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Greatest Rhythm Guitar Songs

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Listing the greatest guitarists or greatest singers or such seems just too broad to get the best results. For something more narrowly focused, let’s look at individual songs with the greatest rhythm guitar parts.

Looking to tease out the best rhythm guitar performances leads to some consideration of what even constitutes “rhythm guitar.” Some of the stuff is not strictly chords, but riffs or some of both. You’ll see.

Some of the best guitar work, especially rhythm guitar parts, don’t obviously dominate the song. A good example of this is “Sign O the Times.” The guitar part is so sparse and understated, but so precise that the whole song doesn’t quite make sense without it.

Another problem: I have trouble picking out a good rhythm guitar performance to represent some of the biggest guitar hotshots. What Jimi Hendrix song would you pick out to represent him playing “rhythm guitar”? Likewise for Jimmy Page.

Ah, well, we do the best we can. To that end, then, here are the official, 100% objective Al-picked greatest rhythm guitar performances of the rock era:

1) “Love and Happiness” John Mellencamp – Strictly on the basis of the rhythm guitar, no song in the rock tradition lays out a more perfectly dramatic presence than this lesser known Mellencamp classic.

2) “Maybellene” Chuck Berry – If you had to pick out one musician as the main architect of rock and roll, it would have to be Uncle Chuck. In this first single, he defined the basic jumped up blues guitar rhythms that were the original DOS programming of generations of musicians.

3) “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – James Brown This record pretty much invented funk as we know it today, including a new conception of guitar rhythms.

4) “Black Betty” Ram Jam – This studio concoction managed to take a Leadbelly song, and turn it into ultra heavy metal and sheer joyous bubblegum all at the same time. The jumping chord figures turn this into a lead rhythm guitar. This is definitely one of the more awesome rock records ever.

5) “Mystery Train” Elvis Presley – This early Sun record defined the jumpin’ country side of the early rock equation.

6) “You Really Got Me” The Kinks – Along with the even slightly better “All Day and All of the Night,” these two chords were not just career makers for the band, but one of the main beginning points of power pop and even heavy metal.

7) “Pinball Wizard” The Who – The high drama of a pinball championship expressed in guitar chords coming through the subtle wrist of Pete Townshend.

8) “Kiss” Prince – So seemingly simple, yet so high and tight and perfect. Notice the rhythm guitar solo just before the lead solo. I particularly recommend the 12″ extended mix.

9) “Monkey Man” The Rolling Stones – Those high lonesome strokes of rhythm guitar just before the vocal starts ache with understated longing. So hot, so sophisticated and articulate.

10) “Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds – Roger McGuinn’s classic twelve-string guitar sound became one of the three or four most influential basic guitar styles in the rock era, and this would be the textbook example.

11) “Amos Moses” Jerry Reed – Here’s a good example of my confusion about what even counts as “rhythm guitar” parts. There’s the basic recurring riff intercut with chord changes in which Jerry Reed invents his own personal brand of jangling country funk.

12) “Tattooed Love Boys” The Pretenders – James Honeyman Scott had great promise, before taking himself out with a stupid OD. Ah, but this slice of 5/4 precision assault forces an extra beat of aggravated aggression, making something work that lesser guitar mortals just couldn’t.

13) “Detox Mansion” Warren Zevon – Those hard, sleazy guitar chords really communicate the pure JOY of being in detox.

14) “Blitzkrieg Bop” The Ramones – Hard, catchy guitar rhythms were the bands’ strongest suite. Nominally punk rock, they had more in common with AC/DC than the Clash. They had a special gift for combining hard rock guitars and catchy bubblegum fun.

15) “Cold Turkey” John Lennon – The jagged little guitar riff defines the whole record, and does the biggest part of the screaming of the pain of Lennon’s addiction.

16) “Cinnamon Girl” Neil Young – This simple riff and distorted sound set the standards for grunge to come, and made real the romantic vision of the song.

