Here's the Spotify playlist: Rolling Stone 100 Greatest GUITAR Songs of All Time (100 tracks, 8 hours). All tracks are from their original albums, as selected by RS, if they are available. Some ten tracks are not on Spotify yet and I used my local files to complete the list. For unknown reasons RS deleted this list and feature article from their site, but it's still available on Web Archive. I pasted the whole article below for those of you who are interested (lest you would have to click "next page" 40 times to wade through). Enjoy.
This is what makes a great rock & roll guitar sound: an irresistible riff; a solo or jam that takes you higher every time you hear it; the final power chord that pins you to the wall and makes you hit "play" again and again. Every song here has those thrills. But these are rock's greatest guitar moments because of what's inside the notes: hunger, fury, despair and joy, often all at once. You hear the blues, gospel and rockabilly that came before, transformed by the need to say something new and loud, right away. Rock & roll has been the sound of independence for half a century. The guitar is still its essential, liberating voice. These are the 100 reasons why.
1 "Johnny B. Goode"
Chuck Berry (1958)
"If you want to play rock & roll," Joe Perry told Rolling Stone in 2004, "you have to start here." Recorded 50 years ago, on January 6th, 1958, at the Chess Records studio in Chicago, Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was the first great record about the joys and rewards of playing rock & roll guitar. It also has the single greatest rock & roll intro: a thrilling blast of high twang driven by Berry's spearing notes, followed by a rhythm part that translates a boogie-woogie piano riff for the guitar. "He could play the guitar just like a-ringing a bell," Berry sings in the first verse — a perfect description of his sound and the reverberations still running through every style of rock guitar, from the Beatles and the Stones on down. "It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection," Keith Richards has said of Berry's playing. "He is rhythm man supreme." Berry wrote often about rock & roll and why it's good for you — "Roll Over Beethoven" in 1956, "Rock and Roll Music" in '57 — but never better than in "Johnny B. Goode," a true story about how playing music on a guitar can change your life forever.
2 "Purple Haze"
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
The riff is pure blues — the same kind of guitar figure Hendrix played nightly back on the R&B-club grind, as a sideman for Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. But in "Purple Haze," Hendrix's second British single and the first track on the U.S. version of his debut album, he declared himself a free man — "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky" — and unveiled a new guitar language charged with spiritual hunger and the poetry possible in electricity and studio technology. "Guitar — you can play it or transcend it," said Neil Young when he inducted Hendrix into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. "Jimi showed me that. I heard it, felt it and wanted to do it." Hendrix wrote "Purple Haze" backstage at a London nightclub in December 1966 and recorded basic tracks with his band, the Experience, two weeks later. But the galactic travel came in overdubs recorded on February 3rd, 1967: Hendrix's solos, swimming in echo and sparkling with harmonics, were put through an octave-boosting effect and played back at twice the speed. In less than three minutes, Hendrix opened a new age of expression on his instrument.
Eric Clapton once described Cream's music as "blues ancient and modern." This track is what he meant. He was not yet 23 when he played this high-velocity version of the Robert Johnson song at San Francisco's Winterland on March 10th, 1968. Everything in Clapton's solos is grounded in the blues vocabulary but pointed to the future. "When Clapton soloed, he wrote wonderful symphonies from classic blues licks in that fantastic tone," Little Steven Van Zandt told Rolling Stone in 2004. "You could sing his solos like songs in themselves."
4 "You Really Got Me"
The Kinks (1964)
It was, at first, "a jazz-type tune," said Kinks singer Ray Davies, and the two-chord figure driving it was a sax line. "That's what I liked at the time." Then his brother Dave played it on guitar through an amp speaker he had poked with needles and shredded with a razor blade. ("It was a Gillette single-sided blade," said Dave.) Dave's solo — a tangle of zigzags and viciously bent notes — heralded the birth of Sixties garage and punk-rock guitar in one fell swoop. "I said I'd never write another song like it," said Ray. "And I haven't."
5 "Brown Sugar"
The Rolling Stones (1971)
"Satisfaction" may be the Rolling Stones' most recognizable riff, but this Sticky Fingers hit — based on a gutbucket guitar part devised by Mick Jagger — is the band's raunchy guitar pinnacle. Keith Richards' secret weapon: He's playing a guitar that's missing its lowest string.
Van Halen (1978)
Eddie Van Halen's 102-second mission statement was a piece he invented onstage: a solo showcase for his mastery of tone and technique, notably the rush of notes he produced with his fretboard tapping. An army of teens would try to duplicate it, emerging years later in every metal band of the Eighties.
7 "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
The Beatles (1968)
This is a tale of two guitar giants at an empathic peak: George Harrison, who wrote this song on acoustic guitar in India, and Eric Clapton, who amplifies Harrison's vocal dismay with a waterfall of blues fills. It's the finest examaple of his jagged, late-Sixties tone.
