A few years ago, the editors of Guitar World magazine compiled what we feel is the ultimate guide to the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.
The list, which has been quoted by countless artists, websites and publications around the world, starts with Richie Sambora's work on Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive” (Number 100) and builds to a truly epic finish with Jimmy Page's solo on "Stairway to Heaven" (Number 1).
To quote our "Stairway" story that ran with the list, "If Jimmy Page is the Steven Spielberg of guitarists, then 'Stairway' is his Close Encounters."
We've kicked off a summer blockbuster of our own — a no-holds-barred six-string shootout. We're pitting Guitar World's top 64 guitar solos against each other in an NCAA-style, 64-team single-elimination tournament. Every day, we will ask you to cast your vote in a different guitar-solo matchup as dictated by the 64-team-style bracket, which you can find in the photo gallery below.
Note that you can vote only once per matchup. The voting for each matchup ends as soon as the next matchup is posted (Basically, that's one poll per day during the first round of elimination, including weekends and holidays).
In some cases, genre will clash against genre; a thrash solo might compete against a Southern rock solo, for instance. But let's get real: They're all guitar solos, played on guitars, by guitarists, most of them in some subset of the umbrella genre of rock. When choosing, it might have to come down to, "Which solo is more original and creative? Which is more iconic? or Which one kicks a larger, more impressive assemblage of asses?"
Today's matchup pits Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (18) against the Allman Brothers Band's "Jessica" (47), featuring the fretwork of Dickey Betts. Get busy! You'll find the poll at the bottom of the story.
Winner: "Time" (80.52 percent)
Loser: "Alive" (19.48 percent)
Round 1, Day 7: "Little Wing" Vs. "Jessica"
18. “Little Wing”
Soloist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1968)
Covered by artists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sting, “Little Wing” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beautiful and enduring compositions. It’s easy to see why. The original is seductively warm, poignant and light as a feather. Engineer Eddie Kramer explains how Jimi achieved the song’s ethereal glow in the studio.
“One of my favorite touches on that track is the glockenspiel part, which was played by Jimi,” says Kramer. “Part of the beauty of recording at Olympic Studios in London was using instruments that had been left from previous sessions. The glockenspiel was just laying around, so Jimi used it.”
Hendrix’s rich and watery guitar solo was, says Kramer, in part the product of a secret weapon. “One of the engineers had built this miniature Leslie,” continues Kramer. “It was like it was built out of an Erector set and had a small eight-inch speaker that rotated. Believe it or not, the guitar solo was fed through this tiny thing, and that’s the lovely effect you hear on the lead.”
Soloist: Dickey Betts
Album: The Allman Brothers Band—Brothers and Sisters (Polydor, 1973)
Dickey Betts’ instrumental “Jessica” is as uplifting a piece of music as can be found in all rock. And that, says Betts, is no coincidence: the music actually began with his desire to express pure jubilation.
“My instrumentals try to create some of the basic feelings of human interaction, like anger and joy and love,” says Betts. “With ‘Jessica,’ I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t quite find it. Then my little daughter, Jessica, crawled into the room, and I just started playing to her, trying to capture the feeling of her crawling and smiling. That’s why I named it after her.”
Betts wrote the song’s melodic theme while emulating one of his heroes—the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, who had the use of only two fingers on his left hand. “I came up with that melody using just two fingers as a sort of tribute to Django,” says Betts. “That the song turned out so well is very satisfying. In general, writing a good instrumental is very fulfilling, because you’ve transcended language and spoken to someone with a melody.”