I love the sound of a trumpet in rock music.  Yes, there are plenty of songs and bands we all love that feature a full brass section, or at least a trumpet accompanied by a sax or whatnot.  But I’m not talking about those.  I mean just a trumpet, either as part of the instrumentation of a song, or as the featured lead instrument.  So here’s an imaginary compilation of my favourite songs with a trumpet.  All the tunes are by bands that would typically show up over here at JC’s place.  Otherwise, there’d be way too many to list.  (So our host will have to do without ‘Penny Lane’ this time out.)

Cake: Short Skirt/Long Jacket.

Cake are sort of an acquired taste, but I acquired it.  Groovy bassist, solid drummer, ace guitarists, and Vince DeFiore on trumpet.  If you’re okay with John McCrea‘s vocals, you’ll probably like the band, too.  This is a single from the band’s fourth album, Comfort Eagle, released way back in 2001.

The June Brides: Every Conversation.

This one’s the only song I know by this band, which was included on some anorak-Postcard-Creation compilation or other.  It’s a fun track played in a lovably amateurish way that I still like to listen to almost 40 years on.

Beulah:  Gene Autrey.

Anyone remember Beulah?  They’re a forgotten favourite of mine.  Kind of the equivalent of Clearlake, whom I thought were genius and no one ever heard of (see ICA #279).  Beulah were from San Francisco and released four great albums to no acclaim whatsoever.  The idea for this post comes from this song, incidentally.  I have it on a playlist and was driving around (that’s what we do in LA) and all of a sudden the trumpet solo erupted out of the speakers.  You wouldn’t know it’s coming from the beginning of the tune, and then–bam!  Magnificent music.

The Teardrop Explodes: Reward.

Bless my cotton socks, it’s the arch-druid and his band’s biggest hit, a non-album single from 1981.  I read someplace that the band included the trumpet because they were inspired by Love‘s 1967 psychedelic classic, Forever Changes.

Calexico: Alone Again Or.

Speaking of which, here’s a version of the lead track from Forever Changes. Calexico are in fine form here.  It’s loose, the hand-claps give it kind of a flamenco vibe, and the trumpet solo is perfect.  Loads of bands covered this song, including the Damned, but I had other plans for them.

The Damned: Grimly Fiendish.

Is this where the Damned went Goth, or was that just the album cover?  Not sure, but we’ve moved quite a bit forward from New Rose with a jazzy trumpet solo.  This was released as a single in 1984.  Christ, I’m old.

Belle & Sebastian: Dress Up In You.

Here are some truly insulting lyrics, sung very sweetly.  Like our friends Cake and Calexico, Belle & Sebastian had a trumpet player on board for most of their career, including this track from 2006’s The Life Pursuit.  Toss up between this song and Stars of Track and Field.

Talking Heads: Houses in Motion.

Everyone’s played it straight so far but not, of course, the Heads.  This tune, from 1981’s Remain in Light, features fourth world pioneer Jon Hassell on a trumpet solo given the full Eno treatment.

Sloan: Everything You’ve Done Wrong.

I don’t know too much about Sloan, except that they’re from Canada and have had the same lineup for over 30 years.  ‘Everything’ is a straight-up radio-friendly pop tune wearing its trumpet on its sleeve.  This song was released in 1996, and I’m beginning to wonder if trumpet is just out of style nowadays?

The Beta Band: Dry the Rain.

Another 90’s highlight.  This song always seemed to me like an indie Hey Jude.  Goes on for a while and ends with a sing-along chorus with trumpets over the top.  I only saw the band once, and they were fantastic, but I can’t remember if they did this number.

Elvis Costello: Shipbuilding.

EC’s best ever lyrics, according to the man himself.  Shipbuilding really is a monumental song.  It would have been a classic before jazz legend/tragedy Chet Baker got into the studio, but his trumpet part is one of a kind.  If there’s a “best trumpet solo in rock” it’s this one.

Honourable mentions:

The Who: 5:15.

The ‘oo were my favourite band growing up, and Quadrophenia was and still is my Favourite Album of All Time.  This would have been top of the list, except Entwistle‘s playing a french horn, not a trumpet.

Sublime: Wrong Way.

A great song by doomed ska-punk luminaries Sublime, with a funky trombone solo.

The Cows: Heave Ho.

Oh, man, the Cows were a riot in action. This raucous number typifies their sound, right down to the singer’s trusty bugle.

XTC: That Is The Way.

This was going to be in the mix until I read the liner notes and saw that it’s Dick Cuthell (Specials, Madness, Pogues, Eurythmics) on flugelhorn.

…and now, the Invitation.

It took me ages to narrow this list down to just ten songs.  That’s why it’s eleven songs.  But I’ve got a whole second set, which I sent to JC.  I’m curious to see if anyone else shares my interest in trumpet in rock and, if you do, which songs you’d pick for an ICA.  So, I invite the TVV crowd to suggest some songs in the comments.  Let’s see if they include the rest of mine or, even better, are trumpet songs I haven’t heard yet.