8 "Stairway to Heaven"
Led Zeppelin (1971)
"Stairway," Jimmy Page told RS in 1975, "crystallized the essence of the band." It's a masterpiece of dramatic ascension: Page's acoustic picking rising into chiming chords, which introduce the solo, a brilliant succession of phrases that steadily move toward rock & roll ecstasy.
9 "Statesboro Blues"
The Allman Brothers Band (1971)
In 1968, Gregg Allman went to visit his older brother, Duane, on his 22nd birthday. Duane was sick in bed, so Gregg brought along a bottle of Coricidin pills for his fever and the debut album by guitarist Taj Mahal as a gift. "About two hours after I left, my phone rang," Gregg remembers. " 'Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!' " When Gregg got there, Duane had poured the pills out of the bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play "Statesboro Blues," the old Blind Willie McTell song that Taj Mahal covered. Duane had never played slide before, says Gregg, but "he just picked it up and started burnin'. He was a natural."
The song quickly became a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound. "Statesboro Blues" was the opening track on their legendary 1971 live double album, At Fillmore East, and ever since, the moaning and squealing opening licks have given fans chills at live shows. "It wasn't something that Duane would play the same way every night," says current Allmans guitarist Warren Haynes, one of many guitarists who have filled Duane's shoes since he died in late 1971. "But in all of our heads, that's the way it goes."
There's one thing the current band doesn't try to replicate from the Fillmore East performance: At the end of Duane's sublime "Statesboro" solo, the guitarist hits an off-key note that Gregg calls the "note from hell." "He left it in because he knew I hated it," says Gregg, claiming that the mistake only adds to the song's legend. "It was live. It was something that happened."
10 "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Most of "Teen Spirit" came easy — Nirvana nailed it in three takes — but that crucial Kurt Cobain guitar intro required an overdub ("That pissed him off," said producer Butch Vig). It was worth the effort: That riff, along with the band's loud-quiet-loud dynamics, defined Nineties rock.
11 "Whole Lotta Love"
Led Zeppelin (1969)
This thundering rewrite of Muddy Waters' "You Need Love" showcased three of Jimmy Page's specialties: primal, monomaniacal riffs; innovative production; and solos with the savage mastery he'd developed as a top-flight session musician in the pre-Zep years.
12 "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
This is Hendrix's magnum opus: one magisterial explosion after another, storming through a catalog of molten blues. Hendrix improvised the wah-wah riff while a TV crew filmed his band. "We weren't thinking of what we were playing," he said.
Derek and the Dominos (1970)
"I didn't do it — it was Duane," Eric Clapton said, laughing, in 1988. Guest guitarist Duane Allman created one of rock's most exciting and memorable licks, pinching the vocal line from Albert King's "As the Years Go Passing By" and speeding it up.
14 "Born to Run"
Bruce Springsteen (1975)
All the sweeping romance of Springsteen's early work is summed up in his twanging main guitar riff (inspired by Duane Eddy). And that's just the most prominent of the song's layers of Fender work, from the wah-wah in the bridge to the rumbling solo.
15 "My Generation"
The Who (1965)
Before smashing guitars was a cliché, it was a shock, and the Who's signature song was one shock after another, from Pete Townshend's pile-driving two-chord riff to his sudden disappearance while bassist John Entwistle solos to the glitchy feedback that ends the original recording.
16 "Cowgirl in the Sand"
Neil Young with Crazy Horse (1969)
Young's extended solos on this 10-minute track are an arrhythmic, buzzing mess, and that's why they sound fantastic. Extra points to rhythm guitarist Danny Whitten, who creates a spectrum of textures and rhythms.
17 "Black Sabbath"
Black Sabbath (1970)
Tony Iommi invented heavy-metal guitar out of necessity: He'd lost two fingertips on his fretting hand, and he used thimbles and dropped tunings to make playing easier. His crawling, dissonant riff (also called "the devil's chord") became the basis of thousands of metal songs.
18 "Blitzkrieg Bop"
There's no guitar solo, because guitarist Johnny Ramone hated solos. But his down-stroke barré chords were fat with Dick Dale's twang and Bo Diddley's strumming. Joey Ramone once said that in Johnny's guitar, he heard organ, piano and other instruments that weren't really there.
19 "Purple Rain"
Prince and the Revolution (1984)
Prince hadn't shown much inclination toward gospel before this movie theme, but if this solo isn't a prayer, nothing is. Partly recorded live, the song ascends for eight minutes, and Prince's guitar is an extension of his voice; at 2007's Super Bowl, it made the actual rain seem miraculous.
20 "People Get Ready"
The Impressions (1965)
Curtis Mayfield's deepest civil rights anthem is powered by his eloquent open-tuned guitar-playing: The backbeat echoed the new sounds coming out of Jamaica, and the subtle, fluid solo spirals are as expressive as his singing. Bob Marley later synthesized it with "One Love."
