In Rolling Stone’s June 12, 2008 issue they have an article titled “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.” I have a fondness for lists like this – here is a link to a post about Blender’s top 100 indie rock albums and a link to a post about Blender’s list of the top 500 songs in your lifetime.
In any list like this, there is subjectivity. However, this Rolling Stone list is so full of ridiculous biases and blatant misses that I threw the magazine down in anger. For I am quite qualified to comment on this topic, basically having spent my entire life listening to and / or playing these types of guitar songs.
I will briefly digress on Rolling Stone’s sins:
– Pretending that random, ’60s blues guitarists and obscure people like Paul Butterfield belong on the list
– Selecting songs based mostly on politics… for example they take the Jimi Hendrix song “Machine Gun” (over “Crosstown Traffic”) solely because Jimi referenced some anti-war protesters in his introduction
– Picking useless Rolling Stones favorites like Bruce Springsteen and pretending that they should get here just because they are politically correct (these are guitar songs, remember)
– Just missing out on trends that need to be hit hard… classic rock in the ’70s, heavy metal in the ’80s and grunge in the ’90s. Sure there were a few hits, but way too many misses
Below is a list of all the Top 100 songs (per Rolling Stone) and my categorization of these rankings on a scale of 0-4 as follows:
|0||Way Off||Not even close|
|1||Close, No Cigar||No, but kind of close|
|2||Wrong Song||right artist, wrong song|
|3||Alright||We’ll let it slide|
|4||Right On||Agree 100%|
My analysis is pretty straight-forward. If Rolling Stone put together the best list (in my opinion, but since it is our blog, my opinion is all that matters) then their score would be 4 (score) times 100 songs or 400. As it turns out, Rolling Stone batted very poorly… and less than an average of 2 (1.96 to be exact). Here is how it “broke down” (literally) – 27 right on, 15 that we’ll let slide, 17 with the right artist, wrong song, 9 close, and 32 off by a MILE.
|1||Chuck Berry||Johnny B Goode||0||Not even close|
|2||Jimi Hendrix||Purple Haze||4||Agree 100%|
|4||Kinks||You Really Got Me||3||We’ll let it slide|
|5||Rolling Stones||Brown Sugar||1||No, but kind of close|
|6||Van Halen||Eruption||4||Agree 100%|
|7||Beatles||While My Guitar Gently Weeps||2||right artist, wrong song|
|8||Led Zeppelin||Stairway to Heaven||4||Agree 100%|
|9||Allman Brothers||Statesboro Blues||1||No, but kind of close|
|10||Nirvana||Smells Like Teen Spirit||4||Agree 100%|
|11||Led Zeppelin||Whole Lotta’ Love||4||Agree 100%|
|12||Jimi Hendrix||Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)||4||Agree 100%|
|13||Derek & The Dominos||Layla||3||We’ll let it slide|
|14||Bruce Springsteen||Born To Run||0||Not even close|
|15||The Who||My Generation||0||Not even close|
|16||Neil Young||Cowgirl In the Sand||2||right artist, wrong song|
|17||Black Sabbath||Black Sabbath||2||right artist, wrong song|
|18||Ramones||Blitzkrieg Bop||3||We’ll let it slide|
|19||Prince||Purple Rain||2||right artist, wrong song|
|20||Impressions||People Get Ready||0||Not even close|
|21||White Stripes||Seven Nation Army||3||We’ll let it slide|
|22||Beatles||Hard Days Night||2||right artist, wrong song|
|23||Yardbirds||Over Under Sideways Down||0||Not even close|
|24||Rage Against The Machine||Killing In the Name||4||Agree 100%|
|25||Rolling Stones||Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’||3||We’ll let it slide|
|26||B B King||How Blue Can You Get||0||Not even close|
|27||Paul Butterfield||Look Over Yonders Wall||0||Not even close|
|28||U2||Where The Streets Have No Name||4||Agree 100%|
|29||AC DC||Back In Black||4||Agree 100%|
|30||Bill Haley||Rock Around The Clock||0||Not even close|
