Features & Columns

San Jose Earthquakes
40th Anniversary Celebration

San Jose Earthquakes rebrand—and get a new theme song—
in time for their 40th anniversary
Lars Frederiksen FIRM IDENTITY: Rancid's Lars Frederiksen celebrates San Jose Earthquakes with new theme song. Photograph by Albert Bracamonte III

For the rest of the year, the San Jose Earthquakes will celebrate a milestone. Forty years ago, Milan Mandaric started a San Jose franchise in the North American Soccer League (NASL), back when Norman Mineta was the mayor. In Mandaric's own words, it was a community team above all else, a working class unit.

To celebrate, the current version of the Quakes will rebrand their logo, crest, jersey and entire image in such a way that finally and comprehensively takes their heritage into consideration. No other team in the league is currently doing anything similar in quite this fashion. The rebranding party, open to the public, erupts on Thu., Jan. 30, at San Pedro Square Market. Former heroes from the 1970s as well as the current team, plus many players, coaches and executives from every era in-between will attend.

Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen, who grew up in Campbell and followed the NASL Earthquakes as a kid, even wrote a new Earthquakes theme song for one of his other bands, the Old Firm Casuals. They recorded the track, titled, "Never Say Die," with current and former Quakes players singing backup vocals. The band will perform it live at the party on Jan. 30.

This is long overdue for several reasons. First of all, the Old Firm Casuals are a working class street-punk outfit. For the uninitiated, they play British-inspired Oi! music, if I'm allowed to say so in my dirthead opinion. Since the very beginnings of that music, it has been inseparable from football. Also, with all due respect to the Earthquakes' marketing division, quite a few of their promotional schemes have been goofy or just plain embarrassing. But now, there's a world-renowned guitarist who grew up with the team, grew up with soccer, writing a song for the team, playing a style of music historically connected with football. With the team also rebranding to recognize its heritage, it finally feels like the franchise is doing something historically authentic, or at least something that resembles how it's done in the rest of the world.

What's more, throughout much of the globe, especially England, people are born with the neighborhood football club flowing through their bloodstream. And in most cases, the club has been around for a century, so the founding date is usually emblazoned on the team's crest. Historically speaking, in certain towns with absolutely nothing else to do, the club became everything to the people who grew up there, primarily because the club was all the town had. This is pretty much akin to San Jose in the 1970s. Except for prunes and a flavorless Dionne Warwick song, the town had no commercial identity.

Frederiksen said he was not commissioned by the Quakes to write the theme song. He wrote it on his own several years ago, as a fan first and foremost. Everything just came together at the right time for the band to participate in the 40-year celebration. The lyrics are about San Jose, the team, our rivalries and the working class ethic.

"The song is another extension of all the years I've gone to see the Quakes, back when I was at Spartan Stadium and at Buck Shaw," Frederiksen told me. "Buck Shaw is a place David Beckham wouldn't play at. That's fine, because he sucks. I'm glad he's gone. In fact, that's how the song goes—'This is not New York, this is not L.A.,' and the next line is, 'Our colors are black and blue, and we are San Jose.' And those are our colors, and this is our team and that's as real as it gets. We don't want a bunch of movie stars playing here."

The Old Firm Casuals recorded the track at East Bay Recorders in Berkeley. Engineer Michael Rosen, who'd previously worked with the 49ers in a similar capacity, suggested Frederiksen enlist Earthquakes players to sing back up. After finding out Quakes defender Clarence Goodson was a Rancid fan, connections were made and phone numbers were exchanged. Current and former Quakes players on the recording are Clarence Goodson, Sam Cronin, Troy Dayak, Steven Beitashour, Kelly Gray, Jason Hernandez and Jordan Stewart. All in all, it's a project worth bragging about.