Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The subject of Rock Era Instrumental Hits has become a hot topic here in Forgotten Hits lately ... here are just a few of your most recent comments on this:

How about Joe Kenton with the instrumental called Hymne? For those who aren't that familiar, it was the song used in the Gallo Wines commercial years ago?
Bob Morrow
Sorry, don't know that one ... but some GREAT instrumental titles have been floating around here lately!!! (kk)

You've hit on a topic that I discuss from time to time when posting old top 40 surveys on ebay. You just don't hear instrumentals on the radio any longer, even on oldies radio. They're used as a filler to bridge the gap to news, or as intros or outros to other scheduled programs. In your most recent email, a number of songs were listed and you hear NONE of them. I think all I've heard in recent months are Rise, Classical Gas and Feels So Good. What about all the great surf instrumentals, or Rumble, by Link Wray? I just finished listing a bunch of WBBM-FM surveys from 1973. A couple great instrumentals from that time were Hocus Pocus and Frankenstein. The lack of instrumentals on the radio explains why guitarists like Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Steve Stevens, Richie Sambora, Mike Campbell, John 5 and others don't have million selling albums. Unless Jimmy Page can persuade Robert Plant to get back together with him, he might as well go back to being a session guitarist. Eddie Van Halen's career is done unless he can find another singer. Forget about instrumentals like Let There Be Drums. Not even Phil Collins could get away with an LP of instrumentals featuring the drums. Would an Elton John or Billy Joel album of keyboard dominated instrumentals fly? It wouldn't.It's probably a vicious circle. Radio says there aren't any great instrumentals being released and the artists will say radio doesn't play it anyways. I think the second half of the statement is more true. Instrumental albums are made all the time, but outside of guitar magazines, you never hear about them.
Jack (Rock And Roll Never Forgets)

A couple more nobody mentioned:"Wipe Out" and "Mizry Lou"(sp?)I had forgotten about and had a few records by Sandy Nelson and Art Blakey. You never hear drum solos much anymore, if ever, even live.
Personally, I'm one of those who doesn't miss the drum solos ... I've sat through literally dozens and dozens of HOURS of them over the years and have NO desire to hear another one. (Last one we saw was at last year's Earth, Wind And Fire concert ... I swear they spent 40 minutes giving each band member a solo on a long-winded jam that added absolutely NOTHING to the night of music and, in fact, deprived us of hearing three or four more legitimate hits!) By the way, it's "Misirlou" by Dick Dale that you're thinking about ... although today considered to be both an instrumental and a surf rock classic, this song NEVER charted when it was first released back in 1962. Its use in "Pulp Fiction" helped to cement it in many of our consciousness!!! (kk)

According to Fred Bronson's book "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits", which ranks The Top 100 Instrumentals of the Rock Era based on these records' actual chart performance in Billboard magazine, The Top Ten Biggest Instrumentals Of All-Time are as follows:
1.) Autumn Leaves - Roger Williams
2.) Theme from "A Summer Place" - Percy Sledge
3.) Lisbon Antigua - Nelson Riddle
4.) The Poor People Of Paris - Les Baxter
5.) Love Is Blue - Paul Mauriat
6.) Moonglow and Theme From "Picnic" - Morris Stoloff
7.) Tequila - The Champs
8.) Wonderland By Night - Bert Kaempfert
9.) Calcutta - Lawrence Welk
10.) Last Date - Floyd Cramer
How many of THOSE titles do you hear on the radio anymore? "Tequila", "Love Is Blue" and maybe "Theme from 'A Summer Place'" once in a while ... but that's about it. (Actually, I'm surprised "Theme from 'A Summer Place'" didn't rank higher ... it topped Billboard's Chart for nine weeks in 1960 ... but "Autumn Leaves" apparently accumulated more total points during its 26 chart run. Another one I would have expected to see high on the list is "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado, #1 for TEN weeks in 1955 ... but probably considered BEFORE the Rock Era by some.)

Scott Shannon has a list of The True Oldies Channel Top 40 Instrumentals as voted on by their listeners posted on his website:
Click here: True Oldies Channel .
Listed chronologically, it points out TWO post-1973 titles: "TSOP" by MFSB and "Love's Theme" by The Love Unlimited Orchestra ... and contains all three of The Top Ten titles I mentioned from the Billboard list above. (Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" also made their "Honorable Mentions" list.) He tells me that he'll be featuring his True Oldies Channel Instrumentals Weekend again in a couple of months. Maybe some of the suggestions from our readers will inspire him to expand HIS list a little bit for the next airing! (kk)

Hey Kent ~
Not sure if I missed it or not but wasn't "Sleep Walk" an instrumental? Santo and Johnny, 1959, I believe. Some great tunes everyone's mentioned. Thanks again for all you do and thanks to everyone else for their input every week. Sure makes interesting reading.
~ Sharon
Yep, one of MY all-time favorites, too ... and definitely part of the "Vintage Instrumental" Class of the late '50's and early '60's ... but we were trying to figure out how many "big hit" instrumentals came out post 1973 ... and the drop-off is far greater than many of you may realize.

