Oh, there he goes off to his room to write that hit song "Alone in my principles."
Question #52554 posted on 07/20/2009 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What are your top 5 awesomest guitar solos ever (from any genre)?

- Gueaux Physch

A: Dear Gueaux Physch,

There is but one problem with your question:

It's impossible.

Really, we had quite a long time hanging out around a smoker and we discussed the different ways we could break this thing down. We figured that the entire matter hinges upon what qualifies a guitar solo as great. There are a number of things we contemplated...speed, versatility, soul, emotional effect, and overall sound.

The trouble is that despite a love of music from the 50s to the present, HFAC are of the belief that there are classics that are almost cliched as "best solos" but that this happens for a reason...specifically because they're incredibly good.

So, here's our list:

1. "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. Claudio has already written his thoughts about this one, but it all still stands. This guitar solo measures up to almost anything that you could ask of a solo. Emotive, hard-core rockin', improvised (!), and completely memorable. Everything. Pure. Wonderful. Zeppelin.

2. "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd. Simply stunning. David Gilmour is amazing in his ability to invest his solos with emotion. He's not a shredder, typically (not for lack of ability), but his music is extremely expressive. He knows what he needs to do to make his music sound and feel exactly the way he wants it. And this solo, following a great song, is meant to punch you in the gut. It is a heartbreaking sound.

3. "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix. What can you say about a man even guitar gods worship? Hendrix didn't just explore music, he explored sound and sonic manipulation. Distortion, feedback, effects (especially the wah), and some serious overdubbing create this song, a mind-bending venture into the depths of...well, SOMETHING. Despite the fact that it's a Bob Dylan song, Hendrix had the remarkable ability to make something utterly his own (look at what he did to our national anthem!), and after this song, even Dylan says that it's more Jimi's song than his own.

4. "Hotel California" by the Eagles. This solo is just so nice. Really, that sounds weird, but it just feels good to listen to. It's an extremely melodic solo (go ahead, you can probably hum most of it) that gets lodged into your brain. It has variety and texture to it because it's played by two different guitarists taking turns. It's excellent acoustic or electric. The solo flows, and ends up going just exactly where it needs to.

5. "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Shall we go with the cliche opening? "If you look up 'Epic Guitar Solo' in the dictionary, the only entry is this song." Of course, we all know that in reality, you would be frustrated by the dictionary's lack of phrase definitions and the rock and roll definitions thereof, but this song is truly epic. Easily the fastest tempo on the list, Skynyrd's guitarist must have had arms of solid steel to produce the speedy arpeggios he's hitting. If "Comfortably Numb" is a punch in the gut, "Free Bird" is a shot of adrenaline delivered straight to the heart. As a final note, while the rest of the band is extremely important and is often underrated in making a guitar solo awesome, this one is a great example of the power the band has to accent the solo. Listen to the cymbal hits. Listen to the bass at about 7:24 as it ascends and builds the solo to a crazy climax. It all rocks.

But really, as totally amazing as all of those are, they don't really sum it up. As such, here is a long list of Honorable Mentions (only one song from each artist listed was allowed).

Honorable Mentions (cameo guitarists in parentheses):
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by the Beatles (solo by Eric Clapton)
"Isla De Encanta" by the Pixies
"Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
"Paranoid Android" by Radiohead
"Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N Roses
"Eruption" by Van Halen
"White Room" by Cream
"Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine
"Broken Chairs" by Built to Spill
"Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits
"Eruption" by Van Halen
"Beat It" by Michael Jackson (solo by Eddie Van Halen)
"Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson
"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath
"YYZ" by Rush
"More than a Feeling" by Boston
"You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC
"Walk this Way" by Aerosmith
"Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry (and also by Marty McFly)
"Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne

And due to the fact that we can only list one song from each artist, we figured Zeppelin deserved their own list in addition to "Stairway":

Honorable Led Zeppelin Mentions:
"Whole Lotta Love"
"Good Times Bad Times"

Oh, and here's some official thought on the matter.

A: Oh, Geaux,

I am not one for music that is known for guitar solos, and I lack the music pedigree that HFAC has, but here is my list. I can not limit to just five, sorry dawg.

1: "Bohemian Rhapsody"- Queen. This one takes the cake for my list, it rocks me, rolls me, and most importantly of all makes me bang my head.
2: "Would You Be Impressed?"-Streetlight Manifesto. A mastery of having good equipment and solid recording. It is a simple solo, but the overtones and undertones reverberate through to create pulses that are SO DANG COOL! It sounds kind of weird and hard to grasp, so I hope you can get it by listening to it.
3: "Bankshot"- Operation Ivy. It is an instrumental, so by the nature of the thing it is a guitar solo. This is the first instrumental that I could play all the parts to, and even though it is ska-punk it is seriously awesome.
4: "Barracuda"- Heart. The chugging darkness of the rest of the song lays the bedrock for the singing guitar solo that occasionally peeks above the thick guitar line of the intro.
5: "Folsom Prison Blues"- Johnny Cash (Luther Perkins) and the Reverend Horton Heat. The utter simplicity of the original Luther Perkins line blew my mind as a kid. It didn't follow the melody of the song in the least, yet was a perfect compliment to it. It got dressed up 40 years later by the Reverend Horton Heat in his signature too-complicated-for-punk rockabilly style. After listening to the original version and knowing that one guy is singing and one guy is playing it is nearly impossible to grasp that the cover version is one guy singing and playing throughout the whole song, unless you are really good at guitar, I guess. I seriously dig it.
6: "La Grange"- ZZ Top. I can't get enough of these 12-bar blues songs. A nearly 4-minute song with 72 words and the rest just Dusty Gibbon's growling and singing Stratocaster.
7: "I Wanna Be Sedated"- The Ramones. This solo is like finding a prize in a box of Kix many years after they quit putting prizes in Kix boxes. "The 'solo' in this song is one note," says Björn Töroque. "But it's a really ... good note." It just peeks out, just hints a solo that Johnny Ramone doesn't want to play, but a solo he plays.

Dr. Smeed
A: Dear Geuaux

1-5 on my list consists of pretty much anything by Carlos Santana. But I'm not a huge music fan, so I'm sure there are other things that could be on the list.

-Humble Master