It’s a Given

 Posted by
Dec 062011

Could it be?

The current issue of Rolling Stone has a feature article of the “100 Greatest Guitarists.” Would you care guess who came in first place?

Of course he did!

Just like the fact that the Beatles are always going to win a Best Band of All Time poll, it is a given that Jimi Hendrix will take the top spot for guitarists. And although I only have Hendrix at Monterey and a bootleg of Jimi playing while a hammered Jim Morrison “sings,” I agree that Hendrix probably should have permanent number 1 status.

As these kinds of lists go, I could agree with most of the people who made it, even if I don’t like their music (eg, Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa), and I wasn’t too outraged by those who should have been included but were left off the list (eg, Marc Ribot, Richard Lloyd, Django Reinhardt). But I wonder if they just start these things by arguing about who is in the number 2 spot.

Putting aside the ridiculousness of these lists in general, are there any serious contenders for Greatest Guitarist? Clearly, this is about more than chops. Influence and having a distinct style are easily as important as ability. As far as I can see, the only possible contender is Robert Johnson, who came in at a feeble 71 on the list.

While we’re on the subject, are there any serious contenders for the Best Band slot? I’m a Stones guy and even I can’t deny that the Beatles belong in the number one slot.

I assume somewhere there are lists like this for bass players and drummers, but what is the conventional wisdom regarding the Greatest Rhythm Guitarist of All Time?


  89 Responses to “It’s a Given”

  1. In matters of taste, there can be no objective “best.”

    That being said, The Kinks are the best rock band of all time.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    As much as I enjoy me some Robert Johnson, the notion that he should be considered a Great guitarist due to his “influence” is absurd.

  3. I’m going to have to ask you to show your work, Hank Fan.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry, meant to add: I think rockers who claim Robert Johnson as a key “influence” are engaging in a highly attenuated form of rocker-influence-one-upsmanship — which is a very close cousin to grizzled-southern-black-blues-guy-who-traveled-from-juke-joint-to-juke-joint-in-a-broke-down-’48-Hudson-singing-about-things-white-folks-will-never-understand-after-selling-his-soul-to-the-devil-for-some-corn-likker-but-before-eventually-being-shot-to-death-by-a-jealous-hearted-woman-envy.

  5. I agree, to an extent. That issue is sitting in the hopper at my office and I have not been able to crack it open. I don’t really dislike Clapton (from his earlier days, that is), but the notion of him as one of rock’s Top 5 guitarists gets old. I think most of what EVH plays sounds like shit – I don’t care how difficult it is to play and how ground-breaking his early shits were. As much as I love George Harrison and hold him and Lennon high for their taste and rhythmic force in supporting all those great Beatles songs, it may be a slap in the face to any truly hard-working guitarists to have any of them ranked at all. I haven’t looked at the list but my guess is that Critic’s Darling (and my own darling) Tom Verlaine is ranked around #88 while Richard Lloyd is not on the list, as cdm did point out. If that’s the case, as much as I’m a “Verlaine Man” for all my “Winner Rock” leanings, I call Bullshit On that too. Richard Lloyd is a much more forceful, technically skilled guitarist!

    As you know, I’m still of the belief that Hendrix is at least 100 years ahead of everyone else. He hits all the necessary marks: inventiveness, technical skill, soloing, personality, rhythmic range, rock faces (including high marks in both Faces per Note and Notes per Face statistics)… I mean, put any of the 100 greats selected by Rolling Stone against those criteria and tell me if even a half dozen earn even a B+ in each category.

  6. But Keith and Clapton are always going on about how he sounds like 2 or 3 guys playing at once and how they can never figure out what he’s doing. Personally, I can’t figure it out either but there’s no end to the stuff I can’t figure out on the guitar so I guess I’ve always assumed that he was playing very difficult stuff.

    And why shouldn’t his influence and style count?

  7. I’m guessing that when magazines like Guitar World do these lists, Eddie Van Halen is just as likely as Hendrix to land up top.

