Guitars are essential. Rock bands can’t exist without them. Guitars are vital, to be sure. When a guitar isn’t pounding through a pop tune, it loses a lot of its roughness. Every musician of any stature can rely on the guitar’s brilliance, knowing that with the right arrangement, they can soar into the stratosphere. We’ve compiled a list of our top 15 favorite guitar intros of all time:
‘Freakin’ Out’ – Graham Coxon
The opening riff on ‘Freakin’ Out,’ one of his more dynamic hits, is admirably forceful, soaring through the mixes to create an echo chamber that expresses his sense of longing and desire. The song also serves as a tribute to punk and post-punk rock, and it has the sense of a hook that The Jam may have utilized if they had came across it. Coxon, on the other hand, was the one who came up with the idea.
‘Heart Full of Soul’ – The Yardbirds
Producer Giorgio Gomelsky was inspired to recruit a sitar player after hearing Gouldman’s demo, but the final product didn’t meet his expectations. Beck was undeterred, so he used a fuzzbox to re-create their attempts, adding the sounds of India roaring into the mix. Fans hoping to hear a sitar should wait for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ and ‘Paint It, Black,’ respectively, but this was a good start.
‘Helicopter’ – Bloc Party
The throbbing center hook on ‘Helicopter’ has a cinematic, kinetic quality to it, serenading the central melody line with an aggressive, urbane beginning that’s pulsating and probing in equal measure. This British hit, one of the first true hooks of the new millennium, rushes, races, and ricochets like the helicopter it aspires to be.
‘Animal Nitrate – Suede
The debut Suede album is one of the best of the 1990s, a work brimming with possibilities, panache, and delight that never falters. Butler and Anderson would record one more album together before Butler left the band to pursue a solo career. When Suede disbanded in the new millennium, Anderson recruited Butler to form The Tears, a follow-up band. They failed to match the brilliance of ‘Animal Nitrate,’ or the first two albums, while being driven by pulse and drive.
‘The Song Remains The Same’ – Led Zeppelin
Originally intended to be an instrumental, Robert Plant ended up singing in a hilarious falsetto, concealing the billowing drum rhythms with a series of hard-hitting vocal performances. Plant had to drop the key by the time Led Zeppelin performed the song in 2007, but the opening riff remained as forceful as ever.
‘Voodoo Chile’- Jimi Hendrix
The guitar sizzles throughout the song, evolving from throwaway rock to something more varied and fascinating, as though foreshadowing the rise of progressive rock in the 1970s. The atmosphere and the eager audience pouring themselves onto the stage in front of him aided the song as an excuse to noodle away onstage.
‘Layla’ – Derek & The Dominos
The song is also famous for having a piano section that runs throughout the rest of the song, while the two guitars pad out the sound painting, spurred on by a sudden impulse to play second fiddle (or third guitar) to the piano. The music is so powerful that it might have stood alone as a song, and it was used to great effect in Martin Scorsese’s shocking dissertation on crime in a country founded on opportunity, Goodfellas. But that’s a different list.
‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ – The Clash
When the guitar fades out, the drums take over, and the song continues, anchored by the pounding percussion. The song demonstrates how vital Topper Headon was to the band, which is why when he was asked to leave, the band suffered severely. By the time The Clash recorded the aptly titled Cut The Crap, Jones had also quit, which is why the album was, respectfully, crap.
‘What Is Life?’ – George Harrison
The shattering riff that opens ‘What Is Life?,’ George Harrison’s tremendous declaration of love at a moment of great sorrow, smells like Motown. The primary hook is almost exclusively responsible for the single’s success, but the strings and brass that follow the guitar are equally amazing in terms of density, depth, and direction. With the help of Eric Clapton, Harrison felt confident enough to craft a guitar hook with an everlasting view and persuade. Harrison, well aware of his voice’s limitations, lets the passion flow through the guitar rather than his speech.
‘Whiskey In The Jar’ – Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy began as a power trio in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and Cream before evolving into a guitar dueling behemoth in the 1970s. ‘Whiskey In The Jar,’ an Irish drinking song that glorifies the dangers of highway robbery and rebellion, wasn’t brilliant, and they were better served by Scott Gorham’s presence, but they did hit gold with ‘Whiskey In The Jar.’ Eric Bell’s pummeling guitar hook drew audiences in, peeling through wafts of reverb to produce a sparkling entrance. Phil Lynott played acoustic guitar on the tune, but it was Eric Bell’s pummeling guitar hook that drew audiences in.
‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ – Arctic Monkeys
Despite all the inevitable skeptics who refused to hop aboard the bandwagon as it sailed down last laugh lane in the first place, when a single achieves record-breaking sales statistics, revives guitar music, and keeps cultural importance indefinitely, it is a relatively simple sell.
‘Johnny B. Goode’ – Chuck Berry
Without Chuck Berry’s classic guitar lead line from his epic ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ there is no doubt that the song ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ would be unthinkable. That music would sound very different now if it hadn’t been for Goode’. Berry established an era with one song, and far more significantly, one guitar, which was absolutely scorching and dangerously intended. It was this song that was playing in John Lennon’s head when he stated that another term for rock and roll could just be Chuck Berry.
‘You Really Got Me’ – The Kinks
This was thought to be Jimmy Page for a long time. Dave Davies played the intro, so it’s not true. It hooks you right away, and it’s easy to see why everyone from Pete Townshend to Ozzy Osbourne was drawn in by the track’s primal impulses. When Eddie Van Halen and his band performed the song, he imitated the opening intro, but as admirable as he is, it lacks the roughness of the original. Oh, sure, the song virtually invented heavy metal.
‘Purple Rain’ – Prince
Prince was a great performer in his own right, but he was also a skilled guitarist, as seen by his performance at George Harrison’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, where he imitated Eric Clapton’s searing lead on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ But it was on the title track of Purple Rain that his best guitar work was heard, cascading in an eruption of guitar splashes, pouring new brilliance into the listener’s ear and propelling them onto the song’s energy and diversity.
‘Gimme Shelter’- The Rolling Stones
Richards played all of the guitars on the track and may have also played bass, making it a one-man show for the mercurial guitarist. Ronnie Wood has played the second guitar onstage due to the density of the track. Allowing Richards to focus on the jangly entrance that the audience loves.