Saturday, 28 May 2022

The Saturday list #349 - My top ten ever guitarists

 I was listening to The Light pours out of me in the week and I came to the conclusion that John McGeough is probably my favourite ever guitarist. Not only that, I think he is possibly the most influential. This may sound like a bit of an exaggerated claim, but before him good guitar was mostly considered to be long twiddly solos. His work is far more textured and interesting. I'm shocked that I've never done this particular list before, as playing the guitar has been the colour of my life. 

So here are my top ten

1. John McGeoch, notably of Magazine, PIL and Siousxie and the Banshees. I love his understated textured sound. Most modern bands guitar sounds give a nod to McGeough, many without realising! Checkout his doscography. When I looked there were some gems there that I hadn't even realised were his work, such as Fade to Grey by Visage. 

2. Chuck Berry. The man who invented Rock and Roll guitar in my humble opinion. Before Chuck Berry, guitarists were just a part of the band. I genuinely don't thinl Berry gets the recognition he deserves as a guitarist. I don't think there's a guitarist on the planet who hasn't tried to learn the intro to Johnny B. Goode

3. Johnny Thunders. Lead Guitarist of The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. I guess you had to see Johnny live when he was on form, which certainly wasn't all the time, to really get how good he was. There's not a day goes by when I don't hear one of his riffs casually nicked and used far less tastefully in another bands guitar solo. What made Johhny so good in my humble opinion was that his guitar work was always sympathetic to the song. There are plenty of solo's that are technically brilliant, but are just excuses to show off. the pick of his work for me is "It's not enough" from LAMF. It is simply beautiful

4. Carlos Santana. Santana were one of the highlights of Woodstock. I love the way Carlos Santana plays the guitar and the way he uses a very rock sound but makes it something far more groovy. Soul Sacrifice is a wonderful example. I prefer his earlier work, but he has successfully reinvented himself.

5. Ed Kuepper. Former Saints and Laughing Clowns guitarist. In my humble opinion, Ed can do no wrong. Today Wonder is one of the best albums ever made. If you want to know how to make a dark, bitter unplugged album that is at times very funny, check Ed out. I'm Stranded by The Saints is one of the finest singles ever.

6. Steve Miller. I think Steve Miller is amazing. His second album Sailor is in my top one favourite albums. Before Punk, I loved the breezy West Coast rock sound. To me the Steve Miller Band were the finest proponents. I hate 'showy' guitarists. Steve comes from a solid blues background. The guitar is always tasteful. It does what it is supposed to do and hits the spot. I love the slide guitar on The Joker. It shows Steve at his best, tasteful and funny at the same time

7. Nile Rodgers. I simply love the way Nile Rodgers plays guitar. I don't think he ever plays a solo, but when you hear a Nile Rodgers song you know it. They groove. His body of work is awesome. Given that most of his early work was disco, it took a very long time for his true genius to be recognised. I love songs like We are Family. 

8. Mick Jones. I recall once being in a pub with some heavy metal guitarists I know. One of them happened to make the comment that "Mick Jones of The Clash is the worst guitarist on the planet".  I had to disagree, not least because I am! But if you can't appreciate the work of Mick Jones, quite frankly you are a clueless dolt. Mick may not be a technically great guitarist, but he has an amazing feel. I can remember the first time I heard Train in Vain, it imspired me to spend an hour learning to play it. It is a beautiful song. As great intro's go, you cannot beat Should I stay or Should I go for a great rock and roll moment, and listening to Big Audio Dynamite play E=MC2 as the sun went down on the Rock Against Racism gig on Clapham Common in 1987, with Mick's rif cutting through was a special moment for me.

9. John Cipollina. The amazing guitarist from Quicksilver Messenger Service. Happy Trails is definitely in my top five albums. Side one, the Who do you love suite is perhaps the finest example of Rock Blues guitar ever recorded. It was a truly wonderful record and shows Cipollina at his best. Most people I know have never heard of Cipollina. they should.  I was lucky enough to see him live at Dingwalls in 1985 and he was great. Check out who do you love. It is great. When my kids were little. every Monday, I'd make them a 'Midnight Feast', where we'd eat all our favourite foods (as Clare was out at band rehearsals), whilst sitting on the floor, with lighted candles and listening to side 1 of Happy Trails. When it finished, they'd trot blissfully off to bed and I'd listen to side 2. 

10. Randy California. The lead guitrist of Spirit, who tragically died in a swmming accident in 1989. I love Spirit. The album Spirit of 76 is one of my favourites. I love his version of Like a Rolling Stone. I spent an age learning it. I also think the title Track of Father Along is a classic that simply was ignored. I get sad these days listening to Spirit.

Have a listen, tell me what you think (BTW please don't suggest Eric Clapton. For me he will always be the bloke who's racist comments launched Rock Against Racism)


TONY said...

No James Marshall Hendrix? Amazing sounds he created with not much more than a wah wah pedal and some feedback but Band of Gypsies album showed how well he could play without effects.

The David Gilmour solo on Comfortably numb must be one of the all time greats.

Matt Bellamy of Muse may not be as technically gifted but produces incredibly evocative soundscapes.

Noel Gallagher is consistently good and may have been nearer the top if it wasn't for his football allegiance.

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys for the modern take on the early 70s West Coast sounds of Brothers Allman and Doobie.

and last but not least

Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap - legendary guitarist and and amplifier which took him up to 11!

Rog T said...

One of my criteria was that I had to have seen the guitarist in action. I think that unless you see a guitarist live, then you can't really judge them. As to your points

1. Hendrix, I'd have put him in the list if I allowed people I'd not seen (as I probably would with LinK Wray).

2. I am not a fan of post Barratt Floyd. I am also not a fan of Gilmours style, although he's technically very good. I prefer guitarists who are exciting rather than dramatic.

3. I am not a fan of Muse and find Bellamy's sound midly irritating. Personaly taste

4. Noel Gallagher, not seen him live. Think he's a good songriter, but his playing is not on my radar.

5. Not seen Dan Auerbach, so he's also excluded. Prefer innovators rather than refiners in general. Not sure too many people will be claiming him as an influence in 20 years time, but hey ho, that's a personal opinion

6. Nigel Tufnell, Spinal Tap was an amusing enough film, but I actually think it damaged the art of playing guitar. It tended to make people conformist rather than original.