Tony Hawk's Thematic Soundtrack
Hello to the four people who are visiting this website - I hope that you have come with an appetite for a worthless article, because today I would like to satiate that appetite. Today I'm talking about something that is talked about a lot, actually, but not in pretentious detail by a moron like me: the licensed soundtracks in the Tony Hawk game series!
I was driving home after picking my car up from the bar I was at the night before - because Bill from Put It on My Bill says: "Don't drink and drive, drink and stay alive!" - and in my hungover stupor, I heard something on the radio and hatched an idea for an article. Eureka! is what I would say if I was a dick. But I didn't. I am a dick, though, rest assured.
On the radio was the music I'm usually listening to: classic punk rock songs that I'd first heard playing Tony Hawk games as a little 8-year-old cretin. And at one point, there were two songs that played back-to-back that, for some reason or another, struck me. "Ever Fallen in Love" by Buzzcocks, followed by "Time to Go" by Dropkick Murphys. Both loud, energetic, passionate and aggressive anthems from very different eras and places.
"Ever Fallen in Love" was recorded in 1978 by a band from the United Kingdom. And while the Buzzcocks were British, the song itself, for some reason or another, always conjures up a feeling that it's from the West Coast of the United States. There's a lively, sunny, youthful energy that is comparable to Bad Religion, X, Dead Kennedys, Rancid or Green Day, all California punk bands from different eras in the genre's history. All of whom also happen to have had songs featured in Tony Hawk games. Whatever sound you associate with California punk, "Ever Fallen in Love" has that sound. At least to me, a guy who knows probably very little about the history of punk rock, but nonetheless is a humble little idiot and fan of the genre.
Celtic rock is a genre I without a doubt know even less about, and here we come to the 2003 song "Time to Go". The Dropkick Murphys were from Massachusetts, and I always associated this hockey-themed anthem with East Coast US cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and parts of New Jersey. While Celtic punk obviously has roots in Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the large population of angry, bitter Irish-Americans in the cities I just listed means that it was only a matter of time before the genre dug into these areas of the US. Obviously the East Coast, as the birthplace of punk, has produced many of the biggest names in punk: Ramones, Misfits, Sonic Youth, Anti-Flag.
Now you, the mollusk who's somehow managed to read this far into the article may be asking "Bill, you moron, how does this article relate to the Tony Hawk series? You're just talking about the history of punk rock and honestly, I don't care!" To which I say firstly, please be more friendly to me, I am very sensitive to name-calling. And second, here is how this all relates:
The three Tony Hawk games I have the truest experience in are both Tony Hawk's Underground games, and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Anyone my age who grew up playing Tony Hawk probably played these three the most. Very universally acclaimed games in the series, with the first Tony Hawk's Underground being generally regarded as the best, and if you don't think so, I invite you to come find me and fight me - you'll win, because I am pathetic and weak. Now, the two songs we just examined were featured in two of these games; "Time to Go" featured in Underground, which was released in the same year as the song, 2003. And "Ever Fallen in Love" was in American Wasteland, released in 2006. Let's talk about the settings and themes within these games for a moment. I-if you don't mind, that is.
Tony Hawk's Underground is the story of a nobody kid from a small town in New Jersey, with a passion for skateboarding who embarks on a journey with his best friend to become a successful pro skater. It's a story of humility vs. ambition, loyalty vs. betrayal, and the true meaning of skating. I could write 15,000 articles about this game and if I ever pull my head out of my ass and actually write more, maybe I would, but mainly I want to talk about location.
Underground takes you all across the world, from the East Coast to the West, to Hawaii, Canada, and Russia. The location changes gradually get more intense in reflection of the growing prestige that your skater earns. Which I think is just neato. But when I think of this locations from this game, the place that I, and probably most others, go to mentally is New Jersey. Because it's the first and final level in the game? Because it's one of the most iconic levels in the franchise? Because it's just a well-constructed level gameplay-wise? Perhaps all of it. Or, you know, maybe not, I dunno-
New Jersey, as East Coast as it gets. A small town, worn down by indifference and insignificant in this larger world we live in. And here we come to "Time to Go", a humble, unremembered song with a distinctively East Coast feeling. An anthem for angry young men in 2003 with a passion for what they're doing. Small lives in small times. No flair, no glamour. Just grit, honesty, meekness.
Now, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland follows the same strokes - nobody kid trying to make it big as a skater - but starts him off having just fled to Los Angeles in pursuit of his dream. The skateboarding capital of the world, the big time, the Mecca for street trash to thrive and conquer, find truth and meaning in whatever meaningless things they're pursuing.
"Ever Fallen in Love", a classic song with an energetic, empowering West Coast feeling, for a determined kid in a decidedly classic skateboarding location in the heart of the West Coast.
Humble, insignificant 2003 song with an East Coast flavor for a humble, insignificant 2003 East Coast town. Popular, classic punk song with a West Coast flavor for a popular, classic West Coast skating city. I can't help but think that a certain level of care went into picking the soundtracks for these games beyond "let's ask Tony Hawk what type of music skaters are listening to". And I seriously think that's awesome!
These songs are just examples, really. The entire soundtracks reflect it. Underground has a lot of early-2000's garage band punk tracks like "2RAK005" by Bracket (one of my all-time favorite songs), "Like the Angel" by Rise Against, and "The Separation of Church and Skate" by NOFX.
American Wasteland is choc-full of classic iconic punk anthems from the West Coast - "Holiday" by Green Day, "California Über Alles" by Dead Kennedys, and "Rise Above" by Black Flag just to name a few.
Underground 2 hasn't been mentioned much but it's got probably the most iconic soundtrack in the series, and fitting with the "World Destruction Tour" theme of the game, the soundtrack is all over the place in terms of genre, era, and themes. From The Doors, Johnny Cash, and Frank Sinatra to Ween, X, RHCP, Disturbed, Joy Division, Less Than Jake, Jimmy Eat World, Rancid, The Distillers, Ramones, Violent Femmes, literally so much iconic and awesome music coming out of that soundtrack. An epic and chaotic soundtrack for a much more over-the-top, ludicrous story!
This has mostly been punk-focused but special mention goes to the hip-hop music of Tony Hawk games. Brand Nubian, Fat Lip, Nas, to name a few. If you want me to write ANOTHER article I will, because I'm a subservient monkey, but otherwise you can just take my word for it when I say that the hip-hop song choice is just as consistent with the themes of each game as the punk song choice is. Please, please believe me! Oh god, believe me!
Maybe I'm reaching here with these analyses, or maybe I'm not. These are just my thoughts when I'm driving home from a night of debauchery like the little maggot clown that I am. I thank you so very much for taking time out of your day to read this ridiculously long article. It really does make me a happy boy!
(It's worth noting that the version of "Ever Fallen in Love" in American Wasteland is a cover by a New Jersey band called Thursday. The cover sounds similar enough to the original song for me to not give a shit)