The 20 Greatest Guitar Solos Of All Time
22nd Mar 2011 | 17:05
Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Martin Barre)
Our Greatest Guitar Solo Of All Time poll certainly caused some fierce debate amongst guitarists… and that was just in our office.
Choosing the 'greatest' guitar solo is obviously subjective in the extreme. But Guitarist had other motivations too – we were eager to see how many modern solos have impressed you all in the thirteen years since our last solo poll. The results were suprising.
After asking for your nominations, we took the 20 most popular and asked for you vote on which your though was most deserving here and at MusicRadar. You voted in your thousands, fanbases were motivated and old favourites suffered.
Click onwards to see and hear the full rundown. First up, at number 20, with 0.57% of your votes, is Martin Barre's solo on Aqualung by Jethro Tull.
The title track of the 1971 album that sold over 7,000,000 copies worldwide features a stunning melodic solo from Barre, who completed the take despite the considerable distraction of Jimmy Page wandering in from a Led Zeppelin session in the next studio and waving at him from the control room.
Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness (James Dean Bradfield)
If this Manic Street Preachers single from 1992 doesn't convince you that James Dean Bradfield is the greatest British guitarist of his generation, then nothing will.
With soaring neck pickup tones from his white Les Paul Custom throughout, Motorcycle is the band's trademark anthemic melancholia at its finest.
Michael Jackson - Beat It (Eddie Van Halen)
One of many remarkable things about Michael Jackson's Thriller LP: Released in 1982, the album went on to become the biggest selling of all time, yet Eddie Van Halen didn't receive a penny for the amazing guitar solo that he contributed to Beat It.
In typically forthright style, EVH claimed to have no regrets: "I did it as a favour. I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager and everyone else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing. I don't do something unless I want to do it."
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues (For You)
Signalling his move from hard rock to a more cultured sound, the sadly missed guitar legend's 1990 masterpiece is a must-hear masterclass in electric blues playing.
With 1.78% of your votes, Still Got The Blues (For You) occupies 17th position in our rundown, just as it did in Guitarist's last Greatest Guitar Solo Of All Time poll in 1998.
Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You (Jimmy Page)
Sublime feel, dynamics and a huge emotional range characterise what, for many, is Jimmy Page's finest studio moment.
Released back in 1970 on Led Zeppelin III, this masterpiece in C minor has slipped from eighth place since 1998's poll, but remains one of the greatest examples of electric blues playing in the history of recorded music.
Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing (Mark Knopfler)
Beloved of bar bands across the globe, as debut singles go, there have been few greater statements of guitar playing intent than Sultans Of Swing.
The unforgettable clean twang of Knopfler's Stratocaster is a lesson for anyone who thinks that high gain is a necessary component of great lead guitar tone.
The Eagles - Hotel California (Joe Walsh/Don Felder)
The twin guitar workout of Walsh and Felder on The Eagles' hymn to excess was voted the greatest guitar solo of all time in our last poll back in 1998.
With just 2.24% of the vote this time around, this former heavyweight champion has been undone by a knock-out punch from a hungry young pretender. Click onwards to find out who holds the title belt aloft in 2011...
Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower
Coming in at 11th place in 1998, Jimi's transformation of Dylan's portentous original into electric fire and brimstone may have slipped two places, but it has lost none of its potency.
Comfortably one of the greatest cover versions in the pop canon, Hendrix's 1968 Electric Ladyland version had a protracted birth in the studio, but some of his most achingly soulful playing oozes from its grooves.
Steve Vai - For the Love Of God
Moving up two places since the 1998 poll with 2.44% of the vote is what remains Vai's finest moment in the eyes of many of his fans.
Throughout six magical minutes, Vai showcases the contents of a shredder's trick bag that is arguably without equal.
Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Another Jimi classic, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) has slipped from fifth place, but it did get voted the greatest riff of all time by MusicRadar users back in 2009.