21 "Seven Nation Army"
The White Stripes (2003)
How much noise can one guitar make? Plenty. Jack White's six-string is responsible for everything from the "bass line" to the burn-rubber slide, not to mention the most indelible riff of the last decade. Not many songs can claim to have been covered by both Audioslave and the Flaming Lips.
22 "A Hard Day's Night"
The Beatles (1964)
It's been 44 years, and still nobody's sure what that opening chord is, but when it crashed out of the Beatles' first movie, it marked the Sixties as their pop decade. George Harrison's harpsichordlike 12-string Rickenbacker lead part alone spawned the entire genre of folk rock.
23 "Over Under Sideways Down"
The Yardbirds (1966)
There's a Chicago-style blues shuffle in here, but Jeff Beck's sitar-imitating lead part is louder than anything else, with good reason. In a band that never lacked guitar heroes — including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page at various times — Beck invented rock guitar heroism as we know it.
24 "Killing in the Name"
Rage Against the Machine (1992)
In 1991, a year before rage against the Machine released their debut album, Tom Morello was giving a guitar lesson in his tiny apartment in West Hollywood, teaching his student the hard-rocking riffs that are characteristic of drop-D tuning (in which the lowest string is tuned down to create heavier chords). Because Morello's Telecaster had a locking nut, preventing it from drastic tuning changes, he taught the technique using an Ibanez bass. "I just came up with the 'Killing in the Name' riff," Morello says. "I stopped the lesson, got my little Radio Shack cassette recorder, laid down that little snippet and then continued with the lesson." The next day, Morello brought his riff with him to a studio in North Hollywood. "We were off to the races," he says. Though Morello points out that the bone-crushing song was a collaborative effort — "Timmy C.'s magmalike bass, Brad Wilk's funky, brutal drumming and Zack [de la Rocha]'s conviction meld with the guitar" — "Killing in the Name" introduced the world to Morello's off-kilter attack, which would include substituting an Allen wrench for a pick and slamming the toggle switch like a DJ scratching records. "We were melding hard rock, punk and hip-hop, and I was the DJ," he says. "It allowed me to emulate a lot of noises that I heard on Dr. Dre and Public Enemy records."
25 "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"
The Rolling Stones (1971)
The fist-on-your-door riff was classic Keith Richards, while the solo showed Mick Taylor's disciplined touch. "Mick was so lyrical on songs like 'Knocking,' " Charlie Watts has said, noting his love of the song's long instrumental coda. "That was a complete jam, one take at the end."
26 "How Blue Can You Get"
B.B. King (1965)
This was King in his Sixties prime, driving home the song's frustrated lust with silver-dagger licks. Live at the Regal was both King's greatest live recording and the end of an era; two years later, he noted, "I've had a lot [more] of the white kids come than ever before."
27 "Look Over Yonders Wall"
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
Mike Bloomfield was among the first white players to dig deep into Chicago blues — and one of the most underrated guitar wizards of all time. His hyper-charged take on Elmore James here shows why Dylan soon recruited him.
28 "Where the Streets Have No Name"
With the Edge's chicken-scratched fusillade of echoing guitar tones, U2 shot up from the Top 40 straight into the pop stratosphere. Proof that his guitar style is just as iconic as Bono's singing: He plays for two full minutes before the vocals come in.
29 "Back in Black"
Angus and Malcolm Young's dual-guitar masterpiece is the platonic ideal of hard rock. The bridge alone is heavier than most axmen ever manage, and the riff is instantly recognizable: "Black" has been covered by everyone from Living Colour to Shakira, and sampled by the Beastie Boys and Eminem.
30 "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock"
Bill Haley and His Comets (1954)
It was the first Number One rock & roll hit, and Danny Cedrone's guitar break, for which he was paid $21, became the archetypal rock & roll solo. But he never became a star: Months after he recorded it, he died in a fall.
31 "Keep Yourself Alive"
Queen's first single was Brian May's statement of purpose: a phalanx of overdubbed guitars crying out in unison, with rhythm and texture from over-the-top effects. (Check out that science-fiction noise!) It's an entire album's worth of riffs crammed into a single song.
32 "Sultans of Swing"
Dire Straits (1978)
Part Nashville twang, part pub-rock grit, this ode to a journeyman jazz band offered an earthy alternative to the disco and punk of the late Seventies. Singer-guitarist Mark Knopfler wrote the song on acoustic guitar, then switched to a Strat; his trumpetlike solos and tart licks answer him as he sings.
33 "Master of Puppets"
This long, mutating track showed that California metal wasn't all hair spray and power chords. A hell's parade of quick-chop figures and bludgeoning fills, the song is anchored by a main, surging lick with jolting stops, and the guitars sound like grinding brakes.
