14 Great Instrumental Rock Songs
Written by C.I. DeMann on October 5, 2018
Modified by Long Nguyen
Every couple months, my KPSU radio show Six Degrees of Rockination has a theme. In September 2018, that theme was “Instrumentals.” An entire hour of great songs with no singing. What songs did I play?
The Darkness – “Bareback”
This is a British band eager to bring back the ’80s, with spandex and big hair and hot guitar licks. This song gets our instrumental show off to a rockin’ start.
Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Speaking of hot guitar licks, Jack White does some remarkable things on this song. Lots of distortion, lots of noise, lots of awesome.
Action Figure Party – “Where’s the Moment?”
Such a great jazzy groove. I’m not sure if this can be classified as either rock or jazz. Sort of a hybrid of the two. I feel like this band should be playing in dark bar, lit only with blue lights.
Dropkick Murphys – “The Nutrocker (Nutty)”
Finally, we get to a song featuring the bagpipes! The Dropkicks are one of the most beloved bands of Boston and this rocking little number gives you a good sense of why.
Brad Paisley – “Throttleneck”
What, you thought when I played a guitar virtuoso, it would be someone from the world of rock? Too easy, my friend. Instead, we’re getting our guitar god from country music. And there’s not just guitar. The fiddle, banjo, and pedal steel all make appearances here.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Greyhound Pt 1”
This is from an album featuring Jon Spencer songs remixed by various people. The re-mixer on this song? The world-famous Moby.
Branford Marsalis – “Mo Better Blues”
Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t a rock song. Still, as jazz songs go, it’s pretty dang awesome, isn’t it? This appeared in the 1990 movie “Mo Better Blues” featuring Denzel Washington.
Pierre Henry – “Psyche Rock”
The original of this song is from the late 1960s, but this remix by Fatboy Slim is from 2000. If it sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve watched the cartoon show “Futurama,” which uses a variation as its theme song.
The Connells – “OT2”
Such a lush, full, driving sound from this North Carolina jangle-pop band.
Three Dog Night – “Fire Eater”
I’m a little shocked by how much this song rocks. I think of Three Dog Night as a peaceful hippie band singing about bullfrogs named Jeremiah, but this song genuinely gets down.
Beastie Boys – “Off the Grid”
Did you think the Beasties only did rap? Nope, they’ve got a lot of instrumental songs. In fact, they once put out an entire instrumental album. Call them renaissance men.
The Delta 72 – “The Cut”
This song has one of the greatest breakdowns I’ve ever heard. At the 1:14 mark, the drums pick it up a little, some horns come in, and the whole song kind of explodes. It gets me every time.
The Raconteurs – “The Bane Rendition”
It’s a second appearance for my guy Jack White! This song may have an organ, but I’m not positive. I think it’s just a guitar that’s so distorted, it sounds like an organ. You decide.
Pat Metheny Group – “Last Train Home”
And we finish with one of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear. I love the percussion on this. The entire time he’s just working that high hat with a pair of brushes, sounding exactly like a train.
And there you go! 14 great instrumental rock songs. And guess what? This isn’t just a list I came up with. This was an actual hour-long radio show. Want to hear it? Here’s the link. A solid hour of world-class songs with absolutely zero singing.