Guitar Heroes

You'll love it. It's a way of life...

Those immortal words from Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage still ring true now, though I think that rock is not what it used to be.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are some really good musicians out there nowadays, but there's nothing like Deep Purple, Rainbow, UFO, Queen (with the late lamented Freddie of course), Michael Schenker Group, Scorpions, Van Halen...

God those names take me back.

It's the late seventies and I'm in a bikers/rock club just off Brighton sea front. The DJ has just got himself together with 'Shine on you crazy diamond' by Pink Floyd from Wish You Were Here and I would put in my two requests of the evening: The Devil's Food - Alice Cooper and Runnin' with the Devil - Van Halen.

The rest of the evening was filled with Long Live Rock 'n' Roll - Rainbow, Doctor, Doctor - UFO and even Jeff Beck's Hi-Ho Silver Lining.

Those were the days.

I did love it. It was my way with the long hair (which is still to this day, half way down my back, which as I'm six feet three, is a hell of a long way!), I still favour the biker jacket and my favourite scent is patchouli.

Okay, so by today's standards, I maybe an anachronism, but all the tracks mentioned above are still popular to this day and we're talking over thirty years later.

So who are my heroes?

Read on and find out...

Richie in the seventies
Richie in the seventies

Richie Blackmore

I suspect he was my first real guitar hero.

1970's Top of the Pops featured this hairy bunch of hippy-looking guys called Deep Purple, with Ian Gillan screaming through the lyrics of Black Night and my ears pricked up.

In my home at the time, Elvis was the mainstay and whilst I didn't dislike him or Glenn Campbel, Bread or any of the other MOR bands my mum listened to, this to me was like a breath of fresh air.

At the ripe old age of nine or ten, I was hooked.

Blackmore didn't stop at Deep Purple, forming another band in 1975 called Rainbow and it was this band that really cemented my affiliation with rock music.

His fast technical style and teeth-jangling distortion along with the pounding drums of another favourite - Cozy Powell (whom I met at a production saloon car round at Brands Hatch), really symbolised for me, the sheer power that could come from music.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Black Night
  • Smoke On The Water
  • Stargazer
  • Long Live Rock And Roll

It is only my opinion, but after about 1979, Rainbow weren't the band they had been and for me, Graham Bonnet spelt disaster. Still, we're here celebrating guitar heroes and not the bands themselves - well sort of.

Jimmy Page

Of course, what rock enthusiast hasn't heard of Led Zeppelin?

The owner of Music City - a musical instrument shop in London - has banned anyone fro trying a guitar out in his shop with Stairway To Heaven.

The track came from Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971, making it thirty-eight years old and it's still requested around the world even now.

When I heard Physical Graffiti I couldn't believe my ears. As Kashmir started, I could feel the hairs on my body stand up and I was a dyed in the wool convert. Another band to add to my list of all-time greats.

Page's band membership wasn't only Led Zeppelin, but included the Yardbirds, the Honeydrippers, the Firm, Coverdale-Page, Page and Plant and XYZ.

More recently, he played at the closing ceremony at the end of the Beijing Olympics, ripping out a wicked version of "Whole Lot of Love" with Leona Lewis from the top of a double-decker London bus, which probably confused the Chinese somewhat.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Stairway To Heaven
  • Kashmir
  • Ten Years Gone
  • Bron Yr Aur Stomp - which is actually incorrect on Wikipedia as they said it's from Houses of the Holy and has John Bonham playing spoons. If there are any spoons on the Physical Graffiiti track, I'll eat my hat. Oddly, the track does not appear in the track listing for Houses of the Holy... Go figure.

Carlos Santana

In 1970, Santana released Abraxas and one of the songs that seemed to get played an awful lot was Oi Como Va, which on some of the releases of the single, had Samba Pa Ti on the other side.

The Latin American rhythms coupled with the extreme guitar playing of Carlos made this band stand out like a beacon.

It is said that Santana's band had the tightest rhythm section of any band out there, but I felt that what made this band stand out even more, was the guitar playing of Carlos himself. After all, without his innovative style, Santana would probably just have been an okay Salsa beat combo.

Of course, Carlos was one of the forerunners of the long, drawn-out guitar solo, but since most people including Carlos himself, were high on one thing or another, it didn't seem to matter, but that changed.

