Pedal to the Metal: The 25 Greatest Wah Solos of All Time
Since the guitar's inception, there have been countless talented players who could make the instrument sing, but it wasn't until the mid-Sixties and the arrival of the wah pedal that guitarists could make it cry.
Perhaps because it entered the collective consciousness at the hands—or feet, rather—of guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, the wah pedal has been a vital part of the rock and roll lexicon since it was introduced by Vox, finding favor with guitarists who wanted to bring a whole new level of expressive possibilities to their playing.
More than any other effect pedal, the wah has played a key role in some of modern guitar's shining moments, from Slash's epic, ascending run in "Sweet Child O' Mine" to Eddie Hazel making wah synonymous with funk in the Seventies to Hendrix simply doing that voodoo that he did so well.
In honor of its place in rock history, the Guitar World staff recently picked out the very best wah solo moments of all time, each a snapshot of a great guitarist letting his voice be heard through a truly rock and roll pedal. Of course, we considered the quality of the solo itself and the song's iconic status in the world of rock and roll.
25. "1969" — The Stooges (The Stooges, 1969)
Soloist: Ron Asheton
Raw, visceral and distorted to the max, Ron Asheton's solo on this Stooges classic may not win any composition awards, but it was the perfect compliment to Iggy Pop's gutteral snarl.
24. "Walk Away" — James Gang (Thirds, 1971)
Soloist: Joe Walsh
It comes in just at the end of the song, but Joe Walsh's solo spot on "Walk Away" is a bit of a late-in-the-game show-stealer. Since 2007, Walsh has had his very own signature wah made by Real McCoy Custom.
23. "Cult of Personality" — Living Colour (Vivid, 1988)
Soloist: Vernon Reid
"Cult of Personality" was the song that instantly made Vernon Reid a household name in the alt metal community, combining manic use of the wah with a stream-of-conscious flurry of notes straight from the mind of a true guitar junky. Even more impressive, Reid stated in a 1988 Guitar World interview that the solo was a first take.
22. "25 or 6 to 4" — Chicago (Chicago, 1970)
Soloist: Terry Kath
On the second half of a lengthy guitar solo on this Chicago classic, Terry Kath introduces a distortion-drenched, wah-driven guitar line that melds incredibly well with the song's horn section. Fun fact: Kath was once referred to as "the best guitar player in the universe" by Jimi Hendrix.
21. "Maggot Brain" — Funkadelic (Maggot Brain, 1971)
Soloist: Eddie Hazel
On the opposite end of the the spectrum from the ultra-tight, ultra-clean guitar sounds many listeners identify with funk is Eddie Hazel's tone on this 10-plus-minute track from Funkadelic, which features no vocals and serves primarily as a vehicle for Hazel to explore the deepest reaches of space in his wah-wah-powered mothership.
20. "Stop" — Jane's Addiction (Ritual de lo habitual, 1990)
Soloist: Dave Navarro
Written all the way back in 1986, it would take four years for this Ritual de lo habitual cut to be unleashed upon the music world as large, climbing to No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks behind the strength of a high-energy performance from vocalist Perry Farrell and a muscular, wah-driven lead from Dave Navarro.
19. "The Needle and the Spoon" — Lynyrd Skynyrd (Second Helping, 1974)
Soloist: Allen Collins
A clear tip of the hat to Eric Clapton's solo from "White Room," Allen Collins pulls out the wah to blend Sixties psychedelia seamlessly into a bona-fide Southern-rock classic.
18. "If You Have to Ask" — Red Hot Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991)
Soloist: John Frusciante
On this cut from 1991's mega-selling Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante turns in a sparse, stop-start wah solo fitting for the song's funk-rock minimalism. Fun fact: On the studio version, you can hear the band and production crew applauding Frusciante's guitar work as the song comes to an end.
17. "Whole Lotta Love" — Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
While much of the bizzare, alien soundscape in the middle section of "Whole Lotta Love" is directly attributable to Jimmy Page's groundbreaking use of backwards tape echo and Page and engineer Eddie Kramer "twiddling every knob known to man," the wah pedal does make an appearance, adding a valuable, extra dimension to Page's most otherworldly guitar work this side of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack.
16. "The Joker" — Steve Miller Band (The Joker, 1973)
Soloist: Steve Miller
Perfect for all those midnight tokers out there, Steve Miller's laid-back lead work on "The Joker" doesn't go overboard on the wah, opting instead for the tasteful, restrained approach. Fun fact: This song shot back to the top of the charts in 1990, thanks to a popular ad for Levi's jeans.