Go to main content

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All-Time

June 02, 2008 | Other

Rolling Stone magazine listed the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time. Elvis Presley is listed once at #37 with "That's All Right (Mama)".

The comment on the song:

Lead guitarist Scotty Moore's hillbilly blues has become ground zero for the last 54 years' worth of rockabilly. On Elvis' first single, the guitarist's lusty solo matches Elvis' vocals and rhythm guitar perfectly — it's hard to believe this is the only second time they played together.

Intro for the Top 100:

This is what makes a great rock & roll guitar sound: an irresistible riff; a solo or jam that takes you higher every time you hear it; the final power chord that pins you to the wall and makes you hit "play" again and again. Every song here has those thrills. But these are rock's greatest guitar moments because of what's inside the notes: hunger, fury, despair and joy, often all at once. You hear the blues, gospel and rockabilly that came before, transormed by the need to say something new and loud, right away. Rock & roll has been the sound of independence for half a century. The guitar is still its essential, liberating voice. This list shows the 100 reasons why:

100 Tool - "Vicarious"
99 My Morning Jacket - "Run Thru"
98 Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Under the Bridge"
97 Queens of the Stone Age - "No One Knows"
96 Husker Du - "New Day Rising"
95 Moby Grape - "Omaha"
94 Dire Sraits - "Money for Nothing"
93 My Bloody Valentine - "Only Shallow"
92 Mick Jagger - "Memo from Turner"
91 The Mars Volta - "Drunkship of Lanterns"
90 The Smiths - "How Soon Is Now?"
89 Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "I Love Rock N Roll"
88 Quicksilver Messenger Service - "Mona"
87 King Crimson - "Red"
86 Jeff Beck - "I Ain't Superstitious"
85 Phish - "You Enjoy Myself"
84 John Mayer - "Gravity"
83 Sublime - "What I Got"
82 The Ventures - "Walk -- Don't Run"
81 Michael Jackson - "Beat It"
80 Steely Dan - "Kid Charlemagne"
79 Sonic Youth - "Silver Rocket"
78 Buddy Guy - "Stone Crazy"
77 Pearl Jam - "Even Flow"
76 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "American Girl"
75 Frank Zappa - "Willie the Pimp"
74 ZZ Top - "La Grange"
73 Blue Cheer - "Summertime Blues"
72 Weezer - "Say It Ain't So"
71 The Strokes - "Take It Or Leave It"
70 Smashing Pumpkins - "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
69 Pink Floyd - "Money"
68 B.B. King - "The Thrill is Gone"
67 Bruce Springsteen - "Adam Raised A Cain"
66 Stevie Ray Vaughan - "Texas Flood"
65 The Police - "Message in a Bottle"
64 Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Freebird"
63 Guns n' Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine"
62 Albert King - "Born Under a Bad Sign"
61 Sam And Dave - "Soul Man"
60 Funkadelic - "Maggot Brain"
59 Jeff Beck - "Freeway Jam"
58 Link Wray - "Rumble"
57 Grateful Dead - "Dark Star"
56 The Byrds - "Eight Miles High"
55 Cream - "White Room"
54 Stevie Ray Vaughan - "Little Wing"
53 Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Born on the Bayou"
52 Radiohead - "My Iron Lung"
51 Ozzy Osbourne - "Crazy Train"
50 Pixies - "Debaser"
49 Jimi Hendrix - "Machine Gun"
48 The Clash - "London Calling"
47 Van Halen - "Panama"
46 Dick Dale and the Del-Tones - "Miserlou"
45 The Beatles - "I Saw Her Standing There"
44 Sleater-Kinney - "Dig Me Out"
43 The Sex Pistols - "Holidays in the Sun"
42 John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers - "Hideaway"
41 Television - "Marquee Moon"
40 The Who - "I Can See for Miles"
39 Santana - "Black Magic Woman"
38 The Faces - "Stay With Me"
37 Elvis Presley - "That's All Right"
36 Pink Floyd - "Interstellar Overdrive"
35 The Stooges - "1969"
34 Aerosmith - "Walk This Way"
33 Metallica - "Master of Puppets"
32 Dire Straits - "Sultans of Swing"
31 Queen - "Keep Yourself Alive"
30 Bill Haley and His Comets - "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock"
29 AC/DC - "Back in Black"
28 U2 - "Where the Streets Have No Name"
27 The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - "Look Over Yonders Wall"
26 B.B. King - "How Blue Can You Get"
25 The Rolling Stones - "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"
24 Rage Against the Machine- "Killing in the Name"
23 The Yardbirds - "Over Under Sideways Down"
22 The Beatles - "A Hard Day's Night"
21 The White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army"
20 The Impressions - "People Get Ready"
19 Prince and the Revolution - "Purple Rain"
18 Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"
17 Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"
16 Neil Young with Crazy Horse - "Cowgirl in the Sand"
15 The Who - "My Generation"
14 Bruce Springsteen - "Born to Run"
13 Derek and the Dominos - "Layla"
12 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
11 Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love"
10 Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
09 The Allman Brothers Band - "Statesboro Blues"
08 Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Heaven"
07 The Beatles - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
06 Van Halen - "Eruption"
05 Rolling Stones - "Brown Sugar"
04 The Kinks - "You Really Got Me"
03 Cream - "Crossroads"
02 Jimi Hendrix - "Purple Haze"
01 Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode

