Friday Top: 25 Greatest Guitar Solos of the '80s

As voted by UG community.

Ultimate Guitar
Friday Top: 25 Greatest Guitar Solos of the '80s

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the people of UG community discussing the matter of the greatest guitar solos of the '80s ever. Based on votes and about 250 comments, we summed this one up into a Top 25 rundown.

And before kicking things off, the honorable mentions are:

  • Black Sabbath - When Death Calls (feat. Brian May)
  • Toto - Rosanna
  • Allan Holdsworth - Devil Take the Hindmost
  • White Lion - Radar Love
  • King Crimson - Elephant Talk
  • Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead or Alive
  • Europe - Superstitious
  • Jeff Beck - Where Were You
  • Accept - Fast as a Shark
  • R.E.M. - The One I Love
  • Jane's Addiction - Mountain Song

And we can't start without mentioning the Spinal Tap solo:

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The full rundown awaits below.

25. Dio - Rainbow in the Dark

Starting this week's list is the solo in legendary Ronnie James Dio's song "Rainbow in the Dark," played by Vivian Campbell. What an amazing way to start a solo career with such an awesome guitarist.

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24. Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

"Top Gun" in combination with this song is responsible for so many young men getting interested in military aviation. So fire up your F-14 Tomcats and blast off this song, with the solo performed by Dann Huff of Giant.

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23. Pixies - Hey

Coming from Pixies' second album "Doolittle," "Hey" was written by Black Francis and has lead guitar work done by Joey Santiago. Both this album and the song were praised by both critics and fans.

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22. Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Well, the 1980ss weren't all about shredding. User Phaneron, who nominated the song, offered:

Not as flashy as the shred fests that will likely dominate this list, but a great solo nonetheless.

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21. Skid Row - 18 and Life

One of the most important Skid Row tracks tells a story of an 18-year-old kid receiving 18 years to life prison sentence. The strong and emotional solo depicts the subject pretty well.

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20. Scorpions - Rock You Like a Hurricane

And what would a rock anthem be without an appropriate guitar solo? "Rock You Like a Hurricane" shows what Matthias Jabs can do with his instrument.

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19. Pink Floyd - Sorrow

Some would argue that Pink Floyd without Roger Waters is just not worth it, but the band still had one of the greatest guitarists of the 20th century - David Gilmour. And according to him, the solo at the end of "Sorrow" recorded on a boat through a small amp.

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18. Whitesnake - Crying in the Rain

The song was originally released in 1982 on "Saints & Sinners," but was later re-recorded for 1987's "Whitesnake." The version below is from the band's self-titled album, with the one and only John Sykes on lead guitar.

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17. Black Sabbath - Lonely Is the Word

Even though Ozzy left the band, the 1980s started quite well for Black Sabbath with "Heaven and Hell" album. The solo in "The Lonely is the Word" shows that Tony Iommi started to change the style for the new times, with still managing to be recognizable and unique.

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16. Harold Faltermeyer & Steve Stevens - Top Gun Anthem

You can't talk about this famous decade without mentioning Top Gun music. Well, at least twice. The main theme of this 1986 film features Steve Stevens on guitar, best known for his work with Billy Idol. Besides being a "Top Gun Anthem" it is one of the anthems of the 1980s.

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15. Yngwie Malmsteen - Far Beyond the Sun

With the 80s being a decade of shredding, Mr. Malmsteen brought the guitar playing to a whole new level when he showed up with "Rising Force" album. And "Far Beyond the Sun" instantly became recognized by all the guitar lovers out there, making it one of his most important songs.

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14. Gary Moore - Victims of the Future

The title track of Gary Moore's 1983 album deals with the difficult situation in the world was in back in the 1980s. It is also well represented in his emotionally charged solo in the song.

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13. Megadeth - Wake Up Dead

One of the most notable genres of this decade was thrash metal, and there's no thrash metal without Megadeth. "Wake Up Dead," just like the whole "Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?" album, defines how a metal band should sound like, with Mustaine and Chris Poland sharing lead guitar duties.