|31||Queen||Keep Yourself Alive||2||right artist, wrong song|
|32||Dire Straits||Sultan Of Swing||3||We’ll let it slide|
|33||Metallica||Master Of Puppets||2||right artist, wrong song|
|34||Aerosmith||Walk This Way||4||Agree 100%|
|35||Stooges||1969||0||Not even close|
|36||Pink Floyd||Interstellar Overdrive||2||right artist, wrong song|
|37||Elvis Presley||That’s All Right||0||Not even close|
|38||The Faces||Stay With Me||0||Not even close|
|39||Santana||Black Magic Woman||4||Agree 100%|
|40||The Who||I Can See For Miles||0||Not even close|
|41||Television||Marquee Moon||0||Not even close|
|42||John Mayall||Hideaway||0||Not even close|
|43||Sex Pistols||Holiday In The Sun||3||We’ll let it slide|
|44||Sleater Kinney||Dig Me Out||0||Not even close|
|45||Beatles||I Saw Her Standing There||0||Not even close|
|46||Dick Dale||Miserlou||4||Agree 100%|
|47||Van Halen||Panama||4||Agree 100%|
|48||Clash||London Calling||4||Agree 100%|
|49||Jimi Hendrix||Machine Gun||2||right artist, wrong song|
|51||Ozzy Osbourne||Crazy Train||4||Agree 100%|
|52||Radiohead||My Iron Lung||3||We’ll let it slide|
|53||Creedence||Born On The Bayou||2||right artist, wrong song|
|54||Stevie Ray Vaughan||Little Wing||4||Agree 100%|
|55||Cream||White Room||1||No, but kind of close|
|56||Byrds||Eight Miles High||0||Not even close|
|57||Grateful Dead||Dark Star||0||Not even close|
|58||Link Wray||Rumble||0||Not even close|
|59||Jeff Beck||Freeway Jam||0||Not even close|
|60||Funkadelic||Maggot Brain||0||Not even close|
|61||Sam And Dave||Soul Man||0||Not even close|
|62||Albert King||Born Under A Bad Sign||0||Not even close|
|63||Guns N’ Roses||Sweet Child O’ Mine||3||We’ll let it slide|
|64||Lynyrd Skynyrd||Freebird||4||Agree 100%|
|65||Police||Message In A Bottle||3||We’ll let it slide|
|66||Stevie Ray Vaughan||Texas Flood||2||right artist, wrong song|
|67||Bruce Springsteen||Adam Raises A Cain||0||Not even close|
|68||B B King||The Thrill Is Gone||0||Not even close|
|69||Pink Floyd||Money||4||Agree 100%|
|70||Smashing Pumpkins||Bullet With Butterfly Wings||3||We’ll let it slide|
|71||The Strokes||Take It Or Leave It||1||No, but kind of close|
|72||Weezer||Say It Ain’t So||2||right artist, wrong song|
|73||Blue Cheer||Summertime Blues||1||No, but kind of close|
|74||Z Z Top||La Grange||3||We’ll let it slide|
|75||Frank Zappa||Willie The Pimp||2||right artist, wrong song|
|76||Tom Petty||American Girl||4||Agree 100%|
|77||Pearl Jam||Even Flow||2||right artist, wrong song|
|78||Buddy Guy||Stone Crazy||0||Not even close|
|79||Sonic Youth||Silver Rocket||0||Not even close|
|80||Steely Dan||Kid Charlemagne||4||Agree 100%|
|81||Michael Jackson||Beat It||1||No, but kind of close|
|82||Ventures||Walk, Don’t Run||3||We’ll let it slide|
|83||Sublime||What I Got||4||Agree 100%|
|84||John Mayer||Gravity||0||Not even close|
|85||Phish||You Enjoy Myself||1||No, but kind of close|
|86||Jeff Beck||I Ain’t Superstitious||1||No, but kind of close|
|87||King Crimson||Red||2||right artist, wrong song|
|88||Quicksilver Messenger Service||Mona||0||Not even close|
|89||Joan Jett||I Love Rock N’ Roll||3||We’ll let it slide|
|90||Smiths||How Soon Is Now||4||Agree 100%|
|91||Mars Volta||Drunkship Of Lanterns||2||right artist, wrong song|
|92||Mick Jagger||Memo from Turner||0||Not even close|
|93||My Bloody Valentine||Only Shallow||0||Not even close|
|94||Dire Straits||Money For Nothing||1||No, but kind of close|
|95||Moby Grape||Omaha||0||Not even close|
|96||Husker Du||New Day Rising||4||Agree 100%|
|97||Queens of the Stone Age||No One Knows||4||Agree 100%|
|98||Red Hot Chili Peppers||Under The Bridge||4||Agree 100%|
|99||My Morning Jacket||Run Thru||2||right artist, wrong song|
|100||Tool||Vicarious||2||right artist, wrong song|
How to fix it? Let’s start with replacing the “Right Artist, Wrong Song” elements on the list.
