Look How Young They Are!: The Beastie Boys Performing Live Their Very First Hit, “Cooky Puss” (1983)

Would you look at this video? Here we have the orig­i­nal line-up of the Beast­ie Boys (when they had a fourth, female mem­ber, Kate Schel­len­bach) play­ing a Christ­mas-time gig in 1983. And you just wan­na scream: LOOK HOW YOUNG THEY ARE! Adam Yauch is prob­a­bly 17 at the time, Michael Dia­mond younger, and Adam Horowitz is younger still, and they are plain­ly enjoy­ing them­selves while also being a bit ner­vous and unsure. (Ad-Rock blanch­es when he has to brag about the size of his mem­ber, while Adam Yauch shows he had flow very ear­ly on.) I doubt any­body in the audi­ence was think­ing these white kids would go on to be one of the great­est rap groups of all time. Some were won­der­ing what hap­pened to the hard­core punk music they usu­al­ly played. And some were just hav­ing a blast.

The track they’re per­form­ing is “Cooky Puss,” their very first attempt at rap and, as it hap­pens, their very first 12” sin­gle release. To their sur­prise the record start­ed get­ting played in clubs.

For those who picked up the delight­ful, thor­ough, and very heavy Beast­ie Boys Bookwe told you about it just recent­ly–the ori­gin of “Cook­ie Puss” is out­lined in detail. A friend of a friend got the young band a chance to record in a stu­dio usu­al­ly reserved for com­mer­cial jin­gles for two days. The first day the band played a selec­tion of orig­i­nals and cov­ers, but on play­back “we real­ized they were pret­ty bad,” writes Ad-Rock. “They weren’t hard­core songs, they were odd­ly Goth-ish and just sort of, well…pretty bad.”

With a sec­ond day at their dis­pos­al they returned, and based on a beat from Schel­len­bach, “Cooky Puss” was born, along with anoth­er orig­i­nal, “Beast­ie Rev­o­lu­tion.” The cen­ter­piece of the stu­dio ver­sion is a prank phone call between Ad-Rock, a tele­phone oper­a­tor, and a work­er at Carvel ice cream, which the adult Horowitz now cringes in mem­o­ry over. (“Can I for­mal­ly apol­o­gize right here and now? I’m sor­ry.”)

The Beast­ie Boys had start­ed as a hard­core band, fea­tur­ing Schel­len­bach on drums, and had record­ed an e.p., Pol­ly­wog Stew which final­ly got released, along with the Cooky Puss e.p. in 1994 as Some Old Bull­shit. But rap was every­where and, as Horowitz tells it, Mal­colm McLaren’s “Buf­fa­lo Gals” was the record that put hip hop on the map. “Cooky Puss” was their affec­tion­ate par­o­dy of that track. (Schel­len­bach, by the way, went on to form Lus­cious Jack­son)

As for the actu­al Cooky Puss, it was a weird ice cream cake sold by Carvel (with its own char­ac­ter and back­sto­ry), and pro­mot­ed on local TV with a set of ads fea­tur­ing the voice of own­er Tom Carvel him­self. Check out the won­der of the Cooky Puss and its plush toy com­pan­ion. Call now…they hon­or most major cred­it cards.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

‘Beast­ie Boys on Being Stu­pid’: An Ani­mat­ed Inter­view From 1985

Fight For Your Right Revis­it­ed: Adam Yauch’s 2011 Film Com­mem­o­rates the Beast­ie Boys’ Leg­endary Music Video

Librar­i­ans Pay Trib­ute to Clas­sic Beast­ie Boys Video; Name Hen­ry Rollins Keynote Speak­er at Con­fer­ence

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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