Top 10 Guitar Solos: '70s And '80s

The definition of metal changes every decade as musicians continually push the genre to new extremes.

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The definition of metal changes every decade as musicians continually push the genre to new extremes, writes Chris Gill of Gibson.com. But several elements have remained consistent throughout the years: distorted guitar, heavy riffs, and lightning-fast solos. Some of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded can be found on metal classics from the '70s and '80s, and many of those solos were recorded using Gibson guitars. What makes a guitar solo great? While technical precision and speed are certainly important, a good solo should also be inventive and imaginative. The solo should support the song, and the best solos are ones that are so melodically strong that you can sing them while you wail away on your air guitar.

Whole Lotta Love

  • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II [Atlantic, 1969]
  • Jimmy Page Although it was released in 1969, Whole Lotta Love formed the foundation for hundreds of great heavy metal tunes that followed in the '70s, '80s, and beyond. Page's solo at the climax of the orgasm section exploded with primal fury, accentuated by double stomping power chords that defined heavy and metal with a one-two punch. The entirety of Led Zeppelin's second album is full of awe-inspiring solos, but with Whole Lotta Love, Page made his point loud and clear that the guitar hero for the modern age of rock had arrived.

    War Pigs

  • Black Sabbath, Paranoid [Warner Bros., 1971]
  • Tony Iommi Tony Iommi's epic solo begins with a majestic symphonic line that would make Tchaikovsky proud before bursting into an impressive display of descending triplets and bluesy howls. Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics may have painted a brutal depiction of war mongers, but Iommi's solo made listeners feel like they were in the middle of battle, surviving an onslaught of machine-gun bullets, screaming rockets, and bomb blasts. One of Black Sabbath's finest moments.

    Rock Bottom

  • UFO, Phenomenon [Chrysalis, 1974]
  • Michael Schenker This tour de force showcase of Schenker's formidable guitar talents was the metalhead equivalent of Freebird, and it became the centerpiece of UFO's live performances (captured brilliantly on Strangers in the Night). Schenker's extended solo displays virtuoso skills that left an indelible mark on numerous Euro-centric players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen.

    Stranglehold

  • Ted Nugent, Ted Nugent [Epic, 1975]
  • Ted Nugent Another extended guitar solo, Ted Nugent's Stranglehold summoned up a barnyard full of squawks, squeals, and howls along with hypnotic melodies that make this song a sort of heavy metal Bolero. Nugent's use of a Gibson Byrdlanda guitar normally associated with jazzwas certainly unorthodox, but thanks to his uncanny ability to tame feedback he used it to great advantage.

    (Don't Fear) the Reaper

  • Blue yster Cult, Agents of Fortune [Columbia, 1976]
  • Donald Buck Dharma Roeser Buck Dharma's exotic solo on Blue yster Cult's breakthrough hit takes the song to a dark underworld full of tension and wonder while retaining the tune's somber, minor-key mood. Dharma's Middle Eastern, raga-esque lines were unlike anything heard in hard rock before, but they fit perfectly.

    You Shook Me All Night Long

  • AC/DC, Back in Black [Atlantic, 1980]
  • Angus Young Angus Young has always insisted that his main influence was the blues, and here he shows his roots in smashing form. But instead of fiddling about in the pentatonic box, Young delivers a rich, melodic solo that you can sing along with. An AC/DC classic.

    Flying High Again

  • Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman [Epic, 1981]
  • Randy Rhoads Any of the solos that Randy Rhoads played during his brief time with Ozzy Osbourne could easily make the list, but Flying High Again fits just about everything that Rhoads was about as a player into a tidy package. You can hear Rhoads's classical influences in the melody and his Van Halen inspiration in the tapped flourishes, but, in the end, this solo is all about Rhoads's impeccable taste and immaculate phrasing, which few players since have matched.

    Stand Up and Shout

  • Dio, Holy Diver [Warner Bros., 1983]
  • Vivian Campbell The year 1983 should go down in history as the period when the new age of shred officially began, and Vivian Campbell deserves recognition for helping to kick-start this trend. No one knew who Campbell was when he joined Dio, but after they heard this blistering, thousand-notes-a-second solo they had to find out more.

    Thunder and Lightning

  • Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning [Warner Bros., 1983]
  • John Sykes John Sykes is another shredder who completely turned the guitar world upside down with his stunning speed and tasteful technique. Like the song's title, Sykes' playing was loud and flashy yet mysteriously mesmerizing. Sykes later enjoyed even greater success and fame by helping craft Whitesnake's breakthrough album, but from a guitar player's perspective this remains one of his finest moments.