    I think a lot of modern rock guitar playing is derived from The Edge. He might be the most currently influential.

    More on this top later…

  8. I think I get it. While that generation of English classic rockers might have been genuinely into Robert Johnson, you think they might have played up their enthusiasm a bit in an effort to gain some or the mystery/implied sinister-ness by association?

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Yes! Come on — Jimmy Page, influenced by Robert Johnson?! Only insofar as his “badness” gave young Jimmy the impetus to graduate from argyle sweaters and white loafers to the Nazi SS paraphernalia he wore in support of “Presence.”

    “Presence” — now there’s an album we should be arguing about!

  10. Isn’t saturnismine a fan of that album?

  11. diskojoe

    That’s why I like you, Hank Fan!

  12. Of course this is all subjective, but you asked…..

    Jimi was the greatest guitarist of all time
    I’d put Jeff Beck at #2 even though I am not into fusion
    Eddie VH, Steve Vai, Billy Gibbons, Iomi and Frank Zappa for Rock.
    Buddy Guy and Freddie King for blues (sorry, I know Robert Johnson is the ultimate influence ™ but I don’t get it)
    I’d include Stevie Ray Vaughan even though he didn’t really invent anything. he was just REALLY good at what he did.
    The English guys are still my favorites (Page, Richards, Clapton, Townshend, Taylor, May) and they belong in the top 15.
    Jerry Garcia should be in there somewhere, he was so unique
    Clarence White is pretty bad ass
    Carlos Santana should be in that top 15
    Gary Louris is my wild card
    Ok, so is Nels Cline
    The Edge, i’ll give it to him

    John Lennon and Tom Petty are the greatest Rhythm guitar players in rock

  13. diskojoe

    My comment about Hank Fan aside, I think that Dave Davies has been a bit underrated, especially for his guitar work on those early singles.

    My other fave rave guitarists include Steve Cropper, Loman Pauling of the ’50s R&B band the “5” Royales (Steve Cropper did a tribute album of recently which was a bit “meh”), Curtis Mayfield and Marv Tarplin, who played w/Smokey Robinson & recently died several months ago. Lou Reed was also pretty good w/the VU (“I Heard Her Call My Name” is amazing), but seems to not have played the guitar as much in his solo career.

  14. You have added some really good less-than-flashy guitarists to the discussion! Marv Tarplin, in particular, was nearly unacknowledged throughout his life yet excellent.

  15. mockcarr

    There has to have been a thread about this before. For guys in the list, I’d add James Honeyman-Scott, D. Boon, Mike Campbell and Chuck Berry.

  16. alexmagic

    I’d say there’s a better chance of someone doing a “Best Band” list with the Beatles not at #1 than “Best Guitarist” without Hendrix at #1, sheerly for the page views and comments they’d generate from angry Beatles fans.

    Hendrix just has too many of the boxes ticked for things like influence, actual skill, place in rock history, mythology, etc. to ever move him out of #1. I think it’s a lot easier to imagine a bored editor pulling a “Heh, heh, take THAT, The Beatles!” move than some guitarhead deciding to stick it to Jimi. And to an untrained ear like mine, I’m fine with that, because Hendrix has always been more entertaining to listen to than any of the guys touted as being more technically proficient who might challenge in that area. My Top Ten lead guitarists list would probably weigh pretty heavily towards people who I think just “sounded” great without much consideration for their actual chops.

    I can’t be bothered to go through that tedious slideshow set-up on the Rolling Stone list, but I remember Slash and Prince to be two surprise omissions last time they did one of these, so I am curious to see if they did an about face on either of them.

    #1 Rhythm Guitarist of All Time: Malcolm Young

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    #1 Rhythm Guitarist of All Time: Malcolm Young

    Alex, we REACH! Malcolm would make a fine Veep to the one-day-we’ll-choose-one President of Rock.

  18. Just glanced at the list.

    Sure enough Verlaine was #90, right about where I had him pegged.

