Coming of Age Anthems
from the ‘80s and ‘90s
My brother and I were riding in the backseat of a gray Chrysler Plymouth, making our way from Kansas to Colorado in the summer of 1988.
With nothing to see except wheat fields and nothing to listen to on the radio but Dad’s country classics, we asked one more time to please pop in the cassette tape the babysitter had left behind.
We were pre-teens, too young to understand all the lyrics, but our fists flew into the air when the Beastie Boys screamed, “KICK IT!”
There were no seat belts to hold us back: “You missed two classes and no homework!”
We were clearly being called to some sort of delicious rebellion. The sound was new and obnoxious – and ours!
And, in an instant, it was ejected…ripped from the dashboard in a fit of “damn-it-to-hell” and “God-awful racket,” and tossed hard out the driver’s side window, black ribbons of our burgeoning adolescence unspooling in the wind.
It may have been the line, “Mom through away my best porno mag,” that pushed the vein in Dad’s temple to the surface of his skin, but the sound alone offended his Boomer ears and the frivolity of it all made him cringe.
We were crushed, dejected, certain the Beastie Boys were prophets of something we would not always be denied.
Jen Doll wrote in The Atlantic that the Beastie Boys’ lyrics were memes before there were memes, full of inside references to pop culture from the first white rappers who brought a new post-punk and pre-grunge sound. Before Millennials cuddled up with their parents, middle-class suburban Gen Xers prepared for Nirvana with seeds of Beastie dissent.
As Kris Kristopherson filled the Plymouth again, my brother and I whisper-sang the rest of the song to each other: “Living at home is such a drag.”
We didn’t know exactly when or how, but we knew it was just a matter of time before we would take the driver’s seat to fight for our right – to parrrr-tay!
Get ready for a coming-of-age musical tour of the 1990s; but first, a few precursors from the 1980s:
Like a Virgin, Madonna, 1984 – I didn’t know I was a virgin in 1984, but after watching Madonna on MTV crawling through Venice in that ripped white dress, I really, really wanted to be one! The backyard diving board was a perfect runway for imitating her until the neighbor kid peaked over the fence – childhood humiliation!
It Takes Two, Rob Bass & DJ EZ Rock, 1988 – First boy/girl party. I still know every word.