I don’t know why, but I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately with titles such as the top ten guitarists, the top ten metal guitarists, the top ten shredders or the top ten female guitarists. I’m not sure why the latter is even a thing. If someone can play guitar and play guitar well, I don’t care who they are—I’m jealous no matter what. Anyhow, all this recent reading got me thinking. Not thinking about making a top ten list. This isn’t that. Sure, it’s a list of guitarists. But it’s not a list where the focus is on who is best—no matter the particular focus on skill/genre. No, this is a list on my personal ten favourite guitar moments. These are the songs that made me the guitarist I am today.
I mention that not to focus on my skill—it’s not great. It’s to focus on the styles that have influenced what I like to play. Metal.
Before I jump into the list content, I will reinforce a previous point—this is not a top ten list. These posts aren’t made in any special kind of ranking order. The list is close to how I came across these bands in my own life. Even then, I’ve probably got some of the order wrong. My memory’s not what it used to be. So before I forget anytihng else, my ten favourite guitar moments.
Led Zeppelin—Stairway to Heaven
Way back in the early 80s—that’s the 1980s for the younger among us—we had some new neighbours move into the house next to ours. I say ours, but I had no claim on any of the house my parents owned. Anyhow, when the new family moved in next door, the father of the house was playing some music loud enough for me to hear it next door one day and it was not like anything I’d ever heard before. Having said that, I liked it.
I don’t remember how, but our new neighbour picked up on my interest and with great joy, he introduced me to Led Zeppelin. Looking back now, this might have been a great moment for my neighbour as well as for me. He was the father of three young girls and none of them shared an interest in his music. I was a young teenage boy and this music spoke to me.
In particular, there was of course, Stairway to Heaven. I had never heard a song so beautiful. The guitar playing was amazing and I needed to know more about it. I had already become a fan of the guitar through my first influence—Ace Frehley—but I don’t believe I became fascinated with what the guitar could really do until I heard this band and this song. The guitar’s diversity had suddenly become unlocked in my mind.
Black Sabbath—War Pigs
Strangely enough, the story for Black Sabbath is incredibly similar to my story for Led Zeppelin. Mostly because it was the same guy who introduced me to this band. It was pretty much a simple statement along the lines of “Oh you like that heavy ending to Stairway to Heaven? Then you’re going to love the non-stop heaviness of this.”
He wasn’t wrong. But just as I had admired the diversity of Stairway to Heaven, I was blown away by the depth of heaviness in the song War Pigs. I was loving this heavy stuff!
Then of course, there’s that moment you hear that one song that makes you think “Holy sh*t! What was that?!” For me, that was hearing Van Halen’s first album and the track Eruption. Basically, this track to me means one thing to me.
It’s still very much the same. Every time I hear the track.
I remember being at high school when a friend played it for me. It was the beginning of years of suggesting bands to each other. But it was the beginning that remains one of my most pleasant life memories. Eruption was when I realised how the guitar wasn’t meant to be played one way by all.
Ozzy Osbourne—Mr. Crowley
Just as most discoveries came my way through friends, it was the first person to teach me how to play guitar using heavy metal influences that showed me the talent that was Randy Rhoads. I’d been explaing to him how blown away I was by Eddie Van Halen when he said “You need to check out Randy Rhoads”.
I of course was already familiar with Ozzy Osbourne through my earlier introduction to Black Sabbath. But after hearing the track Crazy Train I realised Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t finished with the metal scene. In fact, after listening to all of the Blizzard of Ozz album, I was convinced the best was yet to come.
Randy Rhoads was once again showing the true diversity of the guitar. From amazing riffage to simply beautiful acoustic pieces like Dee, Randy Rhoads was showing what he could do with the guitar. It was metal, but it was damn melodic.
Few tracks showcased this as well as Mr. Crowley did.