    Johhny Marr at #51 doesn’t surprise me, but I still don’t get what’s so special about him. I felt bad for Peter Buck, who seems to waved the same arpeggiated magic 10 years earlier and landed at the back of the list. I will trust you Marr fans.

    They had the good sense to leave off Lita Ford, the Ovation Roundback acoustic rhythm-playing Wilson sister, and any other woman guitarist I would have expected them to feel compelled to add just to make the list a little more balanced.

    Sure enough Harrison was ranked really high. Man, I don’t care how much I love the Beatles, how much I love Harrison’s playing, and how sad it is that he’s dead and was such a great man, he’s not a Top 11 guitarist. Meanwhile, Fripp at #61 or 62 is a joke. How can he not make the top 25?

    Is Steve Howe, maybe my #2 in terms of creativity, even on the list? What’s this world coming to when I have to defend a member of Yes?

    It doesn’t surprise me that Phil Manzanera didn’t make the list, but he should have.

    For lovers of a multitude of nerdy guitarist’s guitarists I’m glad that HVB’s man Rory Gallagher ranked high but disappointed that the likes of my man Bill Nelson and many others didn’t get a sniff.

    Finally, I love Ron Asheton and would have every right to include him in a top 100, but on this list his ranking reeks of a modern-day equivalent of padding one’s cred, the way the British blues guys did with Robert Johnson.

  19. My now I’ve come to the conclusion that Clapton’s assumption to Bestest status was similar to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s: it’s just the closest people had at the time, a God of convenience.

  20. I love Presence! “Achilles Last Stand” is the apotheosis of the LZ sound.

  21. Wouldn’t Guitar World choose someone like Andres Segovia, or maybe some Shrapnel Records best-seller? “Larry Carlton.” I get a Nerd Alert vibe from them.

  22. My favorite Zep album! Love Nobody’s Fault But Mine.

  23. mockcarr

    The thing about Harrison is, what would a “better” guitarist have played, and how would that make the song better?

  24. misterioso

    I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence here, but you all realize how hopeless it is to have such a discussion based on some stupid list, much less a stupid list from stupid Rolling Stone? I am sure you do. Sorry I brought it up.

  25. And his influence cannot be denied, yes? Even in the default kind of way, where simply by dint of being in the Beatles, he’s influential.

  26. I agree completely that Harrison’s contributions to the arrangements were superb, but I doubt he had a free hand in the creation of his parts. Who’s to say McCartney couldn’t have played all those parts and done so a little better? Who’s to say a number of the great British guitarists of that time wouldn’t have done as much with those songs. Maybe it’s like Bernie Williams and his role on the Yankees: was he actually a borderline Hall of Famer or did it just seem that way because of the team he was part of?

  27. pudman13

    You can’t possibly be the “best rhythm guitarist.” Anyone good enough to be the best would graduate to lead. Rhythym guitarists are relief pitchers (i.e. failed starters), except that there’s nobody in Mariano Rivera’s league.

    Is this the place to once again state how much I hate eddie van halen?

  28. pudman13


  29. We do, but I am confident we’re working hard at overcoming the stupidity of this scenario than any other blog out there. Join us, won’t you?

  30. I disagree with your notion of a best rhythm guitarist necessarily “graduating” to lead. I did a whole post once on my feelings about great lead guitarists who are not that good on rhythm, such as Jeff Beck. Pete Townshend, for example, is a great rhythm guitarist but one of the most overrated lead guitarists in rock, even if by default he’s considered a lead guitarist. In other words, his reputation is based around his rhythm playing.

  31. I hope McCartney’s not an RTH lurker, Mr. Mod. If he is, I think you’ve just inspired his new campaign: “Actually, I was the lead guitarist.”

  32. We should do a Once and For All on this topic: Is Keith Richards the rhythm guitarist for the Rolling Stones. I always thought so, but if I remember his autobio correctly, it makes it sound like he was kinda the “lead” player during the Brian Jones era.

