Memory and sense have a peculiar way of working in tandem.
For decades, skate videos have pushed us to land bigger tricks, shown us how to dress, even opened our eyes to new music, and the biggest characters in skateboarding today – from Eric Koston to Paul Rodriguez – owe much to these humble VHS tapes. While full-length skate films don’t entirely generate the same sort of interest they used to, adidas’ Away Days, Vans’ Propeller, and Supreme’s Cherry constitute three modern examples that made it to the e-pages of Highsnobiety.
Our list provides a retrospective look at the role music has played in skateboarding films over time, walking through familiar names like Flip, Blind, and Birdhouse, set to the sounds of Joy Division, Ice Cube, Dead Kennedys and more.
So get your fix of fisheye footy, and enjoy these 25 tracks that will forever be intrinsically tied to skateboarding culture.
McRad – Weakness, – from Powell Peralta’s Public Domain
For the younger readers, this tune may evoke memories of 2009’s sandbox skate game ‘Skate 2,’ but that’s definitely not why it landed on our list. McRad’s “Weakness” was featured in the Rubber Boys clip from Public Domain’s Powell Peralta video, and while much has been written about this clip in the past, two things still stand out: one is the unadulterated intensity of these young kids, which fits perfectly with the track, and two is the no-comply.
411 VM Theme Song
If you know, you know. 411VM was a bi-monthly video magazine from 1993 to 2008. Even if the imprint has been defunct for some time, their releases still serve to inspire. Recently we read that they’re working on a mobile app with TransWorld to bring back their full archive this summer.
Mophono – I Cry, from TransWorld’s In Bloom
Paul Rodriguez’s In Bloom spot was arguably his best ever. Commenting on his own part, he Paul noted “This right here was exactly the moment where the dream was coming true.” This was another era of skating, and it’s more than just the éS Shoes. It’s not often that Eric Koston dishes out kudos like he does here.
Trans Am – Motr, from TransWorld’s Feedback
TransWorld is an absolute pillar in skateboarding history, and it was a total blast when this track was added as the intro to Feedback. TransWorld did it again in their Anthology video, firmly securing Trans Am a place in skate culture.
David Bowie – 1984, from Flip’s Sorry
Even by today’s standards, Arto’s part from the Flip Sorry video is one of the best skateboarding parts ever. Period. He managed to stomp out the same tricks in both regular and switch for almost the entire first minute. Insane. Bowie’s musical accompaniment added that extra touch.
The Stooges – Search and Destroy, from Alien Workshop’s Photosynthesis
On a list of the most legendary skate videos ever, Alien Workshop’s Photosynthesis won’t be far from the top. It’s mind boggling that this video was released 16 years ago. Anthony van Engelen did his thing.
Fugazi – Waiting Room, from Get Familiar
We’re filing this track under Bobby Worrest’s part in the Get Familiar video, but it’s hard to ignore the feeling that we’ve heard it in many more skate films. Anyway, this one is a clear-cut classic for us, and the Fugazi fans out there will appreciate it.
Pressure Drop – Theme for the Outcaste, from eS’ Menikmati
Menikmati contains yet another reminder that Koston is one of the all time best. Daryl Angel even picked this part for his classics section. Notice how every trick is edited to sync with the beat for few seconds, it’s all about the details!
Mellow – Shinda Shima, from Emerica’s This is Skateboarding
Another classic from Thrasher, which shouldn’t come as any surprise because Heath’s style of skating is next-level. Check out the speed of his first line, which seems to exude technical mastery. The opening bluntslide is a thing of beauty, which comes off a lot better than Heath’s following 50-50 attempt down the hubba…it hurts, it hurts so good. The track gives a moody feel to it all.
DJ Shadow – Organ Donor, from- Birdhouse’s The End
There’s a reason why we call Andrew Reynolds ‘The Boss,” and his part from Birdhouse’s The End confirms this beyond any reasonable doubt. The bit is peppered with signature Reynolds steez, don’t miss his mammoth frontside flips set to the sample master DJ Shadow.
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart, from Girl’s Yeah Right
Nowadays everyone is chatting about about Marc Johnson’s move to adidas, but let’s not forget how sick his Yeah Right appearance was. Joy Division and Marc delivered such a great part with this flick. Full of colors, crazy manual combinations, and a style like none other. Keep pushin’.
