Poll Results: Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" Tops Readers' List of the 50 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time
47. "The Thrill Is Gone”
Soloist: B.B. King
Album: Completely Well (MCA, 1969)
Original Ranking: 33
“I carried this song around in my head for seven or eight years,” B.B. King recalls about “The Thrill Is Gone,” which had been an r&b hit for its author, pianist Roy Hawkins, in 1950. “It was a different kind of blues ballad. I’d been arranging it in my head and had even tried a couple of different versions that didn’t work.
"But when I walked in to record on this night at the Hit Factory in New York, all the ideas came together. I changed the tune around to fit my style, and [producer] Bill Szymczyk set up the sound nice and mellow.
"We got through around 3 A.M. I was thrilled, but Bill wasn’t, so I just went home. Two hours later, Bill called and woke me up and said, ‘I think “The Thrill Is Gone” is a smash hit, and it would be even more of a hit if I added on strings. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
46. "Sharp Dressed Man"
Soloist: Billy Gibbons
Album: ZZ Top—Eliminator (Warner Bros., 1983)
Original Ranking: 43
In 1983, a smart gambling man would have bet the house on ZZ Top’s imminent doom. After all, it wasn’t the best of times for good and greasy Texas blues and boogie music. Then the Little Old Band from Texas surprised everyone with Eliminator, a brilliant merger of roadhouse blues and synthesizer swells and looped beats. The album quickly became their biggest hit ever, spurred in large part by the irresistible “Sharp Dressed Man.”
“That song and the whole album really embrace the simplicity of blues and techno music with the complex challenge of how to blend them together,” says guitarist Billy Gibbons. “If you zero in on the middle solo, you will find a slide guitar part played in open E tuning on a Fender Esquire and a sudden shift halfway through the solo to standard Spanish electric tuning played on my good ol’ Les Paul, Pearly Gates. Both were played through a Marshall plexi 100-watt head with two angled cabinets with Celestion 25-watt greenbacks. It was a compound track, two parts blended to one.
“To this day, the song certainly stands among one of the band’s favorites and we’re particularly delighted to share spotlight on a solo that enjoys such favoritism. There are, of course, the more intricate and demanding solos, but we will gladly finger through the solo of ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ at any requested moment! The track just has a really raucous delivery, which is a good ignition point onstage, sitting on the tailgate out in the middle of nowhere, sipping a cold one, or wherever you may be. It just does something to you.”
[[ Start learning most of the guitar solos featured in this Top 50 story! 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. NOTE: Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" guitar solo (solo number 39 on our list) is NOT included in this book. ]]