Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Greatest Rock N Roll Guitar Riffs - 1-50

OK, so I'm gonna list what I consider to be the greatest rock guitar riffs of all time. Now remember, this is MY list... and some of you wont agree; but that's how it goes. I looked for more than just the riff alone; I looked for things like the ability of the guitarist, the licks, the overall blend of the riff with the song, and you'll also notice that I drifted away from most of the other lists out there that place Smoke on the Water as number 1. This is nothing against Deep Purple or Ritchie Blackmore... I think they're awesome. I just felt that it truly wasn't the greatest riff. It may be the most well known, but that doesn't make it the best.
Most riffs are simple chords, mostly power chords... and it's what an artist does with that simplicity that makes a great riff. Keep in mind that this is a rock list and there are other great riffs out there, but they didn't fit into the genre. Although I did have to include Bo Diddley... because any kind of "riff" list wouldn't be a list without him. I also included the year the songs were released, as well as the guitarist(s).

  1. Derek and the Dominos - Layla (1971) Eric Clapton, Duane Allman
  2. The Beatles - Day Tripper (1965) George Harrison
  3. Black Sabbath - Iron Man (1971) Tony Iommi
  4. Cream - Sunshine of Your Love (1968) Eric Clapton
  5. The Beatles - I Feel Fine (1964) John Lennon
  6. Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode (1958) Chuck Berry
  7. Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (1965) Keith Richards
  8. AC/DC - Back In Black (1980) Angus Young, Malcolm Young
  9. Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman (1964) Roy Oribison
  10. Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train (1980) Randy Rhoads
  11. Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970) Tony Iommi
  12. Rolling Stones - Jumpin' Jack Flash (1968) Keith Richards, Brian Jones
  13. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama (1974) Gary Rossington, Allen Collins
  14. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Purple Haze (1967) Jimi Hendrix
  15. Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986) Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield
  16. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine (1987) Slash
  17. Led Zeppelin - Heartbreaker (1969) Jimmy Page
  18. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968) Jimi Hendrix
  19. AC/DC - Hells Bells (1980) Angus Young, Malcolm Young
  20. Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water (1971) Ritchie Blackmore
  21. Iron Butterfly - In A Gadda Da Vida (1968) Eric Brann
  22. David Bowie - Rebel, Rebel (1974) David Bowie
  23. Metallica - Enter Sandman (1991) Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield
  24. Aerosmith - Walk This Way (1975) Joe Perry
  25. Eddie Cochran - Summertime Blues (1958) Eddie Cochran
  26. The Animals - House of the Rising Sun (1964) Hilton Valentine
  27. The Kinks - You Really Got Me (1964) Dave Davies
  28. ZZ Top - La Grange (1973) Billy Gibbons
  29. Soundgarden - Outshined (1991) Kim Thayil
  30. Metallica - One (1989) James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett
  31. Dire Straits - Money For Nothing (1984) Mark Knopfler
  32. Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar (1971) Keith Richards
  33. The Guess Who - American Woman (1970) Randy Bachman, Greg Leskiw
  34. Led Zeppelin - Black Dog (1971) Jimmy Page
  35. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - I Love Rock N Roll (1982) Ricky Byrd, Joan Jett
  36. Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley (1958) Bo Diddley
  37. The Troggs - Wild Thing (1966) Chris Britton
  38. Kiss - Heaven's On Fire (1985) Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley
  39. Tommy Tutone - 867-5309 (Jenny) (1982) Tommy Tutone
  40. Led Zeppelin - D'yer Mak'er (1971) Jimmy Page
  41. AC/DC - You Shook Me All Night Long (1980) Angus Young, Malcolm Young
  42. Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son (1976) Rich Williams
  43. Ozzy Osbourne - Mr. Crowley (1980) Randy Rhoads
  44. Pearl Jam - Alive (1991) Mike McCready
  45. Ratt - Round and Round (1984)
  46. Asia - Heat of the Moment (1982)
  47. Joe Walsh - Life's Been Good (1978) Joe Walsh
  48. Eric Clapton - Cocaine (1976) Eric Clapton
  49. Molly Hatchett - Flirting With Disaster (1980) Charlie Hargrett
  50. The Eagles - Life In The Fast Lane (1977) Don Felder, Joe Walsh
  51. Meat Puppets - Backwater (1994) Curt Kirkwood

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Being what some would call a youngster, I was practically weened on 80's music. It was my time, my generation. My childhood wasn't bad, but due to having divorced parents, both working all the time, and being the youngest of three, I spent a lot of time alone during the week. Music and TV was what I enjoyed the most; specifically music. I was fascinated with it and found myself straining to hear the little nuances, the things that weren't always so obvious and sometimes not really meant to be heard. I listened over and over to learn the lyrics and tried to decipher the meanings. I found many artists and many songs that fit my personality. On the same token, that music was able to alter my mood, bring me up when I needed it, and even be my companion during trying times, like the inception of my first "puppy" love and the inevitable ending. Man, I remember silently boo-hooing listening to Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn". Wow, embarrassing times! My point is that the 80's gave us some of the most influential music of all times with some of the most intense lyrics... lyrics that inspire, console, comfort, entertain, mystify, hypnotize, amaze and scream joy and happiness.

