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Chucks In Tunes: 30 Iconic All Star Musical Moments

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Aside from the realm of basketball,  is the cultural sphere where the  Converse Chuck Taylor All Star has had its biggest impact. From the English punks of the 70s to the West Coast rappers of the 2000s – a myriad of different subcultures have embraced the simple canvas Chuck as a symbol of rebellion and solidarity. Floating as easily between aesthetic styles as it does between genres, the All Star has long been a staple of musicians the wold over. Join us on a trip down memory lane, as we recount 30 of our favourite All Star musical moments.

Acclaimed blues player John Lee Hooker rose to prominence in the 50s thanks to his unique take on the Delta style of the genre. Combining electric guitar with 30s piano, his recording career lasted well into the 90s – and he even makes a cameo in the much-loved film The Blues Brothers. In 1973, he released the semi-autobiographical LP Born In Mississippi, Raised up in Tennessee. The cover of the record prominently features a well-worn pair of All Stars in front of a guitar – a classic pairing.

Outsiders have long been drawn to Converse, embracing the sense of rebellion that’s intrinsically linked with the All Star. In 2015, the company enlisted the punk poet priestess, Patti Smith, for their ‘Made By You’ campaign. It was the formalisation of a relationship that stretches back to the legendary CBGB bar in New York City, the venue that incubated the musicians and performers who would go on to shape the look and sound of punk music during the 70s.

The roots of punk were founded in the New York CBGB scene, but the genre really came to fruition in England in the late 70s. Just as the foundation of the music was exported across the sea, so too was the early aesthetic. Legend has it that Marky Ramone gifted a pair of All Stars to Joe Strummer of The Clash when the Ramones were on a tour of England – helping spawn a stylistic revolution. Last year, Converse recognised their link with one of the greatest punk bands of all time – releasing a limited edition run of All Stars inspired by The Clash to coincide with the 40th anniversary of their most celebrated show at The London Club.

In 1977, punk was sweeping across England and the Sex Pistols were riding the crest of the wave. The year also marked the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and the Pistols used the occasion to launch their most provocative attack on the establishment yet – the controversial ‘God Save the Queen’ single. The band debuted the track with a live boat performance on the Thames – one of only two performances they would give that year – and it quickly dissolved into mayhem. The official video recreates the anarchic gig, and captures a 20-year-old Sid Vicious in his leather jacket, Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Vive Le Rock’ t-shirt, ripped jeans and battered All Stars.

In 1978, new wave band Blondie released Parallel Lines to critical acclaim. The disco-influenced lead single, ‘Heart of Glass’, introduced the group to a huge new audience and subsequently catapulted the group into the public eye. The album – which features bassist Nigel Harrison and drummer Clem Burke rocking Chucks on the cover – went on to sell a mind-boggling 20 million copies globally.

Busy Bee Starski was there at the very beginning of hip hop – battling Kool Moe Dee way back in ’81. He was also an early member of the Zulu Nation, and his feature in the seminal film Wild Style just adds to the validity of his rap pedigree. In ‘88, Busy Bee dedicated an entire track to the Star Chevron, aptly titled ‘Converse’, in which he extols the virtues of Chucks over a stuttering 80s beat.

In the mid-80s, some of the greatest rappers around unified under the banner of the Juice Crew Allstars. The group included the likes of Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and Biz Markie – among many others. Recognising their shared nomenclature with the famous sneaker, the group created a seal out of a tweaked version of the iconic Chuck Taylor ankle patch. The ties didn’t end there, though – Biz even went on to record a mixtape for Converse in 1990.

In 1989, the Rolling Stones launched a comeback after a period of relative uncertainty about their future. They marked their triumphant return with a new album, Steel Wheels, and embarked on a global string of dates to showcase what was widely regarded as their musical return to form. The Stones nominated the All Star as the official shoe of the tour, and Converse produced a limited number of all-black Chucks that featured the band’s iconic tongue logo in place of the traditional heel patch. These covetable kicks occasionally pop up at auction, but be prepared to pay a steep price if you want to own a pair.

In the late 80s, a band by the name of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were establishing themselves in Boston, MA. The Bosstones blended stylistic elements of hardcore, punk and ska – often confusing early audiences with their eclectic style. Eventually, the band adopted plaid clothing as a visual metaphor for their music – a complicated interplay of multiple components that was, at times, confronting. Converse, fellow Bostonians, took notice and in 1991 placed the band in a national TV campaign – decking the ‘Tones out in Chuck Taylors to complement their wild plaid outfits.

Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the lead single from the band’s 1991 sophomore album, Bleach. The track reached an unprecedented level of success, charting at number six on the Billboard top 100 and becoming the conduit via which many mainstream listeners discovered alternative music. A video was produced for the song that featured Nirvana playing a mock high school pep rally and it became an instant classic – receiving high rotation on television and going on to win two MTV music video awards.  The opening scene prominently features the instantly recognisable black All Star high top, visual shorthand for the disaffected youth of Generation X.

Speaking of Nirvana, the band headlined the 1992 Reading Festival in England – playing to a 50,000 strong crowd. The show came at a time when relations within the group were fraught, with frontman Kurt Cobain fresh out of rehab and career pressure at an all time high. Fortunately, Nirvana defied expectations and performed a 25-song set that many regard as one of the best performances that the band ever gave. At the beginning of the first song, ‘Breed’, the group is joined onstage by Antony Hodgkinson – affectionately known as ‘Dancing Tony’. He spent nearly half the set onstage, dancing maniacally in a shirt and tie, women’s pants and a pair of high-top Chucks. As bootleg recordings of the concert circulated, Dancing Tony became somewhat of a cult figure among fans – culminating in the official release of a DVD of the performance in 2009.

Greenday’s 1994 single ‘When I Come Around’ elevated the band to new levels of fame, helping them transition from the fringes of punk to the mainstream eye. Beyond the success of the song itself, the accompanying music video won its own share of accolades. The striped sweater worn by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is credited with starting a trend that spread throughout the 90s. Of course, all three members of the band opted to wear All Stars in the clip – a nod to the favourite footwear of the punks that preceded them.

Ice Cube got his start in N.W.A., one of the hardest rap groups to ever grace the airwaves. Together, the group popularised the West Coast street aesthetic – a look that came from the reality of life in the roughest parts of Compton, and one that often incorporated All Stars paired with baggy khakis. As a lyricist, Cube has dedicated numerous lines to the ubiquitous sneaker over the years – including the memorable bar, ‘He’s bout hard as Darth Vader / In his sweat shirt, khakis and Chuck Taylors’ from 1995’s ‘Friday’.

The lads from Blink 182 aren’t worried about taking themselves too seriously. Indeed, their video for ‘All the Small Things’ shows the band playing to the camera in a succession of ridiculous outfits that parody the get-ups of perfectly groomed 90s boy bands. Still, when they’re pictured in their regular garb during the clip, lead singer Tom DeLonge opts for All Stars. It’s a look we prefer to the beret and tighty whities combo.

The Up In Smoke Tour is one of the defining events in the history of hip hop. Masterminded by Dr. Dre, the tour brought together the likes of Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Nate Dogg and Xzibit. California was well represented on-stage with Mack 10, Ice Cube and Dub C making live appearances – and the footage of the latter bending down to dust off his Chucks before executing a finely tuned C-walk became one of the most iconic moments of the tour.

Snoop Dogg has long had an affinity with the All Star, thanks in part to his involvement in the West Coast G-funk sound. In 1993, he name-checked them on ‘Lodi Dodi’ with the line ‘Threw on my white socks, with my all blue Chucks,’ and they’re featured in the video for ‘Gin and Juice’ from the same year. Still, if we were pressed for our favourite Snoop x All Star moment, we’d have to pick the clip to 2004’s ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’ – watching the Doggfather C-walk in box-fresh Chucks to a Neptunes beat is truly a sight to behold.

On June 9, 2001, The Strokes made their first – but certainly not their last – appearance on the cover of NME. Shot by veteran music photographer Pennie Smith, the image caught the band prior to the release of their phenomenally successful debut album, Is This It. Of course, given that The Strokes are credited with reviving garage rock – it would be remiss of them not to make sartorial overtures to the history of the genre. Two of the quintet, drummer Fabrizio Moretti and guitarist Nick Valensi, are rocking All Stars on the cover.

Despite having one of the cheesiest titles of all time, Avril Lavigne’s 2002 release ‘Sk8er Boi’ taught scorned teenagers around the world not to bow to social conventions when looking for love. The princess of alt-pop spread her message of self-acceptance and hope at an impromptu block party in the film clip, bouncing on the roof of a car and branding it with Chuck-shaped dents – all in the name of teenage angst.

Who can forget those iPod ads? The 'silhouette' campaign was stylish, simple and left us with no doubt about which music player we needed. One of the most memorable was the 2004 TV spot that featured Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ blasting as silhouetted dancers holding white iPods move against colour-blocked backgrounds. Aside from the music player, small symbols of style were subtly set out from the shadows, including a pair of Chucks – the shoe synonymous with music.

