Over the years, during the course of conducting many interviews with guitarists of all genres and caliber, a common question I always tended to ask them was, "if you had to choose an album or albums that influenced your guitar playing, what would that album or albums be?
" While many were quick to offer a reply, others found it a challenging question because as they put it, aside from having a favorite album or albums, other factors such as the type of gear comes into the whole equation when it comes to helping to define their style and approach. So without further ado, below are a collection of well-known guitarists from the punk, blues, rock and metal genres and their selection of album choices - though some choose specific guitarists rather than albums - which they stated played a major influence on their approach to their instrument, their outlook on music and most importantly, the reason why many took up the guitar in the first place. Since their choices have inspired them to create music in the first place, the artists themselves have gone on to share and give their music to you, the music fan. And as it is the season of giving and receiving, this feature ties in perfectly with all the festivities of Yuletide. So I hope you all enjoy this special Christmas holiday feature. I'm sure the choices of some may surprise many readers while others may provide much food for thought. But regardless, all will provide a little more insight into getting to know a little more as to what makes the guitarist tick musically and guitar playing wise and why.
01. Brian May (Queen)
"Two albums in particular proved influential to me. First up there was Bluesbreakers
with Eric Clapton
by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
. That album has got Clapton
doing the solo to "Key To Love
" and "Double Crossing Time
" which were hugely influential on me, and which became my bible. These guys came from close to where I lived, so I was very lucky growing up where I did. I used to go to the Crawdaddy [Club] to see these guys play as well as The Yardbirds
, The Stones
or whatever. So it was a wonderful place for me to grow up in. The other album was Axis: Bold As Love
by Jimi Hendrix
. I love the beauty of the playing, the sound and the breath of his vision. I saw Hendrix
a lot when he was alive and I always thought the recordings never sounded quite like how he felt live until Axis: Bold As Love
, when finally he did. I remember putting it on my tiny little record player and going "whoa, how did he do this in the studio?" Hendrix
and The Beatles
were our [Queen] bible in the studio, and they always have been. Its like, "what would they do?" They didn't have as much technology as we have now, but the spirit of that, was we tapped."
02. Dan Donegan (Disturbed)
"We Sold Our Soul For Rock And Roll
by Black Sabbath
is my choice pick. Just because of the riffs, the guitar playing, the lyrics and the songs. Everything about it was so ahead of it's time. I think every metal band out there today, has to have some kind of influence from Sabbath
or at least have some respect for them for starting this".
03. Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen)
"I'm a rhythm guitar player but for me my favorite lead guitar album it is Beck-Ola
by Jeff Beck
. I think it's the greatest guitar playing I've ever heard. And, Led Zeppelin
by Led Zeppelin
. I love Jimmy Page
's playing on The Yardbirds
' Little Games
, which is a very under-rated record I think. But I like that a lot. But obviously his playing on Led Zeppelin
's first record still remains remarkable to this day".
04. Paul Gilbert
were the first rock band. Before them, no one cared about anyone but the singer. Who's the drummer for Elvis? But everybody knows Ringo
! When I first listened to The Beatles
, I didn't listen to just the guitar parts or the solos. I loved the sound of the whole band and the singing and the energy they created. When I started playing guitar, I began to focus my ear on picking out the individual instruments. This is important to learn to play, but it can screw your listening priorities. It took me a long time before I could forget about the "parts" and listen to the "whole" again. The first five Van Halen
albums changed my life too. There was nothing more exciting when I was a teenager. Eddie
was faster and flashier than any other guitarist at the time, but he was also incredibly musical and had great timing, dynamics, and rhythm guitar parts. I learned a lot of his solos, but I learned All of his rhythms".
05. Joe Satriani
is definitely No.1. I think he's the greatest innovator of the electric guitar that we've ever seen. And Jeff Beck
, who continues to sound more and more pure, more like a pure version of Jeff Beck
every year, he is really remarkable.
Most musicians don't do that, they somehow get weaker sounding as they get older, but Jeff Beck
gets better and better. He's definitely someone I look up to. When I was a young kid, I grew up playing to every single album of his every day, I'd put the records on and I would just play all the time. I was partial to the early Jeff Beck Group
records and his instrumental Blow By Blow
06. Gary Moore
"The John Mayall
and the Bluesbreakers
" album was a huge influence on all guitarists of my generation as it was the first time anyone had a Les Paul being played through a Marshall. And right there you had the germ of the kind of rock sound, but being played in a blues context. That was the first time that I had ever heard a guitar, right in front of the music like it was really talking to you. And where you could really feel like the guitar was absolutely, and at my age of 14, an amazing deal. Later on, I got Are You Experienced?
