Music Without Lyrics: 9 Great Rock Songs You Can’t Sing Along ToBy Rohan Ramakrishnan
Singing and lyrics are important in a rock band; it’s hard to imagine The Beatles without John Lennon or The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger. But once in a while, the singer sits back and lets the rest of the band take care of business and something wonderful happens as a result. These are those songs, in no particular order.
1. Weiss Heim (Rainbow)
Richie Blackmoore’s ill-fated Rainbow pumped out some classic rock songs in their time, helped out quite a lot by lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio. It’s surprising, then, that one of Rainbow’s best all-time songs doesn’t involve Dio at all. With some excellent – though not incredibly flashy – guitarwork and a surreal, ethereal backing, Weiss Heim makes awesome look easy.
2. Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin)
Jimmy Page and company only come in at the beginning and end of this song, letting drummer John Bonham do his thing all through the middle. Bonham proceeds to string together one of the greatest drum solos of all time, showing that a little restraint can go a lot farther than indiscriminate banging. It quickly became a staple at Led Zep concerts, allowing Bonham to go nuts for a good ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes.
3. Eruption (Van Halen)
The song that spawned a thousand finger-tappers, Eruption may well be the most influential rock instrumental of all time. Oddly enough, Eddie Van Halen‘s ridiculously amazing guitar prowess was established via a song he didn’t even want to play (it was only included because the producer liked it, and to this day Van Halen claims he messed it up slightly), but we’re thankful we got to hear it anyway.
4. The Star-Spangled Banner (Jimi Hendrix)
Wait, just kidding. This is the most influential rock instrumental of all time. Played as the patriotic opener for Woodstock, Hendrix‘s tremolo-laden take on the Star-Spangled Banner rocketed him to superstardom almost overnight. While Jimi’s guitarwork is as incredible as always, the real highlight of this song is the way he’s able to incorporate sonic effects to simulate the “rockets’ red glare” and the “bombs bursting in air.”
5. Hocus Pocus (Focus)
You probably only know of Hocus Pocus – or for that matter, Dutch band Focus – thanks to the 2010 World Cup advertisement, which samples part of the song. Which is a shame, because both the song and the band rock – not despite the weird yodeling, gibberish lyrics, and whistling, but because of them. Somehow, Focus makes it all of that work, plus flutes and some guitar playing that’s sure to get your head banging.
6. YYZ (Rush)
We’re sure that most of you figured out that this song would wind up here, so we’re going to up the ante a little by saying that YYZ is Rush‘s best song. Yes, better than Tom Sawyer. From the opening – morse code for Y-Y-Z – to the killer lead riff, to the pounding drums and driving guitar, YYZ proves that Neil Peart may not have been all that necessary. OK, we’re just kidding about that last part, but this song still rocks.
7. Call of Ktulu (Metallica)
Metallica actually sounds pretty reserved here… for roughly a minute, whereupon Hammet kicks it into overdrive and shows everyone that’s he’s taken over for Dave Mustaine. Which is a bit ironic, considering that Mustaine actually wrote it. But hey, that stuff doesn’t matter as much as the amount of rocking going on in this song, which is almost enough to make us forget that they misspelled Cthulhu.
8. Blue (Yngwie Malmsteen)
It’s hard to pick just one song by Swedish shred god Yngwie Malmsteen, but we’re going to have to go with Blue here. But while it does contain some traces of blues as Malmsteen claims, there’s a lot more of his usual classically-inspired style going on. With an insane finger speed that would make Nicolo Paganini piss his pants, Blue combines the best of blues, classical, and rock with unparallelled virtuosity.
9. Beck’s Bolero (Jeff Beck)
Combine Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, and Keith Moon in one room and you get one of the greatest rock instrumentals of all time. Inspired by an unlikely source (the ballet Bolero) this song became one of Beck’s most famous pieces, partly due to the shenanigans of Moon, who had to show up in disguise thanks to some record disputes – but mostly because it rocked.
So, what are your favorite rock songs sans lyrics?