100 Worst Guitar Solos
Originally printed in Guitar World Magazine, December 2004
After two decades of kissing ass, Guitar World tips over a few sacred cows in a definitive guide to guitar parts that blow.
Guitarists, no matter how good they are, are bound to have the occasional bad night or hit the odd bum note. Legends like Hendrix, Page, Hammett and Harrison have had their share of uninspired moments and times where ambition exceeded their technique. It’s really no big deal.
Unless you’re caught on tape, that is.
In a rare moment of pure spite and malice, Guitar World asked several contributors to identify those instances when our greatest guitar heroes took their biggest pratfalls. And, boy, rarely have we seen our writers take to an assignment with greater gusto. It seems that nothing gets a journalist’s creative juices flowing like asking them to spill a big bucket of bile on a beloved icon. While our writers tended to save most of their venom for undeniably cruddy and inept solos, some had fun throwing darts at performances that were technically adept but which they deemed boring, self-indulgent or just plain absurd. Another favorite pastime was picking on anything remotely involving the talents of Poison’s C.C. DeVille.
Now, we enjoy the colorful Mr. DeVille, but unfortunately somebody’s gotta be the whipping boy, and we guess it’s C.C.’s turn to feel the lash. But he shouldn’t take it too hard. The flamboyant, hair-sprayed rocker can take solace in the fact that he’s in some rather good company. So pull out the knives, put on the lobster bib and dig in. No one, but no one, gets out of this alive.
(1991) GUITARIST: C.C. DeVille
Remember when you were in high school and your novice shredder best friend kept insisting he’d “almost nailed” Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” solo, and you’d be stuck in his room wanting to kill yourself as he tried to play it again and again? That’s a little what listening to C.C.’s jaw-dropping nineminute solo spot is like. Only instead of your friend going “No, wait!” and starting over every time he fucks up, there’s an arena full of idiots loudly cheering him on. And just to show you the breadth of his chops, C.C. also throws in a messy attempt at some “Hot Club”–style gypsy jazz licks (Django Reinhardt would surely be envious of the tres magnifique tones C.C. coaxes from his pointyheadstocked ax), a touch of polka, some searing Miami Vice blues bends and, of course, several more dive bombs and two-handed tapping runs whenever inspiration fails. Completely devoid of taste, structure or steady tempo, this should be required listening for budding guitarists everywhere. Surely they can’t do any worse.
2 BLUE CHEER
GUITARIST: Leigh Stephens
The heaviest band of their day, Blue Cheer made a pretty convincing case for being the lousiest as well. Guitarists and rock critics alike have spent decades debating the worst aspect of their lone hit: Is it the witless whammy bar break in the first verse? The Hendrixon– Boone’s Farm–and-Quaaludes guitar solo? The agonizing onenote- at-a-time full-octave climb to the final verse? Whichever you choose, there’s no doubt that the cumulative effect had Eddie Cochran turning in his grave like a rotisserie chicken.
3 CARLOS SANTANA
“The Game of Love”
We were delighted to see Carlos get his due from a new generation of music fans, even if it meant he had to share the stage at the Grammys with that loser from Matchbox 20. But with “The Game of Love” he totally crossed the line, teaming his guitar with Michelle Branch’s whiny-ass voice to create one of the most uncannily annoying hooks—“Uh-hiiii-yai-i-I,” anyone?— ever waxed. A “little bit of this” and a “little bit of that” will truly drive you all the way up the fucking wall—and make you pray Carlos ditches the guest vocalists next time around.
Falstaff beer 1967 radio spot
GUITARIST: Eric Clapton
Clapton quit the Yardbirds in 1965, objecting to their new, commercially oriented direction. Yet only two years later, Slowhand himself could be heard wielding his patented “woman tone” on this radio ad for Falstaff beer. Turning “Sunshine of Your Love” on its side and rewriting it as “Falstaff, the Thirst-Slaker,” Clapton and Jack Bruce touted the joys of alcohol to impressionable youngsters throughout America. Still feeling guilty about it three decades later, the guitarist (and recovering substance abuser) tried to replenish his karma points by establishing a rehab clinic on the easily accessible Caribbean island of Antigua.
5 THE BEATLES
“All You Need Is Love”
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
GUITARIST: George Harrison
The shortest and most uptight solo of George’s Beatles career, with a jarringly abrupt ending. Maybe John Lennon realized it was only going to get worse and pulled the plug on him.
6 BLACK FLAG
“Thirsty and Miserable”
GUITARIST: Greg Ginn
Well, at least Black Flag got the last half of the song title right. Punk rockers should never attempt shredding, even if they’re trying to be ironic. Greg Ginn performs his solo like a sloppy drunk having sex, and, mercifully, he gets his act over quickly before his flaccid notes have the chance to penetrate deep enough to do damage. Even worse, Ginn tries to mimic Jimi Hendrix with his overextended bent-note screams but ends up sounding like someone trying to bend Jimmy Kimmel. The guitarist claims Black Flag practiced about six hours every night. Apparently, that didn’t involve playing any musical instruments (though it certainly involved a ton of wanking).
