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The Late Movies: "Paul's Boutique" Turns 23

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The Beastie Boys released their opus Paul's Boutique today, July 25, way back in 1989. (To some of us that doesn't seem so long ago.) It was their second record, and the band faced tremendous pressure to meet or exceed Licensed to Ill, known for anthemic party-rock/hip-hop hits like "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" and "No Sleep till Brooklyn." The Dust Brothers produced Paul's Boutique and in many cases actually wrote the music and arranged the samples. Although at first the album wasn't the smash hit Capitol Records was looking for, it was a critical success and eventually (in 1999) went double platinum. It often appears on critics' "best albums" lists. Tonight, a few choice cuts from the record.

"Shadrach" Live on Soul Train

"It's not how you play the game, it's how you win it" -The Beastie Boys rapping on, no kidding, Soul Train. They repeatedly name-check the late Don Cornelius, who proceeds to interview them onstage. Also notable: MCA's beard.

"Hey Ladies"

With a layered Seventies funk groove, this song samples James Brown, Kool & the Gang, the Commodores, Cameo, P-Funk All Stars, Kurtis Blow, and many more.

"Shake Your Rump"

The video featured the three rappers performing in front of three cameras on a roof. Most fun is the dance break around 2:00 in which you can see the crew in the background. At the very end, you see The Dust Brothers (E.Z. Mike is one).

"Johnny Ryall" (Demo)

Playing on limited-edition blue vinyl, on a rainbow turntable. The song samples Pink Floyd, Donny Hathaway, Kurtis Blow, and the Beastie Boys' previous work among many others. The song refers to a homeless man. Interesting how many of the song's name-checks are still relevant -- Ed Koch and Donald Trump are both mentioned.

"High Plains Drifter" Live in Tokyo

From a concert in 1995.

"The Sounds of Science" Live in Japan

"Droppin' science like? Galileo dropped the orange," live in Japan.

"Egg Man" Live in Germany

"Come Halloween you know I come strapped!" A song about egging.

Paul's Boutique Release Party

Yeah, just 48 minutes of hanging out on the Capitol Records roof celebrating the record's release. Spoiler/surprise alert: there is awesome skywriting in this video. Also amusing is the extended interview -- towards the end, the guys lament the consumer trend towards CDs and away from vinyl; MCA suggests that vinyl is superior in part because "it's bigger."

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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