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, 3 (Sweet 16) and 4 (Elite Eight) have come and gone, leaving us with a mere four guitar solos!
WELCOME TO THE FINAL FOUR, where the last four still-standing solos:
• "Stairway to Heaven" (Jimmy Page)
• "Eruption" (Eddie Van Halen)
• "Comfortably Numb" (David Gilmour)
• "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (Jimi Hendrix)
... 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.
As we've been saying since June 10, genre might clash against genre in these last few polls. But get real, people! They're all guitar solos, played on guitars, by guitarists. 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: "Comfortably Numb" (54.16 percent)
Loser: "Mr. Crowley" (45.84 percent)
Today's Sweetwater Final Four Matchup (1 of 2)
"Eruption" Vs. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
Welcome to the Final Four! Today we'll kick things off with tunes by two rock heavyweights: Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" (02) against Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (11). Which classic guitar solo should advance to the final matchup? 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, Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (18) in the Sweet 16 round and Eric Clapton's solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (42) in the Elite Eight round.
• "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" defeated Smashing Pumpkins' "Geek USA" (54) in Round 1, Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" (22) in Round 2, Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" (38) in the Sweet 16 round and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" (03) in the Elite Eight 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.”
11. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
Soloist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1968)
Jimi Hendrix’s publicist, Michael Goldstein, had successfully arranged for ABC-TV to produce a short news feature based primarily on the Experience’s triumphant success in America. Filming began on May 3, 1968, with 16mm cameras capturing the recording of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” which, like many Hendrix songs, borrowed both musical and lyrical themes from Muddy Waters and other Delta bluesmen.
“ ‘Voodoo Child’ was something Jimi brought in, and we learned that song right on the spot in front of the cameras,” recalls bassist Noel Redding. “We ran through it about three times, and that was it.”
It is not known whether ABC ever used any of the footage. And, unfortunately, all the camera originals were stolen from ABC’s archives sometime after Jimi’s death. The reel also included footage of the group performing at the Fillmore East and the Miami Pop Festival.
Engineer Eddie Kramer recalls: “ ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ was recorded the day after Jimi tracked ‘Voodoo Chile,’ the extended jam on Electric Ladyland featuring Traffic’s Stevie Winwood on organ and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady. Basically, Jimi used the same setup—his Strat through a nice, warm Fender Bassman amp. Jimi’s sound on both tracks is remarkably consistent, leading some to think they were recorded at the same session.”
[[ 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" (58.71 percent)
Loser: "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (41.29 percent)