  33. Ha – and first Beatles to play a sitar to boot!

  34. Yes, I’ve always been a little confused about that too, even into the Mick Taylor years. I think he was more the lead player (ie, riffs, solos) in the early days, and then there was more of a trade-off with Taylor. During any period, however, I think their guitar parts are typically centered around the rhythmic interplay, with each guitarist having the capability of veering off into a little fill.

  35. pudman13

    Well, I’m being somewhat comical here, but seriously, what’s a great rhythm guitarist other than a great songwriter? Townshend isn’t a great rhythm guitarist. He writes great chord-based riffs. I mean, yeah, I’ve tried and tried and can’t play the triplets Lennon plays on “All My Loving,” and I am duly impressed, but the fact is that the world’s greatest rhythm guitarist could be some guy in a cover band who we’ll never hear. That would never be true of a great lead guitarist (or great jazz guitarist, or great classical guitarist.)

  36. Of course I realize that, but imagine if we start applying that type of thinking to all of posts around here?

  37. I think misterioso is still smarting over that run of songs from the last SNSI. You’ve got to fight through it, misterioso, like Manzarek in the Sans Morrison Doors.

  38. BigSteve

    I think Johnny Marr should be higher.

  39. Pudman, you can repeat your disdain for EVH as much as you would like to. Here’s some things I hate about him:
    – his playing;
    – his claim not to have any influences other than Clapton;
    – his Buttafuco pants;
    – his tone. Seriously, his tone is horrendous and I’ve read interviews with him going off about how great it is. He calls it his Brown Sound. At least he got the color right.

  40. Mr Mod: I am pretty much locked step with you on your remarks.

    Lists are kind of impossible really. Reminds me of Richard Thompson’s songs he sent Playboy for the greatest songs of the millennium list that included songs from the 13th and 15th centuries. They weren’t amused.

    I’m sure few on RS’s list could even play half of the stuff Chet Atkins played. Or even that goof Jerry Reed. Clapton admitted there were ‘cats’ in Nashville that would blow him away. But, conversely, many of the songs I love the most are disarmingly simple. It’s the magic that occurs at the fingertips that makes all the difference. Don’t know what it is, but 100 different guys playing the same thing… and one of those guys will sound so much better than everyone else.

    So f**k RS for even making a list. (But they did get #1 right)

  41. pudman13

    My friend took his son to see Clapton a few years back, and then told his guitar teacher that Clapton ended the concert with “Over the Rainbow.” The guy (a classical/jazz guitarist) said “I bet he sang it better than he played it.”

  42. In supprt of pudman13 I’ll happily throw a few additional things to hate about EVH into the ring:
    – His sleeveless shirts
    – His shit-eating grin while playing all those crap sounds
    – His inability to get along with the best thing going in that band, DLR
    – The fact that he led sweet, young Valerie Bertinelli down a path of abuse, weight gain, and eventual weight loss ad campaigns.

  43. I agree; make him #2!

    Then explain to me why I continue to find Morrissey’s solo records to be pretty decent, whenever I hear them, while continuing to find The Smiths’ records baffling, at best.

  44. hrrundivbakshi

    Oh, come on. EVH’s tone is perfect for what he does. Sure, plug Eric Clapton into an EVH rig — even Hendrix — and they’d sound like crap. But the converse is also true. The fact is, you guys don’t like Ed’s *music*.

    Although I gotta give you mad props for calling out his “Buttafuco pants.” THAT’s the kind of shit that keeps me coming back to the hallowed halls when I really should be working for a living!

  45. hrrundivbakshi

    I have to admit, my chest swelled with pride when I saw Rory featured at #60 or whatever. But the rationalization for his inclusion in the list was idiotic: his touring ethic, and his “tight songwriting.” I love me some Rory, but his songwriting was pretty lame, in an early 70s guitar-rock kind of way.

    For the record, I’m glad Peter Gren still gets props, too. That guy was a monster.

  46. Honestly, HVB, I can appreciate a few early VH songs (eg, “Dance the Night Away”), but wouldn’t they have sounded better if they even sounded as bad as something Boston or even early Foreigner would have produced? (I need to shower after typing that latter band’s name in a positive light.) EVH’s guitar tone (and his brother’s thuddy drums) just seems to make everything worse than it needed to be.

