Jimmy Page. Jack White. Jimi Hendrix: some of the music world's greatest ever axe-shredders (and that's only the Js). Fundamental to a band's sound, the guitarist can make or break a record and - if they're really something special - they can deliver a solo that elevates it to heights previously unimagined. Here, we celebrate those in the latter camp, who only needed six strings to change the world.


40Thin Lizzy - 'Roisin Dubh (Black Rose)'

"There's about five or six top class guitar solos in this song, while most bands can't even do one. You can sing along to them all, too; they aren't all 'look how fast I can move my fingers on this piece of wood with wires attached to it' ones."

39Bad Brains - 'Banned In DC'

"I don't know about an all-time favourite, but Bad Brains' 'Banned in DC' has to be in my Top Five. There's something so unique and melancholic about it."

38Blur - 'Coffee And TV'

As fine an example of an anti-guitar solo as you'll hear anywhere - just a string of discordant notes, building to a storm of haywire string-bending. You don't have to widdle away like Eddie Van Halen to carve out a truly memorable solo.

37Joan Jett And The Blackhearts - 'I Love Rock N Roll'

She’d already earned her stripes with The Runaways, but the glam stomp through the Arrows track made her a bonafide international star. Ricky Byrd’s solo takes the riff of the song and pitches it harmonically upward, striking all the right, leather jacketed notes.

36Prince - 'Purple Rain'

It began with Prince attempting to write a crossover song in the style of Bob Seger for Stevie Nicks. It ended with his defining anthem. The solo took him to a whole other audience - it was part Hendrix freakout and part country-rock jam. He wouldn’t be known as just 'a pop star' ever again.

35Santana - 'Soul Sacrifice'

It’s almost hard to remember now, thanks to all the Steve Tyler and Dave Matthews collaborations and the torrent of shit that’s flown from his fretboard over the last few years, but back in the 70s Santana was a guitar god. This solo doesn’t wait for an introduction after the verse and chorus have had their say, it’s present throughout, and the performance at Woodstock is a work of art.

34AC/DC - 'Let There Be Rock'

AC/DC, as ever, know how to do it properly. Start with a riff, the kind of riff most bands would give both their balls for (but which comes naturally to you), drop it down to snare drum and bass, then unleash one of the wildest slabs of guitar chaos in rock and roll. Playing it while stomping around the stage topless and making sex faces just makes it all the better.

33Television - 'Venus'

Tom Verlaine is very much the 'anti guitar player', always distancing his work from the conventional School Of Rock guitar-isms (see for example his 'no distortion' policy). On 'Marquee Moon''s Venus, Verlaine and Richard Lloyd unpick the song's counter melody with the sparseness of true pioneers. In a field of show-offs, Television showed us that less can be more.

32Cream - 'Crossroads'

Eric Clapton may or may not be God (the celestial guitar jury’s still out on that one), but he knew his way around a Gibson SG. And Cream’s calling card took less than 90 seconds to make way for his fretboard wankery. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce provide a rock solid rhythm but it’s the bursts of guitar that make this track.

31The Libertines - 'Time For Heroes'

There's not many truly great guitar solos from the last ten years - synths and samples seem to have superceded the traditional axe meander - but the Libs always knew how to do it old school. As chaotic and unpredictable as the song, and indeed the band, this short, sharp shock sees their fretwork at its finest.

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