If you look at:

UK instrumental number ones : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_instrumental_number_ones_on_the_UK_Singles_Chart

US instrumental number ones : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Hot_100_chart_achievements_and_milestones#Instrumental_number-ones

You can see that in the 50s to the 70s, there were quite a number of instrumental number one singles in the UK and US charts. Since then there have been very few. What could be the reasons for this?

  • 2
    It is an interesting claim, but some supporting information is needed. Otherwise it just depends on what music I or anyone else is familiar with. My guess, however, is that in some respects popular music was in a transitional period between composition focused (classical, jazz, show tunes) to a primarily electronic, lyric based music. During such transition periods, you have a mix of both old and new for a period of time, to help ease such change.
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 19:31
  • @user3169 supporting information added.
    – user16
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 20:10
  • Voted to close. This is too subjective and not in the scope of SE. Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 20:43
  • @JohnnyBones I appreciate you saying so :) Is there a meta thread dealing with this kind of question?
    – user16
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 20:49
  • 1
    Meta post discussing whether or not this question is on topic Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


It's a very limited data-set given that we're only looking at #1s. However, given the fact that they were most predominant in a couple of decades (60s and 70s) I think it's fair to speculate that it's primarily an issue of what genre's were popular at the time.

With the 60s, there was still a lot of jazz-influence in the pop charts. Jazz has a lot of instrumental compositions.

In the late 60s into the 70s, we entered the era of Album Oriented Rock where long form instrumental jams were a staple of nearly every rock album released during that time.

So it was just a numbers game. There were more instrumental pieces being released in the popular genres during those periods.


Honestly, with the involvement of technology in music, such as auto-tune, recording vocals is now a piece of cake. With this confidence, bands tend to add vocals in most of their tracks. And in the current trend, vocal tend to match the instrumental complexity. If the instrument play through is complex, the vocalists today tend to bring the same complexity into their vocals, with pitch shifts, tempo changes and timing variations. So instrumental tracks are very low in number. That doesn't mean there are none. There are some beautiful instrumental tracks out there. Be sure to look of for them.

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