Various Artists

This Is Skateboard Music: A Collection of Real 1970s Skateboarding Tunes

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One of the pleasures of being a pop culture obsessive or a fanatical record collector is stumbling across a subculture that you never realized even existed. Case in point, bubblegum songs about skateboarding written and recorded in the '70s then promptly forgotten. These bits of junk culture ephemera are unearthed on Diggler Records' This Is Skateboard Music, a collection of 13 songs nobody's heard before, plus a demo from T. Rex featuring his wife Gloria Jones. If RPM's ongoing Lip Smackin' 70s series, which is not musically far removed from this, specializes on glam, glitter, bubblegum, and proto-punk that's merely obscure, This Is Skateboard Music specializes in the unheard -- songs that never quite cut it as the exploitation they were intended to be. Skateboarding later became inextricably tied to hardcore punk -- there's a whole subgenre of skatepunk -- but many of the record-makers who attempted to cash in on this emerging trend took its definition of surfing on land quite literally, designing their singles as throwbacks to the Beach Boys, but This Is Skateboard Music is hardly limited to just surf-rock on sidewalks. There's straightforward bubblegum, glammy stomps with fizzier guitars, songs that sound like rejected Sid & Marty Krofft themes and, as the decade rolled on, pure disco in the form of "Skatewalk Shuffle." As titles go, that's not the silliest here -- that honor belongs to "Skateboard Honeymoon," which would only seem to lead to an inevitable skateboard divorce -- but this all sounds plenty silly, as they damn well should for being cheap wannabe exploitation records. It's fun to dig into this in bits and pieces, marveling that "Little Skateboard Queen" is as lush as soft rock and that "Skateboard Johnny" sounds like Neil Young (or perhaps more accurately, America aping Neil Young), but as the disc winds to a close it is hard not to wonder how could anybody would have thought these records could sell...and it's also hard to wish that the comp was just a little shorter, as it's a lot at once. And it's not all that there was, either: according to Axel Fischer's too-brief liner notes, there were about 80 titles produced during this time, although there's no indication of how he got to this number, or what constituted a title. Given that there were only 80 or so skateboard songs, 16 seems like a fair cross-section -- it's hard to imagine there were any worse or better than these. In fact, apart from the surprising array of styles and the memorable titles, no song is better or worse than the next: they're all there, just joyfully goofily failed pop culture debris that's worth sampling if you have a taste for kitsch.

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