Joe Bonamassa: the guitar solos that changed my life

Joe Bonamassa, wearing a suit, playing live on stage
(Image credit: Getty)

Jimmy Page – Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)

“I could’ve chosen so many of Jimmy’s solos – Stairway To Heaven, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker – but if I have to go for one it’s Whole Lotta Love. It’s old-school, which is what I prefer. With Jimmy it’s all about the construction of the solos and the way they pay off. He’s such an inspired and inspiring player, and this one’s the quintessential air-guitar track.”

BB King – The Thrill Is Gone (BB King)

“This is as perfect a blues guitar solo as you’ll get. It’s simple, you know? It’s so effective for his version of that Roy Hawkins song. To me a great guitar solo is one when you trade the vocal for the guitar and it stays the same thing. That’s something I strive for, and that’s what BB did here.”

Paul Kossoff – Be My Friend (Free)

“This is probably one of Paul Kossoff’s most emotional solos. It’s so pop, and the sound is just this howling Les Paul sound. I’ve never quite been able to get that howling sound myself. This is a Marshall amp, a Fender Super Reverb and a fifty-nine Les Paul. When you listen to the sound, the way it was recorded and the sheer inspiration behind his notes, you just think, yet again, what an underrated player he is.”

Roy Buchanan – Roy’s Bluz (Roy Buchanan)

“Roy’s super-underrated; a lot of those Telecaster guys were. He recorded Live Stock in New York, and this is one of his very best solos. It’s how it comes out of nowhere – it’s this dark, depressing blues, and all of a sudden the solo comes at you like a dagger. It’s this explosive Telecaster freak-out for about four minutes – four minutes that encapsulate everything you love about Roy Buchanan’s playing.”

Jimmy Lyon – Two Tickets To Paradise (Eddie Money)

“I wasn’t sure who was playing on the session for Eddie that day, but turns out it was Jimmy Lyon. This really is one of the best pop-rock guitar solos for me. It’s devastating, just beautiful playing from Jimmy. It sounds like he’s using a Gibson ES 335 to me. It’s a really special solo.”

Al Di Meola – Race With The Devil On A Spanish Highway (Al Di Meola)

“Al Di Meola is terrifying. If you ever want to really feel bad about your guitar skill-set, then just listen to this whole song. The speed, the tone, the phrasing, the whole sound of it, it’s incredible from first note to last.”

Joe Perry – Janie’s Got A Gun (Aerosmith)

“This is quite an unusual one for me. Joe’s guitar is distorted, but the thing is it’s an electro-acoustic guitar plugged into a Marshall amp. I thought it was so clever that he did that. It’s such a clear sound and a brilliantly put-together solo. I know most people would probably go for something of Joe’s from Toys In The Attic, but for me, when I heard Janie’s Got A Gun I just thought: ‘That is clever, my friend. Good at ya!’”

Jeff Beck – Brush With The Blues (Jeff Beck)

“This is a more modern one, but the first time I heard it it just floored me. I thought: ‘Shit, I wish I’d thought of that!’ The solo’s melody is perfect, devastatingly effective and so emotional. And it feels like a whole song – there’s no singer, but you don’t really miss having one. I don’t know if Jeff Beck’s ever really gotten along with singers, so he’s invented this way of not needing them. He has such ability, and this one’s a really great solo.”

Eric Johnson – Desert Rose (Eric Johnson)

“Eric’s one of my very favourite guitar players. He doesn’t get enough credit, in my opinion. The popular choice would probably be his Cliffs Of Dover, but for me the solo on this live recording of Desert Rose is perfect. The last three minutes in particular are perfection in terms of lead guitar sound and note choices. His clean sounds are so together, then there’s his half-clean, half-distorted sound in the rhythm, and Eric’s quintessential lead ‘violin’ sound. With the shreddier guys the notes tend to come from the head, not the heart, whereas Eric blends the two. This has got the fiery Hendrix blues in it but it’s very technical too. An unbelievable feat of solo craftmanship.”

The 100 greatest guitar solos of all time

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.