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 to Heaven" 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.
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, it's Tom Morello's work on "Bulls on Parade" (23) by Rage Against the Machine against Eric Clapton's one and only guest appearance on a Beatles song, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (42). Get busy! You'll find the poll at the bottom of the story.
Winner: "Johnny B. Goode" (62.72 percent)
Loser: "Since I've Been Loving You" (37.28 percent)
Round 1, Day 15: "Bulls on Parade" Vs. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
23. “Bulls on Parade”
Soloist: Tom Morello
Album: Rage Against the Machine—Evil Empire (Epic, 1996)
“That’s me playing a solo by flicking the toggle switch back and forth,” says Rage Against the Machine’s innovative guitarist Tom Morello.
“The story behind that sound starts with me going over to Ibanez one day. They were making a guitar for a guy in another band, and it had a special feature on it that they wanted me to try out. So I tried it, and it didn’t really seem to do much that was anything different from a normal guitar.
"But I noticed that when you set the toggle between the two pickup settings, there was a really peculiar, high-pitched noise, and you could manipulate the tone of it dramatically when you turned the tone knob. I asked them what the noise was, and they said it was just incidental, that the guitar had an internal pickup and it was picking up this weird noise that they were trying to get rid of. I said, ‘Oh, no, no—come here with that one.’ [laughs] I gave them an idea of what I thought was possible with that noise, and they were kind enough to custom build a guitar for me with that feature in it.”
42. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Soloist: Eric Clapton
Album: The Beatles—The Beatles (Apple, 1968)
“When we actually started recording this, it was just me playing the acoustic guitar and singing it, and nobody was interested,” recalls the song’s author, George Harrison. “Well, Ringo probably was, but John and Paul weren’t. When I went home that night, I was really disappointed because I thought, Well, this is really quite a good song; it’s not as if it’s crap!
"And the next day I happened to drive back into London with Eric [Clapton], and I suddenly said, ‘Why don’t you come play on this track?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that; the others wouldn’t like it…’ But I finally said, ‘Well, damn, it’s my song, and I’d like you to come down.’ So he did, and everybody was good as gold because he was there.
"I sang it with the acoustic guitar with Paul on piano, and Eric and Ringo. Later, Paul overdubbed bass. Then we listened back to it and Eric said, ‘Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatlesy enough.’ So we put the song through the ADT [automatic double tracker] to wobble it a bit.”