Nevertheless, the warm sound of Carlos' guitar still hits all the right spots for me and whilst I can't say I like everything he and the band have produced, there;s more that I like that that which I don't.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Samba Pa Ti
  • Incident at Neshabur
  • Black Magic Woman
  • Europa
  • Smooth (Collaborating with Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty)
  • Maria Maria (Collaborating with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees)

Frank Zappa

The moustache and goatee are the trademark of this outstanding musician.

Frank Zappa is one of those people who challenged everything and whilst it may have appeared as though he was one of the hippy acid-freaks, he didn't do drugs. Mind you, when your music is that challenging to listen to let alone play, I suspect keeping it together is a must and besides, if your mind is already that far left of centre, its doubtful that drugs would do anything at all.

As other guitarists were going off on one, caught up in the moment and dragging their solos out ad infinitum - or until the meter ran out, Frank had carefully composed and measured solos, that whilst the live performances did seem to have a certain amount of spontaneity about them, it was apparent from the way he conducted the other musicians, that these were minimal. Not that it detracted from the performance of course.

After hearing the 1976 album Zoot Allures, I was confused.

Music was supposed to be serious, wasn't it?

This guy wasn't and upon hearing Joe's Garage I realised that perhaps he had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

Rocking out a track like Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? really proved that Frank was an astonishing musician - as were all the musicians he worked with, but he also had a very acute sense of humour.

I have many albums by Frank including Shaved Fish, Zoot Allures, One Size Fits All, You Are What You Is, Studio Tan and of course Joe's Garage and some of it is confusing, almost discordant, but most enjoyable. It has brought a smile on many occasions.

Ultimately, what stood out most of all with Zappa's music was the guitar playing and that's why he graces this list.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • The Torture Never Stops
  • Whipping Post
  • Stairway To Heaven
  • Stick It Out (Don't worry, it's in German to begin with, but all becomes clear...)
  • Inca Roads
  • The Illinois Enema Bandit
  • Sofa Number One

Listen at your own risk - his music is often sexually oriented and downright rude. Keep it greasy folks!

Eddie Van Halen

For pure rock, Eddie's guitar playing was one of those sounds the epitomises the rock genre. Eruption on Van Halen from1978 was so fast and yet didn't sound messy at all and showed off Eddies style and ability to the full.

Using the same hammer technique as Steve Vai and Saint Joe and while others at the time seemed to be going for high degrees of sustain, Eddie wasn't interested at all. He seemed to wonder how many notes he could fit in and then double it.

There's little to say about Eddie Van Halen other than it's damned good head-banging music!

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Runnin' with the Devil
  • Eruption
  • Ice Cream Man
  • Jump

David Gilmour

Perhaps one of the most memorable albums of the seventies was Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

The album spent more time in the charts than just about everything else, being the sixth highest selling album of all time in the UK and spending 471 weeks on the Billboard 200 as well as being listed in the top 25 albums of all time.

That's just one album, but the guitar playing of David Gilmour was probably brought to more people on that than all their other albums put together,

He has a slow and easy style that whilst technical, never seems to be played like Eddie Van Halen, at breakneck speed.

Although I have grown apart from his music now, I will always remember Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, Meddle and The Final Cut with fondness.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Shine On You Crazy Diamond
  • Comfortably Numb
  • Time
  • Echoes

Eric Clapton

I heard a story about a vicar who was newly appointed to a parish in the West Sussex countryside and was looking for something for a village fete he was organising.

This man was so full of vigour and asked just about everyone in the village if they had any ideas and finally - probably more to shut him up than anything - someone suggested he went and saw the man in the house up the road, that the man was quite handy with a guitar and might see his way clear to singing a couple of songs.

Dutifully, the vicar disappeared and after he had, the people smirked, knowing who the man was.

He knocked on the door and who should answer? None other than Eric Clapton.

Bless him, the vicar had no idea at all who he was talking to, but managed to get the gentleman from the house up the road to play at their little fete.

Eric has been inducted into the hall of fame for his work in the Yardbirds, for Cream and as a solo artist - the only man to have done so three times.