When I remember those times, the first name that comes to mind is a little band from Athens, Georgia called R.E.M. Formed by Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry in 1980. Recognized as the pioneer of the "Alternative Rock" scene, they are the most successful musical act of the genre. R.E.M. is a very personal, very intense band and their powerful lyrics could be labeled as prosaic mixed with a bit of poetic tendencies at times. They could be purely inspirational, or they could be dark and mysterious. The lyrical meaning and style is different for each person, as with all music. But one thing is unanomously undeniable: their lyrics are ingenious. Though all band members contributed to the lyrics, Michael Stipe handled the majority and is one of the very best songwriters in the history of music... of all genres. He has also been stated as being inspired by one of my favorite muscians/songwriters: John Lennon.

Stipe's vocals are always perfect and his stage presence, energy and charismatic manner puts him in the company of great frontmen like Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey and Michael Hutchence. But it's not only the lyrics that made R.E.M. a legend, it's also Peter Buck's Byrds-esque ringing guitar riffs, Mike Mills' melodic, Paul McCartney-inspired bass lines and backing vocals and Bill Berry's snapping drum lines (until his departure in 1997).

Their first commercial release was Radio Free Europe in 1981, which reached #25 on the Mainstream Rock charts. The first full length EP was the highly acclaimed Murmur, which reached #36 on the Billboard charts and was RIAA Certified Gold.

This opened the door and proved that R.E.M. was here to stay. They enjoyed several more hits, including "Can't Get There From Here" in 1986 (#5) and "Superman" in 1986 (#17). Following years of underground success, they entered the mainstream rock scene in 1987 with the hit "The One I Love" (#2). They signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1988.

1988 also saw the release of the singles "Stand" and "Orange Crush", both reaching #1 on the charts and the album "Green" which reached #12 and was certified RIAA 2X platinum. Other releases were "Pop Song 89" and "Get Up".

Their biggest succes came in 1991 with the release of the album "Out of Time", which hit #1 on Billboards charts in the U.S. and in the U.K. and was also certified 4X platinum, selling over 10 million copies. It was also cited as the 37th greatest album of all time. The most successful singles were "Shiny Happy People" (#6) and "Losing My Religion" (#1). The album won 3 Grammy's in 1992: One for The Best Alternative Rock Album and 2 for "Losing My Relgion". "Shiny Happy People" also featured Katie Pierson of The B-52's as guest backing vocals.

In 1992 came the release of Automatic For The People, a #2 U.S. (#1 U.K.) and 4X platinum album featuring the hit singles "Drive" (#2), "Ignoreland" (#4), "Man On The Moon" (#4), "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" (#28) and the epic "Everybody Hurts". Mostly acoustic and typified by its dark lyrics (many of which ruminate on mortality, death and those departed), Automatic for the People is generally considered to be among R.E.M.'s best albums, and one of the finest releases of the 1990s. It is the 44th greatest album of all time according to the website Acclaimedmusic.net and 4th best of the 1990s. It was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1993. Bono, of U2, called it "The greatest country record never made".

"Monster" was released in 1994 and went straight to #1 and RIAA certified 4X platinum. "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" (#2), "Star 69" (#15), "Band and Blame" (#4) and "Strange Currencies" (#8) were among the most successful singles. It is their most guitar-heavy album to date, with glam/70s rock and grunge influences. It is also very multi-layered, with references to projected images, both in the media and in personal identity, particularly in terms of sexuality.

Five other albums followed: "New Adventures In Hi-Fi" in 1996 (#2 U.S./#1 U.K.), "Up" in 1998 (#3 U.S./#2 U.K.), "Reveal" in 2001 (#6 U.S./#1 U.K.), "Around The Sun" in 2004 (#13 U.S./#1 U.K.) and "Accelerate" in 2008 (#2 U.S./#1 U.K.).