It's worth checking out the write-ups at the Rolling Stones magazine website for some context to the decisions.

Source:Rolling Stone

Related links

Lonesome_Cowboy wrote on June 02, 2008
Who comiles this rubbish Rock Around the Clock more significant that That's Alright Mama! No way pedro!
Matthias Kuenzer wrote on June 02, 2008
Being placed after The Kinks and Cream is a hard one to take, normally. But this list comes from Rolling Stone, so you can shrug it away.
PRESYER wrote on June 02, 2008
What a bunch of... What are those? Pinky Floyeud, Bille Haillly, Acdcbattery, Youthree, Thebetteuls, Prinsse, Blacksabbott, JaimepasHenbx, etc... Even Scotty Moore, James Burton, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson are not listed! Well we do know it comes from the stonerollers of rollingstones magazine!
Steve V wrote on June 02, 2008
Looking at some of the songs on this list (Blue Cheer a cover song!), Im grateful an Elvis song even made it. In fact, one of the most influential guitar riffs of all time is not even listed and he died today. You know, Bo, RIP.
Natha wrote on June 02, 2008
This shows exactly why Rolling Stone is not to be taken seriously. Their biased view on music dates back to the very root of a generation that never really understood and thus appreciated ELVIS and of course the TCB band. The list shown here is prove of their one-sidedness. Worthless indeed.
Cher wrote on June 02, 2008
What a load of hogwash! The highest rank Stevie Ray Vaughan made was 54th? Cmon! Ever listened to SRV play guitar? I know a lot of these songs and frankly, I have trouble remembering if there even was any guitar leads in a lot of them worth mentioning. Mostly vocals. Only one Santana tune? Ever heard Carlos play guitar? HOGWASH!
mak1965 wrote on June 02, 2008
I am so fed up with the US Music system.. Rage against the machine is before Elvis?? What Trash! That is why a guy like Brian Setzer always tours elsewhere and is more appreciated to say the least! Oh My GOD I can go on forever! Anyway I am sure that my opinion is well appreciated here
Jumpin Jehosaphat wrote on June 02, 2008
nice to see Chuck Berry on Top Johnny B was darn good. But on Scotty Moore "anyway You want me" actually sounds like the Guitar is speaking all the way through the song. I find that as one of the better flip sides of Elvis' hits, and the credit goes to Scotty Moore.
benny scott wrote on June 03, 2008
I fully agree with most of the reactions, but do not agree with Lonesome Cowboy, though I respect his opinion. I think that "rock around the clock" was no rubish at all. Lonesome, you're too young to understand the impact the song had in 1954-1955 !. The record was used as background-music in the movie " Blackboard Jungle ". We didn't see Bill Haley and His Comets, just heard them. The very first sound in that movie was a double drumbeat and then ... One ,two, three o'clock..." I remember it as yesterday : it gave us youngsters at the time a real shock : my God .. what is that ? what a beat ...!! It was for many of us the very first contact with R 'n' R. And by the way :we are not comparing here Bill Haley with Our Man : the main thing is the guitar-solo in both songs. Well, Scotty is witout any doubt a monument as a guitar-picker, but the solo played by Danny Cedrone in RATC is a very good one too.Unfortunatly the guy died a coupls of months after he did the recording. Always El
JerryNodak wrote on June 03, 2008
Another useless poll from this now irelevant mag.
My boy, my boy wrote on June 03, 2008
For the record, how come "Hotel California" from the Eagles is not there ? As far as classic guitar songs are concerned, I think it should have been included in the poll, huh ?...unless it's their # 101...No credibility whatsoever !