34 "Walk This Way"
The syncopated lick at the center of "Walk This Way" jump-started Aerosmith's career twice — as a hit single in 1976 and then again, a decade later, with Run-DMC's version. Joe Perry knows exactly where he came up with it: a soundcheck in Hawaii. "I was in a funky kind of mood," Perry says. He began to play a riff inspired by New Orleans legends the Meters. Drummer Joey Kramer, who had made his rent money in Boston funk bands before Aerosmith, joined in, "and it all came together." The song was recorded at New York's The Record Plant in early 1975. "There was a steakhouse that we used to stop at on our way into the studio," Perry says. "It was a good time to get an Irish coffee." Fueled by caffeine and whiskey, Perry and guitarist Brad Whitford "chopped a rhythm together. We never talked about who was going to play what part — it just fell together." Perry played the solos on his Strat and used a '68 Les Paul on the rhythm track — as he did throughout the Toys in the Attic sessions. "I didn't have too many guitars back then," he says. To really sound like a Meters hook, says Perry, "we knew we needed hornlike parts." He and Whitford didn't want to bring in session musicians, so they rendered those brass blasts on their guitars. "We weren't going to bring up the horn subject," says Perry. "We're guitar players."
The Stooges (1969)
The genius of Ron Asheton's playing, as with Iggy Pop's singing, had nothing to do with virtuosity and everything to do with raw power. Wah-wah pedals have rarely been so inspiringly abused, and Asheton's two-chord jitter and string-mangling solo were the template for a whole school of garage rock.
36 "Interstellar Overdrive"
Pink Floyd (1967)
It's really just a riff — played by all of Pink Floyd together, then modified, lost and found again over 10 psychedelic minutes. But its impact survived its composer Syd Barrett's departure, turning up in sets by Pearl Jam and the Mars Volta.
37 "That's All Right"
Elvis Presley (1954)
Lead guitarist Scotty Moore's hillbilly blues has become ground zero for the last 54 years' worth of rockabilly. On Elvis' first single, the guitarist's lusty solo matches Elvis' vocals and rhythm guitar perfectly — it's hard to believe this is the only second time they played together.
38 "Stay With Me"
The Faces (1971)
In a band fronted by a rock star — Rod Stewart — Ronnie Wood was a team player, churning out simple-sounding riffs that are actually frantically varied. His acrobatic solos build up the song's kinetic rush. Not surprisingly, the Stones poached him a few years later.
39 "Black Magic Woman"
A Fleetwood Mac cover, believe it or not, this song became a hit when Carlos Santana rearranged it as Latin rock on Abraxas. Santana's bristling solos exemplify elegance and fluidity, and guitarists from David Gilmour to Prince have modeled their style and timbre after his.
40 "I Can See for Miles"
The Who (1967)
Pete Townshend called this "the ultimate Who record" and brought his arsenal of moves to it: windmilling power chords; fretboard-stroking, piercing drones; and shifting accents that play off his bandmates. It was a breakthrough that set the standard for guitar tricks.
41 "Marquee Moon"
Punk rock had barely been born, and already Television were taking it to a new, virtuosic place with the 10-minute one-take centerpiece of their debut album. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's interlocking riffs and scales spiral into a daredevil Verlaine solo that takes up half of the song; its brainy elegance paved the way for bands from Wilco to Pavement.
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers (1966)
John Mayall brought Chicago-blues fire down from the mountaintop to a generation of British rockers, and his star, for a glorious period, was Eric Clapton, sojourning between the Yardbirds and Cream. On this virtuosic elaboration of a Freddie King tune, he sets his amp on overdrive and his fingers on "atomize."
43 "Holidays in the Sun"
The Sex Pistols (1977)
The fireball force of "Holidays" is deceiving: For all the Pistols' anti-technique posturing, guitarist Steve Jones had real chops. He overdubbed layers of his blunt-force rhythm guitar (played through an amp Jones stole from a Bob Marley concert) with military precision, and his guitar solo is a punked-up take on Chuck Berry.
44 "Dig Me Out"
One of the awesome punk blasts of the Nineties, "Dig Me Out" marked the point where the bass-free trio's indie primitivism bloomed into full-on guitar heroics. Carrie Brownstein's onslaught of fiercely overdriven riffs meshed with Corin Tucker's corrosive vocals and downtuned six-string, announcing the arrival of a great new American rock band.
45 "I Saw Her Standing There"
The Beatles (1963)
The twang heard 'round the world: "I Saw Her Standing There" is the first great Beatles song, fueled by John Lennon and George Harrison's double-guitar chemistry — a toughened-up synthesis of chugging rhythm & blues with rockabilly. Suddenly the Liverpool scene had a sound, and every garage band had a starting point.
Dick Dale and the Del-Tones (1962)
Dale debuted his adaptation of this old Greek pop song when a fan at a show reportedly dared him to play a whole tune on one string. In the studio, Dale fortified his oud-like staccato with stinging treble and oceanic reverb. The result: surf rock's high-water mark.
Van Halen (1984)
One of the great combinations of hard-rock thunder, technical skill and meticulous detailing from the guitarist who had mastered all three: The riff to "Panama" couldn't be blunter, and Eddie Van Halen couldn't spin it with much more finesse. Eddie and David Lee Roth spend the whole song trying to out-flash each other, and both of them win.
