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The Young Aborigines

The Young Aborigines



The Young Aborigines was the band in which Michael Diamond (drums), Kate Schellenbach (percussion), and John Berry (guitar) played in the early 80s before they became the Beastie Boys. Along with friend Jeremy Shatan (bass), the Young Aborigines wrote and played experimental songs, influenced by artists such as Siouxsie & the Banshees and Joy Division.

In a January 2003 interview with Beastiemania.com, Shatan recalled a Young Aborigines rehearsal. "We used to play a pseudo-hardcore song called 'Asshole,'" said Shatan. "When we did it, we all switched instruments. I played guitar very badly, John Berry played bass, Kate Schellenbach played drums, and Michael sang. I actually think the experience of singing that song did lead into Michael being the front man for the Beasties."

According to Shatan, the band recorded hours of rehearsal material (including arguments), which he still has on tapes. The band tried recording at a studio owned by friends of Berry's father on the Upper West Side, but they were not happy with the sound the studio produced.

Over time, the Young Aborigines established a small fan base, which was comprised mainly of friends, including Adam Yauch. At the time, Yauch was learning to play the bass and, according to the Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science liner notes, he made it a point to go to the Young Aborigines practices all the time and hang out.

In the summer of 1981, the Young Aborigines performed at Jerry William's 171A. Stephen Diamond, Mike's brother, recorded the show, which Shatan still has a copy of on tape. Shortly after the performance, Shatan left New York City for the summer.

It was on a night during the second week of July 1981 that Dave Parsons, owner of Rat Cage Records, first heard the news that a new band was being formed out of the Young Aborigines, and that band was going to be called the Beastie Boys.

"Kate said it first. She said Michael was going to sing, and everybody laughed," said Parsons. "I was surprised when I first heard the Beastie Boys' material because to me it was a lot better than the Young Aborigines stuff. It was more original. The stuff they did as the Young Aborigines was more tribal sounding, whereas what became the Beastie Boys set sounded like a kid rock 'n roll band. The songs were entities, and it fit them. Previously they were trying to be like music they listened to. The Beastie Boys were a real garage band or loft band. What happened was that they played a few shows. The first real one was with Even Worse, the band John [Berry] had been in for awhile, and then they broke up. Later they would get back together to record Polly Wog Stew at 171A. It seemed like they were always doing that band-of-the-week musical chairs."

When Shatan returned to the city in the fall, the Beastie Boys were already getting booked to play hardcore shows. Because the hardcore sounds that Diamond, Berry, and Schellenbach had embraced did not appeal to Shatan, he did not become involved with the band. The Young Aborigines would never perform again.

The Young & The Useless (2)