March 24, 2014

Rap music for the flapper generation (seriously)

You gotta fight -- for your right -- to PARRTTAAYY!

This is going to seem like a far stretch, I promise you.

I was driving to work last Friday morning, listening to The Beastie Boys' License To Ill album. So many hits came off of that album and none greater - or more influential - than Fight For Your Right. There I was, grooving to the music and mouthing the lyrics as best I could (I'm far too white for rap music), when all of a sudden a thought hit me:

This must have been what flappers felt like in the early 1920s when the old school formalities and restrictions of the Victorians and Edwardians were slowly being torn down (but still heavily enforced by parents and guardians the world over).

Your pops caught you smoking and he said, "No way!"
That hypocrite smokes two packs a day.
Man, living at home is such a drag,
Now your mom threw away your best porno mag (busted).

Am I right, or am I right?? All I kept thinking the entire time was how relevant this song was to the kids and young adults growing up in the 1920s and early 1930s. Attempting to break free from the heavy restrictions their parents set upon them must have been a chore in and of itself - no drinking, no smoking, no pornography, no foul language, no entertaining men without a chaperone, no bare ankles, no dalliances with the African American bandleader, no loud music -- NO FUN!

LIFE Magazine's shot of a New York speakeasy.

The threat of Prohibition didn't bode well either. The nationwide ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcohol was eventually enforced in 1920 and lasted for thirteen years, coming to a jubilant end on December 5, 1933 (thank you Santa). Prohibition - or, as I like to call it the-rise-of-illegal-Canadian-Club-whiskey-in-the-states - literally sapped the fun out of every parlor and gin joint in the USA. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a drinker (I never fancied the taste of alcohol), but banning ALL alcohol seems a little severe and a touch fanatical if I'm being totally honest. And everyone knows that when something is banned, it only increases the item's notoriety, desirability and value. I should know: my elementary school banned bicycle shorts when I was in the fourth grade and that didn't end well either because we proudly wore them underneath our ripped jeans anyway. So there!

Don't step out of this house if that's the clothes you're gonna wear!
I'll kick you out of my home if you don't cut that hair!
Your mom busted in and said, "What's that noise?"
Aw mom you're just jealous it's the Beastie Boys.

Enter the birth of the speakeasy: every drunkard's answer to a gin-soaked heaven. If people couldn't enjoy a drink or two in public anymore, then they sure as hell were going to find a way to do it in private. Perhaps not every funeral parlor was converted into a speakeasy a la Some Like It Hot, but the notorious party havens popped up literally everywhere in major cities across the US. Used to satiate the public's appetite for alcohol, these bars and clubs were regularly raided by the police whose job it was to enforce Prohibition and do away with anything having to do with the consumption of "the devil's juice." A bit harsh, no?

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is this: whilst listening to Fight For Your Right, all I kept picturing in my pretty little head was a line-up of flappers and their beaus kicking and punching the air with their fists, belting out the Beastie Boys' lyrics. They must have felt the same way the Boys' did - truly, all they wanted to do was escape their parents, have a house party, drink with their pals and get so shit-faced that they wouldn't remember a single detail of the previous night's shenanigans the morning after. Who could begrudge a flaming youth that?

1 comment:

  1. haha love this train of thought -- I never made the connection, but it makes sense! "You gotta fight for your right to party", YES!

    It's hard to imagine alcohol being forbidden, I'm always surprised when I hear about that time in the US. Especially because, as far as I know, that never happened in Portugal.

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