18 Great Rock Trumpet Solos

trumpetIn our never-ending search for listy fun we have compiled looks at at Rock Trombone Solos, Rock Flute Solos, Rock Piano Solos and Rock Keyboard Solos, in part because a list of Best Rock Guitar Solos is both too easy and too hard at the same time (we’ll get to it eventually).

So today we look at the trumpet. It’s interesting to note that while the flute was huge in the Seventies and then pretty much disappeared for good, the Rock trumpet also disappeared after the Seventies but experienced a revival in the Nineties, which has carried into today. It’s not rare to find a trumpet on a track today, but it is still rare to hear a flute.

Anyway, I am looking specifically for a trumpet playing by itself, and not as a part of a horn section, although I do make a couple of exceptions. I am looking for famous solo trumpet lines that helped define a song, and I am also looking for less famous trumpet bits of real high quality. When all else fails, I look for trumpet bits that I like.

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One listing per band, and as always, please, no wagering.


18. Chase – Get It On (1972)

Chase? More like Cheese. At the time, though, it was considered a legitimate crossover into Rock even by people other than coke-addled record execs.


17. Capital Cities – Safe And Sound (2013)

You couldn’t get this earworm/car commercial out of your head in 2013, and the trumpet solo is simple but probably the most memorable thing about it.


16. The Who – Cobwebs and Strange (1966)

I include this crazy-ass track more as an artifact than a legitimate trumpet song, because John Entwhistle was a trained trumpeter, and I couldn’t remember another Who trumpet solo. Come for the raggedy trumpet, stay for the incredible drumming.


15. Tower Of Power – What Is Hip (1973)

The great jazz/rock bands of the late ‘60s have got to be included on this list, including ToP, who added da funk to the mix. Greg Adams blows a memorable trumpet solo on this one.


14. The Cat Empire – Sly (2005)

Don’t know why this Aussie band never hit bigger Stateside, they’ve got a great playful swagger, and the trumpet is up front and a key member of the band. I’d call it post-ska.


13. Earth, Wind & Fire – Zanzibar (1973)

EW&F fit snugly into the Rock firmament in 1973, wedged in somewhere between soul and jazz fusion. This lengthy track features a real dope trumpet solo by Oscar Braschear, and also a pretty nice guitar solo if you groove that way.


12. Sloan – Everything You’ve Done Wrong (1996)

Sometimes a trumpet sounds even sunnier than a saxophone, so leave it to Canadians, North America’s new “sunny ways” optimists, to show how a little trumpet can lift a little song onto higher ground.


11. Dick Dale – Miserlou (1962)

As if the Lebanese-flavored twanging guitar wasn’t enough to get the surfer kids all heated up on the dance floor, the trumpet solo was the cherry on top.


10. The Temptations – Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (1972)

Motown session guy Maurice Davis’s trumpet sets the tone early, and perfectly, in this rock/soul masterpiece.


9. Hugh Masekela – Grazing In The Grass (1968)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where an instrumental from an African musician could hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100, like this one did?


8. The Cure – Close To Me (1985)

In 1985 that skeevy, production-drenched saxophone sound was everywhere, but trumpets, not so much. Thank god the Cure busted this and a few other conventions of the day.


7. Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire (1963)

Cash’s inspired decision to add mariachi horns marked a radical departure from his trademark sound, and it turned an odd little song into something big and weird and wonderful, and one of the most famous trumpet parts, if not trumpet solos, ever.


6. Steely Dan – The Royal Scam (1976)

As powerful and relevant a song today as it was 40 years ago. It still gives me goosebumps, especially when Chuck Findley stabs the still air with his incredible trumpet counterpoint lines.


5. Chicago – Beginnings (1969)

When it comes to great Chicago solos, you can’t go wrong with this track. Trumpeter Lee Loughnane lets fly and so does everyone else on this crafty little pop song that turned so seamlessly into an epic jazzy jam, pretty revolutionary stuff for 1969.


4. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Spinning Wheel (1968)

Where Chicago leaned more towards pop, BS&T veered closer to real jazz. Again, lots of trumpet bits to choose from, but Lew Soloff’s take on the album version really stuck in the ear forever.


3. Cake – The Distance (1996)

Cake deserves high marks on any Rock trumpet list for the unique way they integrate Vince DiFiore’s trumpet into the band’s overall sound. He does accents, fills, countermelodies, percussive notes, and solos, and you could pick just about any Cake song to hear them all.


2. Beatles – Penny Lane (1967)

British orchestral trumpeter David Mason used a piccolo trumpet to help the lads nail a moment in time onto the big cosmic wall. A distinctly Beatley sound that hasn’t been duplicated, and never will be.


1. Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding (1983)

A heartbreaking tale about shipyard communities building warships to replace the ones their sons died in during the Falklands War. The trumpet solos by jazz legend Chet Baker elevate this track into the upper echelons of brilliance.


