Ever since my first day working at Pandora, I’ve always wanted to make a Skate Rock genre station. With the 11th annual Go Skateboarding Day coming up this Sunday, I thought it might be the perfect time to drop in on this rabbit hole. As a native Californian, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a skateboard in my possession. But it wasn’t until age 12 that I first became aware of skateboarding as a lifestyle, replete with its own soundtrack.
It was the summer of 1983 and I was learning how to pump the transitions of a big wooden halfpipe in the North Tahoe woods when I overheard some older guys. They were talking about punk bands I’d never heard of. When I mentioned that I liked The Clash and The Jam, a guy with bleached bangs hanging over his left eye barked at me, “That British stuff’s for girls!” He told me that real skaters listened to The Misfits, Black Flag, JFA, Agent Orange and other “skate rock” bands. My next trip to Clementine’s Records in Kings Beach found me starting a skate rock collection that I still obsess over today.
Although Jan and Dean’s “Sidewalk Surfin’” came out in 1964, the genre wasn’t properly recognized until 1983 when Thrasher Magazine released a cassette tape titled Skate Rock! Vol. 1 – a compilation that featured bands like Los Olvidados, Big Boys, Minus-One and The Faction (the latter band boasted professional skateboarder Steve Caballero on bass).
Because it has evolved over the past three decades, skate rock is hard to define today. The roots of punk and thrash are still mostly there, but it has also vined out to many other subgenres, when curating Pandora’s Skate Rock station, I wanted to represent all branches of the genre’s family tree.
Some skate rock is about skateboarding. Back in the early ‘80s, The Faction wrote the anthem “Skate And Destroy” around the same time that JFA wrote the tune “Skateboard.” And then there’s “Come On Everybody Grab Your Skate And Let’s Go” by S.T.R.E.E.T.S. (an acronym for Skating Totally Rules Everything Else Totally Sucks).
And some skate rock is just music made by skateboarders. Travesura’s lo-fi party-Americana is pro skater Leo Romero’s brainchild and it sounds like a dust-bowl era transmission piping in from an old wooden radio. Bones Brigade legend Tommy Guerrero’s instrumental guitar music has been called jazz-soul and soul-jazz, but for me it approximates the flowing lines of skating down the street and all the hits and obstacles encountered en route to one’s destination. Those of us who started skating in the ‘70s or ‘80s grew up on skate videos with cheesy instrumental soundtracks from films like Skateboard Madness or The Bones Brigade Video Show. So it only makes sense for guys like Guerrero and his fellow Bones Brigade member Ray Barbee to crate better instrumental soundtracks for today’s skaters.