  47. mockcarr

    I don’t deny all this. But can you say that’s not to George’s credit, that he takes direction, and still gives the part(s) personality? We can also play this game with Ringo’s drum parts, or when Lennon wanted to sing one note for Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

    Further, I submit that Keith Richards is a better bass player than Bill Wyman. But, who would care?

  48. mockcarr

    Counterpoint, baby.

  49. It’s totally to George’s credit; that’s why he’s one of my FAVORITE guitarists. I think for the reasons you state he belongs in a Top 50, but he should be toward the end of that list, much like 6th man extraordinaire Bobby Jones’ inclusion on that list of greatest NBA players from about 10 years ago.

  50. mockcarr

    I’m no fan, and many will disagree, but I have to give props to Ed’s brother to not make the drum sound an 80s fiasco in those hit songs.

  51. mockcarr

    Sure. Even Jimmy Stewart could handle it in the Philadelphia Story.

  52. mockcarr

    You do know that Bobby Jones was sixth man because he a glue guy and wasn’t good enough to get starter’s minutes? George had plenty more game than that.

  53. alexmagic

    I hate to give praise to anyone here because I view it as a potential sign of weakness that others might use to try to take me down, but I almost choked on reading “Buttafuco pants”.

    What kind of look were the Van Halen brothers actually going for in the ’80s VH era? The first thing that comes to mind when I think of them is that they looked like the human equivalents of partially smoked cigarettes. Ashtray Chic?

    As for Eddie’s relative talents, while I think Van Halen peaked from a song POV around Fair Warning, both Eddie and Alex probably hit their high points for interesting intstrumental performances on “Hot for Teacher”. This was also Michael Anthony’s peak as a dancer, obviously.

  54. I don’t know, mockcarr, I think my analogy to Jones (former NBA player, non-sports types) was pretty good and only looking better the more I think about it. Who’s the Hall’s resident hoops expert? I want Jones’ ABA career included in the equation.

  55. mockcarr

    I don’t buy it, did he ever carry a team on his own like All Things Must Pass, even if, according to YOU, that’s half bad?

  56. mockcarr

    Ringo was the glue guy in that band. They went nowhere before he got there, Mod.

  57. Happiness Stan

    I just despair when I see these polls. I don’t know if any of you guys and gals get Mojo magazine regularly, I’ve been subscribing to it for about fifteen years now, and the times I come closest to cancelling my subscription is when they run a “100 best songs on side two of an album by a band with five members who started making records in 1968 and had a drummer who died” feature, including contributions from Florence of the Machine, Macca, a stand-up comedian, the bass player from a band I’ve never heard of, Sufjan Stevens, and a member of U2’s rhythm section. It’s a lazy way of filling a load of pages, and makes me quite cross.

    When I was about fifteen, the New Musical Express published a letter which read something like “Jimmy Page plays a lot of notes very fast, but have you ever actually listened to the notes he is playing?”. Later I got into Zep, but I can still understand where the writer was coming from. I feel the same about Hendrix, it’s technically astonishing, but I would never put one of his records on for pleasure (apart from possibly Voodoo Chile). It’s the same reason that I admire and respect John McLaughlin, Santana, Steve Howe, Brian May et al but rather beat myself over the head with a heavy boulder than listen to their music. Tony has convinced me that there is pleasure to be had from some King Crimson, but I am still extremely suspicious about Robert Fripp.

    Dave Gedge was the best rhythm guitarist in the Wedding Present, Townshend the best rhythm guitarist in the Oo, Ian McNabb the best rhythm guitarist in the Icicle Works, Asa Brebner the best rhythm guitarist Jonathan Richman went out on the road with, Marc Bolan the greatest rhythm guitarist T Rex ever had, while Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles, and so on and so on.

