Marching band

Cymbals player Luke Bogus of Columbus, Nebraska, leaps during a performance with the Big Red Marching Band at Memorial Stadium.

The drums roll. The trumpets shout. The tubas blare.

And soon everyone is clapping, tapping their feet and, if they recognize the pep band's version of "Seven Nation Army" or "Hey Baby" or "25 or 6 to 4," singing every single word. 

One of the best pep band — or marching band — songs of all time is "Smoke on the Water," and with Deep Purple bringing the ubiquitous hard rock classic to Stir Cove on Friday, we had to explore that and other riffs turned into blasts of tubas, trumpets, trombones and saxophones.

Because what's better than turning your favorite pop song into a tune fit for a 97-piece orchestra?

To pick the list of the 20 best, we consulted with many sports fans, sportswriters and numerous former members of their high school and college bands including ex-members of the Huskers' Big Red Express.

20. Your favorite team's fight song

If that's "The White and the Blue" or "Hail Varsity" or whatever, that's one of the best things the band can play.

19. "Seven Nation Army," The White Stripes

It's so popular because it's such a cool line, but it stays lower on the list because, well, everyone does it now. It's the designated "cool popular song" that every band covers. 

18. "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars

Does everyone know this song? I think everyone knows this song. The most ubiquitous pop song of the past five years works well as a marching band tune.

17. "Kashmir," Led Zeppelin

An amazing guitar riff sounds great translated into marching band music, but the riff doesn't really change. For all eight and a half minutes of the song. 

16. "The Horse," Cliff Nobles and Company

Good filler during short time outs and TV breaks. You really only need the first 15 seconds, which contains every memorable part of the song.

15. "The Final Countdown," Europe

Synthesizers and heavy metal make for an '80s classic as well as a marching band jam that you can actually head bang to. If you're into that sort of thing.

14. "Smoke on the Water," Deep Purple

The most iconic guitar riff of all time is easily translatable to any musical medium including the pep band. 

13. "Rock and Roll Part II," Gary Glitter

The omnipresent arena anthem works for the pep band precisely because everyone knows exactly how to clap along and yell "hey" at all the right points.

12. "Gangnam Style," Psy

Remember this song? Yeah, the K-Pop jam was all the rage for about two seconds in 2012, and though its beat is mostly electronic, that didn't stop ambitious marching bands from cooking up an arrangement. 

11. "Call Me Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen

One of the best pop songs of the last decade — yeah, I said it — has such a jumpy and catchy melody that it's perfect to play at halftime. And, you know, to sing along as loud as you possible can. (You know you would.)

10. "Live and Let Die," Paul McCartney and Wings

The James Bond theme song is such a bold and cinematic song, and it's already anchored by big horn blasts. 

9."Forget You," Cee-Lo Green

Whenever the pep band strikes up this melody, it gives license to everyone in the stadium to shout the queen-mother of dirty words as loud as they possibly can. 

8. "Hey! Baby," Bruce Channel

By no means new or innovative, this one's a marching and pep band classic. And it gets everyone singing and dancing. Every time. Without fail. It's just so good.

7. "The Impression That I Get," Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Who knew this '90s ska anthem would sound so cool at a basketball game? Probably every band kid who heard it and immediately realized the ska trumpet and kicking beat would sound great played by the entire marching band. That's who.

6. "I Can't Turn You Loose," Otis Redding

A classic for all the right reasons: It's got a killer horn melody, it was the theme of a classic comedy film and everyone knows the song even if they don't know the words. 

5. "Nine in the Afternoon," Panic! At the Disco

Earworms from the incredibly catchy pop rock band somehow become stuck in your head even harder when the marching band plays them.

4. "Bulls on Parade," Rage Against the Machine

You might not think this one's possible, but it sounds epic — like an action-movie-brawl-taking-place-on-a-cliff epic — when so many musicians play the aggressive jam together. 

3. "Tusk," Fleetwood Mac

The original hybrid marching band rock song is always impressive, but not every band can pull it off. 

2. "You Can Call Me Al," Paul Simon

The swinging horn melody that puts the groove in the whole song sounds so good. And then the flutes come in one-third of the way into the song and just slay. It would only be better if you could get Chevy Chase to dance alongside the band.

1. "25 or 6 to 4," Chicago

As one reader put it, "'25 or 6 to 4' is fire even when high schools do it." I couldn't say it better.

Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally cover other entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

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