Music History

Published on April 19th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Another Good Bar Bet Question: Name the Only Instrumental Ever Banned from the Radio

Censorship in music is hardly a new thing, but it’s always lyrics that get the powers-that-be all twisted. But there was that one time when an instrumental was banned from American radio. Open Culture has the story.

Link Wray’s 1958 song “Rumble” remains the most dangerous-sounding instrumental blues vamp ever recorded, unmatched in its raw, slinky cool until, perhaps, John Lee Hooker’s Endless Boogie or the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. But unlike Lou Reed, Wray didn’t need lyrics about heroin addiction and sadomasochism to freak out the parents and turn on the kids. All he needed was his fuzzed-out guitar, soaking in reverb and tremolo, and a rhythm section with the minimalist instincts of Bo Diddley’s band, who were making a similar kind of sound at the same time “Rumble” hit the airwaves.

It’s worth reading the whole story as you listen to the song.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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One Response to Another Good Bar Bet Question: Name the Only Instrumental Ever Banned from the Radio

  1. Michael says:

    I remember this song from It Might Get Loud. Jimmy Page plays it in his home on vinyl and you see what an impression it made on him. Was very cool to see the footage of Link Wray playing it live edited into the film. Love that movie…must have watched it a dozen times. Three of my all time favourite guitarists…

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