A great guitar solo needs to have memorable melodies. You have to create tension, then release tension. But more than anything, you need to tell a story. Most of the solos I’m about to mention, they have that story-telling aspect. There’s nothing random about them. All of these solos tell a story and take you to another place in a magical way. You fly with the guitar player, then you come back to the song and the lyrics. I was going to include Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven, by the way, but it was so obvious that I couldn’t do it!
Ozzy Osbourne – Mr Crowley (1980)
Randy Rhoads brought such beautiful riffs, solos and compositions to Ozzy’s songs. He was melodic and aggressive at the same time. I think Ozzy’s solo career launched really well, partly because he had Randy with him. In the early ‘80s, guitar solos were really important, so you needed a great player in order to stand out. I’ve chosen Mr Crowley because it’s a long song with this classical, Bach-like thing. When I was a kid, I was super into this. There are two solos, too! Back then, you could do a solo, then later on, no problem, you could do another one. There are so many other great Randy solos too, like I Don’t Know or Flying High Again.
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
The best solos really feel like they’re a part of the song. And Bohemian Rhapsody without that solo, without that melody, would not be the same song any more. The solo is part of the arrangement of the song, part of the composition. With these choices, I’m trying to select the solos which really influenced me while I was growing up and practising guitar. These are the songs I would sing along with as a teenager and motivated me to practice. When I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody, it was magical. I heard it in the mid-to-late ‘80s, so it was already kinda ‘old’, you could say. For me, Brian May was a magical entity, because he had this weird guitar with this weird sound. So very special.
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher (1984)
I could have chosen Eruption, of course, but I think this song is super-cool. The very American groove, with the whole ‘shuffle’ thing. Eddie Van Halen has done so many great solos – I almost chose his solo in Michael Jackson’s Beat It, ha ha. Again, it’s not about how difficult the solo is, but how important it is in Hot For Teacher. I remember trying to play this song, and watching the music video with him walking on top on the school desks. It was all very impressive for me as a teenager. I was going crazy, thinking, ‘I could never play that!’ But it made me practice. Eddie’s such a genius. Only ten years after Jimi Hendrix, he brought something completely fresh, like a guitar acrobat!
Deep Purple – Highway Star (1972)
Back in the ‘70s, solos were longer and there was more improvisation. There was more space, in every kind of music back then. You could relax more as a musician and really tell a story. These days, the singer has to start singing in the first few seconds! People don’t wanna wait and everything’s faster. Which is okay if you’re a progressive band – you can still have a minute-long solo. I don’t miss those old days, though: it’s just a fact. Ritchie Blackmore’s solo here is like a song all by itself. A song inside a song, which takes you to a different place, just like Slash’s solo in Sweet Child O’ Mine. Ritchie’s work was so clean and so melodic; he brought all the classical European baroque influences to it. Just like Eddie Van Halen – or Steve Vai, or Yngwie J Malmsteen – he plays like his guitar is a part of his body.
Jeff Beck – Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers (1975)
Yeah, this instrumental is like one big guitar solo! Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers is on Jeff’s first solo album Blow By Blow, which I keep returning to. It’s one of the most beautiful songs he ever recorded. The way he plays the melodies, he really makes the guitar speak. It’s super special. Y’know what, some guitar players do some cool solos during their whole career, but the guys on this list are players who only deliver super-special solos, the best. People like Randy Rhoads, Brian May, Eddie Van Halen, Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck know the concept of creating a nice solo. They know the nuances of a guitar, the vibrato, the tremolo bar, the slides, the picking – all the sounds you can get out of this instrument. No matter what pedal or equipment these guys use, they always sound like themselves, because the magic is all in the hands.
In the new issue of Metal Hammer we talk to Dave Mustaine about the appointment of Kiko Loureiro, Megadeth’s critics, moving to Nashville, and his views on American politics. You can buy your copy here or read it on TeamRock+.