-David Bowie (1947-2016)
David Bowie left our Earth early this morning. Two days after turning 69, and less than a week after releasing Blackstar, the album that’s become his epitaph, he’s gone. He was only ever a visitor here, more of an interdimensional traveler than mere mortal, but he leaves behind a legacy of art that’ll rightly reinforce his expansive legend for generations to come.
Skateboarders share a special relationship with Bowie because his music is used so well in so many classic skate videos. Songs that stand as magical musical moments on their own gain a secondary significance when paired with the right skater, and Bowie, an incomparable sonic chameleon, made music that could work for any style skater so long as they were up to the challenge. Fortunately for us, many were.
So, to honor David Bowie’s legacy within skateboarding, we rounded up some of our favorite video parts scored to his music…
Arto Saari – “Sorry”
This is the most obvious and necessary inclusion on this list. In the history of skate videos there may be no better pairing of skater and soundtrack than this two-song part. From the beginning, as the strings of “1984” swell over a driving bass line, Arto puts on a demo of ambidexterity, mirroring his tricks, doing them regular and then switch, nollie and then fakie, hard and then harder. If you aren’t an Arto and a Bowie fan by the time the acoustic guitar of “Rock N Roll Suicide” comes in just before Arto executes the greatest fakie flip of all time, then there’s something seriously wrong with you and you should probably do some serious searching for the soul that you’re missing.
Bryan Herman – “Baker 3”
It’s always interesting to watch an artist (let’s include skaters into this category for now) mature. Bowie became the experimental artist he is by stretching his sound, pushing the acoustic sound of his first two albums into something rougher and heavier for his third, “The Man Who Soled The World.” Similarly, we can pinpoint the moment that Bryan Herman transitioned from grom to “world’s greatest hardflipper” right to this Baker part from 2005. Just as the warm, distorted guitar of Bowie’s song “The Width of a Circle” drops into a heavy melodic riff, it dawns on us that this kid is going to be something special. Bowie made true on his promise, the jury is still out on Herman.
Chocolate Montage – “Yeah Right!”
I find it kind of prescient that Bowie’s funky “Fame” was used for the Chocolate montage in Girl’s star-studded video “Yeah Right!”. The song (which was co-written by John Lennon) opens with the line, “Fame, makes a man take things over,” which may as well be about Ty Evans and his gradual slide into the over-budgeted Hollywood schmaltz that started off so innocently with this video and turned so gross by “We Are Blood.” But either way, everything about this edit works wonderfully for what it is.
Tom Penny – “High 5”
It’s an inarguable fact that neither Tom Penny nor David Bowie are of this Earth. Their styles are otherworldly, and no video part shows that off better than Penny’s skating to “Heroes” in the Etnies video “High 5.” This was 1995, arguably the peak of Penny’s powers, when he would casually kickflip backtail in the deep end of a pool just as easily as he’d switch frontside flip a double set or roll out of bed in the morning. Even if modern Penny is more like the Wallflowers’ version of “Heroes” than the Bowie classic, we’ll always have this part to remind us who’s king.
Bonus: Penny also skated to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in an oft-forgotten Ghetto Child commercial.
Steve Olson – “Tentacles of Destruction”
Before the Crazy Monk was on Shorty’s, he was riding for Foundation and skating to Bowie’s epic song “Quicksand” in their 1993 video “Tentacles of Destruction.” The part is a perfect encapsulation of the era: Olson tosses sloppy flips into grinds on small curbs and then hucks impossibly smooth NBD’s on the incredibly high Hubba Hideout, all set to the emotional acoustic outpouring of “Hunky Dory” era Bowie circa 1971.
Thaynan Costa – “De La Calle/ Da Rua”
Thaynan Costa isn’t your stereotypical Brazilian skater. Eschewing the typical gangsta’ vibe of some of our favorite Brazilians in favor of a more refined hipsterism, it’s kind of as if he fell into the calles of Brazil from some uber-fashionable future where even the hardest tricks are easy. Such a style works perfectly with Bowie’s fun hit “Modern Love,” from his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”
Jeremy Klein & Heath Kirchart – “The End”
Skateboarding is all about reappropriation – making something new out of something old. No, not like how Vanilla Ice tweaked David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” into “Ice Ice Baby,” but more like how Kirchart and Klein made previously untouchable obstacles (like Blockbuster signs and bus shelters) skateable simply by putting a big, green launch ramp in front of them. This section from Birdhouse’s 1998 video “The End” epitomizes all that is great and inventive about our culture, and the fact that it’s set to the sounds of two of music’s great innovators, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, just makes it that much more memorable.
Marc Johnson – “Pretty Sweet”
Marc’s skated to Bowie twice: first in Emerica’s 1997 video, “Yellow,” where MJ skated to “Unwashed & Somewhat Slightly Dazed” and established that the coolest outfit a skater could wear was a simple white tee, khaki shorts, and high white socks/white shoes combo; and again in 2012, where he was paired with Bowie’s “Five Years” in the outlandishly edited Girl/Chocolate video “Pretty Sweet.” This part is a simple reminder of the inimitable style that makes MJ one of the cleanest skaters of all time. He cut back on the combos that made his “Fully Flared” part so dizzying, opting instead for timelessness, ensuring that this part will maintain its relevance no matter how many multiples of five years pass.