For Joe Satriani, it remains the "holy grail of guitar expression and technique". Praise indeed.
Megadeth - Tornado Of Souls (Marty Friedman)
We were surprised that only one entry from the Big Four of thrash metal found a place in the top 20, and even though the solo in question was performed by his former sideman Marty Friedman, we'd imagine that Mr Mustaine would be secretly pleased that his band have nudged Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax out of the limelight on this occasion.
From 1990's masterpiece Rust In Peace, Tornado Of Souls is an amazing blend of technical prowess and killer hooks. Listen out for Friedman's solo from 3:10 onwards.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird (Gary Rossington/Allen Collins)
Incredibly omitted from the top 20 last time around, the ultimate Southern rock air guitar anthem is as American as cherry pie, but that didn't stop plenty of votes flooding in from other parts of the globe.
Sit back, soak up the full nine minutes and try to resist the urge to ride off into the sunset. We dare you.
Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven (Jimmy Page)
One epic follows another. Stairway has jumped from 13th to eighth place this time around, and while playing Page's masterpiece might still get you thrown out of guitar shops, there's no denying its timeless appeal.
One of the ultimate Les Paul icons of course used his Telecaster for the solo that enters the fray at 5:56, building tension wonderfully in anticipation of that rocking outro.
Dream Theater - Under A Glass Moon (John Petrucci)
Underestimate the power of Dream Theater's online fanbase at your cost. Fresh from voting John Myung the greatest bassist of all time, Petrucci and company's legion of admirers weighed in to propel not one but two of his finest moments into the upper reaches of our top 20.
The first is Under A Glass Moon from 1992's Images And Words, which contains a typically impressive display of musicianship from all concerned, not least Mr Petrucci himself from 4:37 onwards.
Dream Theater - Hollow Years (John Petrucci, Live At Budokan)
Narrowly pipping Under A Glass Moon to take sixth place with 5.18% of the total vote is the Live At Budokan version of Hollow Years.
Petrucci excels across nine minutes, beginning with faux-acoustic flamboyance and later blasting off into epic anthemic rock glory.
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb (David Gilmour, Pulse: Live)
Taking third place back in 1998 but fifth this time around is David Gilmour's exquisite solo on Comfortably Numb.
8.26% of the total vote went to 1994's Pulse: Live version. Here's the wonderful original from Pink Floyd's 1979 prog opus The Wall...
Guns N' Roses - November Rain (Slash)
The single artwork above might suggest that the budget was well and truly blown on the outrageous video, but there was no expense spared when it came to Slash's solo.
Showcasing his fat trademark Les Paul neck pickup tone, it's hard not to imagine Slash still standing outside that desert church two decades later with the guitar continuing to sustain...
Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine (Slash)
More Slash, and this time it's perhaps the ultimate air guitar anthem of the late 1980s that 11.7% of your total votes propelled into third place in our rundown.
Not bad for a song that started out as a practice room warm-up exercise and grew into a vehicle for the world's most dangerous band to show their sensitive side...
Van Halen - Eruption (Eddie Van Halen)
This, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment that the young Edward Van Halen kicked the doors down and announced the arrival of a new force that would have as much impact on a generation of guitarists as Jimi Hendrix did ten years earlier.
It's certainly been covered a more than a few times over the years, but the original remains a staggering showcase of the instrumental prowess of one of the handful of guitarists who, hyperbole aside, genuinely did change the face of electric guitar playing forever.
Alter Bridge - Blackbird (Mark Tremonti/Myles Kennedy)
It was a close, but in the end the fans won the day for Alter Bridge. 16.52% of you voted for a song that seems to be destined for modern classic status.
Somewhat fittingly, 1998's winner Hotel California showcased the talents of two great guitarists, and Blackbird does the same in the shape of some killer guitar playing from Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti.
Find out what the Alter Bridge axemen had to say about their success here, but in the meantime, sit back and listen to what you crowned the greatest guitar solo of all time.