Coldcut – More Beats & Pieces, from TransWorld’s The Reason
Back to TransWorld, we can’t let you forget – they’re part of the history. The introduction montage from The Reason is an all-time favorite. As simple as that.
We already dubbed Alien Workshop’s Photosynthesis video as one of the best of all time, and this Habitat section backs our claim even further, partly thanks to the soundtrack, which adds something special. The accompanying LP was titled appropriately as “Mr Dibbs and Habitat present – Primitive Tracks.”
Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day, from Nike SB’s 2009 Paul Rodriguez Spot
Not that we consider this specific Nike SB commercial an important part of skateboarding culture, but it remains special in a number of ways. First, as far as commercials go, this is an enjoyable watch front to back. Second, between the awesome cameos and the scenic cityscape shots, there’s a lot to get stoked on here if you’re from Los Angeles. Lastly, P-Rod lands a clean never-been-done switch tre-flip down the Santa Monica triple set. Wow.
The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony, from Flip’s Really Sorry
The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony lends even more finesse to one of the most fluid skateboarders ever, Tom Penny. This epic Really Sorry part is widely appreciated in the skate community – each time you hear the song, you can’t help but visualise Tom’s skating.
Kurupt – Trylogy, from TransWorld’s Modus Operandi
Here’s one of the best Mike Carroll parts ever – again a TransWorld video by the way. His first line is mind-blowing and the whole hip-hop atmosphere fits perfectly with his style of skating.
The Pixies – Where Is My Mind, from Baker’s 2G
Dustin Dollin himself cited his appearance in Baker’s 2G video as his “break-out part, because it was my first part in a major skate video.” This clip adds to The Pixies notable cult following, inside and outside of skateboarding.
Notorious BIG – Juicy, from Felipe Gustavo’s Plan B pro spot, and Cliché’s Deja Vu
For this author, Cliché rider JB Gillet holds a very special place. His Deja Vu part featuring Notorious B.I.G. shows off the most famous Lyon skatespot at HdV Plaza. Feilpe Gustavo picked the same track for his pro spot with Plan B, and bang, another skate anthem.
Dead Kennedys – Police Truck, from ‘THPS’
The sheer nostalgia here is a straight punch to the gut. For many, this clip unlocked the door to skateboarding, its culture, tricks, personalities and more. Tony himself opens the video by sticking a seemingly impossible full loop.
Motorhead – Aces of Spades, from ‘THPS 3’
This clip is taken from the third instalment in the ‘THPS’ series. For those that followed the franchise, this was an exciting addition because the “revert” move was introduced for the first time, allowing players to link together combos with manuals. R.I.P Lemmy.
Prince – Insatiable, from It’s a Secret Chris Milic
Chris Milic shreds around Arizona in this bonus footage, and pulls off one of the smoothest firecrackers we’ve seen. If you watch carefully, the multidisciplinary skater even shows off his soccer skills. Prince provides a great balance to this cut.
Jackson 5 – I Want You Back, from Blind’s Video Days
A young Guy Mariano rides to the voice of an even younger Michael Jackson in this Video Days part. The fearless Mariano tears it up at only 14 years of age. Listen to the kids bro!
Andre Nickatina – Ayo For Yayo from Chocolate’s Hot Chocolate
We couldn’t in good conscience write about skateboarding anthems without mentioning Andre Nickatina. If we consider the amount of skateboarding soundtracks that Nickatina is featured in, he might deserve the gold medal.
Cky – 96 Quite Bitter Beings, from ‘THPS 3’
This unlockable Bam Margera reel from ‘THPS 3’ was accompanied by Cky’s “96 Quite Bitter Beings.” We wouldn’t be remiss to call this track Bam’s unofficial theme song through the 2000s, as it appeared on numerous compilation albums and skate segments.
John Coltrane – Traneing In, from Blind’s Video Days
We’ll wrap up our list with something from arguably the most influential street skatebaorder ever, Mark Gonzales. Not only that, when scrolling through our list, we realised jazz music was starkly under-represented. So enjoy Mark’s appearance in Blind’s Video Days, set to the ‘Trane.
Now listen to a full breakdown of the soundtrack for Supreme’s skate flick Cherry.
- Words: Kevin Straszburger
- Introduction: Chris Danforth
- Main Image: Thrasher Magazine