Stone Temple Pilots—“Silvergun Superman” (1994)
This is eargasmic on headphones. I feel it in every fiber of my being. Dean DeLeo, the love child of Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, takes me for a ride with “Silvergun Superman.” It’s one of STP’s heaviest songs, and it seems heavily inspired by Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault,” which is their heaviest song. Woah, that’s heavy. These titillating licks clock in at almost two minutes long, and every second is engaging. He even plays over lyrics! Who does that? I love how it speeds up with the other instruments. Dare I say, it’s a perfect solo. [3:25]
Stone Temple Pilots—“Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” (1996)
I tried not to include two songs from one band on this list, but I love this solo too damn much. It’s another single that radio practically ruined for me. I’d be fine not hearing the song for a long time, but I gotta hold onto that sweet DeLeo lead. I’ve never tripped over any paper hearts, but I’m sure this is what it would sound and feel like. I love how funky it is. Again, I hear Page all over it. Dean bounces back and forth with a furious pace, using note repetition to his advantage. The way it glides back into the chorus is a thing of pure beauty. This is one solo that is certainly not dead or for sale. [1:51]
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers—“Runnin’ Down a Dream” (1989)
Talk about “feel-good” rock ‘n’ roll! “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is such a great driving tune, and not just because Tom Petty sings about putting “the pedal down.” Mike Campbell sounds possessed during the last minute. It’s almost like he has a fever . . . a Full Moon Fever! It’s pretty cool that he co-wrote it with Petty. This was his shining moment. I’ve always imagined the rest of the band having to hit Campbell over the head with a hammer to make him stop playing. I would have been okay if this went on for another two minutes. It’s great that it ends side “A,” because you definitely need a breather after this one. [3:12]
Pink Floyd—“Time” (1973)
You didn’t think someone was going to write about their favorite solos without including the legendary David Gilmour, did you? No how, no way. There was stiff competition with “Comfortably Numb,” but I had to give the nod to Dark Side of the Moon’s “Time.” This one has all the feels. I’ve been rockin’ this song and throwing it on mixed tapes since I was seven. The trippy guitar work always made me feel like I’m in outer space. I don’t understand how it’s even possible for a human to write something this good. I was fortunate enough to watch a street musician play this in Rome, in front of the Pantheon (on my honeymoon, no less!), and I was practically moved to tears. He pretty much nailed every note and emotion, which is no easy task. Gilmour’s work here is timeless. [3:18]
This list could easily be nothing but Dimebag Darrell solos, but that’s not fair to these other dudes. The Great Southern Trendkill was my intro to Pantera. I bought the CD used for two dollars, a year after its release. It was so cheap because it was scratched to hell, but the sucker never once skipped on me. “Floods” is one of the band’s darkest, heaviest, and weirdest songs. Contrarily, Dimebag’s solo is incredibly uplifting. Some songs take me on a roller-coaster ride; this blasted me to Mars with just the guitar. It may be the greatest guitar solo ever written. It’s complemented by the fact that you can hear Rex Brown’s bass so well underneath. As a bonus, this track also has an outro solo (one that dates back to the ‘80s when Darrell was just a teenager). That’s two solos for the price of one—getcha’ pull! When Dime’s fuzzed-out solo fades away at the end (over the sound of falling rain), I always feel emotionally drained in the best possible way. [3:50 & 6:14]
This seems like a good place to stop. I’m sure I forgot some. I’m now realizing I have about 100 “favorite” guitar solos. Which epic leads would you add to this list?
Honorable mention: Dire Straits—“Sultans of Swing” (1978)
I thought it was unfair to include this on the list because the whole song is basically one long guitar solo. But, Mark Knopfler’s speedy finger-pluckin’ is out of this world, and I’m entranced every time I hear it.