Since the 1940s the rise of rock and roll not only shaped its fans but also the world. It introduced us to some of the greatest solos performed by artists such as Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Kurt Cobain. The one thing all of these artists have in common is their ability to play on their axes like demons. Considering all of their novelties it may be hard to decipher which solo is better than another, it’s all a matter of perspective. Here are the top 18 guitar solos of all times from the point of view of the song’s complexity and euphonious sounds. The ranking of these solos was no small feat. The end result gives you a foretaste and description of each of these 18 solos that you can’t afford to miss!

Top 18 Rock Guitar Solos All Time - Ever

18. Sweet Child o’ Mine (Guns N’ roses)

From Axl Roses’ famous snake dance to The Mad Top Hatter’s solo, Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine unquestionably holds the top of the chart position. The song debuted as a joke according to Slash, the head guitarist, yet rapidly gained its notoriety in the rock community.  Sweet Child o’ mine contains one of the most stunning solos ever performed. Pick any stanza in the song’s continuum and feel yourself wonder how someone can create such exceptional sound. 

17. Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)

A gentle solo that will transport you on its melodious waves. Led Zeppelin’s fingers run on a double-necked guitar and render a celestial sound. The combination is simply spectacular. A storm of feelings overtakes anyone who listens. Often labeled the most famous rock song of all time, the 1971 record sold the most sheets ever. A curious fact about this song was shared by its writer Robert Plant who recalls: “I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason, I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold/And she's buying a stairway to heaven.' I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leaped out of my seat." That such a unique and surreal verse was inexplicably written in the spur of a moment only illustrates the unparalleled chemistry of this group of artists.

16. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)

Kurt Cobain, or Pixie Meat off stage, had an on-stage presence almost too exhilarating for fans to handle and solos like Smells Like Teen Spirit made many ticket holders faint. Nirvana formed in 1987. Kurt Cobain, the lead guitarist, rapidly grew in popularity. Before the release of the iconic song in 1991, Kurt drew the song’s title from his girlfriend who had graffitied on top of his bed “Kurt smells like teen spirit”. Regardless of Kurt’s personal hate for that song’s popularity in the 90s, it has its place in history as one of the best guitar solos.

15. Little Wing (Stevie Ray Vaughan)

A solo that was originally written by Jimi Hendrix himself in 1967 and was then modified by Stevie Ray Vaughan who elevated it further to the brink of perfection. A solo released posthumously in 1991, almost 25 years after it was conceived. Vaughan has a priceless rhythm that seems never-ending. Vaughan may not be a well-known artist for the younger generation, despite many Grammys, and one for this very song’ solo, but his guitar skills level with those of Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. A truly breathtaking song that takes you flying around in the sky, Hendrix said.   

14. All Along The Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)

Originally written by Bob Dylan, many artists tried their guitar picks at performing All Along The Watchtower, but none so bewitchingly as Jimi Hendrix in 1968. When released, it rose to the top 40 hits in the US, which was nothing unusual for Hendrix. The man who could play guitar with his teeth was God-like in rock and roll culture of the time and shaped it with brilliant stunts and incredible guitar solos. All Along the Watchtower, a folk-rock solo made everyone dance around with excitement. Click and so will you.

13. Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

If the intro of this solo isn’t enough to make chills run down your spine, just wait for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s transitions a bit later in the song. This signature piece that took almost 3 years to make was published on the album  “Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd” in 1973. Lynyrd Skynyrd composed a tune that sounded as if right out of heaven. The solo lasted approximately 14 minutes when put live and was almost cut from the album due to its unaccommodating length. Surely by an act of God, the song was kept on the album and it has forever entered the court of public opinion’s hall of fame.

12. Eruption (Van Halen)

Van Halen, accompanied by his famous guitar “the Frankestrat”, holds the title of most skillful guitar solos. Eddie Van Halen’s first solo delivered a shocking new guitar sound, with such a loud echo and ambiguity in the tune. According to Halen, this came from the echo chamber's built-in 8-track recorder which produced this unique rendering. This new sound was a revelation in the music industry. Halen’s skill set drew attention from amateurs to professionals alike in the rock and roll world. Just like its title, Eruption, the song blew the fans away!  40 years late, Van Halen’s electrifying fingerwork in this monumental solo will most certainly blow you away as well.  

11. One (Metallica)

Metallica’s Kirk Hammett was the guitarist for the three different solos in the song One. When recording the solos, Kirk wasn’t pleased with the rendering of the second solo and repeated it numerous times. He continued questioning his second solo despite the song’s success on radio and MTV. Kirk Hammett was always fond of horror and masquerades, and sometimes appeared on stage with a skull mask and playing his guitar like a devil! In this solo, Kirk was able to realize his fantasies and sometimes imbed his own feelings into this solo. It is the tale of a soldier who was blown up by a mortar and lost all senses. The story can sometimes come alive through the beat of the guitar, as was the case when Kirk Hammett played One at the Grammy awards in 1989. 

10. November Rain (Guns N’ Roses)

It should really come as no revelation that Slash hit the top 18 with not only one but two solos. Slash plays an enthralling smooth solo which had an original length of 25 minutes. It is blissful in every way from the Pianissimo debut to the following mezzo-forte later on. The band’s unique purpose with this song was to bring their audience on a journey. And they did, without flaw. A journey of enlightenment and discovery. Close your eyes, listen to this masterpiece, and penetrate for a few precious minutes the Guns N’ Roses world of artistry.

09. Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)

The immortal solo from the 1979 album The Wall, became the highlight of the eponymous movie. David Gilmour produces and imparts a tempo and feeling so perfectly embodying the song’s title. It lifts you in body and spirit alike until you are comfortably numb. During his The Wall Tour in 1981 Gilmour took the world by surprise when in front of the stage, a 35-foot tall wall burst up from the ground raising the guitarist who continued on playing. The crowds went wild.

08. Crazy train (Ozzy Osbourne)

For some, it is hard rock, for others, it is heavy metal. Regardless of the labeling, Randy Rhoades carries out a solo that pleases because of its novel rebellious and malicious sounds. The solo can bring out even the most introverted souls. Randy and his very own customized guitar, the Jackson guitar, became symbiotic gems in the rock and roll industry. Crazy Train is a song about how to love in a world gone mad. It really takes you on a crazy ride

07. Crossroads (Eric Clapton)

Robert Jhonson, the original writer of this song, speaks of the day he went down to the crossroads and made a deal with the devil. Eric Clapton, the recipient of 18 Grammy awards, put his magical fingerwork in creating a solo from the Crossroads lyrics. The combination made the world shake. Considering that Johnson had sold his soul in exchange for becoming the best bluesman, it is only fitting that Clapton’s Johnson-infused solo excelled in blues and rock styles. Released in the Wheels of Fire album in 1968, the Crossroads song encountered great success and became the most wanted song in each of Eric Clapton's live performances. A solo that captured the hearts and devilish souls of two mythical guitarists and songwriters.

06. Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)

A staple of the 1950’s rock n’ roll scene, Johnny B. Goode has an uplifting rhythm that will make any soul twist and shout. Known for his duck dance during concerts, Chuck Berry’s solos were eye-catching. The song comprises multiple guitar licks from other artists, such as Louis Jordan who had a huge influence on Chuck Berry. It may not be the best solo of all time but it is sure to be a song that stands the test of times.

05. Paranoid Android (Radiohead)

This pure melancholic beauty from the band’s guitarist Jhonny Greenwood is unlike anything heard before. Like Thom Yorke, the main vocalist put it: “It's about being exposed to God, I dunno. It was that one night, really. We'd been rehearsing the song for months, but the lyrics came to me at five o'clock that morning. I was trying to sleep when I literally heard these voices that wouldn't leave me alone. They were the voices of the people I'd heard in the bar. It turned out to be a notorious, coke-fiend place, but I didn't know that. Basically it's just about chaos, chaos, utter f--king chaos.” From the intensity of the sound of this solo transpires a state of confusion, despair, and heartache one can experience when hearing ghostly voices. The solo then transitions back and forth between these intense stanzas and low and mellow acoustics. Another gem deserving of its spot among the greatest guitar moments of all time. An illuminating song that will conjure deep thoughts. 

04. Hotel California (Eagles)

The world-renowned and sung across all generations alike Hotel California solo by Joe Walsh send all listeners spiraling from the very first pulled guitar string. It tells of the California experience from the outsider’s point of view. It couldn’t have been better explained than by another famous guitarist Don Henley in the documentary History of the Eagles: “It's a song about a journey from innocence to experience." It is one of the best selling albums in history. The song’s popularity has far surpassed that of its originating band. If it does not ring a bell, you are missing out on a true ear-pleasing experience. 

03. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)

Brian May, the lead guitarist for one of the most iconic rock bands ever to be formed, played a killer solo in Bohemian Rhapsody. The song, wrapped around the impressive guitar solo, drew smashing praise and set new standards for the rock industry. Initially rejected by the original publishing company for its length of 6 minutes, the producers agreed to the full-length version in the end, and within a few days, the piece blew up the charts. Brian May recalls that when Queen was developing the song,  “Freddie [Mercury] had the whole piece pretty well mapped out,[..] but he didn’t have a guitar solo planned”. Who can tell what would have become of Bohemian Rhapsody without one of the most beautiful transitions in history? Rock audiences can only be grateful for Brian May’s genius input into this musical piece. It was the introductory song for Queen’s Live Aid concert in 1985. Brian May couldn’t have written -let alone played- a better solo during the performance, a solo which seamlessly transitioned to RadioGaga, another astronomical song from Queen. It is not Brian May’s only solo but will remain his masterpiece. 

02. For The Love of God (Steve Vai)

This solo was composed in the midst of a ten-day fast that Steve Vai had decided to pursue in the hopes of reaching an alternate state of consciousness. His solo seems to be a musical vehicle to share what he was feeling during his travel in the other world. Steve Vai is also known as the little Italian Virtuoso, atop of his generation’s guitar performers because of his crazy outfits and self-made guitars. He went as far as mixing his own blood into the paint for one of his guitars. Both his musical creations and shows are treasures to the ear and memory.

01. Beat it (Michael Jackson)

Michael Jackson is without a doubt one of the greatest musical artists of all time, but it is the combination of his vocals and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar skills that sent critics flying. This solo was meant as a favor from Eddie who gifted this phenomenal sound for the world to hear. It held the #3 spot on the US hit chart for three consecutive weeks in 1982, a really magical moment in history. The music is the backdrop for gang violence storytelling. The solo’s rhythm perfectly fits with its lyrics, full of rage. A hard solo impeccably played. Worth the attempt. 

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Electric guitar player - Rock - Solos

Written by noam
on 2020-06-30 10:26:03

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