I could go on for hours about Eric and his music, but he's one of the truly greats and his nickname, Slowhand, was never more true. To watch him play is amazing. With so little effort, notes just seem to flow from his Strat.

As so many have done before me, I first really became aware of Eric Clapton when he released Layla in 1970, but since there, I have heard him go through a variety of subtle changes with songs like Wonderful Tonight, I Shot The Sheriff and Bad Love.

Eric has played with some of the best and always seems to turn up with Phil Collins, but that's no surprise, since they live quite close to one another.

He's played with Frank Zappa, Dr. John, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley, Buddy Guy, J J Cale... in fact, there's not many that he hasn't worked with in some context or another, which makes me wonder whether he ever stops at all.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Layla
  • I Shot The Sheriff
  • Knockin' On Heaven's Door
  • Cocaine
  • Bad Love

Brian May

Since the first time I heard Seven Seas Of Rye, I have loved the sound of Brian May's guitar playing.

His guitar - The Red Special was hand built by himself and his father from 1963 out of an old fireplace a friend of the family was about to dispose of. The tone and sustain is something that to my mind cannot be copied, but it's such a popular guitar that he even started his own company Brian May Guitars.

The fact that the guitar is a one-off doesn't detract from the fact that Brian is a superb musician adding a depth of feeling to his playing that few even very technically accomplished players have.

Although the picture shows him in shoes, Brian is also famous for wearing clogs, something I have never even bothered to try, perhaps because with any form of sandals or flip-flops, I manage to stay upright for very long. As for trying to emulate his guitar techniques, I think I'll stick to drums.

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Seven Seas Of Rhye
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Who Wants To Live Forever
  • We Are The Champions
  • Killer Queen
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Barcelona
  • We Will Rock You
  • Innuendo
  • The Show Must Go On

Seven Seas Of Rhye

Joe Satriani

This man is an absolute marvel to watch,

Penny refers to him as the Vin Diesel of the music world and after hearing the track Always With Me, Always With You, I have been captivated by this man's technique.

He is one the exponents of the hammer-down technique enabling him to play with both hands on the fretboard.

This isn't new, but Joe has taken it to an extreme that few can copy to the extent that he can - well not without looking at what they are doing anyway!

I'm still very new to this man's music, but as soon as I'm able, I will be buying more of his CD's and DVD's. In the meantime, I shall just drool over that beautiful Chromed Ibanez guitar and wish that one day I could pick one up and play it even half as well as he does.

Curiously he is influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck - who'd have thought?

All-Time Favourite Tracks

  • Always With me, Always With You
  • Surfin' With The Alien
  • Love Thing

Always With Me, Always With You - Live

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Comments 8 comments

Paul_Steads 6 years ago

A nicely written article. I loved your introduction. A nice selection of guitarists with different styles.


justom profile image

justom 6 years ago from 41042

Any list of guitarists that doesn't include Jimi Hendrix is just a shame. Peace!! Tom


Nick B profile image

Nick B 6 years ago from Normandy, France Author

Yeah, I should have put him in since he played a right-handed guitar left-handed. I just thought he was a little self-indulgent.

Plus, he can't beat Joe Satriani or Steve Vai.


justom profile image

justom 6 years ago from 41042

Yeah, I don't think you could find 2 people to agree with that last line. Self-indulgent? Jimi was a black man in America and on that note I don't think I saw a black guitar player on your list and there have been some excellent ones. Peace!! Tom


Nick B profile image

Nick B 6 years ago from Normandy, France Author

Look mate. It would be hypocritical of me to add someone whose music I'm not that keen on.

I will happily agree that there are some fantastic black guitarists out there, they're just not my favourites. Agree or not, it's my hub and my decision. Put who you like in yours.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Thanks for this hub full of some wonderful vids that I ain't never seen before!

Hey, my homeboy Justom is here too!!! I'm going to put a hex on Tom for not sending me this link!

Take that tom!

Damn I wish Ronnie James Dio was still on this side of the ground!

What do you think of Blackmore's new acoustic bent?


Gerrie 23 months ago

An ingtelilent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!


Prince 23 months ago

- Either everyone you shoot is good lonikog or you capture their beauty with your lens. Both? More good music recs- thanks! He's got heart throb good looks a la James Dean.

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