According to Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" Book, NO instrumental has topped Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart since 1985 when Jan Hammer did it with his "Miami Vice" Theme. Think about that for a second ... that's nearly 25 years ago!!! By comparison, during the first 25 years of The Rock Era, 29 instrumentals topped the chart.

For some more pretty amazing statistics, check out Joel Whitburn's email below! (We knew that there'd been a drop-off in instrumental hits but even I was amazed by the post-2000 stats!) kk

Hi Kent,
I would like to comment on your instrumental discussion. Instrumentals, especially early rock and roll tunes, have always been favorites of mine. I can’t imagine any talk about the golden era of 1950’s rock and roll without a mention of instrumental smash hits like “Honky Tonk”, “Raunchy”, “Tequila”, “Rebel-‘Rouser”, “Topsy II”, “Teen Beat”, “Red River Rock”, “The Happy Organ”, “Rumble” or “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”.
Here’s a bit of history about the impact of instrumentals on Billboard’s pop charts. There have been only four that charted this decade (2000’s): “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation (#99/’00); “Sandstorm” by Zarude (#83/01), “Axel F” by Crazy Frog (#50/’05), and “The Simpsons Theme” by Green Day (#106/07).
The 1990’s had 27, the biggest being “Theme From Mission: Impossible” by Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen of U2 (it peaked at #7 in 1996 and was the only Top 10 instrumental of the decade).
The 1980’s had a total of 53 and it was the last decade to score with a #1 instrumental hit: “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer in 1985.
There were a total of 250 charted instrumentals in the 1970’s which included 11 #1’s: from “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group in 1973 to “Rise” by Herb Alpert in 1979.
The 1960’s decade was truly the golden age of instrumentals. A total of 786 instrumentals made the “Hot 100” and “Bubbling Under” charts. 1962 holds the crown with a total of 118 entries, featuring three #1’s: “Telstar”, “Stranger On The Shore” and “The Stripper”.
The 1950’s had a total of 356 instrumentals. 1959 was the top year of that decade with 76 titles. Many all-time classic #1 instrumental hits came from that decade. Among them were “The 3rd Man Theme”, “Blue Tango”, “Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White”, “Autumn Leaves”, “The Poor People Of Paris”, “Lisbon Antigua”, “Patricia” and “Sleep Walk”.
And, a quick glance at the 535 #1 hits from 1920 through 1949, shows that 61 of that total were instrumentals – from “Dardanella” and “Whispering” in 1920 to “In The Mood” and “Frenesi” in 1940.
So, there it is - a capsule wrap-up of the chart history of instrumental recordings on America’s pop charts.
Joel Whitburn
P.S.: Here’s an excerpt from my “1957 Music Review” on page 37 of my “Billboard Hot 100 Annual” book: “The instrumental craze cooled off in 1957 with only eight instrumentals hitting the Top 40, compared to 24 the year before. Inspired by “Honky Tonk”, a sax-guitar, R&B-laced smash hit of 1956, a new kind of instrumental surged onto the charts in late 1957. “Raunchy” became the first guitar-driven, rock and roll instrumental to break through the Top 10 and it did so with three different versions. Written by producer and sax player Bill Justis and guitarist Sid Manker, Justis’ infectious version went all the way to #2 on the Pop charts and blazed a trail for others to follow, including 1958’s “Tequila”, “Rebel-‘Rouser”, Topsy II” and “Rumble.”
It was these recordings that inspired me to buy a guitar and learn to play all of these great rock and roll instrumentals.

Tomorrow we'll be running OUR official list of The Top 40 Instrumentals of All-Time as compiled by Randy Price, utilizing data that he's collected from both the Billboard and the Cash Box Charts over the years. Meanwhile, here's one of MY all-time favorite instrumental hits (although, in all fairness, there IS a little bit of singing on this one ... and by that I mean both by the background singers AND Pete Drake's AMAZING guitar.) It's called "Forever" and it was a #22 Hit in Cash Box Magazine back in 1964. We've featured it once or twice before in Forgotten Hits over the past ten years ... which is probably more times than radio has played it during that same time frame. Drake was the top pedal steel guitar session man in Nashville for decades, working with a virtual Who's Who of country and pop recording artists ... but this was his only solo hit ... and it's a GOOD one!!! Give a listen to "Forever" and see if you don't agree! (Boy, talk about your Forgotten Hits!!!) kk