Bruce Springsteen is nothing if not a student of rock history, and we have no doubt that even though he’s old enough to be Adam Yauch’s cool uncle, he’s familiar with the catalogue of his Tri-State buddies in truancy, the Beastie Boys. And with musicians of all stripes pouring out musical tributes to the late MCA—and with Bruce proving himself ready and willing to pay homage to the recently dead (see his recent cover of The Band’s “The Weight” after the passing of singer Levon Helm), it seems likely that Bruce will whip out a BBoys classic at his next gig. (Not for another week, so plenty of time to write up the sheet music for the E-Streeters.)
Which BBoys song will he choose, though? Let’s run down the likely choices:
If you had to pick an odds-on favorite, it’d have to be this Licensed to Ill classic, about a subject with which Bruce himself is certainly not unfamiliar, and one that he may have indeed written himself were he about 15 years younger and about 35% snottier. Sung by Bruce, it probably wouldn’t even sound like a rap song, but probably something Bo Diddley (who originated the song’s melody) would have recorded back in the ’50s. Plus, he can get in a great bandmate shoutout in the song’s break: “Jockin’ Little Stevie TO MY DIS-MAY!!”
Hey, if Fun. can handle it, I certainly doubt the E Street band would struggle with the BBoys’ hardest-hitting hit. The primary problem would be the toll that imitating Ad Rock’s screech would have on Bruce’s voice—if he plans on going for another two and a half hours after it, he’d have to lower-register it to the point where there’d be no purpose in playing it at all. Also: Not much room for a sax solo, if little Jake wants to get in on the action.
If the E Street Band really wants to kick out the jams on a Beastie track, they could go with this deep instrumental cut from Check Your Head. Well, not entirely instrumental—Bruce will be needed on the microphone for exactly one word, and you can probably guess what that word is. But if you wanted to pay tribute to the Beasties without having to worry about the potentially earth-quaking implications of Bruce Springsteen rapping, this would be a solid way to do it.
“THREE MC’S AND ONE DJ”
Then again, maybe rapping is something Bruce has yearned to do on stage for 30 years now. If so, the purest old-school hip-hop track of the Beasties that he could cover is probably this Hello Nasty jam mostly devoted to their then-DJ, Mixmaster Mike. Of course, for maximum effect, Bruce would need to trade verses with Stevie and Patti Scialfa, and probably have Max Weinberg in the back on the 1′s and 2′s. “Mixmaster Max, what you got to say?…”
OK, so maybe it doesn’t exactly fall into the “Most Likely” category, but if we’re talking about the ones we’d pay the most to see, we sure would love to see The Boss take on this lost classic Check Your Head-era b-side, in which Mike D plays lounge singer romancing a girl on the boardwalk to the tune of Eddie Holman’s early-’70s soul smash “Hey There Lonely Girl.” Sounds like a Bruce song in theory, right? And would there be any way to greater electrify a Springsteen crowd than for Bruuuuuce to loudly and proudly claim “AWWW YEAH, YOU KNOW THAT I’M THE ONE, THA FUCKIN’ OOOONNNEEE!” No experience would be awesomer.