48 "London Calling"
The Clash (1980)
A perfect mix of punk ferocity and classic ambition, "London Calling" also has one of the Clash's most memorable guitar lines. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer stab at sharp little chords and trade push-pull riffs, until Jones unleashes a solo that starts as a piercing squeal and coalesces into a swarm of bees; his final feedback burst is a Morse-code SOS.
49 "Machine Gun"
Jimi Hendrix (1958)
Perhaps the greatest live document of Hendrix in full flight, this anti-war blues is little more than a skeletal march, but Hendrix fills the spaces with simulated gunfire, moaning notes and kamikaze dives. Dedicated to "soldiers that are fighting in Chicago and Milwaukee and New York," as well as Vietnam, it's the sound of a nation at war with itself.
Joey Santiago was a guitar hero to the punks who followed the Pixies' jet stream, and his trebly surf leads on this tribute to surrealism are part of the reason: His overdubbed tangle of guitars perfectly matches frontman Black Francis' fuzzed-out rhythm guitar and hoarse shout. "I should have been in that band," Kurt Cobain said in 1994, "or at least in a Pixies cover band."
51 "Crazy Train"
Ozzy Osbourne (1981)
The son of two music teachers, the late Randy Rhoads offered a more precise, classically trained version of hyperspeed guitar than the other virtuoso of his era, Eddie Van Halen. Rhoads' impossibly clean-picked solo here — painstakingly composed while listening to tape loops of the backing tracks — helped kick off a shredding arms race.
52 "My Iron Lung"
Hardened by touring and sick of their first hit, "Creep," Radiohead recorded the instrumental track to this sarcasm grenade at a London show in 1994. The moment that announced them as a great guitar band: when Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien crank it up and bury Thom Yorke in an avalanche of bent phrases — perfect for a song about a guy gasping for air.
53 "Born on the Bayou"
Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
In 1968, Creedence Clearwater Revival were booked at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom. "We were the number-seven act on the bill, bottom of the totem pole," says John Fogerty. "And as the first guys to go on, we were the last to soundcheck before they opened the doors." While the band members rushed through setting their levels — "It was like, 'Here's the drums, boom, boom; here's the guitar, clank, clank' " — Fogerty started playing an E7 chord with his Rickenbacker guitar in his hands and the tremolo cranked on his amp. "I looked over at the guys and said, 'Hey, follow this!' " he recalls. "Basically, it was the riff and the attitude of 'Born on the Bayou,' without the words." In that sudden blast of creativity, inspired by Fogerty's deep love for Southern bluesmen such as Lead Belly and Son House (the E7 chord was a Delta-blues staple), the guitarist laid the foundation for CCR's singular brand of swamp rock — and the song was a B side for the band's first major hit, "Proud Mary." At the Avalon, Creedence jammed on the song until a stagehand told them to knock it off. "He said, 'Get out of here, you're not going anywhere anyway,' " Fogerty says. "I remember looking at him and saying, 'Give me a year, Buster, and I'll show you who's going somewhere.' "
54 "Little Wing"
Stevie Ray Vaughan (1991)
Vaughan's epic, profoundly emotional instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix's classic is a showcase for both his guitar technique and his reverence for his roots. This seven-minute studio version was released posthumously, and its beauty is all the more haunting in the absence of its creator.
55 "White Room"
The first rock supergroup, Cream gave Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker as much play as Eric Clapton, but Clapton's unrelenting wah-wah cascade signs his name in foot-high letters over the song. Along with Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," it made that pedal the sound of '68 psychedelia.
56 "Eight Miles High"
The Byrds (1966)
Roger McGuinn's chiming 12-string solos helped to mold Sixties rock. But what he was inspired by here wasn't rock at all: Indian classical music and saxophonist John Coltrane's explorations of single chords and phrases. McGuinn said his guitar "breathes like a wind instrument."
57 "Dark Star"
Grateful Dead (1969)
Considered the Dead's greatest live track, this definitive near-half-hour version from an acid-soaked Fillmore West show is Jerry Garcia at his spaciest and most exploratory. Framed by Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Garcia's free-form improvisation is the song's "nightfall of diamonds" come to life.
Link Wray (1958)
In 1958, guitar distortion and power chords were virtually unheard of, but Wray stabbed a pencil through his amplifier to make it sound nastier, dragged his pick like a switchblade, and got this blues riff banned by radio stations as an incitement to violence. Not bad for an instrumental.
59 "Freeway Jam"
Jeff Beck (1975)
After years of leading bands with vocalists, Beck proved he is his own best singer. There's a howling quality to his string-bending in this brisk funk. "There were thousands of guitarists playing with their Les Pauls cranked up bloody blaring loud," he later told RS. "I needed to try something new."
