CERTAIN GUITAR SOLOS ARE INFUSED WITH MAGIC.
They may or may or may not be technically challenging, flashy, or otherwise virtuosic—
but they have that special something that sets them apart from what came before, and
they typically alert guitarists everywhere that their world has forever changed. What
is more, those magic solos tend to inspire legions of guitarists to attempt to unlock
their technical and tonal mysteries, and at the very least they permeate the 6-string
community’s collective unconscious, reemerging
later as direct and indirect influences on individual
players’ styles. Somewhat paradoxically, however,
agreement on which solos have achieved this
iconic status is less than universal.
At that point, there were still many more
than 40 solos on the list, so we had to make
some hard choices. To start, guitarists who
were hugely influential overall, but couldn’t
be tied to an ultra-influential solo—such as
Tony Iommi and George Harrison—were
cut. Then came hours of sometimes heated
discussions among the editors as to which
of the remaining artists and solos to keep,
and in some cases which solo by a particular
artist to include. For example, the solo on
“Crossroads” was an obvious choice for Eric
Clapton, but Slowhand’s solo on his cover
of Freddie King’s “Hideaway” on the Blues
Breakers album, and his historic wah workout
on “White Room,” were also compelling
options. Once the smoke cleared, however,
we had reached consensus.
The solos are organized chronologically—including those that fall within the same year—because we thought it would be instructive
to see how they relate to each other historically.
Additionally, we included a graphic timeline
of “influenced by” and “influenced” for
each artist and solo to more generally illustrate
the concept of succession. Obviously,
in most cases there were lots of options for
both of these, so we just went with those that
we thought made the most sense.
We will no doubt receive, um, “spirited”
comments from dissenters championing their
own heroes, but we hope that you will dig
what we came up with, and perhaps even
discover an overlooked gem or two for yourself
along the way.
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