‘Licensed to Ill’ Turns 30, So We’re Revisiting their Old HQ at 59 Chrystie Street
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Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys’ seminal debut on Def Jam Recordings. The long-player became the first rap album to top the Billboard album chart, and eventually shifted more than ten million copies just in the United States.
During this formative era, the three-piece group dwelled (and partied) at 59 Chrystie Street. This Chinatown abode – they leased a full floor – was their home, recording studio, and party palace. British Airways enabled this headquarters, oddly enough.
The transatlantic airline company lifted a snippet of “Beastie Revolution” for use in a television ad campaign in 1983. It was done without properly licensing the track, which appeared on the second EP dubbed Cookie Puss. The subsequent copyright infringement case was a success, netting the band $40,000 in damages, which enabled the rental of 59 Chrystie Street.
Mike D and the dearly departed MCA fondly recalled their time at 59 Chrystie Street in a 1998 interview with Spin Magazine:
Mike D: That money enabled us to make the move for independence. We got a floor in this Chinese Sweatshop building on Chrystie Street [on the lower East Side of Manhattan].
MCA: The floor was blacktop. Somebody had actually rolled tar across it, like the street. One time we were hanging out in the living room and we heard this really loud explosion in the kitchen. Our toaster oven had a hole in the top and a hole in the back. There was a hole in the wall behind it and a hole in the ceiling. Apparently, somebody upstairs fired a gun through the floor. We ran up there and there was nobody in the room but this old woman. We were like, “What happened?” and she didn’t speak English. You know some crazy shit had just happened in that sweatshop and they had quickly covered it up. Dragged the body out.