60 "Maggot Brain"
Most bands wouldn't start an album with a 10-minute guitar solo. But George Clinton's funk-rock legion wasn't most bands, and the late Eddie Hazel wasn't most guitarists. This mournful psychedelic extravaganza could stretch out twice as long in concert.
61 "Soul Man"
Sam and Dave (1967)
"Play it, Steve!" shouts Sam Moore — he's calling out to Steve Cropper, the genius who powered Stax Records' house band. Cropper's fluttering, high-end riffs provide the song's rhythmic mojo, and his squealing fills (for which he used a cigarette lighter in lieu of an actual slide) are its third singing voice.
62 "Born Under a Bad Sign"
Albert King (1967)
King's roughneck blues weren't delicate — he was a master string-bender who said more with a five-note fill than most players did with a five-minute solo. Here, the Stax band gave him a Memphis context for his biggest hit, which has been covered by players from Clapton to Dimebag Darrell.
63 "Sweet Child O' Mine"
Guns n' Roses (1987)
Slash was sitting on the floor in Guns n' Roses' squalid East Hollywood house sometime in 1986 when he started fooling around with a chiming, circular melody. "It was an interesting sort of pattern," Slash says. "But Jesus Christ, I never thought it was going to become a song." As he kept playing, fellow G n' R guitarist Izzy Stradlin joined in, playing a simple chord progression. They didn't realize that Axl Rose was listening in from upstairs — and writing lyrics. At rehearsal the next day, the band hashed out what would become "Sweet Child" — over the objections of Slash, who was convinced that the music was too lightweight for what he saw as a "thrash band." But he relented, and soon came up with the lyrical, multisectioned solo that ended up on the finished song. "It's a combination of influences," Slash says. "From Jeff Beck, Cream and Zeppelin to stuff you'd be surprised at: the solos in Manfred Mann's version of 'Blinded by the Light' and Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street.'" Despite the solo's complexity, it was the song's precise intro that proved challenging onstage. "It's easy now, but it was very daunting in the early days," Slash says. "Especially because I drank exorbitant amounts of alcohol and had other chemical things going on. I hated playing that song for years."
Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)
Lighters high, please. The ultimate Southern-rock anthem is the late Allen Collins' epic — he played both of its frenzied, dueling solos on the original, and crossed axes live with Stevie Gaines on One More From the Road. Secret weapon: Gary Rossington's crying-sky slide.
65 "Message in a Bottle"
The Police (1979)
In Andy Summers, Sting had a rare and precious thing, especially for the punk era: an assertive, melodic sidekick who played for the singer and the song. This second-album Police hit is a catalog of supporting brilliance, from the brittle main riff to the patches of watery strum.
66 "Texas Flood"
Stevie Ray Vaughan (1983)
A cover of a 1958 single by bluesman Larry Davis, the title track of Vaughan's debut album is a daredevil showcase of the original union of Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and T-Bone Walker. Live, Vaughan often soloed during this song with his guitar behind his head, another bow to Hendrix and Walker.
67 "Adam Raised a Cain"
Bruce Springsteen (1978)
Before he was known as a songwriter, Springsteen was the fastest guitar player in Asbury Park. And in this bluesy hard-rock blast, he lets those chops loose again, pushing the E Street Band to garage-land with the angriest lead guitar on record.
68 "The Thrill is Gone"
B.B. King (1958)
Two decades into his recording career, King scored his biggest hit with this Roy Hawkins cover by adding strings and softening up everything but the slashing thrust of his Gibson guitar, "Lucille." The result: a portrait of romantic despair that drips blood from every razor-thin line.
Pink Floyd (1958)
David Gilmour hangs back for the first three minutes of this definitive Floyd rocker, which started as an acoustic blues song in rehearsals. Then the song shifts from a 7/4 stomp into straight time, and he delivers a rampaging freakout, ending up on notes so high most guitars don't even reach them.
70 "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
Smashing Pumpkins (1995
It's consummate Nineties alt-rock: a song about the commodification of angst set to "up-and-down rock guitars, pounding drums," as singer-guitarist Billy Corgan puts it. But Corgan also mocks his own discontent with a laughing wah-wah at the end.
71 "Take It or Leave It"
The Strokes (2001)
This closer fromthe New York quintet's debut exemplifies egoless double-guitar dynamics: Albert Hammond Jr.'s glittery rhythm part pulses as Nick Valensi's whining lead hangs out nearby, until he lets loose with a buzz-bomb solo that hovers around a single note.
72 "Say It Ain't So"
Rivers Cuomo is a student of pop history, and his leads on this single (recently given a second life by Rock Band) distill the lessons of punk rock and arena metal into deceptively tricky riffs and solos. The detail that makes the song, though, is the mushroom-cloud swell of feedback before each chorus.
73 "Summertime Blues"
Blue Cheer (1968)
This power trio's cover of Eddie Cochran's classic was their only hit, sometimes called the first heavy-metal record. It's a showcase for the massive roar of Leigh Stephens' guitar, so fuzzed-up it scrapes like steel wool, dragging the rockabilly riff through the dust.
