Aug 302008

Geo’s comment yesterday about Garcia being “generally incapable of executing a gripping short rock solo” brought this topic to mind.

I’ve long held that Bill Pitcock’s solo on the Dwight Twilley Band’s “I’m On Fire” is the world’s shortest guitar solo. Check it out at about 1:15.


It’s either the world’s shortest guitar solo or simply the world’s greatest shortest guitar solo. Can you think of a shorter one? Failing that, what would be your vote for the gold medal in the “gripping short rock solo” event, guitar division? [The emphasis here is on short.]

And btw the battered 45 transfer in that youtube wasn’t such a great sounding version of the track. If you don’t already own it, go out immediately and get yourself a copy of Twilley’s immortal first album Sincerely. And then just go ahead and get the very fine follow-up Twilley Don’t Mind. They were two of the records that gave my life meaning in the 76-77 time frame, when I was struggling with the fact that I was socially, emotionally, philisophically, theolgically, pscychologically, ethically, morally askew. I have long since stopped struggling.

In the meantime check this out:


This is a live take of I’m on Fire from 82/83 or so, not the original band (no Phil Seymour) but that apparently is Bill Pitcock reprising his legendary solo. How much of a rock nerd am I that I recognized Susan Cowsill as the background singer before I saw it confirmed in the documentation? Dig the very askew bass player!


  19 Responses to “World’s Shortest Guitar Solo!”

  1. 2000 Man

    I love those two albums! I just found them not too long ago on cd, and they were both together on a single disk with some bonus tracks and a booklet with a lengthy essay in it. They used to play the song TV around here a lot, too. I just had a conversation with a guy not long ago and he was saying I hated classic rock, but I said that I had just picked up a Flamin’ Groovies album, an Iron City Houserockers album and that twofer by Dwight Twilley. He said they weren’t classic rock because no one ever heard of any of them, and when I told him I’m On Fire went Top 20 in the US he just muttered something under his breath. I think we just listened to different classic rock bands.

    I don’t know if you’ll find a shorter solo or not, but that second and a half is just perfect for that song.

  2. Not really a comment on the solo (I’ve always been a fan of “Sedated” by the Ramones. One note, economical.) but a comment on Twilley!

    I was turned on to Twilley in my nubile power pop days by Greg Cartwright (of Reigning Sound fame, anybody know them?). He saw my green face and immediately began selling me on some gems. Sincerely is one of them. It’s perfect mix of sun-style rockablilly and Beatle/Big Star power pop. High fives for Twilley, he don’t mind.


  3. I have never known a more precipitous drop-off in talent than Dwight Twilley: “I’m On Fire,” the a-side of his very first single, is brilliant. Everything else he has ever done after that three minutes has been shit, including that single’s b-side.

  4. BigSteve

    Cinnamon Girl is another song where the guitar ‘solo’ consists of one note.

  5. I think once it gets that short, it’s not even a guitar solo. More like a guitar fill.

  6. 2000 Man

    TB, I’m a big fan of Greg Cartwright. When I bought Reignign Sound’s Too Much Guitar, I got the only copy in the store. That day John Doe was playing next door to my record store and he went in to buy some cd’s. He wanted that one, and I had bought it. I forget what the other one was that day, but I bought John’s second choice, too. So for awhile I’d walk in and say, “What music should I hip John Doe to this week?”

    I’m not very cool.

  7. Also, that is Susan’s brother, John (who now plays drums for Mike Love’s Beach Boys Band) on drums. Susan and Dwight had a “thing” for awhile before Dwight eventually married her brother John’s significant other, Jan.

  8. I’m gonna have to quibble with The Great 48, since I’m firmly convinced that “Looking For The Magic” on “Twilley Don’t Mind” is the best thing he did. I only got into the Dwight a few years ago, but I do have two copies of “Jungle,” if that makes a difference.

    I have never been able to find a copy of Phil Seymour 2, but the first one is also great in that (obviously) Twilley-esque slowish rock that people associate with power pop for some reason.

    Back to the point of the post: Poison Ivy of The Cramps was once referred to as “The Queen Of The One-String Guitar Solo.” So, y’know…you might consider the intro to “Goo Goo Muck” to be a qualifier here.

  9. BigSteve

    sourbob wrote sweetly:

    I think once it gets that short, it’s not even a guitar solo. More like a guitar fill.

    No, fills jump into little corners of a song as it’s rolling along. In this case the rhythmic and chordal structure of the song drive your attention towards the brief solo. Plus the sheer number of notes in the one and half seconds qualifies it as a solo.

