An Abbreviated History: Rodney Mullen's Song Choices


The other day I was listening to my starred songs on Spotify. For those of you who aren’t familiar with “starred” songs, it’s a feature that Spotify is desperately trying to get rid of. It used to be a really easy way to save songs and create a playlist (you just click the *star* next to the song) but now there is no star. Just a plus. Not sure what the plus does, but I'm definitely not using it. I’m probably just stupid. Spotify


So I was listening to my starred songs (which are now just in a hard-to-access bucket, fuck you Spotify), and Cat Stevens came on. I like Cat Stevens. Might even say I love Cat Stevens (let’s stick with like for now). My dad used to listen to him when I was a kid, so it has all that nostalgia built in. The song that came on was “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”. Great tune. But it reminded me of something.

Rodney Mullen skated to this song.

Yes, the original "King of Freestyle", the guy who laid the foundation for what we call street skating today, skated to a slow, emotional folk song with nothing but guitar and Cat’s voice. Amazingly, it worked. I didn’t get bored watching, or think it was weird when I first saw his part in Questionable. I was just taking in the fact that this guy could slide a casper. And land it.

All this really got me thinking. Rodney parts were bouncing around in my head. From Virtual Reality to Almost Round 3. Has this guy ever skated to a normal song? Let’s start at the beginning. Well, maybe not the beginning, I’m going to skip over the Bones Brigade stuff because they don’t really fit the standard format of individual parts and the music for the most part is just generic 80’s rock and sucks ass. Let’s start with Rubbish Heap.

Rubbish Heap, 1989


Now first thing to remember, it’s 1989, years before many of you reading this were born, and long before the rules of the modern skate part were established. Second thing to remember, Spike Jonze made this video. Now that you have some context, let’s review Rodney’s soundtrack.

First song - some insane classical violin that lasts about 20 seconds.

Second song - silence, which we’ve learned only pays off in rare instances.

Third song - I want to say this is an improvised original by Spike using a Casio keyboard. That's all there really is to say about it. NEXT.

Questionable, 1992


Who directed this, Ternasky? I'm gonna go with Ternasky. Now what I’m going to say here might shock you, but I am going to say that Rodney (again) didn’t pick his own songs here. I want to say that Ternasky picked songs that he thought fit Rodney the best. You’ll understand why later.

First song - What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong. WOW. Not sure that there’s anybody in the world who hasn’t cried at least once listening to this song. I’d like to imagine that Mike chose this song as a representation of Rodney’s true love for skateboarding, as we’ve all heard a million times in interviews, TED talks, etc. The guy loves his damn skateboard.

Second song -  If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out, by Cat Stevens. No clue, really, I think Ternasky just liked this song a lot and knew that nobody would question it if Rodney was skating to it.

Virtual Reality, 1993


Ternasky at the helm again. Before we dive into Rodney’s songs in this one, I just want to quickly say that VR was and still is one of the most significant videos in my collection. Before there was Dill/Strobeck, or Carroll/Howard, there was Mike Ternasky. Rocco likens Ternasky's motives to making the dream team of skateboarding, but I think it was more. I would say that it was more organic than that.  You didn't feel like these guys were forced to skate together. It felt genuine, and proved to be so with the long-lasting Girl family.These videos had a family-style feel, and perhaps created the importance of the credits section. RIP Ternasky.


First song - You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, by Jim Croce. Ahhh, the classic up-tempo folk song about a bad-ass pool shark who runs the town. This is Mike’s idea of Rodney. You don’t disrespect the boss (not to be confused with The Boss...or The Boss. Or The Boss?).

Second song - Time In A Bottle, by Jim Croce. Okay, so this is where I’m going to just say it, though these are great songs, classic songs, 0 out of the 4 songs that Ternasky used for Mullen are songs that are in any way appropriate for skateboarding. During this section we are watching Rodney do anti-casper slides, and darkslides down hubbas. And for some reason we are listening to a slow, romantic love song that our parents probably...I won't even go there. COME ON!

Second Hand Smoke, 1994


So as we know, Ternasky passed away in 94 in a tragic car accident. This left this video to Jacob Rosenberg, who actually helped produce the previous videos, and would go on to have a pretty cool instagram with relics from this era, @jacobrosenberg. More importantly though, it’s my opinion that in this video Jacob came on and the skaters pressured him to let them choose their own songs. Including Rodney.

Song - Dream On, by Aerosmith. Finally Rodney shows his true colors, as a classic rock/pop junkie. Rodney’s CD cases are full of Greatest Hits, 80’s Pop Compilations, Now That’s What I Call Music, etc. He fucking loves it. Run out of CDs and have to turn on the radio? No problem for Rodney, that’s his shit.

Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song, 1997


Rodney’s first feature film. His name in the title. This is your big moment Rodney, don't blow this one. “Who can I use?”, he wonders.

First Song - Help, by the Beatles. “Ahh, that’s it, I’ll just pick the most popular band in history!”

The only acceptable use of The Beatles in a skate video was when With A Little Help From My Friends was used in the friends section of Virtual Reality (it was appropriate, and Jeron/Lotti kill it)

Second song - People Are Strange, by The Doors. Rodney has the music taste of a twelve year old. He is literally just using the last song that he heard and was stuck in his head when he was going to edit.

The Revolution, 1997

Same songs. Don’t even get me started.

Quick break for a great YouTube comment:

rodney youtube comment

Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song: Round 2, 1999


Alright Rodney, now here’s your chance to redeem yourself. Just pick a rad song. Something we haven’t heard before, something maybe a little less emotional.

Song - Clubbed to Death, by Rob D. Now you might not recognize this song by it’s name, but you might remember it from a little under-the-radar movie that also happened to come out in 1999. Yes folks, Rodney used a song from The Matrix soundtrack. Good lord.

Opinion, 2001


I’ve kind of lost all hope at this point. Just roll it.

Song - Sweet Home Alabama, by Zoeangel. Honestly, what the fuck is this? Rodney thinks about using Sweet Home Alabama, the most tired song in American history, but decides to not use Skynrd, but an EVEN SHITTIER VERSION.

Round Three, 2004


This is Rodney’s retirement part, and I have to say, I was actually really psyched on the part for what it was, and still love it because the dude at this point had been killing it for so many years. Having said that

First song - Train in Vain, by The Clash. I’m going to be honest with you I just hate this song. Some people might like it but for me it’s just annoying. People may say that Rodney finally redeemed himself here, but I would pass on that statement.

Second song - Teardrop, by Massive Attack. I think I finally get it. Rodney’s song choices throughout his entire career have been a big joke on us, and he ties the knot with this one. A song that’s been endlessly covered, used in a million movies and TV shows, including the theme for House, and whose has over 25 million views on YouTube. I feel like this is that moment in The Usual Suspects when you realize that Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze. We all just got duped. Bravo, Rodney, Bravo.

*not on the internet