Attention guitar nerds. Tell us who you prefer from this series of head-to-heads between some of rock music’s most iconic guitar giants.
Do you view the guitar not just as a functional tool, but as the most compelling feature of your favourite records? Yes? Then you’ve probably got some strong opinions on the merits of rock music’s biggest guitar heroes. We’re not looking for objective responses here – we just want to know who you worship more.
Our first contest is between Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend. Before joining Cream, Clapton played in the Yardbirds and had a brief stint with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Cream were around from 1966-68 after which Clapton went on to form Derek and the Dominos and release his most popular song ‘Layla’.
Townshend is the founder, main songwriter and lead guitarist for The Who. The Who included a bunch of virtuosic talents such as drummer Keith Moon and bass player Pete Entwistle. But Townshend was always pulling the strings, envisioning epic rock operas and introducing modular synths to British rock music. But what about his guitar chops?
Next up is the Dutch-born glam metal icon Eddie Van Halen and the rock’n’roll progenitor Chuck Berry. Berry had an incalculable influence on the future of popular music with songs like ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode’. Van Halen has also created an influential body of work, in particular the tapping solo from 1978’s ‘Eruption’.
Who do you fancy out of B.B. King and Keith Richards? These guys might seem too different to compare, but there are a number of crossovers. While you’d grant more authenticity to King, both played a role in introducing blues music to mainstream audiences. There is so much mythology around Richards, but his passion for music is one of things that’s kept him on the planet until this day. King passed away in 2015, but was making records into his 80s.
One of the most common guitar nerd discussions concerns Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. Page wailed all over Led Zeppelin’s eight albums, drawing a lot of influence from trad blues music. Pedants might call Hendrix less technically accomplished than Page, but it’s hard to think of a more innovative and feel-driven guitar player.
And finally we have George Harrison versus Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. They’re not the most obvious candidates for rock’s greatest guitar hero, but Harrison’s tasteful leads and melodic solos can be found all across The Beatles’ catalogue. Likewise, Gilmour played a central role in conjuring the compelling atmospherics found on Pink Floyd’s classic albums.