100 Licks

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Rolling Stone puts out another list that’s basically meaningless, but will no doubt trigger huge debate. This time, the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

I haven’t looked at the list carefully enough to notice what’s missing, but I was pleased to see the underrated Mark Knopfler get some love.

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42 Responses to “100 Licks”

  1. #1 |  Cappy | 

    What? No Motorhead? No Iron Maiden?

    These people don’t know nuttin’, I tell ya.

  2. #2 |  Steve Horwitz | 

    Good call on Knopfler. He’s very underappreciated, as is my boy Alex Lifeson, who is of course absent because god forbid Rolling Stone even notice Rush. A little love for Brian May too. And the solo on SD’s “Kid Charlemagne” is outstanding, good to see that noted too.

  3. #3 |  Danno49 | 

    Color me unimpressed. But then again, this is Rolling Stone. Any magazine that makes a list of the top 100 guitarists that does not include Steve Morse is not to be taken seriously. Yeah, I bitched about that here years ago and I’ll restate my position. This should be 100 Most Popular Guitar Songs as the aforementioned list should have been labeled 100 Most Popular Guitarists.

    That said, there are some great tunes on here, no question.

  4. #4 |  Danno49 | 

    And a big ‘hell yeah!’ to Steve for mentioning Lerxst, Dirk and Pratt. Of course RS won’t mention them. They have actual talent.

  5. #5 |  Highway | 

    They always make those lists with about 40 songs that I’ve never heard of, just to show how amazingly cool they are, and how amazingly cool you’re not. And yeah, how do you make “100 greatest guitar songs” without at least YYZ?

    Danno, it can’t be ‘most popular’, because then they couldn’t put their snooty ‘well, this song is so great *because* you haven’t heard it and we have’ songs on there.

  6. #6 |  Billy Beck | 

    When they dropped that 100 guitarists gag, those assholes put Shotgun-Boy Cobain at #12. That was bad enough, but when one realizes that they left Chet Atkins out in the parking-lot, the thing degenerates to dismissable lunacy.

    I suppose I’ll go look at this new rubbish, but I think I can figure out what to expect.

  7. #7 |  UCrawford | 

    I’d have added “Vietnow” by Rage Against The Machine and “Walk” by Pantera (Tom Morello and Dimebag Darrell are/were brilliant). “Voodoo Child (Slight Refrain)” by Hendrix would have topped the list. “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton would have been in there somewhere.

  8. #8 |  Billy Beck | 

    Well… that wasn’t quite as bad as I would have expected.

    I dissent from the F.Z. selection: “Apostrophe” was far more important to me than “Willie The Pimp”.

    I could find any number of places in which to substitute Blue Öyster Cult’s “The Red And The Black”.

    {shrug} They weren’t quite as foolish, this time.

  9. #9 |  Danno49 | 

    Dang, Highway . . . good call on YYZ. As for your comment on the ‘aren’t we cooler than you’ factor, I think you may just have something there. I have always been annoyed by that attitude. But sometimes, I am afraid some folks get that impression of me as a lot of my tastes tend to wander in the realm of the esoteric. I hope not as I try not to present what I like in a ‘snooty’ fashion. More like a ‘you’re missing out if you haven’t heard it’ thing.

    I will say that anyone who doesn’t think The Fents are awesome definitely are not cool. ;)

  10. #10 |  UCrawford | 

    They also omitted “All Along The Watchtower” by Hendrix…which is about as glaring an omission as you’re going to find on a list of great guitar songs. I guess that they figured three Hendrix songs was enough, but then that’s the problem with lists like these…if Rolling Stone paid proper respect to the truly great ones in the field they wouldn’t be able to try and impress us by name-dropping more obscure groups who couldn’t hold Hendrix’s jock.

  11. #11 |  UCrawford | 

    And no “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

  12. #12 |  greg | 

    I dropped my subscription once I realized every other issue was a “top XX list of______”. It’s completely pointless. Everyone’s musical taste is different. Am I supposed to read the list, realize I’m out of step, and go buy the top ten and convince myself to like them?!?!? Like I said………completely pointless.

  13. #13 |  RomeoTango | 

    What about Foghat – Slow Ride?

  14. #14 |  scottp | 

    What? No Reelin in the years? Blasphemy.

  15. #15 |  Will Grigg | 

    No Thin Lizzy? This is a list of GUITAR songs, and they leave off Lizzy?

    Much respect to Moby Grape, but Lizzy defined and refined the multi-lead guitar format.

    And how does SPRINGSTEEN get TWO mentions here, when his fretboard skills (as opposed to his genius as a songwriter) are, at best, adequate?

