A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hooptedoodle #139 – Fave Guitar Solos

A few days ago, I got involved in that most perennial of lowbrow pub debates, one whose pointlessness does not make it any less enjoyable – the weighty question of Which Are the All-Time Great Guitar Solos?

On this occasion my companions were practising musicians (and I use the term “practising” deliberately), but it does not make a lot of difference, because the discussion is always pushed down the same lines by a couple of recognised (though unspoken) sub-clauses:

The solo must be from a (vocal) popular song – and one that everyone knows – none of your alternative stuff – no Brazilians, for example…

OTT categories such as Heavy Metal are normally excluded (or at least subject to drug tests)

The whole thing is so slanted by your age, what you like and everything else that it usually mutates into “What Are Generally Recognised as the All-Time Great Guitar Solos?” – i.e. it’s everyone else on trial here, not me.

As always, we came up with the standard answers:

Probably the solo from “Hotel California”

Probably the solo from Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years”

Probably the solo from that Carpenters’ record that we can’t remember, because we wouldn’t admit to listening to the Carpenters anyway

Probably the solo from Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over”, because it’s instantly recognizable

Probably the instrumental sections from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (which can still get you thrown out of most of the music shops I know)

Probably Dr Brian May’s solo on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which is getting very close to OTT)

Probably the duet solo from “The Boys Are Back in Town”, though a number of other Thin Lizzy records must be up there too

…and a lot more of the same – supply your own list (fun this, isn’t it?).

It’s very easy to get sidetracked into artists one particularly likes, which is too close to Your Specialist Subject for general comfort, so we have to avoid that (in my case, it would involve people like Robben Ford and Toninho Horta, which would get me blank looks all round). I did, however, put forward a record which I don’t think is in any way a classic, and it certainly wasn’t a hit, and it’s not by a big-name singer, and overall I don’t especially like it (which feels as though all this underselling should make it OK) – it’s Dave Berry’s “My Baby Left Me” from early 1964.


A quick word on Dave Berry – when I was a lad, he had a band called The Cruisers, who were known as the second best band in Sheffield (I think Joe Cocker’s band was regarded as the best), and I once saw them at the Cavern in Liverpool, where, I have to say, I thought they were fairly average. Berry is still around, and still performing, so all the best to him, and I shall be careful what I say (in case he comes to get me), but my view on his band seems to have been shared by the people at Decca Records, because after contributing a couple of so-so B-sides the Cruisers no longer appeared on Dave Berry’s recordings, and instead Decca used some of the best session players in the country at the time (which is a whole other subject). My Baby Left Me is short, an unspectacular cover of Presley’s record, but it includes a little gem of a solo from Jimmy Page, no less, who was 19 at the time it was recorded (swine).

By the standards of the day, this was how to do it – say what you’ve got to say in one chorus – first take, if you please – then pack up your stuff and clear out – the studio’s booked for someone else after 3pm.

It still doesn’t get into anyone else’s list, but if you haven’t heard it, here it is. 


  1. So many guitarists, so many choices, where do you even start??? Pass a beer and here'd be my best shot at some "probablies"... Joe Walsh/Rocky Mountain Way, Hendrix/pretty much anything but without getting too specialist, Purple Haze... the intro to Baker Street ignore the sax the guitar is sublime.... Mike Rutherford (with the Mechanics)/Living Years, the most understated guitar playing of any time and utterly sublime..... Dave Gilmour & the Floyd/Division Bell .. I agree re Lizzy but my choice would be Emerald... Zeppelin, of course, but my choice would be "Kashmir" which is just...... crunching & pile driving ... last of all ... 'cos I'm getting boring.... Carlos Santana/Samba Pa Ti or Soul Sacrifice....PS. I lied Clapton/Crossroads... :o)

    1. I am in your camp, S-t-W! I tend towards the bluesy side of the street and Santana/Clapton would be my choices. Maybe throw Stevie Ray Vaughn into the mix as well. Walsh is also a solid choice. Thin Lizzy's TBABIT with the dual guitar harmonics is solid as well.

    2. Good solid stuff - like it. I'm a big Gary Moore fan, but couldn't choose a track - maybe Separate Ways or Still Got the Blues.

  2. No Freebird? Or Wishbone Ash?

    For minimalism I'd for the solo in (I'm) Stranded by Australian punk band The Saints

    1. I checked out Stranded on YouTube - I'm still waiting for the solo. The very WORST guitar solo ever may be on the Coasters' "Hog for You"


      which is strange, since the guitar on their records was usually played by Mickey Baker, who was a name - it may be that Leiber & Stoller made him play the guitar solo with a slide, which he didn't normally do.