Honorable Mentions and Apologia

Beulah is a fine band that, like Cake, has a trumpet as a regular member of their lineup. The Coral, Calexico and Sufjan Stevens all have lots of trumpet parts. There’s a whole world of Ska bands like Reel Big Fish that feature the trumpet. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Midnight Oil both have a few songs with trumpet. And let’s not forget Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass for those who want to crank up the camp.

And then there’s these: Paul Simon The Boxer / Yo La Tengo Mr. Tough / Style Council My Ever Changing Moods / Joe Jackson You Can’t Get What You Want Till You Know What You Want / Radiohead Life In A Glass House / Belle & Sebastian Dog On Wheels / The Byrds So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star / U2 Red Light / Dandy Warhols Godless / Digable Planets Rebirth Of Slick / White Stripes Conquest / Love Alone Again Or…

Of course, there are many more Rock trumpet bits, probably some obvious one I’ve missed. Please feel free to let me know what they are, but only if you’re not going to be snooty about it.

Photo credit: User PJ @ sv.wikipedia

21 comments to “18 Great Rock Trumpet Solos”
  1. Pingback: Time Capsule: July 1972 | Rocknuts

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  4. Your selections are wonderful and I was introduced to some new songs/artists…thanks! Some more to consider…..

    Jerry Hey–flugelhorn solo at the end of Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer”

    Jerry Hey also has a great little piccolo trumpet solo on Al Jarreau’s “Murphy’s Law”

    Jerry Hey on Seawind–“Enchanted Dance” (an extended improv solo)

    Trumpet solo/duet at the beginning of Barry Manilow–“Looks Like We Made It”

    great bebop solo at the fade out of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing”

    Randy Brecker on Bruce Springsteen’s “Meeting Across the River”

    Chuck Mangione–“Feels So Good” (he’s playing flugelhorn)

    The Jam–“Beat Surrender” (mariachi-style duet), “Boy About Town,” also “Circus”

    Simply Red–“Holding Back the Years” (harmon mute)

    Deon Estus–“Heaven Help Me”

    Swing Out Sister–“Surrender”

    Love–“Alone Again Or” (Spanish, flamenco-style solo)

    Dave Dee, Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich–“Legend of Xanadu” (trumpet trio)

    Chuck Findley on Joni Mitchell–“Trouble Child” and “Twisted” (jazz-styled, harmon mute)

    Of course the old favorites…..
    Bert Kaempfert–“Wonderland By Night”
    Perez Prado–“Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”
    and the ever-cheesy Al Hirt–“Java”

    • Hey Eli,

      Thanks for the really great suggestions. “Meeting Across The River” is an absolute must for any list like this, and so is something from The Jam.

      It’s always more fun if the song is famous, or at least the artist is famous, and in making the list I was guided by a subjective take on the song as a whole. But everyone’s got their own take, and since this article is Google’s highest-ranked repository of information on Rock Trumpet Solos, I encourage everyone to add their own suggestions.

      Here are three more classics from the 1980s:

      Pete Townshend — “Face The Face”
      The English Beat — “I Confess”
      Pigbag — “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”

  5. Hi Rich

    What a great post, and proof (as if it were ever needed!) that there really is an answer for everything on the internet!

    I hope you aren’t aware of this man because you are in for a real treat discovering his work and getting to grips with his guises.

    Michael Head has been doing it for me for a while, earlier as The Pale Fountains and Shack, later at The Strands and The Red Elastic Band.

    Off the top of my head are Reinstated from HMS Fable by Shack and Newby Street from Artorius Revisited by Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band.

    All the brainchild of one man and all worthy of investigation. To me he’s vastly underrated as a songwriter. It doesn’t help that he’s had a lot of bad luck by the sounds of his bios and that his records often go OOP quickly. I guess this furthers the legend but I hope it doesn’t make the songs too hard for you to find.

    You’ll also find more trumpet peppering his work. As a side note his band were pretty much Arthur Lee’s backing band for their reunion tour a few years ago.

    Let me know how you get on. Best wishes.

  6. I meant to say for Love’s reunion tour.

    And another thing! Just thought how much I love the trumpet solo from the end of Brother Sister by The Brand New Heavies. You have to wait till the end but boy is it worth it! It’s from the album of the same name.

    Enjoy, Will.

  7. The piccolo trumpet solo in “Penny Lane” is sweet, but my favorite Beatle trumpet tune is “Got To Get You Into My Life”. I’d also add to your fine list Skynyrd’s “Call Me The Breeze” (Ronnie Van Zant hated the brass on this so much he canned producer Al Kooper), and “Pictures Of Lilly” by The Who, which features a wonderfully rude horn by John Entwistle.

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