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Five Old-School Skate Clips and the Songs That Made Them Memorable
By Dryw Keltz
May 24th, 2009
From the moment I stepped foot on a skateboard, sometime around the age of 11 or 12, I was hooked. My first real board was a Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp Street Model which I bought in 1987. I rode that board until the tail had been devoured to about half of its initial length. This was the board I learned to ollie on – a rather ingenious maneuver which would change the activity forever.
The late 80’s was an exciting time to catch the skateboarding bug. The sport was at the tail end of its second peak, and street skating was just beginning to take off. Growing up, the skaters I admired most were street technicians such as Natas Kaupas, Jason Lee, Mark Gonzales, Matt Hensley and Ed Templeton. Watching video footage of these guys at the time was amazing because they were at the forefront of so many new tricks. The progression that street skating underwent between the years of 1985 to 1992 is almost unbelievable. Pros had gone from barely being able to ollie up onto a bench to doing 360 ollie kick flips over ten-stair sets. It was a great era to be part of.
I often find myself browsing YouTube watching old clips from skate videos from these golden years. The ones that stood out at the time, and which continue to stand out today, are the selections which most successfully mix their music choice with the style of the skater. There has always been an undeniable connection between good music and good skateboarding. They are like bread and butter. As much as the skateboarding in these videos influenced the tricks I would attempt, the soundtracks slowly shaped my taste in music. I now present you with five instances which captured the best of both worlds:
Skater: Natas Kaupas
Song: “Brave Captain” by fIREHOSE
Video: “Streets on Fire” by Santa Cruz Skateboards 1988
This video segment seems to be a favorite amongst aging first generation street skaters like myself; probably because it featured Natas performing the still seemingly impossible feet of ollieing up onto a fire hydrant and spinning 360’s while on top of it. A truly absurd stunt. Watching this entire segment in 1988 was nothing short of mind-blowing. The ollie variations that Natas was executing had progressed light years ahead of what he was doing in 1987’s “Wheels Of Fire” as he continued to push street skating into new territory. “Brave Captain” was a perfect choice to accompany the footage. Whereas the Minutemen were a bit heavier and unpredictable, fIREHOSE, the still relatively new Mike Watt project, was a sunnier outfit whose songs still moved fluidly, thanks to Watt’s propulsive bass playing. “Brave Captain” features one of his best bass lines ever, and this segment in “Streets On Fire” may be Natas at his peak.
Skater: Mike Vallely
Song: “Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Jr.
Video: “Speed Freaks” by Santa Cruz Speedwheels 1989
“Speed Freaks” is probably my favorite skate video all time. It was produced by Santa Cruz Speedwheels so it showcased riders from a variety of companies. It featured a soundtrack filled with artists on SST records (the aforementioned “Streets On Fire” did the same) and proved to be a great mix of music and skating. Mike Vallely was a rising star in the street skating world at this time and his segment is certainly of note. This was mostly due to the fact that he was riding his now legendary asymmetrical “Barnyard” model, which paved the way for nearly every deck you saw on racks in skate shops from 1992 on. Vallely’s fast and loose street style was accentuated by the equally rip-roaring Dinosaur Jr. song, “Freak Scene,” off their second album for SST, Bug. It’s also of note that both parties (Dinosaur Jr. and Vallely) are still going strong today. Maybe a reunion is in order?
Skaters: Steve Saiz, Ray Barbee, Chet Thomas
Song: “My Weakness” by McRad
Video: “Public Domain” by Powell Peralta 1988
The Powell Peralta Bones Brigade videos are legendary. 1987’s “The Search For Animal Chin” is probably the most well-known in the series, but 1988’s “Public Domain” is the one that really hooked me. This street segment, featuring three rising stars, Steve Saiz, Ray Barbee, and Chet Thomas, just made you wanna grab your board and go out skating every time you watched it. I saw McRad perform “My Weakness” during an ASR event in San Diego a couple years back and the kids in the club went nuts for it. It’s amazing how much of an impact these videos had on so many people. The funny thing about watching these old Bones Brigade videos today is how dated (i.e. terrible) most of the music is. McRad was quality though, a little hardcore, a little Living Colour, and all rock.
Skaters: Christian Hosoi, Rob Roskopp, Claus Grabke
Song: “What’s So Strange About Me?” by Eight Days a Week
Video: “Wheels of Fire” by Santa Cruz 1987
Enough with the street skating! Okay, for all you vert disciples here is a classic segment from 1987’s “Wheels Of Fire,” which is anchored by an airshow by the one and only Christian Hosoi. This entire part features the gigantic old Raging Waters ramp in San Jose on a glorious summer day. All the footage is captured on film and damn does it still look great! Plus Hosoi, per usual, is just going HUGE. The song is actually by Claus Grabke’s rock band, Eight Days A Week, who had a couple tunes featured in this video which is chalk full of great music. It also features some great tracks by legendary skate rockers JFA. This is a fantastic document of mid-80’s skateboarding just before street skating took off.
Skaters: Neil Blender
Song: “Let It Ride” by Dinosaur Jr.
Video: “Speed Freaks” by Santa Cruz Speedwheels 1989
Neil Blender was always a bit of a wild card in the world of skateboarding. His lackadaisical approach always went against the grain, but the most interesting facet of his lazy style was how great it really was and how gracefully it has aged. This is fully evident in this segment from 1989. Blender kills it on a mini ramp and at a strange old little concrete playground called Sadlands. The guy was the master of lip tricks and keeping skateboarding funny. Providing the soundtrack for Blender’s segment is the appropriately titled “Let It Ride” by Dinosaur Jr. Neil always seemed intent on doing just that.