17) “American Girl” Tom Petty – He took the classic jangling Byrds sound, and turbo charged it.

18) “I Shot the Sheriff” Bob Marley – As the top exponent of reggae, Marley has to rate as one of the half dozen most influential rock era artists in terms of defining basic guitar rhythms. Some of his sound seems relatively languid, but the anxious jumping of this particular track gives the definition to funky reggae.

19) “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” Elton John – Don’t them guitars cut like the switchblade this guy carries?

20) “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” Creedence Clearwater Revival – Despite general intentions of being all down home and back woodsy, CCR were not generally very convincing in that aspect. The fast shuffling acoustic rhythms of this recording are the main time that I found them fully credible as country music.

21) “Tryin’ to Forget the Blues” Porter Wagoner – A simple gutbucket country blues with just the right little high accents. Porter’s Wagonmasters band has never gotten anything like the credit they deserve.

22) “Stray Cat Blues” The Rolling Stones – Though there would be substantial competition for the title, this may be the nastiest, most gutteral blues chords Keef ever played.

23) “Faith” George Michael – Whatever you may think of him, the Faith album earns status as one of the great all-time pop albums. The basic shuffling rockabilly rhythm guitar that opens the title track stands as his greatest all time hook.

24) “Smoke on the Water” Deep Purple – The basic bar chords here are one of the most recognizable guitar hooks in pop music.

25) “Add It Up” The Violent Femmes – Acoustic based music doesn’t get any more aggressive than this deadly serious rockabilly psychodrama. Funny how acoustic this sounds for something with as much electricity as this has.

26) “Hyperactive!” Thomas Dolby – This record apparently threw most people for a loop, but every part of this just burns with inspiration, not least of all the nasty James Brown guitars with the new wave edge. Dig that little burst of guitar right after “the teacher knew I had the funk.”

27) “Medley (Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly)” Elton John – Cool people know that Rock of the Westies was THE best Elton album. He never made a more rockin’ album than this. He got a real unique flavor of funky studio session rock on this album. This opening song suite comes framed with two of the best sets of guitar chords in his catalogue.

28) “A Apolitical Blues” Little Feat – It’s the meanest blues of all. One simple sharp blues guitar hook with a nicely affected studio echo and some nasty slide work.

29) “Roadrunner” Jonathan Richman – Two simple chords never sounded more complete.

30) “Crumblin’ Down” John Mellencamp – Joshua had trumpets to bring down the walls of Jericho. Mellencamp has these much more powerful guitar chords.

31) “Sister Morphine” The Rolling Stones – Simple, quietly played acoustic guitar chords never carried more drama.

32) “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” AC/DC – You couldn’t very well have a list of rhythm guitar greats without some AC/DC, could you?

33) “Hot Stuff” The Rolling Stones – Ah, this is what disco was SUPPOSED to sound like.

34) “Rockin’ the Suburbs” Ben Folds – Ben Folds plays keyboards, so this guitar oriented song is the rarity. These straightforward hard rock guitar chords provide the critical underpinning of sincerity to the “white boy pain” that he’s sheepishly and comically describing.

35) “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” The Rolling Stones – Those opening chords give the fullest expression of just what overwhelming determination possessed Keef to push his way through that crossfire hurricane.

36) “Jolene” Dolly Parton – The taut rolling guitar lick under the song communicates her desperate plea perhaps even more than the elegant vocal melody.

37) “Revolution” The Beatles – Raw, primal and powerful

38) “Not Fade Away” Buddy Holly – The staccato guitar pulse of this most classic of Buddy Holly jams the rock and the roll in an irresistable of righteous rocking daddiness.

39) “Old” Paul Simon – There’s nothing particularly cutting edge or experimental about this record. It’s just a pitch perfect advancement on Buddy Holly that shows the continuing viability of his basic sounds. I only regret not being able to include numerous other Paul Simon acoustic jams, including “Cecilia” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”

40) “I Hate Myself for Loving You” Joan Jett – These simple chords constitute the best hook of any kind in her whole career. Meat and potatoes. Mmmm.

