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” (100) and builds to a truly epic finish with Jimmy Page's solo on "Stairway to Heaven" (01).
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."
In June, we kicked off a summer blockbuster of our own — a no-holds-barred six-string shootout. We pitted Guitar World's top 64 guitar solos against each other in an NCAA-style, 64-team single-elimination tournament. Every day, we asked you to cast your vote in a different guitar-solo matchup as dictated by the 64-team-style bracket. Now Round 1 has come and gone, leaving us with 32 guitar solo and 16 (sweet) matchups.
You can vote only once per matchup, and the voting ends as soon as the next matchup is posted (Basically, that's one poll per day).
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?"
Winner: "No More Tears" (57.81 percent)
Loser: "Floods" (42.19 percent)
Today's Round 2 Matchup (6 of 16)
"Texas Flood" Vs. "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Today, we go from "Floods" to "Texas Flood" (13) as Stevie Ray Vaughan's famous 1983 blues guitar solo goes head to head with Brian May's classic solo on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (20). Get busy! You'll find the poll at the bottom of the story.
13. “Texas Flood”
Soloist: Stevie Ray Vaughan
Album: Texas Flood (Epic, 1983)
When Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble walked into Los Angeles’ Down Town Studio in November 1982 to take advantage of 72 free hours of time offered by studio owner Jackson Browne, they had no idea they were about to start recording their debut album. “We were just making tape,” recalls drummer Chris Layton. “We hoped that maybe we were making a demo that would actually be listened to by a real record company.”
The first 24 hours were spent getting settled in L.A., and in the second and third days the band cut 10 songs—which became Texas Flood, in its entirety. “It really was just a big warehouse with concrete floors and some rugs thrown down,” says bassist Tommy Shannon. “We just found a little corner, set up in a circle looking at and listening to each other and played like a live band.” The trio recorded two songs the second day and eight the third—including “Texas Flood,” a slow blues, written and recorded by the late Larry Davis in 1958, which had been a live staple of Vaughan’s for years. It was the final tune recorded, cut in one take just before the free time ran out.
“That song and the whole first album captures the pure essence of what Stevie was all about,” says Layton. “Countless people would tell Stevie how much they loved his guitar tone on Texas Flood. There was literally nothing between the guitar and the amp. It was just his number-one Strat plugged into a Dumble amp called Mother Dumble, which was owned by Jackson Browne and was just sitting in the studio.
The real tone came from Stevie, and that whole recording was just so pure; the whole experience couldn’t have been more innocent or naive. We were just playing. If we’d had known what was going to happen with it all, we might have screwed up. The magic was there and it came through on the tape. You can get most of what the band was ever about right there on that song and that album.”
20. “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Soloist: Brian May
Album: Queen—A Night at the Opera (Hollywood, 1975)
“Freddie [Mercury] had the whole piece pretty well mapped out, as I remember, but he didn’t have a guitar solo planned. So I guess I steamed in and said, ‘This is the point where you need your solo, and these are the chords I’d like to use.’
The chord progression for the solo is based on the verse, but with a slight foray into some different chords at the end, to make a transition into the next part of the song. I’d heard the track so many times while we were working on it that I knew in my head what I wanted to play for a solo. I wanted the guitar melody to be something extra, not just an echo of the vocal melody. I had a little tune in my head to play. It didn’t take very long to record.
“The next section of the song, the heavy bit, was really part of Freddie’s plan. I didn’t change what he had very much. Those guitar riffs that everybody bangs their heads to are really more Freddie’s than mine. And at the end of that section, I sort of took over. I wanted to do some guitar orchestrations—little violin lines—coming out of that. And it blended in very well with what Freddie was doing with the outro.
“We were stretching the limits of technology in those days. Since ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was entirely done on 16-track, we had to do a lot of bouncing as we went along; the tape got very thin. This ‘legendary’ story, which people think we made up, is true: we held the tape up to the light one day—we’d been wondering where all the top end was going—and what we discovered was virtually a transparent piece of tape. All the oxide had been rubbed off. It was time to hurriedly make a copy and get on with it.”
[[ When you're done voting, start learning every guitar solo in this poll — and more! Check out a new TAB book from Guitar World and Hal Leonard: 'The 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time: A Treasure Trove of Guitar Leads Transcribed Note-for-Note, Plus Song Notes for More Than 40 of the Best Solos.' It's available now at the Guitar World Online Store for $29.99. ]]