30 Years Ago: Beastie Boys Become the First Censored Act on ‘American Bandstand’
With what was being shown on MTV in 1987 and what was headed down the pike from pop music performances, it’s rather precious that the Beastie Boys were censored on American Bandstand for a mere crotch grab. The incident seems almost as puritanical as The Ed Sullivan Show shooting Elvis Presley from the waist up – and that happened a whole 30 years prior.
Although Bandstand changed with the changing times in terms of the music it featured, the long-running television program was always rooted in a fabricated innocence of harmless pop music. Bouncy tunes, dance contests and lip-synced performances were presented with affable aplomb by America’s eternal teenager, Dick Clark. Since its '50s origins, Bandstand had delivered a sanitized version of rock ’n’ roll, and everyone from Chuck Berry to the Doors to Madonna had played along.
That is, everyone except one-time Madonna opening act the Beastie Boys. When the newly minted superstars were told by American Bandstand producers that they would be lip-syncing to the recorded version of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” the Beasties decided to make a mockery of the performance.
With DJ Hurricane fake-scratching behind them, the three members stumbled through their time in the spotlight, with Michael “Mike D” Diamond tripping over his bandmates, who purposefully missed their cues. Adam “MCA” Yauch made a point to rap away from the prop microphone, then broke it apart on the studio floor.
Although the equipment damage may or may not have earned the group a ban from the show (more on that in a minute), it was Ad-Rock’s mid-song crotch grab that gave the Beasties’ the distinction of being the first act to be censored on American Bandstand. Because the program hadn’t been aired live in decades, the offending gesture was edited from the performance, although the spot still included the band’s stage “dancer” Eloise when it aired on Jan. 16, 1987.
In the weeks, months and even years after the Beastie Boys’ appearance, rumors have spread about the group’s ill-fated turn on Bandstand – with most of the facts lost to the haze of history and the Beasties’ beer-soaked early days. In some publications, Eloise was blamed for the censorship while others circulated stories of the group being run out of the studio for breaking microphones, stealing a phone or insulting Clark’s wife.
“We never even saw his wife,” Ad-Rock claimed in the spring of 1987. “He said we stole a telephone from his office. I think I can buy a $10 phone on the street, so why would I have to steal one from his office?”
Although Clark appeared bemused by the Beasties on Bandstand, it’s notable that the camera never shows the hip-hop trio and the host interacting, with obvious edits between his introduction and follow-up. Some reports indicate that when Clark greeted the Beastie Boys after the performance, they responded by presenting the broken microphone with, “Here’s your mike… Dick.”
If it’s true that the Beasties’ shenanigans resulted in a lifetime Bandstand ban, it would be of little consequence to the group. American Bandstand stopped airing on ABC later in 1987 and went off the air entirely in 1989, as the Beastie Boys were promoting their second LP, Paul's Boutique.
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