74 "La Grange"
ZZ Top (1973)
"La Grange" has become rock's version of the jazz classic "Cherokee," a standard for guitarists to show off their chops. The genius of this breakthrough was Billy Gibbons' upgrade of a John Lee Hooker boogie riff into blistered metal, and his solo zooms from Texas blacktop to lunar landscapes.
75 "Willie the Pimp"
Frank Zappa (1969)
Zappa's guitar improv never sounded more bluesy — or more jubilant — than it does on this song. His greasy skids and howling-dog tone — and the way he breaks into note-cluster fisticuffs with the rhythm section — are playfully impulsive. And that deep vocal? Zappa's teenage chum Captain Beefheart.
76 "American Girl"
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)
The supercharged riff set the template for decades of Petty hits, but it was also a homage to the Byrds: Petty and Mike Campbell's twin guitars mirrored Roger McGuinn's 12-string, infusing the folk-rock sounds of the Sixties with New Wave energy.
77 "Even Flow"
Pearl Jam (1958)
While most Seattle guitarists descended from Black Flag and Sabbath, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready updated the Stones' arena blues for a darker age. Grumbling riffs, frenetic runs and evil-laugh wah-wah created what McCready later cracked was a "tribute rip-off" to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
78 "Stone Crazy"
Buddy Guy (1970)
Cut in 1961 for Chess, the full seven minutes of this blinding blues went unreleased for nearly a decade. Guy solos with a steel-needle tone, answering his own barking vocal with dizzying pinpoint stabs. "I don't know how to bend the string," he told RS. "Let me break it."
79 "Silver Rocket"
Sonic Youth (1988)
Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo formed Sonic Youth as a temple to the electric guitar, spurning lead and rhythm roles in favor of noise and more noise. Here they're a two-headed beast, crashing through open-tuned riffs and throwing in a bristling, free-form feedback blizzard in lieu of a solo.
80 "Kid Charlemagne"
Steely Dan (1958)
In the late seventies, Steely Dan made records by pushing a revolving crew of monster session dudes through take after take, which yielded endless jaw-dropping guitar solos. Larry Carlton's multi-sectioned, cosmic-jazz lead in this cut may be the best of all: It's so complex it's a song in its own right.
81 "Beat It"
Michael Jackson (1982)
There had never been a soul hit with as much heavy guitar as this or a heavy-metal hit with as much soul. Paul Jackson Jr. and Steve Lukather play the menacing riff, but Eddie Van Halen's speed-shred solo is the coup de grâce. Van Halen says producer Quincy Jones' only advice was "go be yourself."
82 "Walk — Don't Run"
The Ventures (1960)
The Ventures' first hit is the platonic ideal of the surf instrumental. For almost half a century, bands have been elaborating on Bob Bogle's whammy-bar-laden twang, Don Wilson's choppy rhythm-guitar attack and the spring reverb they cranked up all the way.
83 "What I Got"
"I can play the guitar like a motherfucking riot," Sublime's Brad Nowell sang on this hit (released two months after his death from a drug overdose), and he was right: His bluesy acoustic solo lasts mere seconds, but its singalong syncopation makes it one of the Nineties' most unforgettable hooks.
John Mayer (2006)
The two sides of Mayer — blues virtuoso and pop star — never met in the same song until this impeccable soul ballad. The rhythm guitar is an understated take on Curtis Mayfield, and the Claptonesque leads are as gorgeous as anything Slowhand himself has recently recorded.
85 "You Enjoy Myself"
The hypnotic arpeggios, cathartic hard-rock solos and wah-wah'd funk of the epic "You Enjoy Myself" defined the ambitions — and the whimsical live jams — of Phish in their Nineties prime. But for Trey Anastasio, the song's guitar parts evoke an even earlier time: The idyllic summer of 1985, when the 20-year-old guitarist composed the tune on the half-size Time electric guitar and battery-powered Mouse amp he brought along on a trip to Europe. Anastasio and Phish drummer Jon Fishman spent their days busking and their nights partying and sleeping in a Ford Fiesta. "I was coming up with these little bits, but I never really sat down to write anything," says Anastasio. "We'd be sitting around the bonfire with, like, 20 people, watching the stars and listening to the waves crash, and I'd be strumming along. I'd play something like the opening part of the song, and it would stick in my head. And the next week, we'd be standing on the street, and I'd come up with another part. I would just glue them together — the song is like a travel journal." The intro was inspired by Robert Fripp, and the funk section was "some convoluted attempt to sound something like James Brown," says Anastasio. "What I really liked about that song — and this sounds weird, considering what kind of song it is — is that it had a lot of soul."
86 "I Ain't Superstitious"
Jeff Beck (1968)
The Willie Dixon cover that closed Beck's first solo disc has got Rod Stewart singing and Ron Wood on bass, but the guitar is the bandleader. At every break, Beck's aqueous wah-wah tone makes his instrument sound like it's talking — Chicago blues upgraded for the age of the bad trip.
