As the polls closed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 9, 2015, one thing was evident: No other song in our "Best Acoustic Rock Song of All Time" readers' poll was ever going to come close to touching Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."
The song, which beat out Heart's "Crazy On You" in yesterday's fireworks-filled final matchup, took the top prize, earning its spot as the best acoustic rock song of all time—at least according to Guitar World readers.
If Jimmy Page is the Steven Spielberg of guitarists, then “Stairway” is his Close Encounters. Built around a solid, uplifting theme—man’s quest for salvation—the epic slowly gains momentum and rushes headlong to a shattering conclusion. The grand finale in this case is the song’s thrill-a-second guitar solo.
Page remembers: “I’d been fooling around with the acoustic guitar and came up with several different sections which flowed together nicely. I soon realized that it could be the perfect vehicle for something I’d been wanting to do for a while: to compose something that would start quietly, have the drums come in the middle, and then build to a huge crescendo. I also knew that I wanted the piece to speed up, which is something musicians aren’t supposed to do.
“So I had all the structure of it, and ran it by [bassist] John Paul Jones so he could get the idea of it—[drummer] John Bonham and [singer] Robert Plant had gone out for the night—and then on the following day we got into it with Bonham. You have to realize that, at first, there was a hell of a lot for everyone to remember on this one. But as we were sort of routining it, Robert started writing the lyrics, and much to his surprise, he wrote a huge percentage of it right there and then.”
Plant recalls the experience: “I was sitting next to Page in front of a fire at our studio in Headley Grange. He had written this chord sequence and was playing it for me. I was holding a pencil and paper, when, suddenly, my hand was writing out the words: ‘There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and almost leaped out of my seat. Looking back, I suppose I sat down at the right moment.”
Guitar World thanks everyone for voting in this poll, which began in early August with 32 classic, acoustic-guitar-based rock songs, all of which are still visible in the final bracket at the very bottom of this story. We did, in fact, tally thousands upon thousands of votes—especially in the later rounds.
We also want to thank the gang at TC Electronic, who sponsored this poll.
Below, you can see our list of the top 10 vote getters, plus a clip of "Stairway to Heaven" to set the tone. You'll notice that our top 10 list reads like a classic-rock who's who (and we have to admit it's nice to see the Kinks getting some love in 2015!). Enjoy!
GuitarWorld.com's 10 Best Acoustic Rock Songs of All Time
As determined by our August/September 2015 readers' poll.
10. "Wanted Dead or Alive," Bon Jovi
09. "Fade to Black," Metallica
08. "Hotel California," the Eagles
07. "Wild Horses," the Rolling Stones
06. "Lola," the Kinks
05. "Dust in the Wind," Kansas
04. "Wish You Were Here," Pink Floyd
03. "Blackbird," the Beatles
02. "Crazy On You," Heart
01. "Stairway to Heaven," Led Zeppelin