I’M on a musical quest this week and it might be only fair to post a timely warning. I always think there’s nothing like a little good natured controversy every now and then, especially when it comes to the subject of music. A light hearted topic generally, it nevertheless can get a spicy debate up and running as everyone seems to have an opinion. As daft an endeavour as it sounds, I shall attempt to list the top 10 guitarists of all time. Now that’s sure to stir up a bit of earnest banter and, at the very least, remind us of how good this lot actually were or still are.
I’m happy to admit that’s it’s actually nigh on impossible to edit this list to just 10. Totally ludicrous to leave some out, but I’m sticking with the challenge of only 10 and so I have had to be ruthless in the final analysis. I would be prepared to wager that probably no one will agree with all my choices but here we go anyway. Let the argument begin.
Diving straight in at No.10: Belfast blues rock legend, Gary Moore. Power, passion; the man had it all and to me is still underrated. What wondrous stuff he could be doing today had he lived.
No. 9: David Gilmour. He achieved immortality with Pink Floyd after replacing Syd Barrett who sadly fell victim to drugs. He’s someone I never tire of listening to and has given us some amazing moments in rock, not least the solo on ‘Comfortably Numb’ and that stunning yet subtle riff on ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’.
No.8: Eric Clapton. Old ‘Slowhand’ is normally higher up on these types of lists but the competition here is ferocious. That said he’s earned his stripes with a fantastic body of work littered with great playing.
No.7: Frank Zappa. A genius, sadly no longer with us, I tend to think he’s often overlooked because of his wacky persona and weird lyrics, but boy could he play.
No. 6: Jeff Beck. He’s been around since the 60’s. A cursory listen to his style is proof of his gift. From the Yardbirds to his solo work, a craftsman to his fingertips.
No. 5: BB King. A giant of a man and the way he lovingly caressed his wonderfully named guitar “Lucille” is a joy to behold. Blues with feeling in spades.
No. 4: Carlos Santana. I had the pleasure of seeing him at Marlay Park, Dublin a few years ago. The Latino superstar makes guitar playing look so easy and exudes happiness when on stage.
No. 3: Stevie Ray Vaughan. Now we’re in the rarefied air up in the dizzy heights of the top three. Hopefully you’re still with me. This Texan star died way too young and played on Bowie’s classic hit, ‘Let’s Dance’. A monster axe man with talent to burn.
No. 2: Jimi Hendrix. Before you splurt out your false teeth, I know. Surely the great Jimi is usually numero uno on top ten lists? I am only too well aware of his prowess and the “others” all say he was the best, as in other guitar heroes. It may well be I’m daring to be different, losing the run of myself or possibly just being brutally honest, but I rank only one guitar player above Hendrix and really there’s scarcely a nose hair separating them.
At this point, I’ve most likely alienated fans of several big name guitar legends but I repeat it’s a totally impossible job. I feel terrible to leave out one of my favourites Steve Hackett, a consummate pro with a unique sound. No room sadly for the utterly brilliant Mark Knopfler, Brian May, Michael Schenker, Pete Townshend or the mighty Angus Young. Jimmy Page fans will never talk to me again nor I suspect devotees of the phenomenal Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen, recently deceased Peter Green or Richie Blackmore.
So if those superstars are omitted, who then could possibly pip Jimi to my coveted number one slot? Well, gone but never forgotten, and in truth a whiff of patriotic pride may have slightly influenced my decision, but I am naming Cork’s masterful man of blues rock, the one and only Rory Gallagher as my Number 1.
I suspect many would perhaps have the humble, unassuming Rory somewhere in a top 10 list but maybe not ahead of Mr. Hendrix. I totally understand. I simply feel that Rory played with such deep feeling and raucous passion that I could imagine him not wanting to do anything else but make that guitar talk. Live on stage, the man was unstoppable and mesmerising and I strongly recommend you take a trip through some of his catalogue of gems and enjoy his breathtaking skill. Experts claim nobody could control the feedback from the amps like Hendrix could but I suggest Rory could match anyone and then some.
To be honest it’s a fruitless exercise and it’s probably pointless comparing them anyway. It’s a bit like comparing Ronaldo and Messi. Where do you start?
At any rate, I’ve nailed my colours and the mast is well and truly up. Pot shots welcome and interminable discussion is bound to ensue but I hope I’ve given some of you a little food for thought at least. I’ll leave you to argue with your buddies.
There’s no way to win with this lot I’m sure, but I had fun compiling it. Don’t fall out with me if I wildly differ from your selection. It’s only rock ‘n roll after all.