Friday, September 9, 2011

Musical Interlude: Instrumentals

After digging around in the world of sixties British Invasion bands, I also got side-tracked into another sixties genre long dead: popular music instrumentals. Like the novelty song ("Coming to Take Me Away" or "Disco Duck," anyone?) the instrumental has fallen off the charts, the victim of our apparent modern sophistication, or something like that.

Booker T. and the MGs are the uncontested kings of instrumental music, and managed to fit their quirky masterpieces into a recording schedule that included laying down the grooves on an endless number of Stax Records tracks. I especially like their covers, where Booker T's organ provides a kind of surreal edge, most notably on "Hang 'em High."

For some reason or another, instrumentals dominated surf music, from the Ventures to "Wipeout." That stuff is just child's play next to the cinematic sweep and stately grandeur of Jack Nitzsche's "The Lonely Surfer."

Dick Dale also managed to make surf music that defied the genre's conventions, but did so via an absolutely violent guitar style. Very few songs can top "Misirlou"'s frenetic intensity, in an genre.

Speaking of Pulp Fiction, I was really irritated back in the day when the soundtrack did not include "Rumble," even though it as featured to sexy effect as Uma Thurman slinked off to the bathroom inside of Jackrabbit Slim's.

Of course, not all great instrumentals hail from the sixties. Johnny Thunders' cover of the surf-song (of course) "Pipeline" is one of the best showcases out there for his brutal punk guitar style.

No comments: