Rollermania #5

Rollerskating was such a part of growing up, that it simply behooves me to bring up this old chestnut once again.  I wasn't quite old enough to enjoy the disco, except to see it on the big screen and splattered across the pop culture landscape.  In its place, was a substitute for the younger generation: roller skating.  It had its own culture, music, and "dance" as the disco.... except without the cocaine and consequence-free sex.

Skatetown U.S.A. with Maureen McCormick is easily the best skate movie.  However, Roller Boogie starring Linda Blair and Xanadu follow closely behind.  Other great Roller films:

The Unholy Rollers (1972) starring Claudia Jennings
Kansas City Bomber (1972) starring Raquel Welch
Rollerball (1975) starring James Caan
Rollerblade (1985) with Michelle Bauer

Shaggy D.A.(1976) had some roller action in it, but I can't count it.  Heaven's Gate had an absolutely stupid 1800's roller scene.  Good contemporary examples: Boogie Nights and Monster.

As I mentioned, the music was a big part of the roller skating experience.  There's a few songs that instantly bring to mind memories of the roller rink:
  1. "Ladies Night" by Kool & the Gang
  2. "Open Arms" by Journey
  3. "Let It Whip" by The Dazz Band
  4. "Freeze Frame" by J. Geils Band
  5. "Give It Too Me Baby" by Rick James
  6. "Keep on Loving You" by REO Speedwagon
  7. "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb
  8. "Babe" by Styx
  9. "Heart of Glass" by Blondie
  10. "Lady" by The Little River Band

There's plenty more, but I'll stop here.  Anyone out there have others?

Here's a list of songs I can think of about roller skating (although, sometimes as a metaphor). All are pre-1990's..... any more that should be added to the list?

  1. Brand New Key - Melanie
  2. You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd - Roger Miller
  3. Skateaway - Dire Straits
  4. Skating Away - Jethro Tull
  5. Roller Derby Queen - Jim Croce
  6. Bicycles, Roller Skates and You - The Archies
  7. Roller Rink - Trooper
  8. Roller Skating Child - Beach Boys
  9. Roller Skate Rag - Barbara Streisand
  10. You Can't Get to Heaven on Roller Skates - The Fabulous Nina and Frederik
  11. Roller Skating - INXS
  12. Roller Skate - Vaughan Mason
  13. Roller Skating on a Rainbow - Blue Barron and his Orchestra
  14. Roller Skatin' Mate - Peaches and Herb
  15. Queen of the Roller Derby - Leon Russell
  16. Roller Derby - Challengers
  17. Roller Star - Arabesque
  18. Roller Derby Star - Copperhead

As far as TV episodes go, I don't think anything can compare to the 1979 "Roller Disco" episode of C.H.i.Ps.  A classic for the ages.

Laverne & Shirley had a big roller skating episode "Take Two, They're Small" and there was a supremely cheesy roller skit on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour featuring Donny & Marie. And last but not least, there was an animated Addams Family episode which featured a roller derby in 1973.

Here's some covers of Skate magazine...

A few roller skating album covers...

And how can I talk about the roller skating craze without mentioning the fashions?  The fact that it landed right during disco mania when style went buck wild, made for some interesting roller garb.

Roller Advertising...

Those skates that were part of a normal tennis shoe were the worst.  With no ankle support, things often got ugly.  But then, nothing is worse than those skates you just buckled to your shoes..

Roller Pancakes..

And of course, waitresses on roller skates have become a symbol of the carefree teen life of the 1950's.  Thankfully, in some parts it persisted into the 70's.  Sorry folks, Sonic doesn't count.

from a Texas Tech yearbook

Well, I suppose I could drone on about roller skates all day, but this post has to end sometime.  So, it may as well end now.  Peace out and keep on rollin'.


  1. Any song by Sweet, especially "Wig-wam-bam".

  2. Picture #3 is a great example of the long forgotten days when men routinely wore short shorts without the slightest bit of self consciousness.

    1. That's because they wore underwear that ACTUALLY held their junk in place.
      - Vanessa

  3. I recall tunes like Le Freak,Rubberband man,and Get up and Boogie during the late 70's.Our local skating rink had a resident organist in the 60's(before I was born).She was playing live only one night a week when I was introduced to skating.The rest of the week,they played recordings of her over the P.A.Her style was mostly improvisational,but I remember 2 of the favored songs being Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and music from the score of The Godfather(!)Of course the lights dimmed for couples only,and colored spotlights swirled around during the rare Trio couples skate(these were more innocent times,mind you).The climax of the night was the Hokie Pokie and that was about all the excitement one could handle so we called it a night.

  4. Don't forget Farrah Fawcett as a roller derby team member in the Angels on Wheels episode of Charlie's Angels!

    1. Patron ZeroApril 20, 2013

      If you evoke FF(M), then I raise ante by mentioning Raquel Welch in Kansas City Bomber ! *grin*

  5. Gilligan, you should be a librarian, you've got the research thing down.

    "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang, in which my friends would go around the rink singing "Masturbation time, COME ON! Let's masturbate, and have a real good time." I still hear it that way.
    "Night on a Disco Mountain" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was popular at my local rink.

  6. Not forgetting (from the pages of X-Men in 1980) Alison Blair AKA Dazzler, the roller skating Disco Queen Mutant with the ability to convert sound vibrations into light and energy beams, the cross-promotional, multi-media creation between Casablanca Records & Marvel Comics. I dare say she was partial to a bit of Crown Heights Affair!

  7. I'm more interested in the photo that shows an old drink dispenser machine. You don't see those around any more. They'd drop a cup down (hopefully) and then shoot soda water and syrup into the cup. I don't think there was any ice. I haven't seen those around in decades. They were replaced by can dispensers.

    1. And the price was 15 cents!

    2. And usually in Longs Drugstores... Recall it was the device to get your Orange Pineapple soda drink fix.

  8. Yeah, I was going to mention the Charlie's Angels episode. And the episode of TAGS where Opie made a trade for some skates, then he hit the roller disco circuit. OK, I made that part up.

    My best memory of skating rinks is when I decided that the one in Wellman, IA would be the perfect place to record my drums for our band's demo tape back in college. And I was right - amazing natural reverb. The song that comes to mind more than any other on that tape is Miss You.

  9. Hey, it's Burt Convy sitting in his Stutz at the drive-in burger joint!

  10. I really liked your article as it is very interesting to read thank you

  11. Now way is Skatetown USA better than Rollerball. It's a sport, it's a movie, it's probably the best sports movie ever. AND it's got Data 70 typeface in it!

    As for Heaven's Gate, it was historically accurate (a charge levelled at the movie for being TOO accurate). Michael Cimino saw old photographs from the era of people holding mass roller skating dances in the old West and put it in the movie.

    As for 70s TV: I think the pilot episode of "Buck Rogers In The 25th Century" had a roller skating scene at an offical Earth Government reception.

  12. "Boogie Nights" by Heatwave will always be THE skating rink song to me. Something about the bass line accompanied by the roar of a thousand little wheels.