7 TED NUGENT
Scream Dream (1980)
The Motor City Madman has never been known for subtlety or inventiveness, but the main riff of this song is so brain-dead, it cries out for euthanasia.
8 ROLLING STONES
“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974)
GUITARIST: Keith Richards
Keith Richards says he never understood why Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones, but this horrendous, lurching and sputtering solo might have had something to do with his exit. Was Taylor angry with Richards for ruining an otherwise decent cover of a Motown classic? Was he too proud to beg to play the solo himself? Or was he just plain tired of playing with a group he considered rank amateurs? “I couldn’t believe how bad they were,” Taylor has said of the group. “Their playing was out of tune, and they sounded like a garage band. I often wondered how the Stones could make hit records.” Maybe it was only rock and roll, but Taylor apparently didn’t like it, and he bailed from the Stones less than two months after this record came out.
“Sting of the Bumblebee”
Kings of Metal (
1988) BASSIST: Joey DeMaio
This manic, mindless masturbatory wankfest (played on bass, which technically is a guitar) becomes more unbearable when you consider that DeMaio most likely performed it clad only in a loincloth, his hairy chest abundantly oiled and puffed out with pride. Sometimes it sounds like his woolly mammoth popped out to help him slap the strings. This metal is as heavy as the foil used to wrap a stick of Wrigley’s gum.
10 LENNY KRAVITZ
GUITARIST: Lenny Kravitz
In this plodding, lethargic remake of the Guess Who hit, Lenny Kravitz sucks all the bounce and air out of Randy Bachman’s classic riff like a vampire performing cunnilingus on a blow-up doll. If songs could give out restraining orders, Kravitz would be forced to stay away from everything recorded between 1960 and 1979.
GUITARISTS: Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman
The only risk Megadeth took on this album was the chance they might alienate their die-hard fans once and for all. Probably inspired by the alternative crossover success Metallica enjoyed with Load, Dave Mustaine and company reached for a similar audience with this tepid rocker, which sounds uncannily like Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” being covered by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. No matter how hard Mustaine tried to sell this piece, no one was buying.
12 TWISTED SISTER
“We’re Not Gonna Take It”
Stay Hungry (1984)
GUITARIST: Jay Jay French
Arnold Schwarzenegger made this glammetal anthem by a bunch of girlieman cross-dressers the theme song for his California gubernatorial campaign, using it as a torture device to force people to vote for him. Jay Jay French displays the imagination of a sea monkey on his solo by merely aping the song’s melody.
13 KENNY LOGGINS
Top Gun soundtrack (1986)
When I think “danger,” I think Kenny Loggins. Or not. Ol’ Kenny, who boogied with a gopher in Caddyshack and taught rhythmless rednecks to disco with his hit “Footloose,” made “Danger Zone” the U.S. Armed Forces’ most popular recruiting song since the Village People sang “In the Navy.” Just thinking about those over-processed power chords and that whiny lead induces a jet stream of vomit. Every time we hear the kids in South Park say “They killed Kenny!” we wish they were talking about this bearded, mullethaired rocker.
14 PETER FRAMPTON
“Do You Feel Like We Do”
Frampton Comes Alive (1976)
Come on—if you’re gonna address the audience through a Talk Box during your extended guitar solo, wouldn’t you at least have some fun with it and say “I need a blowjob,” or something?
“Y’all Want a Single”
Take a Look in the Mirror (2003)
GUITARISTS: Munky and Head
Featuring a riff that sounds like it was bashed out in 20 seconds so the band could get to the strip club before it closed, this song should have been called “Y’all Want a Refund?” Korn don’t get airplay anymore because they ran out of good ideas five years before they made this record.
16 DAVID BOWIE
“Hang Onto Yourself”
Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars soundtrack (1973) GUITARIST: Mick Ronson
Bowie’s finest guitar foil must have been breaking in a new pair of platforms the night this gig was recorded. What else could explain the way he stumbles over this familiar solo, not to mention several others throughout the show? “Hang Onto Your Guitar” would have been more like it.
17 DEF LEPPARD
GUITARISTS: Steve Clark and Phil Collen
Even Mutt Lange’s production wizardry can’t disguise the fact that this song is essentially a killer chorus surrounded by weak-to-the-point-of-nonexistent verses, with a solo that any fouryear- old with a rack-mounted effects unit could play.
18 BRITNY FOX
“Save the Weak”
Britny Fox (1988)
GUITARIST: Michael Kelly Smith
This C-list hair band tried to mix social commentary with sub- Slade screechiness, resulting in what may well be the worst metal power ballad ever. Or maybe they were just singing about themselves?
19 ROY BUCHANAN
“Sneaking Godzilla Through the Alley”
When a Guitarist Gets the Blues (1985)
GUITARIST: Roy Buchanan
Back in the Seventies, a PBS documentary gave Buchanan the title of “the world’s greatest unknown guitarist.” Listen to this song and you’ll know why the “unknown” tag still applies. Buchanan creates such horrendous and annoying tones with his guitar that a more-appropriate title for this song would have been “Poking My Tele Up Godzilla’s Poop Chute.”