A few years ago, the editors of Guitar World magazine 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."
In June, 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 Round 1 has come and gone, leaving us with 32 guitar solo and 16 (sweet) matchups.
You can vote only once per matchup, and the voting ends as soon as the next matchup is posted (Basically, that's one poll per day).
In some cases, genre will clash against genre; a thrash solo might compete against a Southern rock solo, for instance. But let's get real: 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? Which is more iconic? or Which one kicks a larger, more impressive assemblage of asses?"
Winner: "Stairway to Heaven" (73.6 percent)
Loser: "Machine Gun" (26.4 percent)
Today — The Final Round 2 Matchup (16 of 16)
"Eruption" Vs. "Stranglehold"
Today, in our final Round 2 matchup of Guitar World's Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time Readers Poll, "Eruption" (02) — the song with the No. 2-ranked guitar solo in this 64-solo tournament — makes its first appearance since easily defeating Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Scar Tissue" in Round 1 last month. This time, "Eruption" faces Ted Nugent's only appearance on the 64-solo bracket — "Stranglehold" (31). This classic tune by Nugent got to Round 2 by defeating Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" in late June. Get busy! You'll find the poll at the very bottom of the story.
NOTE: When Round 2 ends tomorrow morning, the poll will take a breather and return Monday, August 5, with the Sweet 16 Round! We'll thank you again tomorrow, but thank you to everyone who has voted and/or commented since we kicked off the poll on June 10!
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.”
Soloist: Ted Nugent
Album: Ted Nugent (Epic, 1975)
“ ‘Stranglehold’ is a masterpiece of jamology,” proclaims Ted Nugent. “We were in the Sound Pit in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was showing my rhythm section of Cliff Davies [drums] and Rob DeLaGrange [bass] the right groove for the song. I was playing my all-stock 1964 blonde Byrdland through four Fender Twin Reverbs and four Dual Showman bottoms on my rhythm settings—we were going to leave a hole there so that I could overdub a solo later.
"Then I started playing lead work, just kind of filling in and though I had never played those licks before in my life, they all just came to me. And because I got so inspired and because they followed me so perfectly, that demo is exactly what you hear on the record today. Take one, rhythm track is the song—it made such organic sense with the flow of music that I said, ‘I’m not gonna fuck with that! That’s it, baby.’ And that is the essence of why people love it—because it is so spontaneous and uninhibited.
"The only thing we went back and overdubbed was Derek St. Holmes’ vocals and my two tracks of harmonized feedback, which come in and out of the entire song. All the engineers and everyone kept saying, ‘You can’t do that, Ted.’ And I said, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ Because I had the vision; I saw what the song could be, and I realized it.”
[[ When you're done voting, start learning every guitar solo in this poll — and 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. ]]
Voting Closed! See you Monday, August 5, when we kick off the Sweet 16 round!
Winner: "Eruption" (78.99 percent)
Loser: "Stranglehold" (21.01 percent)