Sabotage

Album: Ill Communication (1994)
Charted: 19

Songfacts®:

  • The lyrics were written about an annoying engineer named Mario Caldato Jr., who got frustrated with the slow pace of Beasties' recording sessions. The trio felt he was sabotaging their music by trying to push through instrumental tracks they were unhappy with in order to get something completed.
  • Adam "King Ad-rock" Horovitz talks about this song in the liner notes of the Beastie Boys anthology: "'Sabotage' was recorded as an instrumental, and the vocals weren't added until two weeks before the record was completed. It was the last song on Ill Communication to be finished."
  • The video, which was directed by Spike Jonze, was a parody of '70s cop shows such as CHiPs and Hawaii Five-0. It featured the three Beasties with shaggy hair and huge sunglasses, running around the city chasing a man with a briefcase and doing other cop stuff. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Andy - Arlington, VA, for above 2
  • Adam "MCA" Yauch recalled to Q magazine April 2008 how the video came about: "Adam (Ad-Rock Horovitz) wanted us to do a photo shoot as undercover cops on a stakeout, sitting in a car, surrounded by coffee cups and doughnut wrappers. We mentioned it to Spike and he said, 'Let's do it.'"
  • The Beastie Boys rarely allow their music to be used in advertisements. However, the band gave their blessing for this song to be used in the live action Destiny 2 trailer. The commercial's director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, has an existing relationship with the Beastie Boys which helped him in securing the soundtrack.
  • This was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards, but didn't win any (Video of the Year went to "Cryin'" by Aerosmith). When the award for Best Direction went to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," Adam Yauch (MCA) rushed the stage and got to the podium while Michael Stipe was getting his trophy. Yauch was in character as his alter ego Nathanial Hornblower, wearing a huge fake moustache and lederhosen.

    This was the first such intrusion in the history of the show, pre-dating Kanye West's takeover of Taylor Swift's speech by 15 years. Yauch's stunt was baffling, as only the biggest Beastie Boys fans were familiar with Nathanial Hornblower. He and the group suffered no fallout from it, as the network figured boys would be (Beastie) boys. They were given the Video Vanguard award in 1998.
  • Reflecting on the video, Matt Pinfield of MTV's 120 Minutes told Songfacts: "It showed a band's sense of humor and playfulness, and not being afraid to have a good time. It was a change of direction as far as the song goes: It was full-on rock inspired, that '70s rock feel on that song. I felt there was a lot of Zeppelin in it. That's why I think it's such a great take-off on all those great '70s cop shows and those blaxploitation movies."
  • This song is played by a young James T. Kirk early on in the 2009 Star Trek movie as he takes his stepfather's antique convertible out for a joyride in the Iowa countryside. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joshua - La Crosse, WI
  • Beastie Boys rarely license their songs for commercials, but "Sabotage" was used in a spot for the movie Minions: The Rise of Gru that aired during the Super Bowl in 2020, and in a Joe Biden campaign ad later that year that was pulled days later. That spot centers on Joe Malcoun, co-owner of The Blind Pig, a music club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who talks about how President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic has hurt his business. It was later revealed that Malcoun had other business interests and was in no need of a bailout.

Comments: 13

  • Dzo from AtlantaI'm a beastie boy
    Since I was a child
    Bad to the bone
    And born to be wild
    I'm slow and low
    On the brass monkey
    I hold it now hit it
    You know that I'm funky
    Spunky
    It's time to get ill
    Fight for your right
    And then take a chill
    If it makes you sick
    Then take a pill
    I'm real
    And could never
    Be fake
    I'm to bad
    For goodness sake
    The crowd will shake
    Once I let the beat
    Drrrrop
    Now that it's going on
    I can't make it stop
    I started at the bottom
    Maybe I'll see the top
    And if you don't like
    The front
    Then you can take
    Up the rear
    And call me
    Paul Revere
    I'm intergalactic
    I'm outta here.
    Peace to all, MCA R.I.P.
    King at rock, Mike D. Love you always.
  • ApeSong's still as fresh as the video to be frank.
  • Nick from Ludlow, MaThe stop in the middle and the guitar picking up is epic as heck. Can't believe the song is 20 years old!
  • Rachel from Nashville, TnThis video is still widely regarded as one of the best videos of all time, and it's currently 18 years old. It's demonstrable proof of the staying power of true talent. On that note, I am devastated that there will be no more Beasties. (Unless of course they pull a Dr. Dre and resurrect MCA via Pepper's Ghost, God forbid.)
  • Ryan from Anahola, HiThis song is in Rock Band and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
  • Jeff from Austin, TxThe Beavis and Butthead episode was very funny. They were actually saying some stuff my friends and I were already saying. Obviously, we felt pretty cool that we and B&B were thinking the same things.
  • Thomas from Savannah, GaWhen I finally get my "man cave" up to specs, this video will play on a non-stop 24/7 loop on it's own TV in its own corner of the room. All hail the greatness that was 70's cop show cheese.
  • Susan from AirdrieI LOOOOOOOOVE this song! Totally cheers me up when I'm in an awful mood.
  • Don from East Van, Canadai like men- don ahluwalia
  • Anaïs from Paris, United Statesthere's an extract of sabotage in futurama
  • Ralph from Newton, MaGreat discussion fodder for a hilarious "Beavis and Butthead" episode.
  • Jakob from No Direction Home, OtherA brilliant video mixed with a brilliant song
  • Leon from Waterbury, CtA great, fun song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Tom Keifer of Cinderella

Tom Keifer of CinderellaSongwriter Interviews

Tom talks about the evolution of Cinderella's songs through their first three albums, and how he writes as a solo artist.

Yacht Rock!

Yacht Rock!Song Writing

A scholarly analysis of yacht rock favorites ("Steal Away," "Baker Street"...) with a member of the leading YR cover band.

Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe ShaverSongwriter Interviews

The outlaw country icon talks about the spiritual element of his songwriting and his Bob Dylan mention.

80s Music Quiz 1

80s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

MTV, a popular TV theme song and Madonna all show up in this '80s music quiz.

Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"

Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"They're Playing My Song

The Prince-penned "Manic Monday" was the first song The Bangles heard coming from a car radio, but "Eternal Flame" is closest to Susanna's heart, perhaps because she sang it in "various states of undress."

Janet Jackson

Janet JacksonFact or Fiction

Was Janet secretly married at 18? Did she gain 60 pounds for a movie role that went to Mariah Carey? See what you know about Ms. Jackson.