The Best Classic Rock Instrumental Songs Of All-Time
The Allman Brothers Band live at Fillmore East - Allman Brothers on MV / Youtube
While most classic rock fans are familiar with its standard song formats since it hit the mainstream, instrumental pieces aren’t unheard of. Just like classical pieces of music by Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart, classic rock artists took inspiration from these legends to craft instrumental masterpieces that carry the grit and edge of rock music, while dealing an effective expression without the help of vocal lines or lyricism. Brace yourselves for some of the most quintessential rock instrumentals to have ever been written.
10. “Misirlou” – Dick Dale
Originally a folk song from the Eastern Mediterranean region of the Ottoman Empire, Surf rock legend Dick Dale turned it into a charged rock masterpiece with his fast-paced guitar work. Probably one of the most recognizable progressions in pop culture, after being featured in the film Pulp Fiction.
9. “Frankenstein” – Edgar Winter
Edgar Winter and his group penned the lengthy piece with a heavy, almost hard-rock progression using various instruments like guitars, synths, a sax, and timbales, aptly named for its heavily woven arrangement and instrumentation. Featuring a unique double drum solo, the track was originally coined “The Double Drum Song” as its working title.
8. “Rebel-Rouser” – Duane Eddy
Duane Eddy’s “Rebel-Rouser” is often mistakenly likened to “When The Saints Go Marching In”, with its slow and steady cadence of notes pouring out in rich quality. Sax parts tastefully fill in details for the track, making the short arrangement memorable as well.
7. “Rumble” – Link Wray
“Rumble” featured slow blues inspiration, which was augmented with the then-popular rock n’ roll genre. The steady drum beat and distorted, feedback-laden guitars add to the whole grit of the recording. The song sees the first uses of the power chord, which was adapted later in rock music’s rise to the mainstream.
6. “Wipe Out” – The Surfaris
Another surf rock track taking on the instrumental trend, “Wipe Out” features the rumbling quality that makes the genre stand out from the rest. The circular riff and fast-paced progression adds a feeling of vitality and youth, with the distinct guitar twang giving dimension to the whole track.
5. “Night Train” – Jimmy Forrest
Originally a composition by Duke Ellington and his band, where Forrest was also a member, Jimmy adapted his own version when he left the group. The earthier, fuller record was distinctively Forrest’s, improvising with his newly-added solo and a stop time rhythm for a unique take of the original track.
4. “Eruption” – Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” solo rips through with such power compacted into just 2 minutes, showing of scale work and droning slide effects, while popularizing high-speed tapping, becoming one of the most well-known instrumentals of all time.
3. “Walk Don’t Run” – The Ventures
Originally done by Chet Atkins and his finger-style implementation, The Ventures adapted it to become a more streamlined and laid-back arrangement, with a rich guitar tone and bass structure that drives the whole track throughout its length.
2. “Jessica” – The Allman Brothers Band
Dickey Betts named the track after his infant daughter reacted to the music upon hearing it, trying to recapture her energy in the melody. The positive-sounding arrangement that takes Southern rock instrumentals to another level gives the track is inherent charm, its playful quality a timeless piece of music made possible.
1. “Green Onions – Booker T and the MGs”
One of the best instrumental rock and soul tracks to have ever been written, “Green Onion” features a 12-bar blues arrangement and a subtle Hammond organ lining its melody, with guitar flairs in certain sections to pique the listener’s interest as the song progresses on. The song became the standard for the Memphis soul sound.