Saturday, July 23, 2011


Guitar World magazine's new issue features their list of the "100 Greatest Classic Rock Guitar Songs."  I think they put together a great list, with some great choices that, sadly, don't get played on what is known on "classic rock" radio, including Bill Haley & The Comets' "Rock Around The Clock, Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock," Prince & The Revolution's "Purple Rain" and the #1 song, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."

As I often do, I create my own iPod mix to go along with the feature, with my own adjustments.   In some cases I switched one band's song with another (like with Led Zeppelin: I know "Stairway To Heaven" is, like, the most played song ever on classic rock radio or something, but I'm tired of it and I prefer "The Rain Song").  In other cases, I replaced some bands for others, creating my ideal classic rock lineup.  Not to be a snob, but on my planet, James Brown, The Stooges and The Clash are classic rock, whereas Kansas and Journey are not.  So, here's my list:

1. Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode" Yeah, it's such an obvious choice (I prefer "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"... read the lyrics and replace "eyed" with "skinned" and it's a pretty radical song for the era).  But it's such an important song.  Not just in rock and roll, but in American culture.

2. Led Zeppelin - "The Rain Song" As I mentioned above, GW used "Stairway To Heaven," but, as much as I enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien's lore, which inspired the lyrics, it's sort of an overplayed song. "The Rain Song" resonates with me much more.  "Upon us all a little rain must fall." This song is as much about John Paul Jones' string arrangements as Jimmy Page's guitar though. But still, it's powerful and beautiful.

3. Jimi Hendrix - "I Don't Live Today" replacing "Purple Haze." I love "Haze," but it's another one that "classic rock" radio has driven into the ground.  "I Don't Live Today" is just as rockin', and is from the same album, Are You Experienced?

4. Guns N' Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine" Overplayed? Hell yeah.  But when this jam came out in '87, you couldn't get enough of it.  Slash's riff was unbelievable, and he and Izzy Stradlin' were just such a great team. "Welcome To The Jungle" also made GW's list, but I kept Guns (and most other bands) to just one song.

5. Metallica - "For Whom The Bell Tolls" replacing "Enter Sandman." I love "Sandman," and I know it's where a lot of people discovered Metallica. I discovered them on a radio show called "Metal Shop," and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was the song. I've never gotten tired of it. I have always loved James Hetfield's muscular rhythm playing.

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Born On The Bayou" Well, GW went with The Eagles' "Hotel California," so I did what The Dude would do, and replaced them with some Creedence.  Actually I don't hate The Eagles, and "Hotel California" is a great song, but I don't love them enough to put them on my list. CCR on the other hand is one of the best bands ever. John Fogerty had some really evocative guitar riffs, "Proud Mary" was one, and this is another.

7. Black Sabbath - "Hand Of Doom" GW had Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," which I pushed down the list a bit.  In my world, Sabbath comes before Ozzy, with all due respect. Choosing one Sabbath song is really hard (GW went with "Iron Man") but this one features Tony Iommi's guitar at its scariest and most evil.

8. The Kinks - "You Really Got Me" GW went with Van Halen's version, but, age before beauty.  Of course this one is a bit overplayed also, but come on, Dave Davies' riff is iconic.

9. AC/DC - "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock and Roll)" GW had Deep Purple in this slot, I moved them down a bit.  At 10, they had AC/DC's "Back In Black," which I love, but for me, the Bon Scott era is my favorite.  This is not a typical AC/DC song (I don't know that they ever used bagpipes again after this) but what an anthem. Angus and Malcolm Young are one of the greatest guitar teams ever.

10. Elvis Presley - "Jailhouse Rock" Scotty Moore plays guitar on this. I'm not the biggest Elvis fan, but you can't deny this song. I love the riff, it's almost surf music, and the solo is rockin'.

11. The Allman Brothers Band - "Statesboro Blues (live)"  GW had Derek & The Dominoes in this slot. Both bands included the late great Duane Allman, and I like The Allmans better.  For The Allmans, GW choose "Whipping Post," but at 20+ minutes, it's a bit long for me.  This is shorter and to the point.

12. Ozzy Osbourne - "Crazy Train" Of course this is as much about the late great Randy Rhoads as it is about Ozzy.  I don't think Ozzy (or Sharon) would mind me saying that. I don't like a lot of the guitarists who Randy influenced, but the two Ozzy albums he played on - 1980's Blizzard Of Ozz and 1981's Diary Of A Madman - just about hold up to Ozzy's Sabbath albums.

13. The Beatles - "Here Comes The Sun" One of George Harrison's finest moments.  The acoustic guitar riff is gorgeous.

14. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Yes, overplayed (by "alternative rock" or "active rock" or "album rock" radio formats). But the impact of this song in the '90s was tremendous.  I remember first hearing it on WDRE in Long Island and wondering why they were playing something that sounded like Metallica. Then I heard Kurt Cobain's vocals and realized that this was a totally different thing.  Did Nirvana kill hair metal?  I don't know... but at the time, I hoped they would.

15. Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Saturday Night Special" Of course GW went with "Freebird," a great song indeed. But also (of course) overplayed by "classic rock" radio. I think Skynyrd was a really underrated and misunderstood band.  I love this song - about gun control. Gary Rossington/Allen Collins/Ed King: another great guitar team.  Not many bands can pull off three guitars!

16. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - "Pride and Joy" SRV really brought blues music to a new audience, and it kind of started here (although he got his first big break by playing on David Bowie's Let's Dance, of all things).

17. The Rolling Stones - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" A bit overplayed, yes. But like "Johnny B. Goode," it didn't just make an impact on radio, this specific song made an actual cultural impact, I think it really probably summed up the frustration felt by young people in 1965.  And what a great Keith Richards riff.

18. Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb" I never get tired of this one. One of the last Roger Waters/David Gilmour songwriting collaborations. Gilmour's playing has never been better.

19. The Who - "Substitute" From their early, mod era. Simple, but not so simple. One of Pete Townshend's best songs, and one of his best riffs too. GW went with "Won't Get Fooled Again," which I bumped down the list.

20. Van Halen - "Runnin' With The Devil" instead of their cover of "You Really Got Me." They had fairly mainstream influences, but were so unique. So many bands imitated them, no one ever came close. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth, what a guitar/singer team.

21. Cream - "Crossroads" White British rock bands covering blues classics is kind of it's own genre, and thank the lord for that! Without Cream, Zep, the Stones, et al, Robert Johnson would surely be forgotten by now. You should check out the original recordings.  They are difficult at first, but once you develop the taste for them, they can blow your mind. But still, bands like Cream did a great job of doing their own take on those incredible songs.

22. Rush - "Spirit Of The Radio" To me, the song is kind of how lame radio became in the '70s and '80s, so it's kind of ironic that "classic rock" radio plays this song so much.  It's such a beautiful song, and so powerful.  It's about how much music can mean to you.  It's Alex Lifeson's greatest riff. He's so underrated.  GW choose "Limelight" which I also love, but I had to go with "Spirit."

23. ZZ Top - "Tush" Sometimes, rock and roll is just about one thing.

24. The Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop" I think that most "classic rock" programmers hated The Ramones, but that's their problem. Johnny Ramone played in a certain way, but he was great at it.  He didn't have to be Clapton, he was Johnny Ramone. Simplicity is beautiful.

25. Jimi Hendrix - "All Along The Watchtower" I'm not one of those people who think that everyone else does Bob Dylan's songs better than he does, I love Dylan. But Jimi did the best version of "Watchtower," I think Dylan would admit that - Jimi kind of influenced the version Dylan has played live in recent years.

That's my first 25, I'll be doing a few other installments soon.

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