BBC Radio 2 recently compiled a list of the 100 greatest guitar riffs. The list was chosen by a panel of music experts and then listeners voted on the list to put them in order of popularity. On Monday the 25th of August they broadcast a 3-hour programme of the top 30 in the list, the link to that programme is here, but by now the programme will probably no longer be available on iPlayer.
The top 10 in the list are
- 10. “Money” by Pink Floyd
- 9. “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks
- 8. “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits
- 7. “Down Down” by Status Quo
- 6. “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths
- 5. “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes
- 4. “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple
- 3. “Back In Black” by AC/DC
- 2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns n’ Roses
- 1. “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
For those of you who are interested, the complete list is here. I did hear someone being interviewed on Radio 5 about this programme, who was arguing that the guitar riff was not invented until Led Zeppelin and that prior to that one should refer to a guitar piece as a “lick” rather than a “riff”. I don’t know enough about guitars or music to know whether there is such a distinction or not (does anyone reading this know?), but I do notice that there are some (but not many) “riffs” in the list from the 1960s and even the 1950s.
There are some wonderful guitar riffs in this list, and over the next several months I will post blogs about some of my favourites. For today, I thought I would share number 6 in the list – “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths. This song has one of the most mesmerising guitar riffs, and in the programme The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr talks about how he came up with the riff. It was apparently inspired by hearing a band called The Gun Club and their cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Run Through The Jungle”.
Here is the official YouTube clip of this song. Enjoy!
Which is your favourite guitar riff in the top 10? In the top 100? Which ones of your favourites are missing from the list?