Guitar solos of the rock gods
There are countless great rock songs out there full of power and rhythm. A great riff can make a song memorable; as can great lyrics and a killer rhythm section. But, one thing sets most of the truly classic rock songs apart from the merely great ones — a killer guitar solo.
During the classic rock era, when guitars ruled the world, certain artists could be counted on to take their music to that next level. Today, we are going to celebrate many of the greatest guitar solos of all time.
Crossroads — Cream
This live recording from 1968, performed in San Francisco and released on WHEELS OF FIRE, is a cover of a 1936 song by blues legend Robert Johnson. While Jack Bruce and Ginger baker hold the rhythm down, Eric Clapton sets his fretboard on fire during two blistering solos. (According to multiple accounts, there were several more, but the song was edited down to about four minutes). During this fast and furious solo, Clapton often sounds like two guitarists playing at once.
Eruption — Van Halen
On the second cut of Van Halen’s debut album, Eddie Van Halen takes less than two minutes to establish himself as a true guitar original. The tapping technique used here has been emulated many times, but never duplicated.
Free Bird — Lynyrd Skynyrd
It’s an unwritten law that this song has to show up on any “best solos” list. But this law is hard to break. The original studio version of this song was about 10 minutes long, but typically runs considerably longer when performed live.
Sweet Child O’Mine — Guns N’Roses
This is where our hero Slash takes one of GN‘R’s best rock ballads in an unexpected and very dark direction. It builds slowly and perfectly and stops at just the right moment to launch the final third of the song.
Sympathy for the Devil — Rolling Stones
Two and a half minutes into this classic BEGGAR’S BANQUET opener, Keith Richards performs an exorcism of his own, pulling out a series of screams and wails on his axe that can’t help to give you a visceral reaction. It took one of the band’s darkest and most clever songs to a level seldom reached by any other band, or even by the Stones themselves.
Johnny B Goode — Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry was one of the architects of guitar rock, and this is his signature song. It may sound relatively tame compared to some of the other solos listed here, but that alleged tameness is deceptive. Many artists have attempted to replicate the song, but even Jimi Hendrix couldn’t top the original. It has even been parodied in movies, such as Back to the Future, yet is still the classic that guitarists strive toward.
All Along the Watchtower — Jimi Hendrix
This was where Jimi did a cover version that *IS* better than the original. The Experience took a great Bob Dylan folk song and transformed it into something completely unique. The screaming psychedelic solos between each verse and at the end of the song make this Jimi’s highest of many high points.
Stairway to Heaven — Led Zeppelin
You knew this one would be here, didn’t you? Nothing unwritten about this law — this one belongs here, hands down. This song was, and remains, The Zep’s calling card.
Which ones did we miss?
What are your favorite guitar solos? Let us know in the comments below.