On January 18, 2005, The Game released his first studio album, The Documentary. Debuting at number one on the Billboard top 200 – and going on to sell five million copies – the collection of 18 songs was an ode to the West Coast hip hop sound of the 90s. Fittingly, the cover features The Game wearing All Stars – a tribute to the footwear of choice of the rappers that paved a path for his career.

M.I.A. has been regarded as a style icon ever since the 2000s, when she broke into the global music scene with a fusion sound that was mirrored by her eclectic dress sense. She’s also had a long-standing affinity with Converse, often sporting the sneakers onstage during live performances. In 2008, the brand formalised the relationship when they placed the English-Tamil artist in their ‘Connectivity’ campaign, a program that recognised the breadth and diversity of personalities that have embraced the All Star. M.I.A. was included alongside the likes of Joe Strummer, Ian Curtis, Karen O and Julian Casablancas – fine company indeed!

As an integral member of The Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney resides in a unique sphere of musical fame – with a huge legacy to live up to. His 2007 solo album, Memory Almost Full, was universally well received – proving that the legend still has that special magic. Flip open the cover of the deluxe release and you can see the man himself reclining in a suit and Chucks – now that’s an endorsement!

Unlike a lot of rappers who can be slotted into an East Coast or West Coast hip hop aesthetic, Wiz Khalifa has a dynamic style that resists sartorial stereotypes. With that said, one staple piece in Wiz’s wardrobe is his Chucks. From the 2010 music video for ‘Black and Yellow’ through to the red carpet at the 2016 Grammy Awards, Wiz has consistently repped the (Chuck) Taylor Gang.

In a tribute to the 50s Broadway hit Westside Story, Outkast’s video for ‘Roses’ takes place in a classic high school musical scenario. When Big Boi’s rough and ready Speakerboxxx moto club crashes the party things get a bit rowdy – the punches, and the Chucks, start flying. We wouldn’t expect any kind of inaccuracy from the ATLiens, so we're not surprised to see them kitted out in the premier sporting shoe of the day.

Melancholic songstress Lana Del Rey bore her soul with ‘Born to Die’ – recounting the chilling story of a doomed relationship. In the accompanying video, we see Lana setting off down the open road with a suitor, seemingly deeply in love. Unfortunately, the dynamic quickly sours and the laughter dies. Although Lana may be left questioning her taste in men, at least she can be certain that she made the right choice of footwear – her bright red Chucks are in it for the long haul.

‘Bubble Pop!’ was the title track on Hyuna’s 2011 debut EP, and the K-Pop tune became so popular around the world that it was even the focus of a Family Guy parody. The colourful film clip is filled with gyrating dancers and short shorts, though none of the outfits are as recognisable as the denim jacket and red top combo – the same one worn on the cover of the EP – which is capped off with red-and-white polka dot Chucks. As the starlet raises a foot to the sky, the All Star shines bright.

As the first Youtube video to hit 1 billion views, you’ve most likely seen the 2012 film clip for K-Pop star Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’. A cultural critique of an opulent Korean district, the clip became popular thanks to its humour and horse-inspired dance. We challenge you not to crack a smile as Psy trots through a riverside yoga class with his Chucks on foot.

‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ was the track that really pushed Kendrick into the limelight. In just a few short years the song made it on to Radio Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto V – and if that isn’t a sign you’ve made it, then we don’t know what is. The video is introspective and avant-garde, with plenty of slow-mo footage showing a recurring vision of Kendrick plummeting backwards. At the end of the whole thing, he’s stumbling down the road next to a Caddy with a vague smile and a pair of Chucks on. Have you ever heard an anti-drinking message that sounded so good?

Pint-sized pop princess Ariana Grande dropped ‘Baby I’ as the second single from her album Truly Yours. A more mature display of her musical ability, the song was originally written for Beyoncé before Grande put her spin on it. The accompanying film clip is set against a kitsch 90s backdrop, with over-the-top outfits and plenty of urban art. In a pair of white denim cut-off overalls, the songstress struts in an ageless pair of low-cut Chucks – proving that no matter the decade, you’re going to look fine in All Stars.

Pharrell Williams is an all-round creative powerhouse, as well as an icon of style. The musician and record producer has been photographed, written about and emulated for the better part of two decades – so it’s no surprise that men’s style mag GQ would put him on the cover of their April 2014 style bible. Leafing through the pages, what do you see? One of the most stylish men in the universe rocking All Stars, of course!

The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star is available now via  Converse Australia.

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