My top 10 favorite guitar solos of all time.

The other day, I got an email from Gibson about the 50 greatest guitar solos of all time. I couldn’t resist, so I read it, then I read Guitar World’s list, then I got to thinking about my own. I’m lazy, so my list is going to be limited to ten. Further, for my list, I thought hard about great soloing vs. a great solo. To me, a great solo has to be as much a part of a song as the vocal melody. It also has to be infused with the emotion of the song, and, as a result, further the entire song, not just a part of it. I think a great solo also has to be something you can hum in your head (within reason!) and that you like humming. So, with all that as criteria, here are my top ten solos (in no particular order and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something):

Van Halen - “You Really Got Me”
When I first heard Van Halen, I simply could not believe that a guitar player could be so good. I still can’t, really. Eddie Van Halen is the greatest hard rock guitar player I have ever heard. No one else can touch his technique, which is driven not by the whammy bar or the tapping or the “brown sound”,  but by rhythm. Truly, no other hard rock player is anywhere near as rhythmic as Eddie Van Halen. And for money, all of Eddie’s prodigious talents come together in glorious gobs of guitarista goodness on “You Really Got Me”. The solo starts out all Chuck Berry and then just sales off into mad L.A. hair-ness, leaving every shredder before and after in the smoggy dust.

Pink Floyd - “Time”
I remember once telling a friend how “Time” was my favorite David Gilmore solo and he just nodded a little sadly and said, “Grasshopper, listen to Comfortably Numb.” I did, and for awhile I, too, joined the sage masses who proclaimed Numb to be Gilmore’s best.  No more. To me, the solo on “Time” is The One. Can you imagine it being played any other way? I can’t. The watery flow of Gilmore’s Echoplexed Strat sounds like the flow of time itself.

The Eagles - “Hotel California
Over the years, my appreciation for the genius of the solos on this song has only grown. Yes, many, many bands have put down harmony solos, but “Hotel California” trumps them all. Crushes them, really, under the able hands of Don Felder and Joe Walsh. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I listen to it all the way through, because once Don Henley gets done pissing and moaning about who the fuck knows what, the guitars start and all is right with the world.

Led Zeppelin - “Rock and Roll (Song Remains The Same)
There is no sloppier live guitarist than Jimmy Page. I mean, his playing can be amateurish and not in a good way. Missed notes, muffed chords, bent bends -- all are hallmarks of James Patrick Page’s live legacy. But on the opening track of “The Song Remains the Same”, Page’s plectrum problems are all but forgotten has he rips through “Rock and Roll” and combines noise, music and ‘tude to create one Zep’s finest moments (at least that I’ve heard).

Aerosmith - “Walk This Way”
I think Joe Perry kicks ass and the fact that his band writes such good songs has overshadowed just how great he really is. He has many, many fine moments, but the solo that ends Walk This Way stands apart. It’s a much thicker tone than you normally hear in Rockdom and there is no flash. It’s all about groove and space and hitting just the right notes. Oh, and the fills are killer, too

Neil Young - “Powder Finger” (Rust Never Sleeps), “The Loner” (Live Rust)
I debated between these songs, but in the end had to go with both. Hell, I’ll just say it: Neil Young is my favorite electric guitarist of all time. Sure, I spend more time listening to Keith and the Stones and my own playing has been way more influenced by The Human Riff than anyone else, but for pure electric genius, it’s Neil Young. Why? Because he understands that the electric guitar is as much about noise as it is about music and to get the right noise you have to play more than strings, you have to play your amp. In both of these performances, the noises are as important has the notes as Neil coaxes his melting tubes to transmute the sounds in his head in to sounds everyone else can hear.

Richard and Linda Thompson - “Walking on a Wire
When I was in college in the ‘80s, Rolling Stone magazine reviewed all of Richard and Linda Thomson’s albums in a single issue. I think the albums had all been re-released, but regardless, the review was maybe the most positive I had ever read. I bought all the albums straightaway and they have been among my favorites ever since, not only for the songs but also for Richard Thompson’s guitar playing. He is one of the greatest in history, of that I am sure, and for my money, his finest moment is on Richard and Linda Thompson’s last album, “Shoot Out the Lights”. In fact, I think this is the greatest guitar solo of all time.

The Beatles - “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
I’m not a fan of Clapton. I know that’s a sacrilegious thing to say (he is God, after all), but he just doesn’t do it for me. Except for this performance. Is there a more perfectly matched solo and song out there? I can’t think of it.

Peter Frampton - “Do You Feel Like We Do” (Frampton Comes Alive)
I have heard this performance way more times than I can remember, and every time it captivates me completely. Frampton’s playing and tone are just so musical and sparkling and right. Oh, and to be clear, I’m not talking about the first solo, no, it’s the second solo that gets me, the long, drawn out one, the kind of thing I normally hate! In less able hands, this would be a wankfest, but Frampton keeps things interesting with peerless note choices and dynamics. Truly incredible. I only wish he didn’t use that infernal Talkbox. He doesn’t need it.