    The scandalous absence of Rush on this list was mentioned above. RS hates Rush, always has and will.

    And yeah, it was weird to see them list “Machine Gun” and leave off “Watchtower” — as well as a dozen or more Hendrix gems that could easily have made the list.

    Oh, and where the HELL is Peter Frampton? “Do You Feel Like We Do” deserves a nod here.

  16. #16 |  Will Grigg | 

    Oh, and amen to scottp’s malediction regarding the omission of “Reelin’ in the Years.”

  17. #17 |  Steve Horwitz | 

    They also forgot Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. Ritchie could play, esp. on the live versions.

  18. #18 |  Sithmonkey | 

    Ugh…Born to Run @ #14 is ranked higher than Ain’t Superstitious @ #86…there no damn justice in this world…

  19. #19 |  Buck | 

    David Gilmour is the king in my book.

    And I loved watching the youtube of “Interstellar Overdrive”

    Nothing more fun than watching guys dressed like Pastor John Hagee trip on acid.

  20. #20 |  Billy Beck | 

    “Lizzy defined and refined the multi-lead guitar format.”

    Well… I think the Allman Bros. had had a lot to say about it…

    Points-up for complaints in favor of “Reelin'” and Blackmore (although I might offer “Pictures of Home” in the latter case).

  21. #21 |  recovering republican | 

    Omitting YYZ and cocaine is kind of criminal. no bell bottom blues? No ten years after/alvin lee “love to change the world?” not enough ZZ top in there and, not NEARLY enough Knopfler. virtually no indie-love, either. would it have killed them to include luna’s 23 minutes in brussels?

    Many of these selections are questionable at best. blah. blitzkrieg bop? just a lot of attitude. mark ness and social D did it better.

  22. #22 |  Andrew Williams | 

    I thought it was a pretty good list. I would have put “Red” and “How Soon Is Now?” higher up, and added “Whipping Post.”

  23. #23 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Oh, and “Tom Sawyer.” Or “Spirit of Radio.”

  24. #24 |  MIster DNA | 

    About what I’d expect from Rolling Stone.

    How they missed out on Deep Purple’s Highway Star, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades is beyond me.

    The most glaring omission – IMO – is Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning. No love for Hubert Sumlin at Rolling Stone.

    Of course, country music got overlooked completely. No Chet Atkins, no Buckaroo and Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West’s Stratosphere Boogie is missing.

    Also, The Shadow’s Apache isn’t on the list… wtf?

  25. #25 |  Drew Brumbaugh | 

    I’ve got to put a plug in for Brian Setzer. This guy has to be the most versatile guitarist alive today. He can do anything from rock to blues to country to jazz to classical and even a little flamenco.

    Check out his version of “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny from the 1950s. It is available on the Stray Cats 1992 album “Choo Choo Hot Fish.”

    Here’s a few more samples of this guy’s prowess:

  26. #26 |  Andrew | 

    No Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai or Eric Johnson? They ARE the guitar. Feh.

  27. #27 |  Andrew | 

    I was thinking the same thing, recovering republican. Definitely not enough ZZ Top. The Rev. Billy G. rocks.

    No Deep Purple?

  28. #28 |  Andrew Williams | 

    A true list would have also included Steve Albini, Steve Hackett, Henry Kaiser, Richard Thompson, Zoogz Rift, and so many others. Also, I don’t recallt seeing any Zappa…oh, wait, there he is: #75. Revised opinion of list: Meh.

  29. #29 |  Alan | 

    I can understand the omission of Tommy Bolin, regretful though it may be, but how can you leave off Ted Nugent?

  30. #30 |  UCrawford | 


    I almost mentioned Frampton too…and amen on Thin Lizzy. “Jailbreak” should easily have made the list over anything from Nirvana. Heck, they even included that one on the rock station on Grand Theft Auto IV.

  31. #31 |  DaveT | 

    There’s lots of opinions here… how many of you folks actually play guitar though? Why did they omit Paranoid? Maybe because despite it turning out to be a pop song, it was just meant to be album filler.

    They were apparently going for songs with meaner riffs than the pop songs offered by said artists (another example, choosing AC\DC’s Back in Black instead of something more popular like You Shook Me All Night Long or Highway to Hell).

  32. #32 |  Highway | 

    Yeah, I play guitar. But I don’t really see how not playing discounts people’s opinions. They know what guitars sound like, and they know what great songs using guitars sound like.

    I also don’t really know if you can say that something like Back in Black is ‘less popular’ than Shook Me All Night Long. Anyone who knows one will know the other, and Back in Black is definitely a much better guitar riff (the other one’s not bad, tho).

