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 and 2 have come and gone, leaving us with 16 guitar solos and eight matchups.
WELCOME TO THE SWEET 16 ROUND, where all 16 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 some cases, genre will clash against genre; a thrash solo might compete against a Southern rock solo. 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? Which is more iconic or important? or Which one kicks a larger, more impressive assemblage of asses?"
Winner: "Comfortably Numb" (61.34 percent)
Loser: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (38.66 percent)
Today's Sweetwater Sweet 16 Matchup (5 of 8)
"Eruption" Vs. "Little Wing"
Today (and through the weekend), two guitar solos that have cruised through the competition are squaring off. It's Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" (02) against Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (18). Two giants of the electric guitar from two different eras! Follow the path of each solo, and read more about both solos below:
HOW THEY GOT HERE
• "Eruption" defeated Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Scar Tissue" (63) in Round 1 and Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" (31) in Round 2.
• "Little Wing" defeated the Allman Brothers Band's "Jessica" (47) in Round 1 and Deep Purple's "Highway Star" (15) in Round 2.
For a visual aid, check out our photo gallery of the complete bracket below! Anyway, get busy! You'll find the poll at the very bottom of this 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.”
18. “Little Wing”
Soloist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1968)
Covered by artists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sting, “Little Wing” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beautiful and enduring compositions. It’s easy to see why. The original is seductively warm, poignant and light as a feather. Engineer Eddie Kramer explains how Jimi achieved the song’s ethereal glow in the studio.
“One of my favorite touches on that track is the glockenspiel part, which was played by Jimi,” says Kramer. “Part of the beauty of recording at Olympic Studios in London was using instruments that had been left from previous sessions. The glockenspiel was just laying around, so Jimi used it.”
Hendrix’s rich and watery guitar solo was, says Kramer, in part the product of a secret weapon. “One of the engineers had built this miniature Leslie,” continues Kramer. “It was like it was built out of an Erector set and had a small eight-inch speaker that rotated. Believe it or not, the guitar solo was fed through this tiny thing, and that’s the lovely effect you hear on the lead.”
[[ 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" (59.41 percent)
Loser: "Little Wing" (40.59 percent)