By Jimi Hendrix
and that really blew me away and was a fantastic record. He took the guitar just so much further than anyone else on that one record. When I first heard it, I just could not believe what he was doing. He was also the first one to start using Stratocasters again at the time, because they were very corny and unfashionable to use. And he was using the whammy bar and stuff too, which nobody would touch until Jimi
came out. He just gave the Strat a whole new sound and voice. Those were two very, very big records for me."
07. Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Lennon)
"I'd say Exile On Main Street
by The Rolling Stones
. Some of the stuff that Keith
does on there, feel wise, I just think it's phenomenal.
The rhythm guitar stuff he does on there is just amazing because you can feel it; you can feel every rhythm that he is playing. And I could probably throw in another five Stones
records in there as well".
08. Eric Johnson
"I really love Wes Montgomery
's stuff as I loved the way he treated songs particularly on the album Down Here On The Ground
. It has this beautiful elegance that adds to the tunes in an instrumental way. Though it has this musicality to it, it's a very listenable record with great guitar playing and really nice to listen to above and beyond the great guitar playing. I also love Jimi Hendrix
's Third Stone From The Sun
because it's so realistic sounding. It seems to go somewhere and has got that kind of inspirational "reaching" kind of sound to it. And his guitar on it does something that has never been done before".
09. Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Modest Mouse)
's Electric Ladyland
is for me the highpoint of electric guitar playing and gives you something to aspire to and it's just so beautiful. It's pretty much a virtual masterpiece of guitar sounds and a diversity of sounds, and it's just so beautiful. Also Raw Power
by Iggy and The Stooges. If you listen to say, the intro of the track "Gimme Danger
" which has James Williamson
's guitar playing on it, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to hear that, as a 15 year old when I first learned that, it was such a big, big influence on me. The guitar playing on that record is so totally cool; it has the attitude of Keith Richard
with the dexterity of Jimmy Page
but with a really dark sexy twist. That's probably the coolest guitar playing album in terms of attitude for me".
10. Robben Ford
"I first heard Mike Bloomfield
while he was with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band
. He was quite simply the first great electric blues guitar player I ever heard. He was just a marvelous guitar player and the energy and music of that band with Michael
's guitar playing at front, really established the direction that I took. As a guitar player, that's where I got started, with Mike Bloomfield
. Everything before that was just more songs and bands, and I hadn't decided to be an electric guitar player yet. But when I heard him, I really got on fire about playing electric blues guitar. After Bloomfield
I got into Clapton
, first with his playing with John Mayall
and The Bluesbreakers
and then the first Cream
album, Fresh Cream
. Those were Very important records to me and very influential in my style. And he played such a melodic style, which I really paid attention to".
11. Steve Vai
"As far as influencing me as a musician, having the most impact on me, it had to be the music to "West Side Story
". I was really young and my parents had this record and it had everything in it that I loved about music. It was high energy, intense energy. It was all melody, but also it wasn't just your mundane pop music, it was tremendously well written music.
Then I saw the movie and it had a lot of action in it, it had choreography which I love and it had theatre, and it had talented performances, so that was really my introduction to music. I always thought music had to be that way. Then I heard Led Zeppelin
and bands of the seventies, and that had a big influence on me too. Jimmy Page
had the biggest influence as a guitar player".
12. Andy Summers (The Police)
is one of my favorite and influential guitarists of all time because he was in a class of his own. Hank has a special place in all British guitarists' hearts, there's no question about that. There are a few perennial guitarists I do like but I try not to listen to guitarists too much frankly anymore. It's nice to know what's going on but I don't really worry too much about other people's stuff.
Personally for my own playing, since I play right on the cutting edge and I'm trying to take it out in my own way, I don't want to be influenced by anyone else. But there are some players who I think are stellar players but they are more progressive players like John Scofield
, John Abercrombie
and Ralph Towner
. Those are the kind of players who I think are really doing something".
13. Benji Madden (Good Charlotte)
album was it for me. I didn't really get into music until I was about 13 or 14 and at the time, that was when "Smells Like Teen Spirit
" was coming out.
It was the first record where I remember, being one of the moments in my life where I was totally blown away. If you ask anybody my age, you would probably get the same answer as it's true that it definitely blew you away".
14. Ty Tabor (Kings X)
"I used to think that Brian May
was able to make the guitar sing in a very vocal way.
He had such a fine touch and style, that he could just play one or two notes and it would affect me a lot more than somebody who had a lot of technical ability. His work on News Of The World
, and everything he had done up to that point, had a really big impact."
15. Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)
"There's definitely a Jeff Beck
album in there for sure, but I just can't remember the title, no matter how hard I try! I can see it up on the rack when I listen to it and it's just fantastic, but can't remember the title now. [laughs] Pink Floyd
's Dark Side Of The Moon
is another as I really love the guitar playing on that. I'm mad for that. And lastly, Chicken Shack
's self titled album. We used to listen to this record in the car all the time and we've always loved it. It's really going back many years now but it's brilliant with Stan Webb
By Joe Matera