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by Rocko Bauman

Towering in red and white by the seaside sits Santa Cruz’s greatest untapped musical potential.  Since its construction in 1924, millions of people have taken the ride of their lives on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s historic landmark roller coaster, the Giant Dipper.  With its stomach-churning seventy foot drop, sharp turns, and speeds of up to 55 miles-per-hour, Santa Cruz’s favorite ride is always ready to thrill. The only thing that could make the Giant Dipper experience slightly different is a perfect musical soundtrack to listen to while riding.

I’ve assembled a list of songs that complement the Giant Dipper’s dynamic twists and turns perfectly, and they have been tested and confirmed in the field as well.

The way I went about this was:

  1. I sat near the front of the car, cued up the song in my headphones (loud), and pressed play with the remote on the cord exactly at the published time.
  2. Always follow the instructions of Boardwalk employees above all else.  If they tell you not to listen to music, you will sadly have to ride the coaster normally like everyone else.
  3. Never mess with your phone when the ride is in motion; that’s how items get lost and accidents happen.  Keep all your lose items put away throughout the ride.


Pay attention that some of the tracks need to be started in the middle of the songs or a few seconds in. Neither I nor KZSC are responsible for a crappy ride if you don’t follow the instructions carefully.  

But without further ado, here are my top 6 picks:

6.  “Born to Boogie (7 min. version)” – Steve Watson (Born to Boogie, 1981)

START AT 2:03 upon release of the train

You can hear this jubilant party favorite by Dutch/Surinamese funk maestro Steve Watson spinning at almost every People’s Disco, but have you ever tried it at high speeds?  If you try the longer 7-minute version and time it out correctly, the song’s buildup and breakdown nicely fit the first drop, and will leave you grooving all the way down.

5. “Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” – Beyonce (Lemonade, 2016)

START AT 0:07 upon release of the train

You’ve probably heard this track by the Queen Bey and its ominous 1969 psych rock sample by Kaleidoscope, but certainly not in this context.  Listen for a satisfying first drop and then a very empowering ride.

4. “Rollercoaster by the Sea” – Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (Rock n’ Roll With the Modern Lovers, 1977)

START AT 0:00 upon release of the train

A suggestion of DJ Z, within ten seconds of enjoying this happy-go-lucky folk banger, it is clear the track was literally written for us to listen to on the Giant Dipper.  Quothe Richman,

You see, I went on the roller coaster,

Last night when I was feeling bad,

Down by the sea in Santa Cruz and I was feeling sad.”

I particularly recommend this track as a service to anyone who is terrified of roller coasters and looking to get over it.  There is nothing more comforting than heading down a drop and hearing Jonathan Richman’s gentle voice saying, “Ooh, scary!” in your ears.

3.  “Because I’m Me” – The Avalanches (Wildflower, 2016)

START AT 0:00 after train is released, right when you first see the daylight at the end of the tunnel.

This track is slightly difficult to get playing correctly, because it needs to be started a few seconds after the ride is released, but it is incredibly worth the experience.  The Avalanche’s electronic/hip-hop sample of the Honey Cone’s 1969 soul anthem “Want Ads” is one of the most radiant and euphoric tracks of all time; its verses perfectly accompany the Dipper’s drops on a sunny day

2.  “Al Mustabeddah” – Kazem al Shaher (The Impossible Love, 2000)

START AT 1:20 upon release of the train

If you can’t imagine how an 2000s era ultra-cinematic pop song about totalitarianism by Iraqi vocal legend Kazem al Shaher would work paired with Santa Cruz’s favorite wooden roller coaster– all I can say is to trust me.  You would not comprehend how perfectly every aspect of this song can capture the Dipper’s every twist, turn, hill, and drop. It needs to be experienced to be believed.

1. “Crosseyed and Painless Live” – Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense, 1984)

START AT TOP upon the toots of the starting whistle (right before train is released)

This live version from the Talking Heads’ acclaimed 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense makes the top of my recommendation list for how simple it is to put on.  Just start it at the top right when they’re gonna release the car and enjoy a perfectly-timed first drop and an absolutely thrilling remainder of the ride.  It’s like it was written and recorded just for this ride– thanks David Byrne.


If you want to test any of these songs out, you could try playing them over this POV ride-through video below, but remember that it’s not quite the same as the wind whipping through your hair.


Happy trails!