can count on. Doug’s girlfriend at the time (now wife) was living with her parents in Germany and my new girlfriend (now wife) was living in Raleigh. We had nothing better to do than hang out.
And this album was the cornerstone of that summer. My guess is we listened to it once a day that summer. Wearing out the CD player on the boombox.
But the reason this was so life changing for me was every night when we would put this album on the boombox and play basketball after I got home from work. I would get home and Jonathan and Doug would be waiting with the basketball and we would go over to the court and play until we were tired. We would play 21, horse, one on one, trick shot, you name it. And we were not great, not even good. But we played so hard, sweat so much, had so much fun. It was perfect.
I remember that time because it was the most free I had ever or will ever be. I had no responsibilities or needs, I had a small group of guys who had my back and I had theirs. We would laugh together, tell dirty jokes, make fun of each other, hug each other at the end of the night, share our dreams and fears, and just have a blast.
At the end of the summer I had lost like 20 pounds, I looked great. I know that was because we found common ground over basketball and the Beastie Boys. If you have not listened to the album in a while I would suggest you do that immediately. The album is heavily sampled but not like Paul’s Boutique, the core of the album is funk but it also had a harder edge that was more grunge. It was clear they were mixing musical styles and forms. You could almost hear this album blaring in Queens or Brooklyn and getting the same reaction.
What is great about the album is how each song blends into the other. The funk of Jimmy James, the hip hop of Pass the Mic and the grunge of What Cha Want. There are other Beastie Boys albums I like more than Check Your Head but none are more important. That was a great summer.