    I saw Television three or four times and wouldn’t like to have had to decide on whether Lloyd or Verlaine came out on top at the end, but that’s because they were working together as a unit and for most of the time I was just standing there with my chin on the floor and shivers running up and down my spine for an hour and a half. Music is teamwork, it’s not the bloody Olympic Games.

    Obviously Keef is the greatest rhythm guitarist ever, in terms of influence and shifting units, and I’m not even a very big Stones fan.

    Robyn Hitchcock is an absolutely stellar guitarist, I’ve never seen or heard him miss a beat or hit a wrong note, but he’ll never feature in such lists as these because nobody outside muso-land has heard of him, while the Beatles’ records got played on the radio and they continue to shift squillions of units, and transference of this principle renders the artists in these polls self-sustaining.

  58. Happiness Stan

    That was meant to be down the bottom, one day I’ll get the hang of how these comment things work

  59. misterioso

    cdm, well, yes. But even within the realm of stupidity–a realm I am happy to spend time in–there seem to be some exercises that are more pointlessly stupid than others. And, apparently, I draw the line on Rolling Stone lists.

  60. misterioso

    I wish I could say Ray was an inspiring figure in that regard, but, well, not really.

  61. Happiness Stan

    The Peter Principle describes how in management people get promoted to a grade higher than their competence deserves, which is why the people above you in organisations are uniformly ghastly or useless.

    I think that a great rhythm guitarist would understand their capabilities and recognise exactly where they ought and need to be.

  62. That’s cool, misterioso. I’ve long abided by a “Show Your Work/No Lists for Lists’ Sake” principle (Last Man Standing competitions, which have rules and are for sport, excluded). I hope we continue to be uphold that. Sometimes it’s fun (for some people) to react to a list. People are making the most of this one. I, for instance, feel I’m onto something with my George Harrison/Bobby Jones analogy. I sense an All-NBA/Rock Analogy Team thread in the works, which will possibly brighten someone’s day while raining on another’s. This thread, too, will pass.

  63. Happiness Stan

    With the proviso that Morrissey’s best half-dozen songs could be argued to be as good as the Smiths’ best half-dozen songs, he’s taken nearly a quarter of a century to produce not very much more music than The Smiths made in three years, and once “Suedehead” has cancelled out “What Difference Does It Make”, and “Last of the Gang to Die” has equalised against “This Charming Man”, there are a lot more weapons in the Smiths armoury than in the solo Mozz, I would maintain.

    The Smiths mattered in the UK because there was a generation of kids whose older brothers and sisters had been punks, and all the next generation had was The Thompson Twins, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Kajagoogoo representing the dog-ends of the Second Coming of Glam, with the least interesting half of the Human League accompanied by two hairdressing students battling it out with Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark making records which people bought because they thought they ought to like them even though they were pants.

    And then all of a sudden along came this guy with bunches of flowers hanging out of his trousers and a hearing aid, banging on about being miserable, which was not a difficult state of mind to achieve during the evil witch Thatcher’s reign at the height of the miner’s strike, accompanied by a rhythm section who could have given Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman a run for their money, and Johnny Marr, who looked like Roger McGuinn and played jingly-jangly guitar well enough to get people to notice that they hadn’t heard a guitar played well for about five years. They were absolutely stellar live, they released a new single every six weeks or so with three tracks on the 12″ as good as the “a” side, and didn’t let up until “Ask”, when at least one of the wheels seemed to fall off.

    That doesn’t necessarily make Johnny Marr a guitarist deserving of being placed above #51. I can’t be bothered to keep clicking through the list to see who’s where, but up until the point where I lost interest most of these guys are there because they were in the right place at the right time and sold more records than anyone else, or were raved about by the guys who sold the records.

    I saw them at a free festival in London just about the time Meat is Murder was released, and they were absolutely stunning, there was no-one who could even get close to touching them in the UK at the time, and looking back nearly thirty years I can still feel what it felt like to be there, as a deeply non-religious person then and now it is what I imagine believers hope to experience through devotion. And that’s why Johnny Marr is up there, he was very, very good, but also very lucky.

