Tuesday, February 5, 2008


These are a few of my favorite guitar solos of all time.

This list purposely excludes people like Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani, cause they just solo like crazy all the time and I can't pick any that particularly stand out for me. This list also excludes the crazy metal dudes who can play eight bazillion notes per second and do ridiculously complicated things. This list leans more toward the drama of rock music and highlights my favorite pieces as they exist within the framework of the entire song, how they build to the crescendo and how they release back into a chorus or bridge or whatever.

This list was hard to make, but in the end I was able to come up with 10 songs with incredible solos that can't be matched. So here they are, in no particular order.

1. Van Halen - You Really Got Me (solo begins at 1:22)
“Oh, nooo! NOOOO!”
When the young band covered this Kinks song on their first album in 1978, they cranked it up to eleven and Eddie just ramped up to a really violent-but-cool solo. I love the opening bending notes. A classic solo. This one leaves an open wound.

2. Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love (solo at 1:19)
This is a great, poppy, rockabilly solo, well structured and perfectly executed by Brian May. It's short, simple and to the point, yet still catchy and pleasing to the ear. It's everything a good solo should be.

3. Billy Idol - Rebel Yell (solo at 2:28)
Steve Stevens is a genius! I love this guy for a few reasons, but mainly I love his ability to make an electric guitar sound like something else - for example, in this song: a machine gun, or in Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana", a police siren.

4. Dire Straits - The Sultans of Swing (solos at 3:28 and 4:58)
Mark Knopfler has always had an amazing understanding of the guitar and even on his band's first album, he had the skills to show up even the best gunslingers on the block. The outro solo is fast-paced and always on the money, and again, the drama of the tune is enhanced by this piece. I love the moments where Knopfler decides not to play a note – it makes things more interesting.

5. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (solo at 5:56)
I know, I know. But it’s awesome and you know it.

6. Stone Temple Pilots – Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart (Solo at 1:50)
I never realized how awesome this solo by Dean DeLeo was until I played it on Hard on Guitar Hero 2. Now I love it. It has a bunch of really cool riffs all thrown into a really groovy little break. I wish it stood out more on the original song like it does in the video game.

7. Journey – Lights (solo at 2:03)
Much like the “Crazy Little Thing” solo, this one by Neal Schon is just classic rock and roll with an 80’s flare for the dramatic. Neal’s always been a greatly under appreciated guitarist hidden behind Steve Perry’s giant shnoz. Give him some credit – check out his work.

8. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Runnin’ Down A Dream (Solo at 3:00)
Petty and the boys rocked the Super Bowl earlier this week, and reminded America why they were such a big hit back in the day. As they played this song, and the lights flashed, confetti sparkled and the cameras swung all around, we got a few shots of Mike Campbell tearing it up like an old pro. I’ve always loved the jangle of this guy’s sound – even when it’s messy, it’s perfect.

9. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (solos at 2:04 and 4:32)
David Gilmour has a great tone, and this has to be one (or two) of his finest pieces of work. He has a way of hitting a natural note and holding it until it naturally starts ringing a harmonic octave higher. It’s beautiful.

10. Michael Jackson – Give In To Me (solos at 2:17 and 3:27)
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but listen to the song. It’s really moody and bluesy and Slash brings it to life in a way no one else ever could. His solo is harsh yet smooth and purposeful. With MJ’s showmanship, Slash has room to let those notes dance and sway with grit and swagger. He’s the fire burning in the background while Mike’s vocals melt in the foreground. It’s a great marriage of sounds.


Katie said...

Billy Idol's hot...does that make me old? I really like it when he throws that cart at Glen in "Wedding Singer"...starring Adam Sandler...someone who is less celebrity than you.

Mike Wood said...


Schwartzilla said...

Best. Picture. EVAR!!!

Doug Cox said...

i cannot believe you left off Boston's "foreplay/longtime". It's like i dont even know you.

Mike Wood said...

I left "Foreplay/Longtime" off the list simply because I don't define it as a solo. It's an instrumental track. Just because there are no lyrics, that doesn't make it a solo.

That, and I burned myself out on Boston long ago.

But Tom Scholz, IMHO, was never an amazing soloist so much as he was a great technical guitar player and songwriter. His solos seems to be kind of based on the main riff of the song (see 'Don't Look Back' as an example) and varied minimally from that.

The songs on this list follow a traditional pop-rock structure but have a particularly well-crafted, and -executed solo, topped off with maximum dramatic factor.

Boo ya.