Run DMC: Slow and Low (Demo)
From King of Rock (Deluxe Expanded Edition) (Profile, 1985/2005)
Beastie Boys: Slow and Low
From Licensed to Ill (Def Jam, 1986)
Profile Records recently re-released the first four Run DMC albums (aka “the good ones”) with expanded bonus tracks. On King of Rock, one of the songs included is the original version of “Slow and Low” which Run DMC recorded as a demo back around ’84/’85. The group never ended up recording it but instead, gave the song to a group of white dudes from the Lower East Side who would shadow the group in and out of the studio. When it came time for them – the Beastie Boys – to record the song, Rick Rubin re-engineered the beat but the songwriting is mostly the same as what Run DMC wrote, though the Beasties did throw in their little ad lib, “White Castle fries only come in one size!”
Not to sound blasphemous or anything but listening to these two songs side by side (I had never heard the demo version before), the Beastie Boys’ take really is the superior song compared to the Run DMC’s. Of course, it’s probably not fair to compare a finished album track with a demo cut but the Beasties’ three-man lyrical weave really helps bring the lyrics to life in a way that Run DMC’s version leaves flat on the table. Provided, the Beasties didn’t write the song but they delivered the better performance in this case. (And the beat knocks harder too but I’m fairly certain a final album version of “Slow and Low” by Run DMC would have had an improved track to go with it).