  64. cliff sovinsanity

    I could give you my opinion on this subject but David Fricke beat me to the punch with a better list from a few years back.

    Am I crazy for thinking Rick Neilsen should be on these lists?

  65. Happiness Stan

    Unless I just used to hang out with unusually esoteric people, it is pretty hard to grow up in England without at least having a crack at reading Aleister Crowley, or wanting to listen to the bizarre album made by Alex Sanders (the King of the Witches). Or both. And have a go at learning conjuring tricks. And if you’re English and into the blues then RJ is required listening, probably more for the legend than the music itself in most cases.

    Admittedly I grew up about three miles from where Crowley died and ten miles from where Sanders lived out his last years, but you only need to watch the classic Hammer horror films to see where British kids got their kicks during the fifties and sixties. Ghost stories and other means of scaring oneself witless are as ingrained as food and water.

    Add to the mix the legend of a guy who was supposed to have sold his soul to the Devil, got murdered in his twenties having recorded just 29 songs which sound as if they’ve been dragged out of the ground just as the last shovelfuls of earth were being put back to make sure he stayed down, and you’ve got a pretty heady mixture for young British kids to get their heads around. On the back of that, his recordings were released in the UK in 1961, just as the Stones, Clapton, Page, the Yardbirds et al were all foraging around for whatever authentic blues they could lay their hands on – it must have been like the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897 all over again.

  66. I like Johnny Marr — and along the lines the Led Zep “Presence” discussion — his record from 2002– Boomslang remains near the top of the CD stacks at my house. For a nice groove check out The Last Ride and You Are The Magic from that album. Not so great live, but a fantastic headphones album.

  67. misterioso

    Following a great deal of reflection and consultation with my spiritual advisers, I am prepared to say that only by flipping a coin could I decide whether to be condemned to an eternity of Kajagoogoo or The Smiths.

  68. misterioso

    I always kinda liked Bobby Jones, but my most fond memory of him is trying to inbound the ball as the Celtics defeated the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, capping a comeback from being down 3-1. Relive the moment here!

  69. As always, a much-needed dose of perspective!

  70. You’ve reminded me of this heart-breaking moment in Sixers history, a game which Young Andyr and I were at:

    I hated the Celtics, but I liked a lot of their players back then. Bobby Jones would have fit in with all those white boys.

  71. So glad to finally hear a measured, impassioned defense of the Smiths from someone who witnessed their rise. Well done, Stan.

  72. 2000 Man

    No way. There’s so many great lead guitarists. I’ve seen plenty of local metal bands with guys just like Yngwie Malmseen, but they just never really had the killer song, or right connection. Same with blues guys. One of the best guitar players I ever saw was some kid at the Can Tab Tavern in Cambridge. It was an open mic night and the kid wasn’t 21 but they let him in and he brought the house down. Not by being awesome for a teenager, but by just being fantastic. There’s a lot of luck, breaks and sheer determination into getting heard, no matter how good you are.

  73. 2000 Man

    I thought this was dumb, but it gave me something to talk about with my son, who hasn’t heard a lot of people on the list. He said it looked like a “bunch of old farts” made it. He wanted to know where Omar Rodriguez Lopez from Mars Volta and At the Drive In was. I’m not a big fan, but he’s got a point, that guy is wildly inventive and he’s influencing a whole lot of 23 year olds.

    Why is it that it’s 98% Rock guitar players? I’m okay with making it a Rock list, but if you’re going to include some other genres, then include them all. Granted, then a guy like Johnny Marr won’t be anywhere near the list, and Stevie Ray Vaughan is in the bottom 50, but I’m pretty sure there’s some Jazz guys that can play circles around almost anyone in Rock. And I think Carrie Brownstein should have made the list. She kicks ass.

  74. BigSteve

    I think the only person ahead of Marr on the list who’s younger than he is is Derek Trucks, who for obvious reasons doesn’t count. Ok Johnny Greenwood is there, another token. I mean, the list is mostly older than me, and that’s old.

