The 25 Greatest Acoustic Songs In Hard Rock
Guitar World presents a guide to the 25 greatest acoustic songs in hard rock.
"GOOD RIDDANCE (TIME OF YOUR LIFE)," GREEN DAY
When recording what would be the album version of this acoustic ballad, Green Day leader Billie Joe Armstrong flubbed the opening G/D chord - twice - and after the second time deadpanned, "Fuck."
Fortunately, he soldiered on, and, despite the uttered expletive, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" enjoyed huge crossover success and stands as the band's biggest hit to date. Which was hardly anticipated.
At the time, Green Day were considered little more than snot-nosed, albeit multi-Platinum, Bay Area ruffians, and an acoustic guitar-and-strings ballad wasn't what most people expected to hear from them. For that reason bassist Mike Dirnt called the song the "most punk" thing they could have done. Which just goes to show that even punks can wear their hearts on their sleeves.
"LAKE OF FIRE," NIRVANA
MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
For their appearance on MTV's Unplugged, Nirvana abstained from playing some of their biggest hits (no "Smells Like Teen Spirit," for one) in favor of lesser-known material and covers of songs from artists they knew and admired.
One such artist was Arizona's Meat Puppets, a particular favorite of Kurt Cobain's. And so, on the night of November 18, 1993, on a stage decorated with flowers and black candles, Cobain invited the Puppets' Curt and Cris Kirkwood out for, among other tunes, a mellow run-through of their swampy "Lake of Fire."
With Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and the Kirkwoods holding down the accompaniment, Cobain put aside his guitar to hone in on the vocals, howling his way through the impressionistic lyrics. The performance became one of the highlights of the show, and to this day the song is as associated with Nirvana as it is with its originators.
"EVERLONG," (ACOUSTIC) FOO FIGHTERS
Skin and Bones (2006)
The full-band version of "Everlong," that appeared on the Foo Fighters' 1997 album, The Colour and the Shape, was a raging slab of rock that seemed hard to beat.
But when Dave Grohl appeared on Howard Stern's radio show later that year and performed an impromptu acoustic version, listeners went wild, and bootlegs soon abounded. (David Letterman would later call "Everlong" his "favorite song.")
Musically, the composition is positively Townshend-esque, built around a simple, movable progression in a drop-D (D-A-DG-B-E) tun ing. The studio version features Dave Grohl pumping wildly on the drums (Taylor Hawkins had not yet joined the band), but it is his ten se, driving solo acoustic reading that truly sets pulses quickening.
Break the Cycle (2001)
Sludgy, down-tuned electric guitars bulldoze the choruses of the official recording, but originally this song was an all-acoustic ballad: Staind lead singer Aaron Lewis used to perform a half-finished version of "Outside" during solo shows.
One night in Biloxi, Mississippi, as Staind were preparing to open for Limp Bizkit on the 1999 Family Values Tour, the singer was asked to do a number with Fred Durst providing backing vocals.
Onstage, Lewis came up with the lyrics to complete the tune he'd been laboring over for months. Radio stations picked up on the live acoustic version and helped build a buzz for "Outside" months before the official version was released on Break the Cycle. The song-and the album's success launched a thousand nu-metal power ballads in its wake.
All the Right Reasons (2005)
It sold more than 1.4 million digital downloads in the U.S., reached Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 and was voted the fifth "most annoying song of all time" in a Rolling Stone poll.
Such is the case with Nickelback's "Photograph": love it or hate it, the tune gets a reaction. Like many a country-tinged power ballad, electric guitars fire up the song's choruses, but the backbone of "Photograph" rests in the heartfelt strumming of an unplugged ax.
And if it's a formula that Chad Kroeger and Co. have repeated to great success, so have scores of modern rock bands that have followed in the band's wake. Chances are when a power ballad with big guitars and an even bigger chorus works its way up the charts today, there's a little bit of that "Photograph" magic in there somewhere.
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