Johnny Ryall

Album: Paul's Boutique (1989)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about a homeless man Mike Diamond often came across - Johnny Ryall really did hang out on the stoop outside of his apartment. Unlike most songs about the destitute, this one is pure observation with no judgment; the Beasties simply tell his story, how he claimed to be a rockabilly star and was always looking for a dollar and a drink. It's clear they have respect for Mr. Ryall, as they rap: "He's no less important than you working class stiffs."
  • Like most of the tracks on Beastie Boys' second album Paul's Boutique, this one has a bunch of samples. The rhythm is based on "Sharon," a 1972 track by David Bromberg. Other songs that show up include:

    "One Of These Days" by Pink Floyd
    "Momma Miss America" by Paul McCartney
    "Magnificent Sanctuary Band" by Donny Hathaway
    "Military Cut-Scratch Mix" by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore
    "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight (in the "Johnny Ryall who do you think you are?" line)
  • In the Beastie Boys Book there's a photo of Johnny Ryall with a Def Jam Records jacket. The Beastie Boys were signed to the label and given those jackets as swag, and Mike D gave his to Ryall. According to Mike, when Def Jam head Russell Simmons saw Ryall wearing it, he was none too pleased - he didn't want Def Jam associated with homeless people.

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