Sabotage (song)

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Single by Beastie Boys
from the album Ill Communication
Released January 28, 1994
Format CD
Recorded 1993
Genre Rap rock[1][2][3]
Length 2:58
Label Grand Royal
Writer(s) Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch
Beastie Boys singles chronology
"Professor Booty"
"Get It Together"
Audio sample
file info · help
Music video
"Sabotage" on YouTube

"Sabotage" is a 1994 song by American hip-hop group Beastie Boys, released as the first single from their fourth studio album Ill Communication.

The song features traditional rock instrumentation (Ad-Rock on guitar, MCA on bass, and Mike D on drums), turntable scratches and heavily distorted bass guitar riffs. A moderate commercial success, the song was notable as well for its video, directed by Spike Jonze and nominated in five categories at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Sabotage" #480 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[4] In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at #46 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and was ranked #19 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s list. Pitchfork Media included the song at #39 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s list.[5]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video, directed by Spike Jonze and played extensively on MTV,[6] is a homage to, and parody of, 1970s crime drama shows such as Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, S.W.A.T., Baretta, and Starsky and Hutch. The video is presented as the opening credits of a fictional 1970s-style police show called Sabotage, with the band members appearing as the show's protagonists. Each band member is introduced as a fictional actor, and the names of the characters are also given.

The characters appearing on the show are (in order of credits):[7]

  • Sir Stewart Wallace guest-starring as himself (played by MCA)
  • Nathan Wind as Cochese (also played by MCA)
  • Vic Colfari as Bobby, "The Rookie" (played by Ad-Rock)
  • Alasondro Alegré as "The Chief" (played by Mike D)
  • Fred Kelly as Bunny (played by DJ Hurricane)

Some scenes had to be removed when the video was shown on MTV, including a knife fight sequence, a falling-off-a-bridge scene, as well as a scene in which a man is thrown out of a car into a street.[citation needed] In addition, the Beastie Boys Video Anthology featured a mock interview of the "cast" of Sabotage conducted by Jonze's then-wife Sofia Coppola. A more recent version, the uncut version, can be found on Vevo.

In the DVD commentary for the 1996 film Trainspotting, Danny Boyle credits the film's opening credits to those used in "Sabotage."[8]

1994 MTV Video Music Awards[edit]

The video for "Sabotage" was nominated for Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Direction in a Video, and Viewer's Choice at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. However, it lost all five categories it was nominated in, losing Video of the Year, Best Group Video and Viewer's Choice to Aerosmith's "Cryin'", and Breakthrough Video and Best Direction in a Video to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts".

During R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe's acceptance speech for the Best Direction award, Beastie Boys member MCA bum-rushed the stage in his "Nathaniel Hornblower" disguise, interrupting Stipe to protest the shutout of "Sabotage" from every category it was nominated in.

At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the "Sabotage" video won best video in the new category of "Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)".[9]

In popular culture[edit]

During Saturday Night Live's 25th Anniversary Special in 1999, the band played the first fifteen seconds of the song before their performance was "sabotaged" by Elvis Costello, who in 1977 had done the same to one of his own songs on the show; the Beastie Boys then accompanied him on "Radio, Radio", the song performed during the original incident.[10]

The BBC Radio 5 Live show Fighting Talk uses "Sabotage" as its theme song. Starting in 2013, the series instead uses a remixed version of the song.

Phish covered the song in their 1998 concerts at Hampton Coliseum, and it appears on the live album of those concerts, Hampton Comes Alive.

The song is heard early in J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek film, played on a car stereo by an adolescent James T. Kirk. This is one of the few uses of licensed music in a Star Trek production. The song also appears in the 2016 sequel Star Trek Beyond, used by Kirk and his officers to disrupt an alien attack on a Federation starbase.

The song is included in the tracklist for the video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Rock Band.

The song is used in the DVD menu for the 2001 movie A Knight's Tale.

The song was covered by hardcore punk band Cancer Bats for their 2010 album Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones.

Linkin Park covered and incorporated the song into "Bleed It Out" during their 2012 live performances, after the death of MCA.

In the 1999 Futurama episode "Hell Is Other Robots", the Beastie Boys perform several songs, including an acapella version "Sabotage."

In the 2013 How I Met Your Mother episode "Mom and Dad", "Sabotage" is featured, and is parodied as "Zabka-tage".

The Japanese idol group released a cover of "Sabotage" on their double A-side single "Kira Kira Tune / Sabotage" in 2012, and it was also included on their 2013 album "WORLD WIDE DEMPA". This cover has the MIX included in it.

In 2015, during their UK tour together, members of Korn and Slipknot performed the song on stage together at their London leg.

Finnish band Steve 'N' Seagulls performed a version of the song in November 2015 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[11] It is also used in the trailer for Masterminds

The song appeared during the infamous Bronco chase scene in the second episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

The song was featured in a 1994 Beavis and Butthead episodes here the duo describe the humorous action sequences and police show parodies despite not recognizing the actual band members.

The song is played in episode 22 of the first season of My Name is Earl.

California-based skate punk band FIDLAR covered the song in mid-2016.


Chart (1994) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[12] 94
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[13] 38
Dutch Singles Chart 35
UK Singles Chart[14] 19
U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles 15
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[15] 18


  1. ^ Aaron, Charles (September 1999). "Top 20 Singles". Spin. 15 (9): 137. 
  2. ^ Grierson, Tim (October 25, 2015). "Top 10 Essential Rap-Rock Songs". Retrieved May 18, 2016. 
  3. ^ Weiss, Dan (April 6, 2012). "Ten Rap-Rock Songs That Are Actually Awesome". LA Weekly. Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Beastie Boys, 'Sabotage'". 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 50-21". Pitchfork Media. 2 September 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Smith, Ethan (2012). "Spike Jonze Unmasked". New York (magazine). Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Beastie Boys: Sabotage (1994)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  8. ^ DVD commentary. Trainspotting.[clarification needed]
  9. ^ "The Playlist: Spike Jonze Wins Belated VMA For Beastie Boys' 'Sabotage'". 14 September 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Elvis Costello and Beastie Boys- Radio, Radio - YouTube[dead link]
  11. ^ Modell, Josh (3 November 2015). "Steve 'N' Seagulls cover Beastie Boys". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. 
  13. ^ "Beastie Boys Top Singles positions". RPM. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  14. ^ "Beastie Boys Album & Song Chart History". Chart Stats. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  15. ^ "Beastie Boys Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 

External links[edit]