Nobody records instrumentals anymore. I wonder why. While a niche, the decades of the forties through at least the nineteen eighties were rife with instrumental songs that became enormous hits. Know who was one of the most successful artists of the sixties? Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. Yep.
People who think instrumental music is simply the dreck that's piped into their dental office are missing the entire point. Just like vocal music, good instrumentals invoke a mood. Plus they have to try harder. There are no silky voices to fall in love with. The instruments are the voices. And they all must be simpatico. A good pianist, or a superb trumpet player is only as good as the other "voices" that surround him.
I was seven when my big brother nudged me in the kitchen and said, "Listen to this!". My brother wasn't always right, but he seldom was wrong. (He did have to explain to me what a Telstar was.)
I always considered instrumentals a natural part of music, not something freakish. When my friends asked me what I wanted for my tenth birthday, one of the records I asked for, along with The Righteous Brothers' "Soul and Inspiration", was "Spanish Flea".
(I wouldn't ask for it now, but back then I thought it was really neat.)
And The Ventures were huge. I was in junior high when this became a hit:
(I know it's not the same without that giant wave and Steve McGarrett whipping around to face the camera, but it's pretty cool, nonetheless. Book 'em, Danno!)
On the country side, is there a more famous instrumental than this, which sold over a million copies and hit number two on the charts? Country Music Hall of Fame member Floyd Cramer became famous as a Nashville session musician, playing on records by everyone from Patsy Cline to Elvis Presley before leaping into the spotlight.
And speaking of hits, "Buckaroo" went to number one in 1965 and stayed on the charts for sixteen weeks. It's also the first (only?) song I learned to pick on the guitar (not bragging; it's a pretty easy song, although not for me).
Though instrumentals probably peaked in the Big Band era of the forties, the early sixties were a sweet spot, too, with tunes like:
- Tequila ~ The Champs
- Wipe Out ~ The Surfaris
- Alley Cat ~ Bent Fabric
- Cotton Candy ~ Al Hirt
- Green Onions ~ Booker T and the M.G.'s
- Pretty much anything by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass
But the seventies, too, had its share (mostly thanks to disco):
Instrumentals began to wane in the eighties, but a few hit the charts. This one is probably the best:
Instrumental music is a format that deserves to be remembered. It's all about emotion, and it allows you to create your own story.