Friday, June 01, 2007

Forget All About That Macho Shit and Learn How to Play Guitar

A long, long time ago in a blog not too far away, Bond tagged me with the "Favorite Guitar Solos" meme, which I put off for as long as possible. But now that my American Idol I.V. has been yanked out, I need something to take my mind off of these crippling DT's.

This is kind of a difficult task since there are so many great guitarists out there and many, many incredible solos. Rather than pop a vein, I just decided to go with the first five that came to my head. Let us bow our heads and chant "We're not worthy" for these outstanding achievements in axemanship:

1. "Little Wing," Jimi Hendrix. No surprise that the Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton (while in Derek and the Dominoes) versions are also fantastic, but I chose to stick with the original. The song is short and sweet, and that guitar solo/outro is one of the most recognizable and beautiful pieces of rock music ever written.

2. "I Got Id," Pearl Jam. Or "I Got Shit," whatever you prefer to call it. Obviously, I prefer "id." I'm sure most of you know that I'm a rabid Pearl Jam fan, so you might think it was hard for me to pick out just one solo from their huge catalog of songs. It really wasn't. I'm sure most people would say "Alive" has the best guitar work, but a good deal of those people are morons who like to think that the band hasn't released a record since Ten. This was actually the first song that popped into my head, because it's one of my favorites and I've always labeled the final guitar solo as perfect driving-off-a-cliff music. Not that it's ever prompted me to do so, but that's the best way I can think to describe how heartbreaking Mike McCready's solo is.

3. "Stairway to Heaven," Led Zeppelin. Oh, I know...I'm so boring. Whatever. Before you complain, let's hear any of you play like Jimmy Page! I don't care if it's an obvious choice. It's an obvious choice for a reason. It's un-freaking-believable.

4. "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns 'N Roses. It's great because this starts out as a sweet love song, and Slash's guitar solo basically cuts it right in half. It's like he's saying, "Okay, Axl, now that you've said all your 'I-love-you's, I'm gonna rock this joint and you're gonna like it and do that stupid snake dance that you do." And the clarity of sound on this solo is just incredible. Listening to it is like being blessed with super auditory powers. Every note sounds amazingly crisp and clear.

5. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," The Beatles. Eric Clapton gently coaxed tears out of his guitar for this song and it is the best example of that "weeping guitar line" rock journalists love to talk about.

Now that that's done, I'm recalling that Barbara Bruederlin, Les and Deadspot all tagged me with the "Restaurant Meme," in which I'm supposed to list and describe my five favorite eateries. I had put this one off as well, with every intention of doing it eventually, but I really don't think I can. Sorry gals (and guy)! The fact is that I just don't eat out that much and when I do it's either something not worth writing about (Subway, any random pizza joint) or it's a place I've never been and don't yet have an opinion on it. That's the problem with NYC - there are too many restaurants here. If I do find a place that I like, half the time I can't remember where it was or what it was called, so I just end up going to different places all the time. Besides, I'm really not a "foodie." I'm a burgers and beer girl. And as far as burgers go, the best one I've had so far in New York has been at this little joint on E. 4th Street called the Stillwater Bar & Grill. Honestly. I find that so-called dive bars often have some of the best food.

So, for those three folks whose tagging hand just got slapped away, here is an alternative list: my five favorite opening guitar riffs. It may not be the next best thing, but at least I'm sticking with one theme in this post, and that makes me happy.

I won't go into detail here because every description would just be some variation of "because it's cool."

1. "Ziggy Stardust," David Bowie
2. "Day Tripper," The Beatles
3. "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns 'N Roses
4. "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
5. "Peace Frog," The Doors

Unleash your inner guitar hero - create your own PaloozaHead.


Anonymous said...

my favorites
1. 'Stairway to heaven' by Led Zep
2. 'Hotel California' by Eagles.
3. 'November Rain' by GnR
4. 'I dont know' by Randy Rhoads (Guitarist of ozzy osbourne)
5. 'Cry for a Shadow' - Beatles

Marko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marko said...

I have been learning to play a guitar for quite some time now and I have to say all of those guys just ROCK! It's freaking hard to do it.