      Wishbone Ash pretty good - much loved by air guitarists and truckers.

  3. One of my favourite guitar solos is on Milk Cow Blues by Eddie Cochran,
    give it a listen?

    1. Good shout Ray - Cochran was a very fine musician - played good piano too. Spent far too much of his studio time recording soppy ballads for the gals, but fair enough!

    2. Under orders from the bosses at Liberty, would have loved to have seen him live, I was born 8 years too late though!

  4. Nice blog, guitars and gaming, two of my favourite things! I love David Gimours solo on Another Brick In The Wall PtII, classic example of his fluid style and seamlessly fits the song (unlike 90's one-hit band Skunk Anansie with Just Because It Feels Good, probably the worst solo of all time, it's like someone tuning to a different station in the middle of the song!) Jimi Hendrix on All Along The Watchtower and any number of Zeppelin songs would also make my list. :-)

    1. Hendrix - hard to choose one - I like Little Wing, too. Gilmour did/does a lot of good stuff. I'm not really a big Zeppelin fan - never really got the hang of Robert Plant, though I accept that they were much loved.

      Brcause I haven't seen it for years, I dug up the famous Trial of Ralph McTell from Saunders & French…


      …which is excellent fun - nice to see Gary Moore before he turned into Rab C Nesbitt.

      Welcome to the blog, by the way - we don't really do much music here, so you may wish to take me to court later on!

  5. 'Goodbye to Love' is that Carpenters solo.Beautiful.Tony Peluso.

    1. Thank you sir - I believe you are right. Not that I ever heard it, of course.

  6. Interesting topic, and something to muse upon. I'm none too knowledgeable in this field (don't know squat), but I still have my favorites. They ain't exactly guitar solos, but... well. In no particular order: Led Zep "When the Levee Breaks" (my fav Led Zep number since I first heard it, must be 40 years ago); Eric Clapton on 'Dance the night Away' (Disraeli Gears), and 'Layla' isn't too bad neither; The guitar work on Rolling Stones' 'Gimme Shelter' and 'Brown Sugar'; Jimi Hendrix's gig at Woodstock - In more recent times, REM 'Orange Crush'. I really like the guitar work in G&R's 'Sweet Child of Mine' though for mine the number as a whole don't quite work. Oh, and I almost forgot: Mark Knopfler's Telegraph Road, and the signature phrases (is that the expression I want?) in "Local Hero.'

    You can see my acquaintance with the field is superficial. Don't stop my being fond of what I like though! :-)

    1. Hi Ion - thanks for these - good choices. The idea of superficial knowledge here is not important - what you like is what you like, and is interesting in its own right.

      It's been interesting - I've also received a number of emails from unfamiliar participants, some of whom feel very strongly - in one case violently so! - about the suggestions made by me and by the people who have kindly commented. I guess that as soon as the crawlers can detect mention of music a whole different category of people get involved, and this is nervously close to popular culture (whatever the blazes that is!).

      Having thought about it further, I think that what my friends and I discussed in the pub would have been better defined as "songs which could be recognised by most people (?) if they heard the guitar solo", which is not quite the same thing as our personal favourites, though the favourites discussion is ultimately more interesting, as we have seen.

      Strong candidates put forward for our original (unintentional!) classification included things like the solo from Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing", the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (wasn't that anonymously played by Clapton, come to think of it?) and a bunch of others which me might feel are too overexposed to rate in our favourites.

      This has been a fascinating topic - much better than I expected, and it probably got my site hits up a bit (!), though at the cost of stirring up some odd responses (which I didn't publish, though most of the really weird stuff came from email).

      An unofficial prize of some sort goes to Marathon Runner, who - with some brave grappling with the basics of spelling - correctly identified that my choice of music identifies me as an elderly ****, and that I will be dead soon anyway, so it doesn't matter what I like - at least I think that's what he said. Good anyway.

      Sorry - I digressed - you listed a couple of records here which I'll check out on Spotify this morning.

      Thanks again - cheers - Tony

    2. Cheers, Tony -
      I have occasionally wondered at the dogmatism of certain types. I like what I like, and although I often don't share another's taste, it isn't unusual for me to see why they would appeal. You'd think the opinions of dogmatists were Holy Writ, the way they go on, and dissenters deserve to be thrown to the eternal lake of fire. Still, they're good for a laugh now and then.
      All the best,