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12. ZZ Top - Sharp Dressed Man

After exploding during the 1970s, ZZ Top continued to rock throughout the 80s. With their album "Eliminator" they changed their sound, making a legacy in rock music. One more example of a tasty solo without any typical 80s style shredding.

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11. Joe Satriani - Surfing With the Alien

Talking about shredders, Joe Satriani is certainly a game changer in guitar playing. Satriani recorded the main theme and the solo for "Surfing With the Alien" in just half an hour and was using Eventide 949s. Unfortunately, it broke down and after fixing it he wasn't able to recreate the original sound, so the original version was used.

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10. Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms

The anti-war song which showcases Mark Knopfler's musicality. UG user rufizonfire commented:

For me, the ultimate example of "less is more"

Take care, Yngwie Malmsteen might be lurking here, and you don't want to make him mad, don't you?

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9. Rush - Limelight

According to Alex Lifeson, solo to "Limelight" is his favorite one to play live and represent's this song's lyrics which are about "feeling isolated amidst chaos and adulation."

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8. Iron Maiden - Powerslave

Iron Maiden have pretty much defined metal music in the 1980s. The legendary guitar duo of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray always delivered the goods, and solos on "Powerslave" are no exception to that.

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7. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Texas Flood

It was not only metal music that went through some serious changes during this period. When Stevie Ray Vaughan released his first album 1983 he opened up some new horizons for guitar fans. The song "Texas Flood", and this album's title track, was originally performed by Larry Davis in 1958. However, Stevie's version is the most popular one.

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6. Prince - Purple Rain

Besides being an amazing singer and artist, Prince also did his fine share of making guitar magic. One of the best examples is his legendary signature song "Purple Rain."



5. Van Halen - Hot for Teacher

There is no compromise in this song, it just kicks off with a double bass drum and a short guitar solo. Mountain Trash comments:

The intro alone, not to mention the solo, it's dripping with swagger.
Hard not to look at Van Halen in the 80s they pretty much defined it.

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4. Michael Jackson - Beat It (feat. Eddie Van Halen)

And what would this list be if there are no two consecutive solos by Eddie? Producer Quincy Jones sure knew who to pick a guitarist for the solo on this Michael Jackson's legendary song. When Eddie Van Halen was contacted by the producer he first thought it was a prank call. Also, he offered to do this solo free of charge, proving that he is a genuine music lover.

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3. Metallica - Fade to Black

Metallica had many songs nominated for this list, including "Ride the Lightning," "One," "Master of Puppets," as well as "Orion." But the one with the most votes was the band's well-known track "Fade to Black." However, user henrihell stirred things up a bit in the comment section, by saying:

The intro solo I hope. The later solo is just kind of boring imo. It shares some ideas with the intro but then there's some parts where he just throws in some noise or shredding for what really seems like no reason at all.

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2. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Yeah, sure, this song is overplayed as much as "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven" are, but for a good reason. Besides that amazing intro, Slash shows what he can do in the solo of "Sweet Child o' Mine." That's how you use a wah pedal.

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1. Ozzy Osbourne - Mr. Crowley

And this week's winner is no other than Randy Rhoads, with his epic solo on Ozzy Osbourne's "Mr. Crowley." User themainmanlobo52 made a nice observation:

The entire list could easily be just Jake and Randy as far as I'm concerned.

Well, also nominated by Rhoads was "Crazy Train." And one more from Ozzy and his band, "Bark at the Moon." But "Mr. Crowley" picked up the most votes.

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That's all folks! Feel free to post more great guitar solos of the '80s in the comment section below. And we hope you enjoyed the top, stay tuned until next week for another WQ!

Also feel free to check out our Greatest Guitar Solos of the '70s top.

