A few years ago, the editors of Guitar World magazine compiled what we feel is the ultimate guide to the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.
The list, which has been quoted by countless artists, websites and publications around the world, starts with Richie Sambora's work on Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive” (Number 100) and builds to a truly epic finish with Jimmy Page's solo on "Stairway to Heaven" (Number 1).
To quote our "Stairway" story that ran with the list, "If Jimmy Page is the Steven Spielberg of guitarists, then 'Stairway' is his Close Encounters."
We've kicked off a summer blockbuster of our own — a no-holds-barred six-string shootout. We're pitting Guitar World's top 64 guitar solos against each other in an NCAA-style, 64-team single-elimination tournament. Every day, we will ask you to cast your vote in a different guitar-solo matchup as dictated by the 64-team-style bracket (which we will share soon!).
Note that you can vote only once per matchup. The voting for each matchup ends as soon as the next matchup is posted (Basically, that's one poll per day during the first round of elimination, including weekends and holidays).
In some cases, genre will clash against genre; a thrash solo might compete against a Southern rock solo, for instance. But let's get real: They're all guitar solos, played on guitars, by guitarists, most of them in some subset of the umbrella genre of rock. When choosing, it might have to come down to, "Which solo is more original and creative? Which is more iconic? or Which one kicks a larger, more impressive assemblage of asses?"
Today's matchup pits Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun" (32) against B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" (33). Get busy! You'll find the poll at the bottom of the story.
Winner: "Highway Star" (68.58 percent)
Loser: "Shock Me" (31.42 percent)
Round 1, Day 4: "Machine Gun" Vs. "The Thrill Is Gone"
32. “Machine Gun”
Soloist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: Band of Gypsys—Band of Gypsys (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1970)
Contrary to popular belief, Hendrix was not in any kind of artistic decline during the last year of his life. In fact, it was quite the opposite. This apocalyptic performance of “Machine Gun,” featuring Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, demonstrates that Jimi was still growing in leaps and bounds near the end. But while Band of Gypsys captures some of the guitarist’s greatest improvisations to date, he was still dissatisfied with its outcome.
“I distinctly remember that Jimi wasn’t particularly thrilled with Band of Gypsys,” says engineer Eddie Kramer, who recorded the album and co-mixed and edited it with Hendrix. “He felt that Buddy Miles was trying to steal his thunder throughout the performance with his excessive scat singing. I can still see Jimi with his head buried in his arms, laying on the mixing console during playback, saying, ‘Buddy, would you please just shut up!?’ So, I would chop out huge passages of Buddy singing. And then I’d chop some more.”
33. "The Thrill Is Gone”
Soloist: B.B. King
Album: Completely Well (MCA, 1969)
“I carried this song around in my head for seven or eight years,” B.B. King recalls about “The Thrill Is Gone,” which had been an r&b hit for its author, pianist Roy Hawkins, in 1950. “It was a different kind of blues ballad. I’d been arranging it in my head and had even tried a couple of different versions that didn’t work.
"But when I walked in to record on this night at the Hit Factory in New York, all the ideas came together. I changed the tune around to fit my style, and [producer] Bill Szymczyk set up the sound nice and mellow. We got through around 3 A.M. I was thrilled, but Bill wasn’t, so I just went home. Two hours later, Bill called and woke me up and said, ‘I think “The Thrill Is Gone” is a smash hit, and it would be even more of a hit if I added on strings. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”