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Brass in the Limelight: 4 Classic Rock Anthems Showcasing the Trombone

by Madonna

When envisioning classic rock, the mind often conjures images of blazing guitars, massive amplifiers, and, occasionally, explosive pyrotechnics epitomized by bands like KISS. However, hidden within the sonic landscape of this genre lies an unexpected gem—the trombone.

This brass behemoth has made its mark in several iconic rock compositions from bygone eras. Skeptical? Let’s explore four classic rock tracks from some of the most significant musicians of the 20th century that feature the distinctive tones of the trombone.

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1. “Trombone Dixie,” The Beach Boys

An overt nod to its title, this track hails from The Beach Boys’ seminal 1966 album, Pet Sounds. Renowned for its experimental instrumental choices, the album incorporates a myriad of unconventional instruments, including the accordion, cello, ukulele, and, notably, the trombone. Originally an instrumental piece released as a bonus track on the 1990 CD reissue, “Trombone Dixie” showcases the trombone’s sliding sounds. Brian Wilson, the band’s singer/songwriter, revealed in a 1995 interview, “I was just foolin’ around one day, f–kin’ around with the musicians, and I took that arrangement out of my briefcase, and we did it in 20 minutes. It was nothing, there was really nothing in it.” Yet, the whimsical addition undeniably works.

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2. “Upside Down (Inside Out),” Diana Ross

Featured on the 1980 album “Diana,” this song earned its place in the limelight not just for its own merits but also for being sampled in The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 hit, “Mo Money Mo Problems.” While the track is celebrated for its funk rock/disco hybrid, what might escape many listeners is the prominence of the trombone. Horns take center stage in this composition, adding a layer of soulful richness that enhances the overall sonic experience.

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3. “Biding My Time,” Pink Floyd

Recorded in 1969 and released in 1971 on the Pink Floyd compilation LP “Relics,” “Biding My Time” initially resonated with audiences as a live show exclusive. Originally known as “Afternoon” during the group’s performances of “The Man and The Journey,” this track boasts a trombone solo played by keyboardist Rick Wright. The solo, reminiscent of a looming rain cloud over the upbeat song, adds a unique dimension, perhaps mirroring the escapism depicted in the lyrics.

4. “The Impression that I Get,” The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

A staple of Boston-born ska band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ 1997 album “Let’s Face It,” this track epitomizes the fusion of punk vocals, vibrant rhythms, and, notably, a prominent trombone. As a radio favorite in the 1990s, “The Impression that I Get” captures the essence of rebellious fervor, encouraging listeners to embrace the moment. The trombone, interwoven with other horns, plays a crucial role in shaping the song’s energetic and infectious sound.

In the realm of classic rock, these tracks stand as a testament to the trombone’s versatility, proving that even in a genre dominated by guitars, this brass instrument can carve out its own distinct space.

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