The 5 Indisputably Best Classic Rock Instrumental Songs

Classic rock is known for bombastic, often over-the-top vocalists. Think Robert Plant, Bon Scott, Nancy Wilson, and more. But what about those songs that don’t include lyrics or singers? Even then, classic rock can bring the beauty and the ruckus.

Videos by American Songwriter

Below, we dive into the best handful of classic rock instrumental songs. These tracks focus on the guitars, drums, keys, and bass. The songs that whisk you away with their instrumentation, devoid of any verbal poetry.

[RELATED: 5 Little-Known Facts About Paul McCartney]

1. “Bron-yr-Aur,” Led Zeppelin

This acoustic-driven two-minute number, “Bron-yr-Aur,” appeared on the British-born Led Zeppelin’s 1975 LP, Physical Graffiti. The title of the song was born from the Welsh cabin where the band stayed in the 1970s as they jammed and penned songs for hit records like Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV. Though Physical Graffiti was released in 1975, this acoustic instrumental was recorded in 1970 and saved for use until then. And as an instrumental, the song imbues delicacy and subtle strength.

2. “Maggot Brain,” Funkadelic

The opening track on the 1971 Funkadelic album of the same name, this 10-minute instrumental song features the other-worldly guitar solo by the band’s Eddie Hazel. The song, which was recorded in one take, was spurned on by frontman George Clinton who told Hazel to play as if he had just been informed that his mother was dead. “I told him to play like his mother had died, to picture that day, what he would feel, how he would make sense of his life, how he would take a measure of everything that was inside him,” Clinton said of the session. The result is an all-timer.

3. “Miserlou,” Dick Dale

The king of surf rock, Dick Dale released his rendition of this traditional Eastern Mediterranean song in 1962. Since then, it’s become a classic, thanks, in part, to it being the song played during the opening credits of the hit 1994 movie, Pulp Fiction. The song is immediately recognizable with its quickly picked guitar lines and big bright horns. Dale’s version was so famous, that it also inspired the Beach Boys to record a version.

4. “Little Wing,” Stevie Ray Vaughan

An instrumental cover of the iconic Jimi Hendrix song, Stevie Ray Vaughan put his Texas blues-rock style and tone on the composition in a 1984 recording that was later released posthumously in 1991 after Vaughan’s death. There is so much raw power and emotion in the song from Vaughan that it’s almost almost almost as good as the original (which includes lyrics and vocals from Hendrix).

5. “Freeway Jam,” Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck released this instrumental track on his 1974 solo album, Blow by Blow. The album itself was an entirely instrumental offering and it was popular, hitting No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200. In the song “Freeway Jam,” Beck demonstrates why he’s considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. With tone, power, facility, confidence, and a sense of both rhythm and melody, he’s one of the all-time greats to be sure.

(Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Drake and J. Cole Tour 2024: How to Buy Tickets and Upcoming Tour Dates

Remember When: Nirvana Sabotages Their Own Show to Stick Up for Their Friends