41) “Let It All Hang Out” The Hombres
42) “Let It All Hang Out” John Mellencamp – It’s so hard to pick just one of these performances, so why not take both? Mellencamp has had one of the best dozen or so bands in rock history, not sufficiently appreciated. His version is razor sharp, with them guitar chords cutting with James Brown level precision. The Hombres original, on the other hand, doesn’t charge quite as hard, but it has its own unique casual, informal front porch charm.

43) “Neighborhood Bully” Bob Dylan – The chord changes here are simple, but they carry great purpose, like the pulse of a telegraph carrying one of Dylan’s most urgent and direct messages. I’m not sure of exactly what musicians played what parts on this album, but the main guitar here probably comes from Mark Knopfler.

44) “This Flight Tonight” Joni Mitchell – Musicians from Zeppelin to Prince often talk of learning about orchestral color from Joni Mitchell. The unique rhythm guitar sounds on this song make a good example of what they mean. Also, let’s have a special shout out for the guitars on “Carey.”

45) “Girl of My Dreams” Bram Tchaikovsky – Besides being really catchy, the power chords of Bram Tcahikovsky’s whole excellent first album, particularly this title song communicate a rare regal high bearing.

46) “Pablo Picasso” Jonathan Richman – These two quietly agitated chords constitute some of the best punk rock hipster brooding on record.

47) “Cat Scratch Fever” Ted Nugent – Nothing particularly innovative, but this features Nugent’s catchiest and most infecting riff.

48) “Hurry Down Doomsday” Elvis Costello – Lots of good choices in the Elvis catalogue, but I especially dig the psychotic psychedelic country twang of this underappreciated classic.

49) “Wango Tango” Ted Nugent – Not the most sophisticated lyric in the world, admittedly, but he reaches impressive heights of guitar insanity with mostly just a couple of chords here.

50) “Surrender” Cheap Trick – This classic Live at Budokan recording finally made the band stars in America. The album generally, and this song in particular capture a rare moment of ascendance. You can almost see Rick looking up in the middle of this performance, say about the time of the power chords under “whatever happened to all this seasons loosers of the year” and realizing finally in just that moment that he really is a rock star.

“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” The White Stripes – Jack White (not to be confused with Jack Black) lays out a simple descending set of grungy chords the equal of “Cinnamon Girl,” with just a strong a sense of burning romanticism.

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  • Bill Gadzia

    You wrote this: What Jimi Hendrix song would you pick out to represent him playing “rhythm guitar”?

    You just don’t know Jimi Hendrix’ music. You could check out Joe Satriani’s Guide to Jimi Hendrix-Style R&B Rhythm Guitar Playing on Guitar World (http://www.guitarworld.com/joe-satrianis-guide-jimi-hendrix-style-rb-rhythm-guitar-playing-video/25779) or you could just listen to “Gypsy Eyes” from Jimi’s “Electric Ladyland.” Jimi pioneered power trios because he could play rhythm and lead at the same time. In “Gypsy Eyes” it’s almost all done with rhythm guitar playing; there’s a lot of fills but very little in the way of soloing.

  • mike canestrale

    …okay…1st of all,you guys are confused about rythym guitar and what it constitutes……and to make my point I’ll chose a song that lead. Andrythym are distinctly heard…I CALL YOUR MAME..the Beatles..which should be on list,by the way..after the first 4 notes,u hear the slide up to 1st rythym chord ..which pattern continues “rytymically thru whole track…George fills in leads n occasionally plays similar pattern but juhns rytyhm track DRIVES this song…listen to the left channel only on most of all old Beatles stuff…that’s rythym guitar 101,by simply the best ever…and after he picked up the Rickenbacker it went to even a more beastly level…Lennon was a genius at this..his skills weren’t polished as Clapton,Harrison,but he used wat he had phenomenally…by the way the smoke on water & dirty deeds ? Not rythym tracks…& in closing I have to mention ALLEN COLLINS of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame…he’s another Liberace of tythym guitar…you guys aren’t listening close enuf and your musical palettes must be extremely limited to come up with this list..its actually embarrassing that someone wrote this and someone else with not much more of an far than the author published it…ONLY ON THE WEB,I guess…lol…Michael Canestrale. Monessen,Pa.

