The electric guitar shredded itself to death in the ‘80s. It had to start over, but the ‘90s grunge revolution didn‘t just change the face of guitar playing – it changed the world

Kurt Cobain
(Image credit: Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

“AAARRRRRGGGHH!!! THIS IS so flippin’ AMAZING! Hahahaha. Hmmm, what should I do first? Burn my guitar … or light MYSELF on fire! Give me MORE, but GOD ALMIGHTY, MAKE IT STOP!”

Does that sound insane? Yes, indeed. But that was the kind of crazy talk many guitarists engaged in during the ’80s. And who could blame them? George Lynch, Vito Bratta, Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt, Reb Beach, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kirk Hammett, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman and about a billion other handsome virtuoso shredders just kept getting faster and better until all you could scream was, “I surrender! Fuck playing the guitar, I’m gonna join the Marines.”

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.