62 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I am totally okay with what made it to #1 here. And of course there's gonna be great stuff missing from this list. How can you possibly cram all of the awesomeness of 80's guitar work into a mere 25 entries?
    Exactly, a decade is too much, especially the 80's There should be a Wednesday question for each year. Maybe not a top 25 but a top 10 would be fine. A lot of stuff deserves to be in a top something, and many songs have probably been forgotten too. A yearly thing would also force people to search and dig even deeper and I'm certain we would (re)discover many forgotten gems.
    I'm glad to see Sweet Child O mine on here, its become so overplayed its almost an underrated song now cause no one wants to admit to liking it. Still one of the best solos I've heard. Its almost a standalone song within the song if that makes sense to anyone lol
    IMO, In retrospect Slash captured and communicated the feeling of the rise of Guns n Roses in that solo...Definately tells a story
    Do the 90s next!
    Jane's Addiction - 3 Days => brilliant!
    I wish I could give this 1,000 likes. Would be my all time favorite solo if not for Pink Floyd’s Time.
    Drache Wachter
    "Whaddaya mean -insert song here- wasn't on this list!?!?!?!?!?!?" -soon to be the majority of the comment section
    If there was a new list, I'd be the first in line. But it better work this time. 
    Fine list. Happy to see Whitesnake and Gary Moore.
    Gary Moore is one of my favorite players ever...
    Gutted I only saw him doing the last one minute of Parisienne Walkways when he was supporting Whitesnake.Missed Y&T entirely at same show at Manchester Arena. Tip,when going to gigs with goth chicks with waist length hair make them start getting ready 4 hours before gig starts.
    No 80s guitar list list is complete without Savatage' Criss Oliva. Don't say it that often, but this guy seriously gets way to little recognition for his brilliant playing.  Think this one in Legions is one of his best
    It's a good list, but I was genuinely surprised not to see "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour - that song was huge and still gets a ton of airplay.
    Love that song, kinda shocked it didn't make it but there are some pretty amazing songs on the list so I can see why. *obligatory CM Punk chant*
    Really!? This is the one time I get mentioned in the article! I still stand behind my words but really? Oh well, the say all publicity is good so I guess I'll take it. Hoped my '5 minutes of fame' wouldn't have been because people disagree with me.
    Too many classics to list, but this list is a great start! Also, "The legendary guitar duo of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray never ceases to disappoint...". I got what it meant, but it means the opposite of what was intended! Haha. 
    Stevie Ray's tone tho!!! His 13 gauge string bends are just crazy man, shivers!
    That Girl Could Sing by Jackson Browne had some very tasty guitar work by the great David Lindley.
    I think if anyone but Randy was in the top spot, there would be a riot (I'd have brought the Jäger and beer).
    Maybe some Overkill, Exodus, Or Testament?
    August 4th 1989 Practice What you Preach. The guitar solo for the song was without a doubt one of thrash metals greatest.
    Sorrow over On The Turning Away? Loving that Gary Moore is on here. And of course Mr. Crowley goes No1, the whole song is just there so those solos had somewhere to exist.  Also for Fade To Black I can see where that guy is coming from, but the outro is supposed to be 1/2 melodic & 1/2 ethereal highspeed confusion. It's an emotional release. Whether that be a release of frustration & anger, or a release of one's life into death riding the cosmic waves into wherever we go when we die. Tbh, this list could just be 80s Metallica solos for a lot of ppl.  This is actually a pretty interesting list considering it's the 80s, just so many to choose from.
    I really don't like discussing tastes, but man I really don't understand the love for the Beat It solo. To me it sounds exactly like a hired gun coming into the studio, playing a random, completely-detached-from-the-rest-of-the-song solo (and don't get me wrong, I'm usually a huge fan of shredding), and walking away with a lot money in his pocket without a care in the world as to what the final product is going to sound like.
    So someone nominated Toto's Rosanna, but Hold the line is nowhere to be found ? The list is a joke.
    Nice to see Limelight on here. First guitar solo I ever learned.  I'd add 'Over My Head' by King's X. Ty Tabor is one of the most underrated guitar players out there.
    I thought this was an 80s song but it's technically from 1979. Anyway if you want to be shocked, listen to The Knack's "My Sharona." Everyone knows it as this fun little song but few probably remember that it has a minute and a half kick ass solo. It starts at the 2:46 mark and soon takes off for a LONG time. If you put a wah on it, it sounds very similar to Sweet Child O' Mine.