  • JAC8280

    I love the simply guitar rhythm of Lou Gramm’s Midnight Blue. It’s stuck in my head. Man. The 80s.

  • James

    McCartney plays guitar on “Helter Skelter,” guys.

  • Dave R- So many excellent choices, so little space. You might also check out some of the brand new Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What album, starting with “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”

  • Dave R.

    Great List Al.. but my #1 song for Rhytym guitar has to go to John Lennon Playing that Triple Rhythm on “All My Loving”. In my opinion, nothing tops it. (cant belive it didnt make your list)

  • harry

    enter sandman can beat all these songs. .

  • Thanks for the list with a fine musical taste indeed.All my support.
    Lets play Sunday Blues

  • Erwtqweqw, I don’t know what “revolutionary” means, but if a song defines a genre or style, that probably does imply some artistic merit. If there was nothing to it, it probably wouldn’t be considered a definitive anything. I don’t necessarily know from definitive or revolutionary, but I would consider every song on my list to have high artistic merit, or I wouldn’t have included them. Are there specific entries here that you consider to lack artistic merit?

  • erwtqweqw

    just because a song defines something or is revolutionary doesn’t mean anything in terms of artistic merit. whoever wrote this is a amateur.

  • Manny

    How can you not include Bo Diddley on this list?

  • ccc

    niggaz have no say in this

  • Glen

    I am glad to see how diverse this list is, but its missing one of the best rhythm guitar artists, tom morello of rage against the machine. Especially on Renegades of Funk, the rhythm guitar is simply but incredible. And gimme all your loving by zz top is one of the most driving rhythm guitar parts of all time.

  • joeman

    why no jessica? that is possibly the best rhythm guitar song ever

  • what about the guitar on ‘I Fought The Law’ by The Bobby Fuller Four huh?

  • Anton

    Jesus! What a list! Where is George McCraes ‘Rock your Baby? The way Jerome Smith plays his telecaster will blow you away. John Mellencamp! I ask you…..

  • Solano heavy metal maniac

    Hey, good list. But man, you forgot iron man (black sabbath rules by the way)ore Metalica- one. Ore even led zeppelin, kashmir and the immigrant song got killer riffs.

  • Imran

    You seem to be forgetting any work by Tom Morello. Killing In The Name, anyone?

  • How about the long version of “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band?

  • Martin Backowski

    I don’t understand where is Hendrix’s Purple Haze??!

    next good songs…

    Heartbreaker- Jimmy Page, Aqualung- Martin Barre
    Iron Man- Tommi Iomi, next songs by Led Zep,Jimi H.,Black Sab,… hm queer list….

  • gonzo marx


    once again we find Opinion without proper broad based research into the subject at hand…which is fine, cuz it’s just Opinion…

    but still…

    ANYTHING by Pete Townshend is rhythmically superior to 95% of what’s listed, by definition…

    but, you leave out folks from genre’s that you are not familiar with..

    Dimebag Darryl of Pantera, and the rhythym guitar work on “Fucking Hostile”

    ANYTHING by Fast Eddy of Motorhead

    Scott Ian of Anthrax

    even dead, Frank Zappa is still greater than Jack White

    on and on…


  • Prince is sooo over looked as a guitar player…That performance at the 2004 RRHOF during “While my Guitar…” was f**kin’ amazing!!!

  • Two years and two months ago big boss Eric pronounced this was an “Excellent List, kind of overwhelming”. My, my!