  75. trigmogigmo

    You are certainly not crazy. That omission is a Rock Misdemeanor! (Not a crime given the silliness of such lists.)

    I do find the newer list linked in the main post generally better than Fricke’s which misses a few of my favorites.

  76. H. Munster

    Marshall Crenshaw and Poison Ivy Rorschach never make any of these lists but I like listen to their guitar work better than any one else’s other than Keith Richards.

  77. diskojoe

    Hey, Mr. Mod, was this guy one of the reasons you hated the Celts back in the day?:

  78. Johnny Marr has some serious chops: “How Soon Is Now” alone would warrant his inclusion.

    Glad there are votes for Clarence White and Jerry Garcia: whose best performances are not immediately available (pretty much all of White’s highlights are as a session man, Garcia’s on live bootlegs).

    I too don’t understand the accolades for EVH. Everything he did, Adrian Belew did better, and on much better songs.

  79. misterioso

    Loved Jo Jo White. The Celts were in decline by 1977, though. Surely they lost that series?

  80. No, I just hated them because they were the dynasty team of the NBA and had that arrogant, cigar-chomping coach, Red Auerbach. I especially liked the players on the pre-Bird teams of the mid- to late-’70s: Cowens and that bunch. I just hated them when they played the Sixers.

  81. trigmogigmo

    Belew — Another glaring omission from the lists!

    Although I love “How Soon Is Now”, I’m not sure I hear serious chops on that song. It’s great, but I hear lots of super cool atmospheric tone and effects on an uncomplicated part. What am I missing? (It’s kind of like Edge — he definitely warrants inclusion for what he has done, but I think what makes him great is his invention, uniqueness of sound, distinctive memorable parts, and great application of tools, not any particularly mind blowing playing technique.)

  82. Well, “How Soon Is Now,” for me, is the epitome of post-guitar hero playing: the harmonic figures are quite complicated (unlike the simplistic drones used by Edge)– though it could be argued that Marr does more arranging than “playing” on the song. Marr does show off his mastery of more traditional picking on songs like “Reel around the Fountain” and “This Charming Man.”

  83. 2000 Man

    Hey, this makes me think of a question for the guitar players out there. Why is Neil Young on the list? I think he’s a great artist, writes often brilliant songs and is consistently good when he wants to be and consistently weird when he doesn’t. But is he a great guitar player? I like a lot of his stuff, but to me a guy like Jimi Or Joe Walsh doesn’t even sound like they’re playing a guitar. It’s like it’s just a part of them that sounds like a guitar. Neil has always sounded like he’s playing a guitar to me (especially electric) and it often sounds like he is thinking about how he wants things to go while he’s playing. I never get that impression from the people that really blow me away. It sounds like it just comes out that way.

    Does that make any sense?

  84. More than any other guitarist, such as Ron Asheton, I think Young’s status as a guitarist is owing to the fact that he’s highly distinctive and expressive while being technically no better than most dudes who take the time to actually practice the guitar. He’s an Everyman Guitar Hero, a Pete Rose or Rocky of the axe.

  85. Regarding rhythm players, Gibson posted a top ten list, and had Keith at the top. I agree with his #1 status, personally, but have some issues with some of the others…

  86. That’s a worthy, concise list, giving proper acclaim to some guitarists who really do excel because of their rhythm work.

  87. jeangray


    While I was reading the comments on the rhythm players list, I assumed that this page was from several years ago due to the “Pete the pedophile” references, but was shocked to find out that it only was posted in Oct. of this year. Obviously not everyone has moved on when it comes to that subject.

  88. jeangray

    Good call on Adrien Belew — he’s in my Top 5, but I still canna fathom the adulation that Marr gets. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the Smiths, or some of Marr’s other work, I just literally cannot hear what all the fuss is about his playing. He sounds like your average Rock guitarist to my ears.

  89. tonyola

    Angus Young is at #24 while Robert Fripp is at #62 and John McLaughlin is at #68. Also, as trigmogigmo pointed out, Adrian Belew didn’t even appear. All that tells me everything I need to know about this stupid list.

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