2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Perry Johnson

University of Southern California
Session: Music & Action Sports: Examining Soundscapes of Emerging Sport Cultures
Mall Grab: Authenticity and Appropriation in Action Sport Branding

Music and sporting industries have both historically grappled with questions of authenticity, identity, and ownership. The quintessential “California Sound” was, from its inception, a product of confiscation; it is impossible to conceive of Surf Rock guitar reverbs without the influence of Middle Eastern sounds that inspired American guitarist Dick Dale, or The Beach Boys’ 1963 hit “Surfin’ USA” without Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Surf Rock is not an exception in the practices and processes of adopting characteristics and approaches from other genres and cultures. Skateboarding notably draws from the aesthetics of music videos; and music videos have likewise benefited from proximity to skate culture’s cool, aloof confidence. These exchanges, however, are not always mutually beneficial or appreciated. Recently, the mainstream adoption of popular action skate brand Thrasher has provoked the outright rejection of music stars Rihanna and Justin Bieber by the magazine’s editor, deeming them posers. Using archival data, field observations, and interviews, this paper explores select case studies to examine the political economy of music’s relationship with sport, and interrogates the socio-historical implications of this enduring interrelation, looking to the moments of rupture and tensions that arise when such genres cross over into mainstream circulation.

“A Melody that Sets You Free”: Venice’s Mythical Sporting Sounds

Music and sport occupy temporal-spatial specificities grounded in performance, spectacle, and myth. The mythologies of music and sport are constructed, in part, through mediated representations that recall storied pasts and produce highly-colored visions of the future. This paper examines the intersection of music and sport in Venice Beach, California, a vibrant Los Angeles enclave recognized globally for its free-spirited ethos and famed boardwalk. Home to the legendary Muscle Beach gym, oceanfront basketball courts, skatepark, and Breakwater surf spot, Venice is central to mythical representations of eccentric California life. Sports films, such as Skatetown USA, White Men Can’t Jump, and Lords of Dogtown, foreground Venice; at the same time, artists like Brian Wilson, Snoop Dogg, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (re)activate Venice’s sonic geographies through music videos and lyrics that highlight these well-known sporting spaces. Venice thus presents a dynamic locale for interrogating how music and sport alert us to the cultural distinctions of a particular region, and how political and economic shifts impact its inhabitants. Through a multi-methodological approach, including archival research, field observations, and interviews, we consider how authenticity, identity, access, and belonging are constructed and challenged through the sporting sounds and spaces of this fabled place.