    And then for 720 days you guys talk about rhythms and sounds which remind you of your high school days. Grow up. With (really due and well earned ) respect to big Al, I need to say that once artists like Vlatko Stefanovski (formally the lead of “Leb i Sol” group) or Miroslav Tadic are not on any list of top guitar-players of our time – the list is desperately partial, regional, biased or deficient of global perception.

    Only people deaf for the sounds of the planet and blind for its socio-cultural map would make such a blunder. You do not know what millions of well educated Europeans consider a really great guitar. Invest a quarter of an hour or so with the site this link will take you to to read and listen and discover something new.

    You may just let that browser window open and listen to the music while you write your posts in another window. I have one more link here with Vlatko on guitar and you need to forget the interface there, just listen to the music to get my point.

    Anyway, this Friday, December 9th at 08:00 p.m.in New York there will be a concert (I think for free) in a fine gallery of the Macedonian center (off Fifth Ave, on 549 West 52nd Street, 8th floor) where you can hear Bodan Arsovski, former bas-guitar of “Leb i Sol”. Do go. And then reinvigorate the impressive throb of this post.

  • Thanks, John. James Honeyman Scott was a great guitar talent.

    Holy crap, no Clash! “London Calling” definitely rates right up there.

  • John Lin

    Al – thanks for citing Pretender songs representing some of the finest rhythm guitar playing in rock. You might have overlooked “Brass in Pocket”? What about “Back to Ohio”?

    Also you mentioned the Clash very brieftly while talking about the Ramones. Perhaps you shoulda shined some light on the Clash as well? I want to give serious brownie points to their double LP “London Calling”. Songs like “London Calling”, “Death or Glory”, “Jimmy Jazz”, “Train in Vain” have a tendency to stay with you from adolescence to mid-age. The genius of the Clash derives not only from great song-writing, but also from their diverse musical range. Who woulda expected such James-Brown sounds from the “RADIO CLASH” LP right after “London Calling”?

  • 100%fake

    oh yeah, i think “mary had a little lamb” by SRV belongs right up there too

  • 100%fake

    frusciante?? power of equality? under the bridge? suck my kiss? funky monks? Cant stop? do i need to go on?

  • Brooke

    Pretty sweet list there.

  • TheGreatCarlini

    Okay, some of the best five member rock bands ( base, drums, vocal, lead and rhythm guitar) features the solid backbone riffs from the likes of Adrian Smith, Derrick St. Holmes, Brad Whitford, Rudy Schenker,Gary Rossington / Allen Collins ,Dave Kushner, and Malcom Young!

    We Are Smokin’

  • David Blakey


    Just wanted to thank bobbyshade for his comments regarding Bo Diddley (above).

    Also, just to clarify that the Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” song at 29 is an original song. It isn’t a remake of Bo Diddley’s song “Road Runner”.

    “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly & the Crickets at 38 (along with George Michael’s song “Faith” at 23), as bobbyshade correctly points out, utilises the world famous Bo Diddley beat.

    David Blakey, Webmaster,
    BO DIDDLEY-The Originator

    A Celebration of his unique contribution to Popular Music.
    1955 to 2005 – Celebrating 50 Years In Music!

  • 29 & 38, a bo diddley song and a tune based on the bo diddley riff.
    bo diddley is the most influential rhythm guitar player of all time. please name 1 other who created a chord riff and made a career of playing that same riff for 45+ years and it never got/gets stale.
    buddy holly was on the way to do the same
    (words of love) and to pick a song of his that borrows so heavily from bo is just wrong. IMHO
    b. shade

  • spankymcdratre

    what about “pride and joy” by stevie ray.
    green onions by the ventures is great.

  • Chiefwashburn

    Going to go back a bit on this one. Johnny Western played rythym and Carl Perkins played lead on “Live at San Quintin”. The reverb was turned up to the max that night.

    Don’t forget Doc Watson and Lester Flatt; after all, bluegrass is rock & roll at warp speed and you have to be more accurate.
    I played back up rythym for Ralp Stanley in 1971 and the tempo was incredable. Play only locally now.