  1. Glorious list , although would have had to find a couple of spaces for andy diagram with a Pale Fountains and a James song

  2. Prefab Sprout – Billy

    Great idea. ICA by instruments. Those titles I know, I can hear the trumpet without playing the track, and those I don’t know, genuinely interested to hear. Thanks.

  3. UK indie/post punk sorts went crazy (Teardrops allusion) for trumpets around 1981. Preferable to sax in my opinion. Dexys obviously the classic example from that era. Unfortunately a lot of student bands from Norwich or Bristol (nowhere else) turned jittery brassy white funk into a major irritant in 82.

  4. There is a very thin line between a song being a brass blessed blast of brilliance and a trumpet tinged turdball of a tune.
    Exhibit a – anything involving the Kick Horns (usually brilliant)
    Exhibit B – anything from ‘Seven’ by James (not so)

  5. The first one that fame to mind was You Little Thief by self-declared nemesis of bloggers everywhere, Feargal Sharkey.

    I should probably stop there.

    Then again, I used to play in a brass band, so I love a bit of brass. Although trumpets weren’t allowed in brass bands.

  6. Lester Bowie’s solo on David Bowie’s Looking For Lester (Black Tie: White Noise) should be up there too.

  7. This is an inspired ICA and I particularly enjoyed hearing Beulah again – yes, I remember them! My suggestion would be for Think For a Minute by The Housemartins.

  8. Great idea and the tracks I know are excellent choices. I’d definitely add the version of Billy Bragg’s Man in the Iron Mask with Dave Woodhead and Kevin Carter by the Manics with Sean Moore breaking out his trumpet.

  9. Interesting, excellent post! I’ve always loved the trumpet (with sax) in The Jam’s “Beat Surrender.”

  10. What a great idea.

    Unfortunately, I can’t be sure what would be trumpet or brass section so I’ll plump for Allez Allez Flesh and Blood and hope I’m right.

  11. Great selection…’s some more.

    The Cure – Close To Me (remix)
    Tindersticks – Bathtime
    Billy Bragg – Levi Stubb’s Tears
    The Style Council – Speak Like A Child
    Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top
    Spandau Ballet – Chant No.1

  12. Great idea for an ICA. Having difficulty discerning a
    trumpet from a trombone, so I will sit quietly in the

  13. Ooooh! Love a bit of trumpet. But as for the next batch I’d put up ‘Papas got a brand new pig bag’ and ‘Wilmot’ Sabres of Paradise against anything you’ve got.

  14. Great idea. Bit of an obscure one but I was reading in hope of seeing “Fanfare” by Eric Matthews. He is actually a trumpet player himself so the trumpet motif is integral to the song. And an absolutely fantastic track too.

  15. Great ICA, Jonny, and an inspired theme!

    Arriving late as I did, I thought my 3 picks would already have come up. Thankfully not!

    My trumpet triple threat is
    Julian Cope – Beautiful Love
    Soft Cell – Torch
    The The – Infected

    …which would frankly make lots of other Top 11s, too!

  16. I’m having another go…

    The Starlets – Tenterhooks

    A song that has, will continue to have, the ability to make me bubble, in the warmest of ways. Trumpet is by the extremely talented Nigel Baillie – Camera Obscura/Belle and Sebastian etc.

    The Starlets remain one of Glasgow’s finest treasures.

  17. Great idea for an ICA. If there will be a second version than these songs should be on it
    Chumbawumba – Tubthumping
    Manic Street Preachers – Ocean Spray

  18. This was great! I would def buy this album. Can’t wait to hear from Balfus again. Whatever you’re paying him isn’t enough.

  19. Hey JTFL…Love that you explored this theme. Brought to mind a moment, not in a rock song per se, but a moment that uses the instrument as achingly and plaintively as it’s ever been played, a moment that rips your heart out as only a soul-fed trumpet can. At the end of Tom Waits’ “Burma Shave”, when the couple longing for freedom from their tiny little lives meet their ultimate fate on a nameless country road beneath the early morning “bat wing shadow” of a derrick, that trumpet lick is a painful a elegy as any lost lives ever rendered.

  20. This is a magnificent idea for an ICA. I’ve been pondering this one for a few days now, and having scoured the other comments to make sure there’s no duplication (there isn’t) and to see if any of my suggestions are likely to cause offence (they will), here’s my suggestions:

    The Brilliant Corners – Oh! (with apologies to chaval, some late 80s Bristol parping)
    The Bridewell Taxis – Honesty (ditto)
    Herb Alpert – Tijuana Taxi (which it’s impossible not to feel happier after hearing)
    James – Born of Frustration (with apologies to SWC and showing solidarity with Friend of Rachel Worth – I could have chosen ‘Sound’, so count yourselves lucky)
    Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire (c’mon, those mariachi trumpets deserve a mention)
    Supergrass – Going Out (just coz)
    Radiohead – The National Anthem (ditto, and you should be standing up now, show some respect)

    And of course:

    The Williams Fairey Brass Band – What Time is Love?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.