  33. #33 |  UCrawford | 


    I got the impression their standards for “great guitar songs” were pretty nebulous…although to be fair you could probably make it the “Top 500 Guitar Songs” and there would still be omissions that should have made the list.

  34. #34 |  MIster DNA | 

    I play guitar, too. I’m not – and never will be – any sort of virtuoso, but I do play guitar.

    I seriously doubt Black Sabbath’s Paranoid was meant to be filler – it is, after all, the album’s title track. Get a room full of people who play guitar and even if they all play different genres, it’s pretty safe to say that all of them will know Paranoid; that’s what makes it a great guitar song.

    Sure, most guitarists also know those three notes that comprise the main riff of the song Black Sabbath, but Paranoid has been played in garages all around the world.

    On the AC/DC front… I’d pick Back in Black over You Shook Me All Night Long, but Whole Lotta Rosie beats them both, IMO.

    Some of the lists inclusions are pretty iffy. As much as The Ramones and the Sex Pistols rock, they make me wanna pogo, not play air guitar. If the list absolutely has to have punk songs, toss Blitzkrieg Bop and Holiday in the Sun and add The NY Dolls’ Personality Crisis and maybe Agent Orange’s Bloodstains.

    And why the hell did they include RHCP’s Under the Bridge? Why not add Extreme’s More Than Words?

    The list did get a few things right, however. It was good to see Link Wray get mentioned and nice to see Blue Cheer’s version of Summertime Blues get a nod. Their selection of Stones’ songs was agreeable. For Led Zep, however, I would have picked either Communication Breakdown or Heartbreaker over Stairway to Heaven.

    Also conspicuous in its absence: Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold.

  35. #35 |  Tokin42 | 


    Finally something we agree on. you can’t have a list of great guitar songs and not have any dimebag darrell.

  36. #36 |  UCrawford | 


    Finally something we agree on. you can’t have a list of great guitar songs and not have any dimebag darrell.

    Absolutely…and I’m not sure why they felt AC/DC only merited one song. Once you get past “Back In Black”, “Highway To Hell” and “Shook You All Night Long” (the last two of which they didn’t pick), there’s still quite a bit of their work that should have rated higher than some of the songs they picked. “Long Way To The Top” and “Thunderstruck” would be some obvious candidates I’d think.

    I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t consider it, but “Love Is Only A Feeling” by The Darkness would definitely be ranked in my top 100.

  37. #37 |  adam | 

    What about Hot For Teacher? How can a list of guitar songs not include a song that has 2 guitar solos (and a drum solo)?

  38. #38 |  DaveT | 

    “I seriously doubt Black Sabbath’s Paranoid was meant to be filler – it is, after all, the album’s title track. Get a room full of people who play guitar and even if they all play different genres, it’s pretty safe to say that all of them will know Paranoid; that’s what makes it a great guitar song.”

    That’s because it’s EASY, not great. Anyway, look it up. Paranoid was a last minute song meant as filler because the album was too short. The album was originally going to be named War Pigs, but it was changed to Paranoid due to controversy (and record execs realized that was the one song they could definitely put on the radio).

    Anyway, there are definitely a ton of omissions (Dimebag being a glaring one).

  39. #39 |  Billy Beck | 

    DaveT — “how many of you folks actually play guitar though?”

    Been an ardent amateur player since 1969. Currently five electric Gibsons and a Strat in me quiver.

    See clips of my band at YouTube —


    Highway — “Yeah, I play guitar. But I don’t really see how not playing discounts people’s opinions.”

    I don’t think it necessarily does at all, but I think it’s pretty natural for players to have a different perspective.

  40. #40 |  JSB | 

    Yeah I have a few quibbles with that list…but my main beef is with Guns N’ Roses only have “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on the list (still a fantastic song, of course). What happened to “November Rain”? In my opinion, Slash’s guitar solo in that piece is one of the best. Yeah, I know, Sweet Child is probably more recognizable (and even further so due to its inclusion in the video game “Guitar Hero II”), but that’s just my opinion. And I cannot resist a few more: how about “Mr. Brownstone”, “You’re Crazy”, or “Welcome to the Jungle”?

    Gotta give some love to GN’R

  41. #41 |  e. brown | 

    no dam love for southern boys ANYwhar, it seems.

    molly hatchett. “boogie no more”. when they ‘turn these boys loose on yew one time’, the guitar gods smile.

  42. #42 |  John M. | 

    A glaring omission: Journey to the Center of the Mind – Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.