    Welcome to the Jungle

  • Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Destruction [Geffen, 1987]
  • Slash By 1987, every guitarist was shredding like mad and studying exotic scales at GIT. Slash ripped across the grain with his boozy and bluesy playing on Welcome to the Jungle, which evoked Joe Perry's raunchiest moments with Aerosmith. Sure, other players may have had more polished technique, but few of them could match Slash's sweet emotion. Five Overlooked Metal Solos You Should Know:
  • Sails of Charon Scorpions (1978) Uli Jon Roth's epic Euro shred masterpiece.
  • Hammerhead Pat Travers (1979) The prototype for '80s speed metal.
  • End of the World Gary Moore (1982) The two-minute intro is the NWOBHM answer to Van Halen's Eruption.
  • Far Beyond the Sun Yngwie Malmsteen (1984) Still awe-inspiring many have imitated Malmsteen, but he's still unequaled.
  • Mr. Scary Dokken (1987) George Lynch's off-kilter instrumental fireworks make '80s hair metal seem okay after all. Thanks for the info to Gibson.com.
  • 282 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      renegadepancake
      Hard != good. The article states that, in their opinion, good solos aren't just about speed or technical ability. Invention and catchiness matter too. There goes your Metallica / Megadeth / *favorite metal band here*. Mustaine's a great shredder, but all his solos essentially follow the blues scale and repetitive hammer-ons.
      Skuzzmo
      qotsa1998 : its an OK list. i definately think that BOC on there is a great choice. But wat about 'No More Tears'? i luv that song, and its a classic solo. Master of Puppets has the Breakdown solo, which isnt fast, but is awesome, especially for a metal song. Slayer was a big part of Thrash/speed metal in the 80's, so something from Kerry King should be on there. Sweet Child o' Mine' solo beats Welcome to the Jungle's, by far. and FYI, the solo for Stairway was originally recorded on a Telecaster, which was one of many guitars other than Gibsons that Jimmy used. Malmsteen used Strats mostly. And Sckenker has Dean signatures. about 5 or 6. And Rhodes has Jackson sigs. so no, it isnt totally Gibson users, just made by guys from Gibson.
      Yes, Schenker uses Dean now, but for years and years and years he used Gibson. Just so ya know.
      Skuzzmo
      Also, solos being hard to play dosen't make them good and solos that are easy to play dosen't make them lame..... Just needed to add that.
      Schmeg Junior
      renegadepancake(love the name)I really agree wiht the whole thing about Metallica, but I do really enjoy Megadeath as well.
      Coo0P
      there's just way too many solo's out there for their to be a "best."
      Schmeg Junior
      I'm gonna go check ou tsome tabs, so I'll never be in here again, peace out homes (in a plural standing) Anyway, whoever you like keep shredding/rocking/w/e you do.....it's up to ur opinion.cya
      Schmeg Junior
      Really Alex LIfeson is another one, the solo on "Working Man" Is really quiet amazing...it'a quiet metal if you listen to Rush Alot as I do(trying to find moving pictures and Caress of Steel...any help?)
      GuitarJunkie
      Angus Young has always insisted that his main influence was the blues, and here he shows his roots in smashing form. But instead of fiddling about in the pentatonic box, Young delivers a rich, melodic solo that you can sing along with. An AC/DC classic.
      that solo is almost completely in a pentatonic box
      Schmeg Junior
      Dude....if this offends anyone...DEAL WITH IT! But Metallica was just dudes who could play minor scales fast and tried to make 80's crotch metal actually seem moderate in their style...scorpions..that's eighties metal that's actualy good. Metallica is really not that great.
      the4stringmf
      i know this is all opinion but Cacophony's SpeedMetal Symphony is the single hardest thing to play an its not even there! i dont know who does these lists but they're really inaccurate.. in my opinion most of these solos are average compared to what should be there
      The_Guvn0r
      I personally don't see the why some people are fascinated with Angus Young and AC/DC. Oh well... How bout some different Zeppelin solos like Achilles Last Stand or No Quarter, now those two have amazing solos!
      I can't see why everyone's fascinated with Led Zeppelin. AC/DC own hard, but I've never really liked Led Zep.
      Dnalrafcmb3
      list suks, these bands are all great, but where's the true definition of metal like metalica or somfin...
      Flesh N' Blood
      OMFG, "Mr. Scary" has finally been recognized! That song is nasty! Yeah GNR'S "Rocket Queen" is phenomenal and my fav. song to play. Im very glad to see Metallica off a list for once! Why "War Pigs"? that song is all about the drums?!? But cool to see Randy Rhoads acknowledged. Rock the 80's!
      genolk
      samm12 wrote: how mayn idiots are in here. quit bitching about master of puppets and eruption. this is a list of heavy metal solos by GIBSON users, not any guitar list. if it's from gibson.com, they wouldn't put master of puppets, cause kirk uses ESP. recorded in 1986 with a gibson flying v if memory serves me correctly (but I could be wrong).... the metallica boys didn't start using ESP for a few years AFTER that
      genolk