I like your blog and have just voted for you on BE. If by any chance you would be interested in link exchange you can drop me a comment at

X. Dell said...

The West Village used to have a lot of cool restaurants where the food was good, the prices were low, and the flies didn't bother you much. Unfortunately, the place has gentrified over the years.

Interesting picks you have, especially "Little Wing." These are all cool tunes.

I don't know if I could pick five favorites, or even ten. But I'll offer six favorites off the top of my head.

1. "Maybelline" by Chuck Berry--soulful double lead on a single guitar.

2. "Hey Joe" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience--the double lead at the end by Hendrix and Noel Redding represents some of the most exquisite counterpoint in rock literature.

3. "Hyway Robbery" by Hyway--This New York based southern rock band featured raucously powerful double leads from guitarists Rob Perucci and Steve Vogel.

4. "Magic Man" by Heart--Roger Fisher's exotic brdige lead is deep, ultra-blue.

5. "Taxman" by the Beatles--Harison's raga-based leads fit perfectly with the blues and standard European harmonies played by his bandmates. The genius of the the solo in particular, and in the song in general, is that the listener doesn't notice or care that there are three different harmonic systems going at the same time. It's just a cool tune.

6. "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane--Jorma Kaukonen's lyrical lead is hauntingly beautiful.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That's the nicest hand slap I've ever received. A guitar riff is just as good as a restaurant meal any day.

For the record, my favourite guitar riff has got to be Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) going nuts on "Go to Sleep".

deadspot said...

I drive past a pink Hello Kitty electric guitar every couple of weeks, and every time, I want to buy it and learn to play because it would be so punk rock.

Tootsie said...

You look good playing that "bicktar"

Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

Interesting picks! I think I'd be hard pressed to make a similar list for myself - I don't really list to guitar, I listen to the bass line.

Layla (aka Barbara) said...

Great list!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I totally agree about Stairway. Its so "uncool" to use it in any list, but dang, there's a reason why.

All your picks are great.

I heard some great live guitar this week and can't wait to go back next week. I think I am in love with one of the guitar players...don't tell anyone

Writeprocrastinator said...


That were in Belly?

Dang, I would've picked "Don't Cry" as my favorite Slash solo, though "Sweet Child" was my favorite solo of his, until the former song came out.

I'm surprised you didn't pick "Yellow Ledbetter."

An80sNut said...

I don't know where I would start when it comes to guitar solos. Way too difficult.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Okay...I can't help it, but as a guitarist, here are five guitar riffs guaranteed to make you cry heavy metal. And these are not in order.

Jimmy Page's solo from "Whole Lotta Love". And the rest of the riffs in that tune, along with a kickin' bass line is nothing to sneeze at.

"Fade To Black" by Metallica. I could put about eight other Metallica tunes in here, but Fade to Black is so distinctive and it rides through the consciousness like a shard of ice.

The guitar solo in "Sympathy for the Devil" is what made Keith Richards such a genius. It is spare, it flows around the melody, following the blues line, but never taking off on its own, although threatening to. One of the greatest problems with rocker is the desire to take off on a machine gun riff, bursting all over the place, showing little discipline. Guitar and music is about structure, even in improvisation.

"Johnny Be Good". Okay, it's been fifty years and this guitar riff, although primitive, is still worth noting. It's one of the most imitated guitar lines in the history of the music. It's a song which Bruce Springsteen, Slash, Prince, Edge...or any serious guitarist can take and rave up for a standing ovation.

"You can't play the blues like Machine Gun Kelly, eight hundred notes to the bar..." a line from a Harry Chapin song, but words to live by. In the blues world a guitar solo is magnificent because of how it brings everything together, not because it stands out by itself. Because of that, I have to back away from Hendrix, who was astonishingly over rated (in my opinion), and instead split credit between Albert Collins' "When A Guitar Plays the Blues" and B.B. King's "Three O Clock in the Morning" or "The Thrill is Gone"

p.s....."Free Bird"

Travis said...

Great choices on your guitar meme.

Bond said...

I knew when you got to it your list would include some classics...Little Wing is incredible..excellent choice..."Id" is one that most would miss on... sweet...
"WMGGW" is also a super choice


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