|7||Beatles||While My Guitar Gently Weeps||Replace with Revolution… basically popularized fuzz|
|16||Neil Young||Cowgirl In the Sand||Ever Hear of “Hey Hey My My” (in Cobain’s suicide note, no less)|
|17||Black Sabbath||Black Sabbath||Replace with Paranoid (invented the faster heavy metal riff)|
|19||Prince||Purple Rain||How about “Let’s Go Crazy” with its riff and solo?|
|22||Beatles||Hard Days Night||Replace with Helter Skelter… Manson killed for it|
|31||Queen||Keep Yourself Alive||Killer Queen… but close|
|33||Metallica||Master Of Puppets||If you have room for one Metallica song it has to be “Whiplash”|
|36||Pink Floyd||Interstellar Overdrive||“Run Like Hell” – how can you not take it for that opening riff, alone|
|49||Jimi Hendrix||Machine Gun||“Crosstown Traffic” blows your speakers out|
|53||Creedence||Born On The Bayou||“Heard It Thru The Grapevine”… for the long stoner jam|
|66||Stevie Ray Vaughan||Texas Flood||“Love Struck Baby” basically put Stevie on the map|
|72||Weezer||Say It Ain’t So||Good song.. But better is “Hash Pipe”|
|75||Frank Zappa||Willie The Pimp||I’ll leave this for blog-mate Dan the Zappa fan|
|77||Pearl Jam||Even Flow||“Jeremy” basically defined the genre with the harmonics intro|
|87||King Crimson||Red||Need more whammy bar from Adrian Belew… how about “Thela Hun Gingeet”|
|91||Mars Volta||Drunkship Of Lanterns||Very close… but “Cicatriz esp” is even better|
|99||My Morning Jacket||Run Thru||Try “It Beats For U” even with its Prince-like spelling|
|100||Tool||Vicarious||Change to Parabola|
These fixes make a big improvement on the list… but what about the rest of them? Here are 41 songs to replace the crappy ones I noted up above.
|Deep Purple||Smoke On The Water||This is hands down #1|
|Heart||Barracuda||Riff is immense|
|Days of the New||Downtown||Power acoustic|
|Motorhead||Ace of Spades||Can’t beat it|
|Ted Nugent||Cat Scratch Fever||For Sure Top #10|
|Alice In Chains||Man In the Box||Helped invent grunge|
|Soundgarden||Black Hole Sun||Grunge classic|
|Helmet||Unsung||Power riff to end power riffs|
|Jay Z||99 Problems||Power Rubin rap riff|
|Def Leppard||Photograph||Remember the ’80s?|
|AC DC||Whole Lotta Rosie||Simple riff, power|
|Ten Years After||I’d Love To Change the World||An absolutely iconic riff|
|Motley Crue||Kick start My Heart||That riff will wake you up|
|Thin Lizzy||Boys Are Back in Town||You can hear the dual guitar solo in your head|
|Rush||2112||Did they miss the ’70s? Probably didn’t like Peart’s lyrics|
|Joe Satriani||Surfing with the Alien||All the “Satch” you need|
|Alice In Chains||Dem’ Bones||Perfect quick power song|
|Scorpions||The Zoo||T.I. would be no where without this|
|B-52’s||Rock Lobster||Now that’s a funky riff|
|Violent Femmes||Blister In the Sun||Just think of that jangly open riff in your head|
|Bon Jovi||Wanted Dead or Alive||Remember the ’80s?|
|Ratt||Round and Round||An iconic riff|
|Ozzy Osbourne||Over the Mountain||the Randy Rhodes solo is perfect|
|Foghat||I Just Wanna Make Love To You||blazing solo|
|Steppenwolf||Magic Carpet Ride||Invented “Heavy Metal Thunder”|
|Blue Oyster Cult||Don’t Fear the Reaper||The first song you learn on guitar|
|Buckcherry||Lit Up||Can’t believe that singer’s alive|
|Elastica||Connection||One hit wonder but power riff|
|Blur||Song 2||Right between the eyes|
|Judas Priest||Breaking the Law||One for Beavis and Butthead|
|Megadeth||Peace Sells||Top 10 riff|
|Muse||Hysteria||My life, my favorite riff|
|Outlaws||Green Grass and High Tides||Did you forget those solos?|
|Pat Travers||Snortin’ Whiskey Drinking Cocaine||Insane riff, early Buckcherry ‘tude|
|Silversun Pickups||Well Thought Out Twinkies||Reason this song dominated the video list|
|Stone Temple Pilots||Sex Type Thing||Put STP on the map|
|Tool||Aenemia||Crazy power riff|
|Van Halen||Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love||Put VH on the map like Eruption|
|Yes||Starship Trooper||Crazy little jig fill… to boot|
|Emerson Lake & Palmer||From the Beginning||Admit it… sounds good|
|Boston||More Than A Feeling||Cobain “borrowed” this riff|
Even I don’t have enough energy and time on my hands to come up with this list ranked 1-100. However, here is my take on the top 10, in no particular order:
– Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze (like a broken watch, even RS is right a couple times / day)
– Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (CAN’T BELIEVE THAT RS MISSED THIS ONE… didn’t they ever pick up a guitar?)