      I'll add my 2 cents worth... I really dig Zakk Wyldes solo on "Fire it up" and also the set of solos out of the Iron Maiden Song "powerslave" plus also the set of solos out of the Song "seventh son of a seventh song" i don't think anyone will ever be able to write a list that people would be happy with. Far too many great solos to pick from, and far too many great guitarists. Angus young is quite subtle, zakk wylde attempts to pick every single note he plays, slash is loose and greasy, dave gilmour is the master of restraint. then you have people like tommy emmanuel who consistantly play great solos but would never make a list like this (yes i know, gibson solos, heavier artists etc etc). the point is that this'll be an argument that NO-ONE will ever win. It's nice to see someone appreiciating some stirling guitar work, but would have been better if the article had been named "list of 70's and 80's solos that I really dig"
      xXConzaxahXx
      Thats rediculous Kirk Hammett is one of the Top 3 greatest guitarists ever and there is not one Metallica song on there...pshhh thats lame as SHIT!
      genolk
      renegadepancake wrote: Hard != good. The article states that, in their opinion, good solos aren't just about speed or technical ability. Invention and catchiness matter too. There goes your Metallica / Megadeth / *favorite metal band here*. Mustaine's a great shredder, but all his solos essentially follow the blues scale and repetitive hammer-ons.
      One would think that a great solo would be defined by it is "memorable", rather than fast, technical, catchy etc For MY mind I think The solo out of Of Wolf and Man is quite excellent... i think it is memorable. as for the "one" solo... i'd pick one of the first two solos over the last one... the final shred/tapping fest is fantastic, but the first two solos really helped create the moodiness and sombreness of the song. and also regardless of how repetitive and locked in Mustaines solos are, some of them are in fact quite memorable. But as we've all said countless times before, these are just opinions
      The_Guvn0r
      I'm happy with that list, sk8r taylor. Mine would be a bit different, but all of those of quite deserving of being on such a list.
      sk8r taylor
      alright since all of you hate this list ill make a list based on what you guys want (no specific order) one- metallica stairway to heave- led zeppelin mr. crowley- ozzy sweet child o mine- guns n roses free bird- lynard skynard comfortably numb- pink floyd master of puppets- metallica whole lotta rosie- AC/DC paradise cty- guns n roses eruption- van halen
      The_Guvn0r
      again...where the **** is free bird, lynyrd skynyrd used gibsons...WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!
      I 100% agree! One of the best solos of all time, hands down.
      Jawshuwa
      Come to think of it...where in the **** is "Cemetary Gates" / "Floods" ?
      Yamiyo
      Why does UG need these sorts of lists? They're all just one guy's opinion. Who cares, really.
      Jawshuwa
      I've no clue why people think the solo to "One" is better than "Master of Puppets." "One" may have better phrasing, but honestly, which is more metal ? Which is more...I dunno...in-your-face ? Exactly...'Puppets.'
      stars_n_bars
      samm12 wrote: how mayn idiots are in here. quit bitching about master of puppets and eruption. this is a list of heavy metal solos by GIBSON users, not any guitar list. if it's from gibson.com, they wouldn't put master of puppets, cause kirk uses ESP.
      again...where the **** is free bird, lynyrd skynyrd used gibsons...WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!
      The_Guvn0r
      The article states that, in their opinion, good solos aren't just about speed or technical ability. Invention and catchiness matter too. There goes your Metallica / Megadeth / *favorite metal band here*
      You have clearly never EVER listened to Metallica if you're saying solos like One and Fade To Black are only good because they're fast and technical.
      Asthia
      TO EVERYONE: It says "guitar solos" NOT metal solos. Get over the lack of heavier tracks.
      Sean-Man
      ValoRhoads wrote: Once again, these articles are opinion, read them, enjoy them, but don't bitch, opinions cannot be wrong...
      well then lets eta babies, thats my opinion
      blasphemus666
      where is Eruption by Van Halen?!?! i thought for sure it would b here. this article is based on REALLY BAD opinions
      AsianShredder09
      whole lotta love over stairway? i love the solo in whole lotta love but the stairway to heaven is the probably the most recognized solo ever.
      Insane Esp
      NickSK wrote: Do ANY of you chimps realize this list is only for solos played on Gibsons? Christ. Micheal shenker playes a dean, and randy roads played his own v i believe.
      zackk
      thats a pretty good list, randy rhoads in on it and kirk hammet isnt. good enough for me.
      samm12
      how mayn idiots are in here. quit bitching about master of puppets and eruption. this is a list of heavy metal solos by GIBSON users, not any guitar list. if it's from gibson.com, they wouldn't put master of puppets, cause kirk uses ESP.
      Lloyd1093
      some songs i agree with...war pigs and welcome to the jungle are definatly among the top...however where the hells stairway to heaven?
      MTVget0FFtheAIR
      wow, i new instantly i would be seeing a million "OMG GIMME METALLICA DEY IS GODZ" and the same for sweet child. its a great list of songs, definitely stuff you should check out if you don't know them.
      ryulovesyou
      POWERMETAL! wrote: what about 80's VAI? (just went to the concert on saturday so i'm still very upsessed with him.
      exactly! Vai is ****ing awesome live! i saw him back in 2004 with satriani and robert fripp! was outstanding! (Y)
      verona_bassist
      ValoRhoads wrote: Once again, these articles are opinion, read them, enjoy them, but don't bitch, opinions cannot be wrong...
      well said its always fun to whine about how these articles are, as you said, some guy's opinion..but it gets tiring after a while