Adam Yauch leaves behind an impressive catalog of music and videos with his Beastie Boys brothers Ad-Rock and Mike D, but “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” are, without a doubt, two of their most iconic releases. Ric Menello helmed the videos for both songs, with some help from co-director Adam Dubin, and looking back now, Menello tells MTV News, jokingly, “If I knew that people were going to be looking at them 26 years later, I would’ve done better!”
While attending graduate school for film at NYU back in the ’80s, Menello befriended a young Adam Yauch, Ad-Rock and Mike D, who kept him company at his part-time job as a desk clerk, talking about movies and music into the wee hours of the morning. “I wrote the movie ‘Tougher Than Leather,’ which the Beastie Boys appeared in, then Rick Rubin suggested I would be a good director for ‘Fight for Your Right’ because I had new ideas and it was better to fail at a new idea than to succeed with a crappy old idea,” Menello explained. And although he was hesitant to take on the job, for fear of “ruining their careers,” he eventually enlisted the help of Adam Dubin to co-direct, adding that he “needed someone to blame if it stunk.”
Once he accepted the job, they collectively brainstormed ideas and set to work. “We originally had an idea we couldn’t use, which was them disrupting a high-society, classy party at a gallery — because at that point, we didn’t know too many people who were classy or high-society,” he explained. “I came up with the plot, Rick Rubin and Adam added to it, and then Rick, Adam and I directed it. The Beastie Boys definitely had creative input, and I recall Adam being the ringleader. They were friendly, cooperative, enthusiastic and creative guys, especially Adam.”
Menello admits that he never could’ve predicted how legendary the clip would become. “It was kind of a dumb video, but it was done in a very sophisticated way visually. I often say the style of the video is ‘stupidity done in an intelligent way,’ ” he said. “The concept was infantile rebellion, and they were good actors for that. It wouldn’t have worked if not for Yauch, Rock and Mike D being pretty good actors and being funny. The whole point was for it to be comical as well as musical.
“Adam Yauch, at that point, was the ringleader — he had a very dry sense of humor, a little different than everyone else’s. He was also enthusiastic to do anything, which came in handy on that video and when we did ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn,’ ” Menello continued. “If something had to be done that was the least bit risky, he volunteered immediately. There was a television set that we had to smash with a sledgehammer and it was very important that it didn’t look like a fake TV, so we made a hole in the video tube, which meant that there might have been an explosion — but he didn’t care! He was like, ‘I’m gonna smash the TV!’ All throughout the video, he was like, ‘I gotta do it, it’s gonna be great, we have to have that shot!’ And he stepped right up to do it. He was always into doing the craziest stuff, but he was a keen guy, very smart and quick to learn, so it didn’t surprise me that a few years later, he started directing his own music videos.”
The fun didn’t stop with ‘Fight for Your Right,’ though, as the boys teamed up with Menello once again for “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” “My favorite moments in the ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ video were when Yauch was called upon to be Bugs Bunny and he got the face just right for that. He also had to figure out how to open the safe they were robbing during the concert, and he figured out the best way to open up the safe was to slam his head on top of it. So he smacked his head on top of the safe and it opened, and I thought that was hysterically funny. Usually when people try to open a safe they use tools, but he said, an exact quote, ‘My generation smashes its head onto it. That’s what my generation does to open a safe.’
“Even when they were worried if something might not work, they always gave their all. We really helped make it work,” Menello added, as a final thought. “It didn’t surprise me when later, besides comedy and satire, their music became more complicated, and they got into social issues.”
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