A few years ago, the editors of Guitar World compiled what we feel is the ultimate guide to the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.
The list, which has been quoted by countless artists, websites and publications around the world, starts with Richie Sambora's work on Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive” (100) and builds to a truly epic finish with Jimmy Page's solo on "Stairway to Heaven" (01).
To quote our "Stairway to Heaven" story that ran with the list, "If Jimmy Page is the Steven Spielberg of guitarists, then 'Stairway' is his Close Encounters."
On June 10, we kicked off a summer blockbuster of our own — a no-holds-barred six-string shootout. We pitted Guitar World's top 64 guitar solos against each other in an NCAA-style, 64-team single-elimination tournament. Every day, we asked you to cast your vote in a different guitar-solo matchup as dictated by the 64-team-style bracket. Now Rounds 1, 2 and 3 (also known as the Sweet 16 round) have come and gone, leaving us with eight guitar solos!
WELCOME TO THE ELITE EIGHT ROUND, where all eight still-standing solos will go head to head before your eyes! As always, you can vote once per matchup, and the voting ends as soon as the next matchup is posted.
In one or two cases, genre might clash against genre. But please get real, people! They're all guitar solos, played on guitars, by guitarists, most of them in some subset of the umbrella genre of rock. When choosing, it might have to come down to, "Which solo is more original and creative for its time? Which is more iconic or important? or Which one kicks a larger, more impressive assemblage of asses?"
Winner: "Stairway to Heaven" (54.75 percent)
Loser: "Hotel California" (45.25 percent)
Today's Sweetwater Elite Eight Matchup (3 of 4)
"Eruption" Vs. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
We're back from the long holiday weekend! As the Elite Eight round heats up, the second-highest-seeded guitar solo, Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" (02) faces a veritable dark horse (a little wordplay for you George Harrison fans), the No. 42 song, the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." This means Van Halen is squaring off against his early idol, Eric Clapton. Which classic guitar solo should advance to the Final Four? Only you can decide!
HOW THEY GOT HERE
• "Eruption" defeated Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Scar Tissue" (63) in Round 1, Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" (31) in Round 2 and Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (18) in the Sweet 16 round.
• "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" defeated Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade" (23) in Round 1, Joe Satriani's "Satch Boogie" (55) in Round 2 and Metallica's "One" (07) in the Sweet 16 round.
Vote now! You'll find the poll at the very bottom of the story.
Soloist: Eddie Van Halen
Album: Van Halen—Van Halen (Warner Bros., 1978)
It is hard to imagine a more appropriately titled piece of music than Edward Van Halen’s solo guitar showcase, “Eruption.” When the wildly innovative instrumental was released in 1978, it hit the rock guitar community like a hydrogen bomb. Two-handed tapping, gonzo whammy bar dips, artificial harmonics—with Van Halen’s masterly application of these and other techniques, “Eruption” made every other six-stringer look like a third-stringer.
But the most remarkable thing, perhaps, about the unaccompanied solo is that it almost didn’t make it on to Van Halen’s debut album.
“The story behind ‘Eruption’ is strange,” says Van Halen. “While we were recording the album, I showed up at the studio early one day and started to warm up because I had a gig on the weekend and I wanted to practice my solo-guitar spot. Our producer, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked, ‘What’s that? Let’s put it on tape!’
“I played it two times for the record, and we kept the one that seemed to flow. Ted liked it, and everyone else agreed that we should throw it on the album. I didn’t even play it right—there’s a mistake at the top end of it. Whenever I hear it, I always think, Man, I could’ve played it better.”
As for the distinctive echo effect on the track, Eddie recalls that he used a relatively obscure unit—a Univox echo chamber. “It had a miniature 8-track cassette in it, and the way it would adjust the rate of repeat was by the speed of the motor, not by tape heads. So, if you recorded something on tape, the faster you played the motor back, the faster it would repeat and vice versa. I liked some of the noises I got out of it, but its motor would always burn out.
“I like the way ‘Eruption’ sounds. I’d never heard a guitar sound like that before.”
42. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Soloist: Eric Clapton
Album: The Beatles—The Beatles (Apple, 1968)
“When we actually started recording this, it was just me playing the acoustic guitar and singing it, and nobody was interested,” recalls the song’s author, George Harrison. “Well, Ringo probably was, but John and Paul weren’t. When I went home that night, I was really disappointed because I thought, Well, this is really quite a good song; it’s not as if it’s crap!
"And the next day I happened to drive back into London with Eric [Clapton], and I suddenly said, ‘Why don’t you come play on this track?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that; the others wouldn’t like it…’ But I finally said, ‘Well, damn, it’s my song, and I’d like you to come down.’ So he did, and everybody was good as gold because he was there.
"I sang it with the acoustic guitar with Paul on piano, and Eric and Ringo. Later, Paul overdubbed bass. Then we listened back to it and Eric said, ‘Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatlesy enough.’ So we put the song through the ADT [automatic double tracker] to wobble it a bit.”
[[ When you're done voting, start learning most of the guitar solos in this poll — and and a whole lot more! 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. ]]
Winner: "Eruption" (70.18 percent)
Loser: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (29.82 percent)