Thrasher Magazine popped up in 1981 to cover the wild world of skateboarding in the early ’80s. In addition to covering skateboarding, the magazine had definite punk leanings and featured columns on music as well as interviews with punk bands. Through Thrasher, more and more skaters discovered punk rock and started bands of their own, and in 1983, Thrasher took the natural step of releasing the first of 12 compilations, Thrasher Magazine’s Skate Rock Volume 1. It was available only through mail order from the magazine and featured mostly California area bands with ties to skateboarding. Most of the bands had skaters among their members, with a number of the bands featuring pros. The magazine would continue to release compilations throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, but their validity fizzled out after Volume 7. Thrasher tried to revive the series in 2005 with the tepid Skate Rock Volume 12: Eat The Flag, but met with little success.
These cassette-only compilations were a huge influence on skateboarding and skate culture. The early comps defined the sound of southern California punk and spawned countless bands. Evidence of their widespread influence can be seen each and every year at the Warped Tour, but surprisingly little has been written about this series. Lookout Records had announced plans to rerelease Volumes 1 through 7 on CD, but the label went under before those plans could come to fruition. At this point, these compilations are out of print, although many of the bands featured on them have been compiled and reissued on CD. However, as there was little to no information on the bands included with the cassettes, many of these bands will be doomed forever to obscurity.
Skate Rock Volume 1 is where it all started. Most of the bands are fairly straightforward Californian hardcore with the exception of Austin’s Big Boys, who appear with the blues punk of “Red/Green.” Like many of the comps, a couple of pro skaters have bands on this first volume. Steve Caballero’s the Faction is represented with two tracks, “A.U.K.” and the highlight “Boredom Awaits.” Tony Alva also shows up twice with his group Skoundrelz. Other highlights include three entries from Los Olvidados; “You’re Dull,” “Listen To You” and “Don’t Cry” are all solid punk rock. Sister band Drunk Injuns also appears with three classics, “Your Mama,” “Program” and “Pumpshank.” Both bands had reissues in Alternative Tentacles’ Skate Rock series, as do JFA, who appear here with “Great Equalizer.” All three of those bands would appear on later Skate Rock volumes as well. One of the weaker bands, Riot.303, have three songs, all of which are considerably better than their appearance on Killed By Death #5. The two anomalies here are Minus One and Black Athletes. Minus One, who appear four times, have more of a jangly new wave sound. While not every track of theirs is a winner, “The Kids Don’t Skate Here” is a cornerstone on this comp. Black Athletes sound like dark British guitar bands of the era, say, the Cure or the Chameleons. Their entry, “Die Laughing” is a definite standout from the standard hardcore punk that dominates the rest of the collection.
Thrasher Magazine’s Skate Rock series is essential listening for anyone interested in the history of skate punk, American hardcore, or Warped Tour punk bands like Bad Religion, NOFX and the Offspring, and this is ground zero. As such, someone needs to reissue these valuable records as soon as possible. There’s a whole new generation of skaters that need a soundtrack to which to shred!