Iron Maiden opened my eyes in a different way. But no less impressively in my opinion. It was with Iron Maiden that I discovered the brilliance of a two guitar attack in a metal band. Sure I’d seen two guitarists in a band before, but the way Dave Murray and Adrian Smith complimented each other was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I wanted to be Dave Murray so bad. His solos were beautiful. They were melodic and soulful. But his ability to riff was equally impressive to me.
Watching the Live After Death video back in the day was an amazing experience. This was metal. This was what I liked.
Guns ‘n’Roses—Sweet Child o’ Mine
Just before the grunge era kicked in, there was one band who to me, nailed a musical change ahead of their time. Guns ‘n’Roses weren’t as over-the-top as many of the metal bands before them, but they sure as hell made rocking guitar solos work like nobody had for a while.
I know one thing too. I wanted a Les Paul after watching this video. The moment the second part of the solo kicks in … Oh yeah. That is guitar.
I just want to add that the solo work in November Rain is someof my favourite guitar work by anybody. It’s so simple, but it’s damn emotional. Passion makes guitar better.
Joe Satriani—Always With Me, Always with You
This song is a bit different in my mind. It’s not as metal as most of my other influences, but what this song did for guitar in mainstream music is, and was, epic.
Blistering solos, amazing melodies and that finger-tapping moment that you just can’t help but smile at. Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption has it and so does Always With Me, Always with You. If that part of this song doesn’t make you appreciate the genius behind the song writing ability—not to mention the technical guitar playing ability—then I don’t know. You may be dead. Have someone check your pulse.
Metallica—Fade to Black
Now we’re certainly out of order in regards to when I heard a particular band/song. But as stated before, this isn’t a top ten list. Having said that again, when I think of songs that made me want to be a guitar player, few songs have that impact on me more than this song. It is my favourite song of all time. It has the greatest solo I’ve ever heard at the end—keep in mind this entire article is my opinion only—and it once again combines melody, clean guitar, distorted guitar and layering to the Nth degree.
Fade to Black is more than a guitar playing master piece. this is song writing at its best. It was with this song that I most likely appreciated that important skill in the guitar playing journey. Technical skill is great. song writing ability is better.
John 5—Fiesty Cadavers
John 5 is the last influence I discovered in this list—when working on timeline. He is also one of the few guitarists I found without a direct referral from a friend. I saw him on the cover of a guitar magazine and had to research to see who he was. Boy, was I glad I did.
I’ve mentioned versatility before in this article, but John 5 takes that to a whole new level. If you haven’t listened to any of his solo releases, then you need to do so. You should also do some research on his guitar playing history. He has played guitar with/for Paul Stanley, David Lee Roth, Filter, K. D. Lang and an almost countless number of other talents. John 5 has earned the title of most versatile guitarist ever*.
* It’s not a real title. But it would fit.
Now we are difinitely outside of the timeline model of writing a list. This also isn’t my most influential guitar moment. so I’m not ending with some kind of “I knew it … number one is Jimi Hendrix” moment. But I am ending on a personal favourite. After all, this is my list. These are my rules.
When I was certain that heavy metal was going to be my preferred musical preference for life, there was one album that made me realise this. Megadeth’s Rust in Peace. That album is just insanely intense from beginning to end. The dual guitars, the musical versatility, the song writing … This album had it all. But most importantly to me, it had it all in a no-holds-barred fashion. There were no apologies. Megadeth was telling the world “This is metal and nobody is going to do it better or faster”—not a real quote. I’m still not sure anyone has done metal better anyway.
It’s not a top [insert number] list. There’s no real order. These are just bands/songs that have influenced me along the way as I’ve struggled with my own ability to play the guitar. And the reason it’s not a top list with any attempt at real order? Because I don’t believe guitar playing is a competition.
Are you a more technical proficient guitarist than me? Most likely. Can you read music better than me? Without a doubt. Do you enjoy yourself as much as I do when I play guitar? I sure as hell hope so.
Go get inspired.