I’ve been a fan of ska music was since I was a teenager. I played the trombone in the marching band, so I always thought I would make a ska band one day, but I wasn’t really good at it.
There are many ska bands that broke into the mainstream, but some of the best bands never reached that level.
I formed a list of the 20 best ska songs of all-time. I didn’t want to repeat bands, so I didn’t list ten Operation Ivy tracks, which would probably happen. I know I didn’t list The Toasters, The Specials and some of the other great ska bands, but it was hard to narrow down this list to only 20 songs.
Here are the top 20 ska songs of all-time (in no particular order).
Operation Ivy – “Sound System”
You can’t make a list of the best ska music of all-time without including Operation Ivy first. They influenced so many modern-day ska and punk bands. They are on the Mount Rushmore of ska music.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “The Impression That I Get”
When the Bosstones charted on the Billboard Hot 100, the genre hit the mainstream. It was important for the growth of the genre.
Mephiskapheles- “The Bumble Bee Tuna Song”
“El Coo Cool” was one of the first ska song I heard, but “The Bumble Bee Tuna Song” was the first. My friend had this song on a mixtape a friend made for him. Yes, it was an actual cassette tape. I nearly worn out the tape from rewinding it over and over again.
The Suicide Machines – “Hey”
The Suicide Machines was one of the most popular ska bands to emerge in the late-90’s. If you were a fan of ska/punk and lived in the Midwest, you probably made a trip up to Detroit to see them play live.
Slapstick – “There’s a Metalhead In The Parking Lot”
Slapstick was only together for a few short years, but they made an impact. They became more popular as years went by and even reunited a few times to play a show. The bass player of Slapstick went on to join Alkaline Trio.
Less Than Jake – “History of a Boring Town“
Less Than Jake was another ska band to breakout in the late-90’s. I remember buying their “Losing Streak” album in high school and trying to play the songs on my trombone (yes, I was a band geek).
Random Hand – “Anger Management”
Random Hand is one of the newer bands/songs on this list. They are a British ska-core band. A genre that is slowly going extinct.
Streetlight Manifesto – “Here’s to Life”
Streetlight Manifesto made a name for themselves when they released “Everything Goes Numb” in 2003. They are still together and actively tour. They also just released the album “The Hands That Theive”.
Reel Big Fish – “Take On Me”
A few ska bands recorded covers that made them very popular. The most popular ska cover would be Reel Big Fish’s “Take On Me”. Even though they released better songs than the A-Ha cover, they’ll always be remembered for this song.
Save Ferris – “The World Is New”
Like Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris recorded a cover of “Come On Eileen” that pushed them to the mainstream. I liked that cover a lot, but “The World Is New” best suits their style. They released a few albums, but hits were few and far between.
Goldfinger – “Superman”
Most people would remember this song as being used in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater game series on Playstation. Goldfinger has bigger hits, but for some reason this song is the one they’re best known for.
Jeffries Fan Club – “Dream Girl”
Jeffries Fan Club wasn’t a widely-known ska band, but they influenced a lot of bands. They were only together for five years, but recorded some great ska music.
Sublime – “Date Rape”
Not many people associate Sublime as being a ska band, but they did release a few ska songs early in their career. “Date Rape’ is the most popular of them.
The Aquabats – “Idiot Box”
When I first bought an Aquabats album in the 90’s, I never thought they would one day have their own children’s television show. I haven’t heard any of the recent stuff, but their first three albums were great. Blink-182’s Travis Barker was a member before joining Blink.
Arrogant Sons of Bitches – “So Let’s Go Nowhere”
ASOB is one of my favorite ska bands. Their energy is hard to ignore. They play fast with strong bass lines.
The Planet Smashers – “Life of the Party”
I’m really touching every major country with this list. The Planet Smashers are a Canadian ska band that still plays a few times a month after some of the original members left the band in 1997.
MU330 – “Hoosier Love“
MU330 was one of the best ska bands to come out of the Midwest. They started in the late 80’s and played together for twenty years before they went on an indefinite hiatus. I hope they get back together one day and record some new material.
Skavossas – “Footsteps”
Okay, this pick was personal. Skavossas was a small band from Fort Wayne, Indiana and was the first ska band I saw play in person. The band broke up after a few years and many of the members went on to start other bands.