King Crimson (1974)
"I'm not a blues guitarist," Robert Fripp said in 1995, "but I think I've met the spirit of the blues several times." This is one of them: blunt-instrument funk in which Fripp, leading a power-trio Crimson, jars the mathematical cadence of his riffing with a wrecking-ball swing and rude pig-squeal harmonics.
Quicksilver Messenger Service (1969)
Taken from live recordings at the Fillmores East and West, this is the acid-ballroom experience in a nutshell by the San Francisco masters: a Bo Diddley cover transformed into tribal ecstasy. When guitarist John Cipollina cuts the air with his wah-wah, your high is real and all natural.
89 "I Love Rock N Roll"
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1981)
With the first primal power chord, Jett obliterated her image as a teenage girl-group novelty in the Runaways. The squealing riffs matched her new leather-clad tough-girl image and made her case as one of the fiercest female guitarists of all time.
90 "How Soon Is Now?"
The Smiths (1985)
Trading guitarist Johnny Marr's spidery technique for a sobbing oscillation on a few extended chords and a tone-bending wail that sounds like the world racing by, this song became a club standard, opening the passageways between underground rock and dance music.
91 "Drunkship of Lanterns"
The Mars Volta (2003)
The Mars Volta brought prog rock into the 21st century with this thrilling blast, and Omar Rodriguez Lopez announced himself as one of this decade's great young axmen, mixing Gang of Four riffs with Hendrix virtuosity, Latin rhythms and gallons of reverb.
92 "Memo from Turner"
Mick Jagger (1970)
Guitar virtuoso Ry Cooder, who played on the Stones' Let It Bleed, accused Keith Richards of stealing his open-G tuning technique on singles like "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Gimme Shelter." Cooder's jittery slide guitar defines Jagger's first solo recording, which was written for his film role as a decadent rock star in 1970's Performance.
93 "Only Shallow"
My Bloody Valentine (1991)
MBV's masterpiece, Loveless, influenced acts from Smashing Pumpkins to U2 with its gorgeously abrasive guitar textures, which defined shoegazer music. This opening track zooms between dreamy verses and storms of melodic noise — effects that guitarist Kevin Shields managed to achieve with no more than two or three layered tracks and a heavy use of his whammy bar.
94 "Money for Nothing"
Dire Straits (1984)
In its early years, MTV wasn't known for great guitar moments. But that changed when Mark Knopfler traded his pristine, rootsy tone for a dry, overprocessed sound achieved by running a Les Paul through a wah-wah pedal on a track that became one of the network's earliest hits. Even without an actual solo, Knopfler's chunky rhythm guitar had the power of a lead.
Moby Grape (1967)
This San Francisco band's original lineup was the Summer of Love's biggest hope, and it's clear they fought their way there. On their best single, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Skip Spence compete in a three-way guitar battle for two and a quarter red-hot minutes, each of them charging at Spence's song from different angles, no one yielding to anyone else.
96 "New Day Rising"
Hü sker Dü (1985)
Eighties hardcore punk was never more simple or stubbornly hopeful: three chords, a three-word chorus and magnificent speed-of-light hammering that never seems to quit but is over way too soon. Bob Mould beats his strings like a homicidal Johnny Ramone, but there's no mistaking the battered-church-bell ring in his stacks of chords and his stressed-amp roar.
97 "No One Knows"
Queens of the Stone Age (2002)
With this enduring throwback to the T. Rex beat, QOTSA guitarist and overall mastermind Josh Homme found the sweet spot between hooky hard rock and the pulverizing metal he'd grown up playing. More than a few of the last half-decade's modern-rock bands have taken their cues from this hybrid of downtuned menace and AM-radio sugar frosting.
98 "Under the Bridge"
Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
Guitarist John Frusciante's tone is as naked as singer Anthony Kiedis' addiction memoir. But the moving parts in his chord patterns and the hurt in his flourishes are symphonic. He modeled the chorus on Joe Jackson's "In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare)," but when he locks in with the drums and bass, you can hear funk — the kind you always get in true blues.
99 "Run Thru"
My Morning Jacket (2003)
Jim James and Johnny Quaid played the swaggering guitars on this Southern-gothic rave-up, with Skynyrd's heft and early Sabbath's slow-motion pace. And Two-Tone Tommy's thumping bass riff proved guitars don't get all the best licks. And when Carl Broemel replaced Quaid in 2004, "Run Thru" got heavier live — like "Free Bird" and "Kashmir" combined.
This is as arty as new metal has ever gotten. Guitarist Adam Jones' cadmium-heavy riffs are mostly in 5/4 time (with a few extra rhythmic hiccups), and he batters away at them with inhuman precision. Even though it runs long at seven minutes, the song still became a crossover hit, peaking at Number Two on modern-rock radio.