    And btw my request for suggestions was based on Geo’s use of the term “gripping short rock solo.” I doubt anyone is going to come up with something as short as the on in I’m On Fire (though enlighten me if you can), but I was asking for others to nominate favorite gripping and concise solos, radical brevity not required.

    Like the eight-bar masterpiece in Nowhere Man.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    Nowhere near as short as your example, BigSteve, but the mini-solos in Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ “The Blank Generation” are the first two awesome short solos that come to mind.

    IF you consider it a solo, may I nominate the unbending of a note in the middle of The Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling”? That part constantly amazes me.

    There’s another short solo on the tip of my mind, but I can’t quite place it yet.

  11. BigSteve

    I’ve Got a Feeling is a good one. It’s certainly a solo rather than a fill in the same sense I’m On Fire’s is (except for the whole number of notes issue). In general I have no use for late period Beatles, but I always liked that song.

  12. That Twilley moment is NOT a solo. Just a “fill”.

    The most awesome of short guitar solos is by Andy Summers in the Police track “Driven to Tears.” It is important because generally he and the Police are not known for guitar solos…

  13. BigSteve

    Another reason the bit in I’m On Fire is a solo is that it fits the original, literal meaning of the term — ‘alone,’ i.e., unaccompanied by other instruments. Most examples of what we call solos are more appropriately called leads or breaks. The bit in I’ve Got Feeling is also ‘solo.’

    I hadn’t heard Driven to Tears in ages, but that is a nice, concise eight-bar lead guitar break. Here’s another one — Dave Davies in Till the End of the Day.

  14. It’s an amazing guitar part, but it’s too early in the song to be a solo…no?

    Hey 2000Man;
    My friend Jason from the Pittsburg area had never heard “Ventura Highway” although he had grown up listening to classic rock stations all his life. He was plenty familiar with “Horse With No Name” but in Pittsburg, the other America song the classic stations play to death is “Tin Man”.
    I guess what I’m saying is, there are slight variances on what songs get overplayed on the radio depending on where you might be located

    Billy Idol records have the best solos. They’re not short at all.

    Where the fuck is my Don Felder book?

  15. 2000 Man

    shawnkilroy, I know exactly what you mean. If the world were still like that with radio stations, I wouldn’t have a satellite radio. here in Cleveland, since The Outsiders came from here, Time Won’t Let Me gets played constantly around here. You would think it must have hit number one in different years. But a Top 20 song should have gotten play in every major market. Maybe not much, but at least something. Whether or not anyone would remember it is another thing. I wonder if there were more songs that hit the charts than there are these days.

    You don’t really want a Don Felder book, do you? I avoided the thread just in case someone made a mistake and thought I wanted one. It would kill my reputation if an Eagles book showed up here!

  16. BigSteve

    That’s an interesting idea, shawn, that solos should, or at least usually do, take place in the latter part of the song.

    I looked up ‘fill’ in the wikipedia, and it says:

    In popular music, a fill is a short musical passage, riff, or rhythmic sound which helps to sustain the listener’s attention during a break between the phrases of a melody.

    And then later:

    Fills are distinguished from solo breaks, which are short, often unaccompanied solo passages interpolated between sections of a song.

    The bits in I’m on Fire and I Got a Feeling are definitely between different sections of the song and not just inserted between phrases of the melody. And then there’s a further distinction:

    Fill passages are also distinguished from “lead” passages, in which a musical instrument becomes a melodic substitute for the singer for a substantial period, and from solos such as guitar solos.

    This is usually what we think of as a ‘solo,’ guitar licks over the chord changes of the verse. You don’t have to agree with the anonymous wikipedist, but I find the distinctions interesting.

  17. i sure as shit DO want my Felder book!
    I’m gonna blow through that fucker with mad glee!
    the last 5 books i read and liked were all rock bios.
    Can’t friggin wait.
    I like Depeche Mode and Disco Streisand.
    My reputation’s already shot.
    You know that!

    BigSteve, I do agree with the anonymous wikapediast.

  18. Mr. Moderator

    Funny that “Driven to Tears” is mentioned. I hadn’t heard that song in years until last night, when I had to run my boy to the bathroom in the middle of “The Rocker”. This theater was playing pretty good lobby music when we bought our popcorn (I’m afraid “Public Lobby and Restroom Music” is my new specialty). My boy’s taking a leak and Andy Summers’ solo on “Driven to Tears” blasts forth. “The Rocker” was pretty good and sweet, by the way. The last actor listed in the credits was “Pete Best”! I didn’t catch his cameo, but I thought that was cool.

  19. It’s a guitar fill on the 4 chord rest, not a solo

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