Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll: Round 1 — "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Kurt Cobain) Vs. "Cortez the Killer" (Neil Young)

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2013 at 7:12am

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?"

Yesterday's Results

Winner: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (77.77percent)
Loser: "Light My Fire" (22.23 percent)


Today's Round 1 Matchup (Day 23):
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" Vs. "Cortez the Killer"

Today, Kurt Cobain's guitar solo on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (26) squares off against Neil Young's epic solo on "Cortez the Killer" (39). Get busy! You'll find the poll at the very bottom of the story.

26. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Soloist: Kurt Cobain
Album: Nirvana—Nevermind (Geffen, 1991)

“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song,” explained the late Kurt Cobain. “It’s such a clichéd riff—it’s so close to Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’ riff or Richard Berry’s ‘Louie Louie.’ When I came up with the guitar part, Krist [Novoselic, bass] looked at me and said, ‘That’s so ridiculous.’ So I made the band play it for an hour and a half.”




39. "Cortez the Killer"
Soloist: Neil Young
Album: Zuma (Reprise, 1975)

“Cortez the Killer” hails from Zuma, one of Neil Young’s most overlooked albums, often lost in the shuffle of its predecessor, the much-praised Tonight’s the Night, which came out just five months prior. But there’s really a very simple explanation for the song’s high rating. Just take it from Young himself, who once proclaimed that, “ ‘Cortez’ is some of my best guitar playing ever!”

Remarkably, the song’s structure was largely shaped by an accident—a power failure which occurred in the midst of recording a perfect, transcendent take of the song. Rather than recut the tune, Young just plowed forward and later he and producer David Briggs went back and did some creative editing, which required the lopping off of several verses. “They missed a whole verse, a whole section!” Young says. “You can hear the splice on the recording where we stop and start again. It’s a messy edit…incredible! It was a total accident. But that’s how I see my best art, as one magical accident after another. That’s what is so incredible.”

“Cortez the Killer,” about the Spanish explorer who conquered Mexico with bloody success, is also a prime example of Young’s physical style of lead playing.

“I am a naturally very destructive person,” he says. “And that really comes out in my guitar playing. Man, if you think of guitar playing in terms of boxing…well, let’s just say I’m not the kind of guitarist you’d want to play against. I’m just scarred by life. Nothing in particular. No more scarred than anyone else. Only other people often don’t let themselves know how damaged they are, like I do, and deal with it.”

Cast Your Vote!

Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll: Round 1 — "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Vs. "Cortez the Killer"

Head HERE to see today's matchup and all the matchups that have taken place so far!


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Neil Young: "Had I Been Asked to Allow My Music to Be Used for a Candidate, I Would Have Said No" (6/18/2015)
This past Tuesday, Donald Trump announced that he's running for president. At the event, which took place at Trump Tower, Trump played Neil Young's 1989 song "Rockin' in the Free World" nice and loud—as you can hear in the video below—over the v...
Neil Young to Open Rebel Content Summer Tour with Solo Acoustic Set (6/25/2015)
Neil Young has announced that he will open his upcoming Rebel Content Summer Tour with a solo acoustic set. He will then be joined by the band Promise of the Real for a full electric show. Both sets will feature new songs and old favorites. T...
Neil Young Premieres "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop" Music Video (6/1/2015)
Neil Young has released the music video for "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop," the first single from his new album, The Monsanto Years. The video for the song, which was originally titled "Rock Starbucks," takes aim at the ubiquitous coffee chai...
Neil Young Not Happy That Donald Trump Used "Rockin' in the Free World" When Announcing Presidential Bid (6/17/2015)
Donald Trump announced that he's running for president yesterday, July 16. At the event, which took place at Trump Tower, Trump played Neil Young's 1989 song "Rockin' in the Free World" nice and loud—as you can hear in the video below—over the p...
Dave Grohl Performs Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" at July 4 Party — Video (7/7/2015)
Prior to Foo Fighters' 20th-anniversary show, which took place July 4 in Washington, D.C., Dave Grohl organized a Rally & Ride motorcycle event, which took place earlier that day at DC Brau Brewing. The 9:30 a.m. party featured breakfast, co...
'Dirt Road’s End': Sugarcane Jane's Anthony Crawford Talks New Album, Touring with Neil Young and More (6/19/2015)
Sugarcane Jane have amassed an extremely loyal following by performing what they like to call, “organic music at its finest." Anthony Crawford and his wife, Savana Lee, are both virtuosos. Crawford is a songwriter who plays guitar and mandolin ...
Listen to Kurt Cobain’s Unreleased Cover of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” (4/21/2015)
A previously unheard recording of Kurt Cobain covering The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” acoustically has appeared online. The rough-sounding (but nonetheless magical!) recording was found during the making of the new documentary, Kurt Cobain: Mont...
Nils Lofgren talks beloved gear, Neil Young and his first guitar (12/15/2014)
Read more about Nils Lofgren talks beloved gear, Neil Young and his first guitar at MusicRadar.com The A-list sideman has scored hits with everyone from Neil Young to Bruce Springsteen. But did Nils Lofgren get nil in the 10 questions we ask eve...
Hear Kurt Cobain's Mixtape from 1986, "Montage of Heck" (11/4/2014)
Lots of odd things turn up on the interwebs. This time, someone has posted a mixtape made by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain — when he was 19. It's been around on fan sites for years, but it's available to the universe "at large." The tape, which was post...
Graham Nash on 'CSNY 1974' and Watching Stephen Stills and Neil Young Battle (8/11/2014)
Between July 9 and September 14, 1974, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young played 31 shows on a tour that took them through the U.S. and up into Canada, touching down for a grand finale at London’s Wembley Stadium. Over the...
Fan uncovers previous owner of Kurt Cobain's Fender Jaguar (7/14/2014)
Read more about Fan uncovers previous owner of Kurt Cobain's Fender Jaguar at MusicRadar.com Kurt Cobain's famous 1965 Jaguar is shrouded in mystery. It was bought through an advert in the LA Recycler in 1991, and had already undergone heavy mod...
Nils Lofgren talks guitars, Springsteen, Neil Young and box set Face The Music (4/16/2014)
Read more about Nils Lofgren talks guitars, Springsteen, Neil Young and box set Face The Music at MusicRadar.com
Total Guitar 253 on sale now: Kurt Cobain, the final guitar interview (4/14/2014)
Read more about Total Guitar 253 on sale now: Kurt Cobain, the final guitar interview at MusicRadar.com Total Guitar issue 253 is available in print and worldwide digitally from today. CLICK HERE TO BUY A DIGITAL COPY OF TOTAL GUITAR FOR iOS, AN...
Experiencing Nirvana: Photo Exhibition marks 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death (4/5/2014)
Read more about Experiencing Nirvana: Photo Exhibition marks 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death at MusicRadar.com To mark the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death on the 5th April, Proud Camden (www.proudonline.co.uk) is hosting a galler...
NAMM 2014: Fender launches Kurt Cobain Jaguar (1/23/2014)
Read more about NAMM 2014: Fender launches Kurt Cobain Jaguar at MusicRadar.com NAMM 2014: Fender has unveiled an new version of the Kurt Cobain Jaguar.The new model is essentially an NOS take on Cobain's modded 1965 Jaguar, and features an alde...
First Listen: Neil Young’s ‘Live At The Cellar Door,’ Releasing December 10th (12/6/2013)
As one of the most chameleonic and prolific figures in rock’s great history, few artists have as deep a treasure trove of unreleased recordings as Neil Young. As part of his wonderfully illuminating “Performance Archive” series, Young is releasi...