Beastie Boys Aren’t Fans of Their Breakout Hit

It’s hard to imagine the Beastie Boys’ catalog without “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” But the song was an accidental hit. Written by Beastie bandmates Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch, along with Def Jam Records co-founder and hit songwriter-producer Rick Rubin, the song launched the trio of Yauch, Horovitz and Michael Diamond (“Mike D”) to stardom. It became an anthem for partiers everywhere, yet that wasn’t the writers’ intention. In fact, the song was written as a parody of such a lifestyle.

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In Diamond’s 2018 biography, Beastie Boys Book, he revealed that Yauch and frequent Beastie Boys collaborator Tom Cushman came up with the initial concept for the song for another band they were involved with called Brooklyn. Ultimately, they decided to give the track to the Beastie Boys. He says that the label chose to release “Party” as a single, even though the trio weren’t the biggest fans of the song. “To us, it was practically a throwaway,” he writes.

Released in December 1986 as the fourth single off their breakthrough debut album, Licensed to Ill, “Fight For Your Right” is known for its memorable hook in the chorus where the trio chants the song’s title. The rest of the lyrics speak to the rebellious teens who reject school and find their parents’ rules to be overbearing. You missed two classes, and no homework/But your teacher preaches class like you’re some kind of jerk, they state in the first verse, followed by, Your pops caught you smoking/And he says, “No way”/That hypocrite smokes two packs a day.

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In a 1987 interview, Diamond stated that the band didn’t endorse the debaucherous behavior they were singing about. “The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different,” he said, according to Far Out magazine. “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”

“I don’t think we realized that it was going to be the sort of the main focus of the album, that it was going to … I think the way we were looking at it, we were just making this dumb song that would sit somewhere on the album,” Yauch explained to NPR in 2011. “But I think that CBS and Rick saw it as being able to be something much larger than what we imagined, and they kind of made it the main focus of the album.”

The group developed such a distaste for the song that they dropped it from their setlist on tour after the release of their sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique, in 1989. Despite the group’s aversion to it, the song cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking their first song to achieve the feat.

The band members made peace with “Party” when Yauch wrote and directed the short film, Fight for Your Right Revisited, in honor of its 25th anniversary in 2011. The film sees several celebrity guest appearances including Seth Rogen, Elijah Wood, Amy Poehler, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. “Fight” has since been named by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

Photo: Capitol Records

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