Rumble (instrumental)

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Single by Link Wray & His Ray Men
B-side "The Swag"
Released April 1958
Format 7"
Recorded 1954
Genre Rock and roll[1]
Length 2:25
Label Cadence 1347
  • Milt Grant
  • Link Wray
Music sample
30 second sample of "Rumble" by Link Wray & His Ray Men, 1958

"Rumble" is an instrumental by Link Wray & His Ray Men. Originally released in April 1958 as a single with "The Swag" as a B-side and recorded in 1954,[2] "Rumble" utilized the techniques of distortion and feedback, then largely unexplored in rock and roll. The piece is one of very few instrumental singles banned from the radio airwaves.[3] It is also one of the first tunes to use the power chord,[4] the "major modus operandi of [the] modern rock guitarist".[5]


At a live gig in Fredericksburg, Virginia, attempting to work up a backing for The Diamonds' "The Stroll," Link Wray and his Ray Men came up with the stately, powerful blues instrumental "Rumble," which they originally called "Oddball." The instrumental was an instant hit with the live audience, which demanded four repeats that night.

Eventually the instrumental came to the attention of record producer Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records, who hated it, particularly after Wray poked holes in his amplifier's speakers to make the recording sound more like the live version; however, Bleyer's stepdaughter loved it and it was released despite his protest. Phil Everly heard it and suggested the title "Rumble", as it had a rough sound and said it sounded like a street fight.

It was banned in several radio markets because the term rumble was a slang term for a gang fight, and it was feared that the piece's harsh sound glorified "juvenile delinquency."[6] It became a hit, not only in the United States, where it climbed to number 16 on the charts in the summer of 1958, but also in Britain, where it has been cited as an influence on The Kinks and The Who, among others, although it failed to reach the UK charts. The Beau Brummels hit song "Just A Little" borrows the riff from this tune as well.[7] Bob Dylan once referred to it as "the best instrumental ever."[8] Instrumentals were far more common on the Top 40 in the 1950s and early 1960s than in later years. The Dave Clark 5 covered it on their first U.S. studio album, Glad All Over, in 1964.


The 1980 Adam and the Ants song "Killer in the Home" (from their Kings of the Wild Frontier album) is based on the same ominous glissando refrain that is featured in "Rumble" (Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni has cited Link Wray as a major influence).

The piece is popular in various entertainment media. It has been used in movies, documentaries, television shows and elsewhere, including Top Gear, The Warriors (in the deleted opening scene), Pulp Fiction,[9] Independence Day, SpongeBob vs. The Big One, Blow, the pilot episode of the acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos, Starcraft II, Riding Giants and Roadracers.

In the documentary It Might Get Loud, guitarist Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) pulls out a 45 RPM single of Rumble, plays it, and describes it as a turning point in his own love of the guitar.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert on April 29, 2013, Iggy Pop stated that he "left school emotionally" at the moment he first heard "Rumble" at the student union, leading him to pursue music as a career.

Heavy metal band Integrity covered "Rumble" on their European tour in 2013 as a tribute to Link Wray.

Experimental hip-hop group Death Grips sampled "Rumble" in their track "Spread Eagle Cross the Block" from their Exmilitary mixtape in 2011.[10]


The piece uses a modified 12-bar blues form (the last two beats are omitted, resulting in an 11 and a half bar form) and is played by a combination of two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a bass, and drum set.

"Rumble" is melodically characterized by a descending e-minor pentatonic scale played in triplets against the straight eights chords. The scale is played in first position on the guitar and while not original to "Rumble", is a staple of blues and rock guitar playing.

The last two 4/4 measures of the typical 12 bars blues format started earlier than usual (the 3rd beat of measure 10) thus shortening the piece and making it an eleven and one half measure blues.


  1. ^ Richard Aquila (1989). That Old-time Rock & Roll: A Chronicle of an Era, 1954-1963. University of Illinois Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-252-06919-2. 
  2. ^ Jacqueline Edmondson Ph.D. (3 October 2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories That Shaped Our Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-313-39348-8. 
  3. ^ Robert Rodriguez, The 1950s' Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Rock & Roll Rebels, Cold War Crises, and All-American Oddities (Brassey's, 2006), 94.
  4. ^ Zitz, Michael. Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, VA. "Fredericksburg Offered up Fertile Spot for Rock's Roots" December 20, 2005.
  5. ^ AllMusic's Link Wray Biography
  6. ^ Rolling Stone Obituary
  7. ^ The rough guide to rock Rough Guides, 2003, pg. 1 ISBN 1-84353-105-4, ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0
  8. ^ Wray's 'Rumble' Still Reverberating Richard Harrington, Take Note - Rockabilly Hall of Fame
  9. ^ Maury Dean, Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia (Algora Publishing, 2003), 438.
  10. ^ Exmilitary

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