ElvisDayByDay wrote on June 03, 2008
Did any of you read the criteria for this Top 100? It is not about the riff or solo, buth "what's behind them". Listening to "That's All Right" you probably should hear the fifties youth breaking free from the restrains of their parents.
OtisBlue22 wrote on June 03, 2008
The impact of Scotty's solo would have been monumental at the time, but it's not as technically accomplished as the guitar work in Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", Springsteen's "Born to Run" or RATM's "Killing in the Name". BTW, I saw Bruce's 3 hour show in London on May 30th 2008 and it was without a doubt the best concert (and one of the best things) I will ever see. I'm an Elvis fan first and foremost, but when you watch "The Boss" -- who, at the age of 58, commands the stage like a 30-something -- you kind of get the feeling that with Elvis, in his treatment of his hits, in his not-taking-it-seriously style and in the length of his shows, those who attended his concerts in the 70's kind of got gipped! Also, Bruce Springsteen has the best back-catalogue in the world; no-one gives as much as he does and not only do Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play their past hits the way you first heard them, the band have never sounded so good or performed so compellingly. They made a sell-out stadium show seem intimate, and I'm inclined to believe that Elvis had the capacity to do that too, given that both him and Bruce are famous for the charisma they exude. Does anyone out there in the Elvis world understand? Does anybody think that Bruce Springsteen is the king of rock 'n' roll that Elvis Presley might have been if only he had lived up to his potential on a show-to-show basis?
Steve V wrote on June 03, 2008
OtisBlue - I agree with you on many things you say. I saw Bruce several times since 1976 ( Ilive in NJ) and not once has he failed to delver 100%. He may not have the greatest voice in the world but he has the greatest energy & live show Ive ever seen. I mentioned this once before and was ridiculed on this site for not being an Elvis fan. Hogwash! It hurts so much that Elvis had disdain for his early hits in concerts and rock music in general and decided to become a cover singer of Olivia Newton-John & The Pointer Sisters. I think another member stated Elvis was a bit of a ham & egger in the Vegas years. Thats not far from the turth either as I know people (casual fans) that walked out on ELvis in 1974 because the show was lousy. Yeah the truth hurts!
FJE wrote on June 04, 2008
At the risk of turning this posting into a Bruce Springsteen thread, I feel I must say my piece. But I have to point out first that Elvis was, is, and forever will be my No.1 fave artist. My greatest regret in life is not being able to see him in person. Not performing outside the US didn't help at all as living in Europe made the US too far and out of reach for me, especially in the 70's. But anyway, I happen to be a fan of the Boss as well and have all his albums in my collection. I was lucky enough to watch him in concert in the UK twice, way back in 1988 when he was doing the Tunnel of Love tour. And I must agree with OtisBlue and Steve V that it was an experience I will never forget as long as I live. He puts so much energy in his 3 hour+ shows and the music was so good that it was impossible not to appreciate every minute of it. He really gives the audience their money's worth. His voice may not compare to Elvis' but his songwriting is exceptional - and he is a very good guitar player! I recommend all those who are able to attend any one of his shows not to hesitate. I guarantee you will not regret it.