– Ted Nugent – Cat Scratch Fever (Also missed, even the Pantera cover version beats 1/2 their picks)
– Helmet – Unsung (a monster song, also missed)
– Ozzy Osbourne – Over the Mountain (also missed completely, that solo is mesmerizing)
– Heart – Barracuda (also missed, can’t you hear that chunky riff in your head?)
– Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper (I don’t know what to say… absolutely iconic even with the cowbell)
– Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (the hit that put them on the map with the guitar sound that revolutionized everything)
– Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (for a pop artist he plays a hell of a guitar, and that middle solo is great, also missed completely)
– Alice In Chains – Man in the Box (that sound is as responsible for grunge as Kurt)
So… out of my top 10 (which I really don’t think are that controversial, for the most part) – only 1 was also picked by RS.
All in all Blender is much better and takes more chances than RS… even when I disagree with Blender, I generally respect their choices.
Cross Posted at LITGM
21 thoughts on “Rolling Stone Magazine Botches “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time””
Must disagree about King Crimson. Fripp is a far better guitarist than Belew.
Absolutely MONSTER post, Carl. Someone had to do this.
I saw that RS thing, and looked at if for a while, and I thought: “WTF?”, repeatedly.
There are a lot of problems with it. One thing is, what do you mean by “guitar song?” I think they mean “key moments in the history of rock guitar”. In that case, they should be picking the ur-recordings, as well as key highlights, also, as you note, the key artists even if it is hard to pick just one song. But, as you say, weird, extraneous criteria seem to have crept into the woodwork, including some hippie nostalgia which makes me gag.
Your list is better.
A few quibbles. I can see the case for Johnny B. Goode being first. First as im “first in time” more than “best of all”.
For AC/DC (pretend the slash is a lightning bolt) I would have Highway to Hell. Their breakthrough moment, and a bulldozer of a riff with a blistering solo.
For Judas Priest, I would have to say Livin’ After Midnight, their canonical song, with a classic riff and, again, a blistering solo.
There should be a Sex Pistols song, but the song should be Pretty Vacant.
Sweet Jane should be on there. Sweet Jane is to “alternative” what “Smoke on the Water” is to Classic Rock.
The Ramones have to be on there. Rockaway Beach would be a better pick.
I’ll stop there.
Awesome post Carl.
Carl, your passion is strong but unfortunately your ignorance of music, its history, evolution and players, is staggering. Your comments make you look petty, biased and simply wrong much more often than not. RS is certainly not going to come up with a list which actually lives up to its title, but then no one has taken Jann and his crew seriously since about the 3rd issue. You clearly care about music, but, to quote your boys Deep Purple, “listen, learn, read on” before you reach your conclusions. (And yes, “Smoke on the Water” is indeed conspicuous by its absence!)
Bob K says, in effect, “I have different taste from you”, when he says “your ignorance is staggering”.
People get really vehement about music. I used to. When I was 16, if you did not love the Clash, you were a moral cripple. I grew. Now I get vehement about other stuff.
This list would have been better if they had surveyed a bunch of knowledgeable people and gotten a dozen top ten lists from different angles. This approach does not really work.
As to Smoke on the Water, it depends on what you mean by “Top 100”. If you mean influential on rock guitar, it has to be on the list, since millions of people learned it as their first song. If you mean most exciting use of the instrument, it is not in the top 10,000. The whole thing is ill-conceived.
I find comments like Bob K funny. He doesn’t realize that in fact I have spent my whole life with music in one form or another. I could argue the obscure or the popular. I chose to argue the popular, since I thought that was more in the spirit of the “top 100 guitar songs” list.
The first song people learned for years and years was smoke on the water… that was what I meant by it being #1. In some sense, that is the uber-criteria for a “top 100 song”. I agree that I don’t really like the song too much, either.