Some of the most questioned lyrical content came with the release of "E-Bow The Letter" from "New Adventures In Hi-Fi". There have been many speculations on the meaning of the strange acronymical lyrics, however, few have interpreted it as intended. While we'll never know what was in Stipe's head at the time, I have come up with what I believe to be an accurate interpretation.
First, the "E-Bow" part of the name comes from an actual E-Bow; a device that generates distortion when played through a guitar. The letter part is just that: a letter. It is well-known that Mishael Stipes and River Phoenix were good friends. Michael began to notice that River's drug abuse had gotten out of hand. He tried many times to help but River refused to admit that he had a problem. Michael wrote a poetic letter for him explaining how easily you can get caught-up in the drug lifestyle when fame comes your way. There are many overt references to fairly obscure drugs; spanish fly, cherry mash, seconal, absinthe, kerosene. Tinfoil tiaras are used for taking some drugs, and when taken, he tastes the aluminium which is, as stated, analogous with fear. The song can be seen as a warning of the dangerous mix of celebrities and drugs, or anyone for that matter. The sad part is that Michael was never able to deliver the letter to River before the drugs took his life.

I will continue in another post at a later time. Hope you all enjoy!

The Human League

Originally formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England by Philip Oakey, The Human League became one of the essential icons of the 80's New Wave scene. Their music has stood the test of time and has been wildly influential for many artists, including Robbie Williams, Ministry of Sound, Madonna and Moby.

They released their first single, Being Bolied, in 1978. Because "Being Boiled" was unique and oddly different than the music of that time, it saw limited airplay. In 1979 they released their first full length vinyl, an EP titled "The Dignity of Labour". Though the album was not very successful commercially and barely made it onto the charts, it did prove to be a success in its own right. The EP began to get the attention of major record labels. Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Records, made an impressive offer, which was quickly accepted.

In 1980, the band endured its first turmoil. Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, 2 of the founding members, decided to leave, stating irreconcilable differences as to the future musical direction of the band. Oakey retained the band's name, but at a very high price.

In an event that is now firmly embedded in popular folklore and regularly repeated by the media, Oakey and his then girlfriend went into Sheffield city centre on a Wednesday night with the intention of recruiting a single female backing vocalist. After looking in various venues, they visited the Crazy Daisy Nightclub on High Street where Oakey spotted two teenage girls dancing together on the dance floor. Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall were 17 year old schoolgirls on a night out together. Neither had any experience of singing or dancing professionally. With no preamble, Oakey asked both girls to join the tour as dancers and incidental vocalists. He states that when he found out their age and that they were best friends, he revised his plan for a single female and decided that the two girls could look after each other on the tour. Originally just wanting a single female singer to replace the high backing vocals originally provided by Martyn Ware, he says that he thought having two female vocalists/dancers would also add potential glamour to the band. Because of the girls' ages, Oakey and Wright later had to visit Sulley and Catherall’s respective parents to obtain permission for the girls to go the tour.

1981 marked the beginning of the bands most successful period, including the release of the multi-million selling ablum "Dare" and the 2X platinum selling single, "Dont You Want Me". Capitalizing on the singles huge success and "number one" status, "Being Boiled" was re-released in 1982 and quickly became a top 10 hit.

The Human League's work was now recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. In February 1983, the band was nominated for the Best New Artist award at the 25th annual Grammy Awards. The follow-up single, "(Keep Feeling) Fascination", was released in April 1983 and peaked at no.2 in the UK. The following months proved to be difficult ones for the band as they struggled to record a follow-up album to Dare under immense pressure from Virgin. A six song EP called Fascination! comprising of the singles "Mirror Man" and "Fascination" together with the new track "I Love You Too Much" was released from the original recording sessions for their new album, later to be named Hysteria. The EP was released in America as a stop-gap and also became a strong seller as an import in the UK.

The Human League are currently unsigned to a record label and is run as a self-contained business with its own studio in Sheffield. Since late 1994 they have been managed by Simon Watson of Sidewinder Management.
The band continue playing live, with continuing appearances at music festivals worldwide at many of which they are among the headliners.
Although the subject of retirement is often brought up in interviews, Oakey, Sulley and Catherall have all stated that they still enjoy performing and intend to carry on for "as long as they are filling concerts and people want to see them". Sulley often jokes that she "has to carry on because she doesn’t know how to do anything else."
Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley have all stated separately that it is the intention for the band to release a tenth studio album "in the near future". However, no details or timescale have been given. On possible collaborations, Oakey stated on BBC TV News and to NME that "we have a lot of people that want to make records with us."

Don't You Want Me - 1981

(Keep Feeling) Fascination - 1983