Jul 152013

So on one of the classic rock stations the other day they were playing a three-some from the Allman Bros. I like them in a respectable sort of way. But the first song they played was the instrumental “Jessica,” which is a cool song, a definite showcase for the players — and probably the one instrumental song I don’t mind and was happy to listen to all the way through.

Typically I view instrumentals as just filler that bands throw in because they’re just too lazy to write lyrics, or it’s a song the bassist brought in that no one else wants to touch. They’re mostly just “jams” that go nowhere. Which is why I do like “Jessica” — it moves but feels structured like a real song, with different solos coming in at just the right time to keep me from getting bored.

I know the Stones and certainly Zeppelin are really guilty of this but they do these instrumentals in the name of “da blooz” right?

Any instrumentals (from non-jam bands mind you) that can top “Jessica”? I’m all ears.


  21 Responses to “Instrumental or Filler?”

  1. BigSteve

    Hair Pie: Bake 2 is probably my favorite track on Trout Mask Replica. And the little solo guitar or guitar/bass duets that scatted thought his albums are always great. Peon from the Decals album is one of the best:


  2. I don’t skip over “Space Invader” by The Pretenders when I listen to that first album from time to time.


  3. hrrundivbakshi

    I can’t stand “Jessica.” Cheese!

    (Please note: I am usually very much in sync with Machinery’s taste in these sorts of things, and am quite willing to cast a blind eye to this egregious lapse in his musical judgement.)

  4. BigSteve

    In Memory of Elizabeth Reed is better.

  5. I’m not sure if it was intended to be a “real song” or a “sound sculpture” or filler or what (as is the case with many songs by the band I’m about to list), but Pere Ubu’s “Blow Daddy-O” is one of my go-to instrumental tracks by a band that usually has vocals.

    Among true, wholly intentional instrumentals, probably nothing gives me more pleasure than Booker T & the MGs’ “Time Is Tight.”

    As dazzling as many guitar instrumentals can be, like all those ’60s instrumentals that people love, I get a little bored midway through the second time through.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    I grew up playing classical music on the piano, so have an inherent love for detecting the structure of an instrumental piece of music (but add vocals to “classical” music, aka opera or liturgical music, and I’m generally bored or annoyed). My past also includes a whole lotta dance, and for whatever reason, most dance is choreographed to music that doesn’t include a vocalist. So instrumentals and I go way back.

    Like you, I tend to tire of jam band instrumentals – where’s the darn structure, other than in their heads? I can get annoyed with jazz instrumentals, too, although I would probably appreciate them more if I was watching them live.

    I really enjoy instrumentals. The first one that came to mind is this one, by Tame Impala, which I posted years ago as a Mystery Date: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuD5sfY6S8c I love it: sort of proggy but with a clear structure, and interesting interplay among the instruments.

    Other bands off the top of my head: Tortoise has made a career out of well-executed instrumentals. There are also tons of interesting electronic tracks from other bands, with Four Tet being one of my favorite purveyors in this area.

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    Booker T: “Green Onions” is a fav.

  8. Speaking of Booker T, did anyone catch Booker T Jones on Tavis Smiley’s show about a week ago? The first 10 minutes of the show annoyed the crap out of me, as Smiley, whose interviews I typically like and watch a couple of times a week, kept referring to Booker T as a solo artist, not once mentioning the MGs or any of his particular bandmates. Eventually he did mention them, and Booker T spoke in terms of “us,” but although Smiley was long on admiration for his guest, he seemed a little short on the kind of nerdy musical inquisitiveness that I was looking for. Nevertheless, Jones kicked it out, coming off as a really smart, centered guy. I ended up digging the interview and forgiving my man Tavis for not delivering on the musical goods I’d hoped to gather. Here’s a link to the interview. You may skip the first 10 minutes if you want to avoid the disappointment and nerdy rage I was feeling.


  9. bostonhistorian

    I go between Time is Tight and Booker-Loo.

  10. cliff sovinsanity

    Before we go any further we should discount any band or artist that would normally play instrumentals. Booker T, Ventures, Dick Dale and all other surf bands. You know you was lousy with instrumentals? The Beach Boys, gawd. Nearly every album has some pointless instrumental. Anyways…

    There’s quite a few versions of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Careful With That Ax, Eugene” that are worth listening to.
    I never turn off YYZ by Rush when I hear it on the radio.

  11. I am all about the instrumental. So many great ones.Off the top of my head, Pell Mell – Smoke. Pell Mell only played instrumentals. Also, the Schramms – Duck Hunting in Hell, and this awesomeness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZKJrtG6o0Y

  12. Hi Five on the Four Tet!

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    I count the Beatles’ “Flying” as an instrumental, and I am very pro-it.

  14. To my ears, the instrumental is never about the band being too lazy to write lyrics. Some music just fares better without someone yapping all over it, and in a well-executed instrumental the piece stands as a whole. No need to frost it.

    I find that I can project more onto an instrumental, and that more often than not, they have more longevity than the specifics that trap a vocalized song into something specific.

    I do love instrumental bands (surf, ambient, Tortoise, et.al.), however some of the one-off instrumentals that come to mind from otherwise vocal bands are:

    The Meters- “Cissy Strut”
    PiL- “Radio 4”
    Funkadelic- “Maggot Brain”
    Santana- “Samba Pa Ti”
    Can- “Splash”
    Pink Floyd- “Obscured By Clouds”
    Bow Wow Wow- “Orangutan”
    Sly Stone – “Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa”
    Hendrix- “Peace In Mississippi”
    Money Mark- “Pinto’s New Car”
    …I’ll stop.

  15. misterioso

    Beck’s freakin’ Bolero!

    I have a fondness for the odd Small Faces instrumental tracks like “Happy Boys Happy.” (I think there are others. Can’t remember the names.)

    “Sparks” from Tommy–live versions.

    Paul McCartney, “Momma Miss America” from McCartney.

  16. Funny, just a few days ago a friend told me he thought that Jessica was the Greatest Instrumental. I’m not a fan. I don’t like the riff and it’s way too proggy for me. I do like the piano bit though.

    My favorite instrumental is Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny. Words would only screw it up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rwfqsjimRM

    There was a poll a while back that had a bunch of instrumentals from the 60s, and it was tough to vote because there were so many excellent choices. https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/once-and-for-all-best-rock-instrumental-of-the-1960s/

  17. diskojoe

    Nobody has mentioned “2120 So. Mich. Ave.” by the Stones yet, which is surprising. The version that’s now on the 12×5 CD is longer than what I remember back in the day.

    As for the Kinks, “Revenge” was probably their best instrumental, but I have a soft spot for the instrumental version of “Lola” that was on the Percy soundtrack.

    As for Booker T & the MGs, you can never kill “Green Onions”, no matter how much it get played on oldies radio. Also, their McLemore Ave. album is a great interpertation of Abbey Road.

  18. H. Munster

    “Aurora Borealis” by the Meat Puppets is a favorite of mine.

  19. SRV’s Lenny and Riviera Paradise are pretty good.

    My favorite Instrumentals are from Tommy and Quadrophenia

    I LOVE Frank Zappa’s guitar playing (he may be my favorite 6-string player) so anything he does that has guitar in it is OK by me.

    I agree that is most cases a pop/rock band putting an instrumental on their LP is as filler.

  20. mockcarr

    I love the Kinks’ Little Women, an added track to Face to Face. I always assumed they just hadn’t gotten around to lyrics for it.

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