I like Highway to Hell a lot. I barely crossed out “Whole lotta rosie” from the list… it was right at the edge and all things considered I should have probably put it back.
I used to play in a band that did a lot of Judas Priest so I have an unfortunately deep well of knowledge on this. My favorite is “green manalishi” but I left in “breaking the law” out of its cultural significance from Beavis and Butthead. I like the early era right prior to British Steel best.
Rockaway Beach is a great song. I think it is a better song than “blitzkrieg bop”. but from a guitar (only) standpoint, blitzkrieg bop gets me marching faster.
I thought a lot about the sex pistols, too. There are a few songs you could pick from that album, of course anarchy in the UK including the Megadeth cover. There are a lot of good ones to choose from and you don’t lose.
I had “hurt” by nine inch nails and it barely missed the cut. If pressed I’d put that ahead of sweet jane a bit.
Thanks for the positive comments on the post! I appreciate it!
For Deep Purple, give me My Woman from Tokyo any day.
(My band’s response to that one is here.)
I am still scratching my head over Born to Run, hardly an effort worth mentioning for guitar work – or anything else imho.
Good Woman from Singapore!
No Rush?? Rolling Stone mag continues to suck. Tom Sawyer, Limelight, closer to the heart, freewill–SPIRIT OF RADIO– hello..the list goes on …2112??? — give me break no rush tunes. Don’t know what the issue is with RS and rush but its more than just a little noticeable.
We are talking about guitar tunes, not club tunes for chicks.
Yes and to all above….all the other bands that either missed or had their b sides posted to this list. WTF
Gotta disagree with you on Rumble. This song laid the foundation for heavy metal all the way back in 1958.
Fun stuff. Nice work. Not sure exactly what your list is trying to capture. Influential on rock guitar? Most exciting use of the instrument? A little of both? Anyway, lots of fun. Here are a few sugestions that would fall into “a little bit of both.”
* AC\DC – agree re: Highway to Hell, though Back in Black and You Shook Me… are very close.
* Eagles – Life in the Fast Lane – iconic riff from Joe Walsh
* Joe Walsh (speaking of) – Rocky Mountain Way: Who doesn’t know this riff?
* Rush – I think Spirit of Radio, Freewill, or Limelight trump 2112
* Duane Allman – Statesboro Blues: “No, but kind of close”??? What slide work!
* Jeff Beck – Led Boots from Wired
* Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover
* The Who – tie between Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again
* Allan Holdsworth – Devil Take the Hindmost – solo is unreal
* Ozzy – I like Over the Mountain, but Crazy Train is probably more recognized and influential
Wow – a little love for Helmet. Nice pick. For a simple little song from a one hit wonder, you hear echos of that riff in much of the hard music created since then.
For King Crimson:
1) Fripp is the guitarist. Belew is the assistant guitarist.
Best song depends on Old Crimson v. New Crimson, so I’ll list both:
Old Crimson – “Fracture” off “Starles and Bible Black”. Think 1 minutes of insanely difficult cross-pick work. Honorable mention – “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Pt.1” which has a massively heavy mid-song riff followed by two minutes of musical dada guitar crosspick.
New Crimson – “Dinosaur” off of “Thrak” or “Discipline” from “Discipline” – depending on if you want radio hooks or instrumental.
As always, YMMV.
Correction to above – Fracture is 11 minutes, almost 12.
Find it hard to belive that no one even suggested this one…he ROCKS!- I play LOUD to “frighten children and annoy neighbers”-can’t spell, either.
Leo Kottke – “power failure”-can’t find a link…darn…”is on Chewing Pine (1975)”
This might work…:http://www.leokottke.com/cgi-bin/recs/discinfo.cgi?performer=Leo+Kottke&rectitle=Chewing+Pine
Where the heck is Hotel California???!!!!
Hey man, Rolling Stone may not always be right or fair but your list is just as bad and filled with cliche guitar songs that 15 year olds listen to when they pick up their first guitar. If you think Smoke on the Water is the best guitar song ever you must be crazy. My five year old nephew can play that song on guitar. At least Johnny B. Goode is a solid guitar track with some technical stuff that an average/casual guitar player can’t pull together. Everyone and their mother can learn how to play Smoke on the Water. As for the rest of the list you need to branch out of main stream rock and roll.
Re: Boston – More Than A Feeling. Probably the right choice, but Hitch A Ride is clsoe second. That trade-off/harmony guitar solo is beautiful.
What a joke..again RUSH gets no love from this crap ass Magazine
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