  • chiefwashburn

    Forgive me I’m new to this blog. I may repeat some of the stuff already here. Obviously John Cash was my idol as well as Luther Perkins. Good rythym songs by the above include “cry, cry, cry” “Home of the blues” and “Tennesee
    flat top box”. I also loved the Ventures. I have their autobraphs as well as Luthers. Got Luther’s back around 1964, The Ventures in the 70’s.
    Take care.


  • Thanks Chiefwashburn. I’d forgotten even writing this.

    So MANY more great possibilities. This list needs more Jack White. “Hello Operator” from the De Stijl album would be an excellent addition, as would “Blue Orchid” from the new GBMS.

  • Chiefwashburn

    Luther Perkins is the king of the rythym/lead style of play. This was 100% original and only Bob Wooten nad Marty Stuart have come close.

    No disrespect to others, especially Buck Owens lead player. By the way I would also rate Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan almost equals in songwriting. John a 9, Bob a 10+

  • Oh gosh, another one popped into my head. A long time ago the Ventures did a version of ‘Green Onions’ by Booker T and the MG’s.

    Talk about a rhythm guitar surf blast!

    Anyway, another cool guitar recording.

  • The Romantics song is alright, but nothing special.

    Shark, you don’t even know with my interest in Prince. I could easily come up with 50 top PRINCE guitar songs. In this rhythm guitar list, right now I could dig on some “Alphabet Street.”

    I had a big probably 2’x3′ framed poster of the nude Lovesexy album cover hanging in my living room for a couple of years while I was at Ball State. It was only after I was out of BSU and Muncie generally that someone clued me up that a lot of people thought I was gay, largely on the account of that poster.

    Well, that and the Michael Jackson Bad bondage gear poster in the kitchen.

    And I’m definitely looking forward to downloading the Hall of Fame performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Prince’s guitar. Besides everything else, this provides strong evidence that he’s a better guitar player than George Harrison or Eric Clapton.

  • Dan:

    True, how could anyone leave out CCR? But, how about this: ‘What I like about you’ by the Romantics. Man, everyone is using that song in their commercials now. And, you know, it ain’t too bad…

  • Dan S.

    Almost ANY CCR tune is a textbook exercise in fine rhythm guitar work… 🙂

  • I’m a bit of a Black Sabbath fan, and i’m pretty sure i don’t have brain damage. Then again, i like bands from lots of different areas of rock (as opposed to just one or two), so maybe i have…

  • Shark

    Big Al, Black Sabbath can only be properly appreciated if one has brain damage, preferably in the severe category.

    That’s not a shot against the music, just an environmental/lifestyle enhancement recommendation.

    (I’d duck, but Blk Sab fans couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn: see above)

  • And Black Sabbath continues to be third or fourth string. Sorry.

    …oh, you are a stubborn one.

  • Note that I have volunteered for Traffic re-education camp. Following earlier criticisms on the topic, I figured that I was perhaps inappropriately discounting their work without giving it sufficient hearing. I have recently acquired the Winwood box set and several Traffic albums. I STILL think the Rickie Lee Jones cover of “High Heeled Boys” rules the roost, however.

    And Black Sabbath continues to be third or fourth string. Sorry.

    Silly politics aside, I still don’t see what the big deal is with Harry Belafonte. I could see why he might have been considered moderately appealing pop music in the day, but I don’t seem much of lasting value.

  • Eric Olsen

    And he doesn’t appreciate Traffic or Harry Belafonte enough either, but nobody’s perfect, except us.

  • Al has extremely acute and varied musical taste

    …except for that Black Sabbath thing.

  • Eric Olsen

    Other than his peculiar deification of Elvis Costello, Al has extremely acute and varied musical taste.

    Prince rules.

  • Shark

    Big Al listens to PRINCE?!

    Wow. Al’s not only a neo-confederate racist slave owning woman beatin’ baby eater…

    But he’s gay!

    Who’d a thunk it.

    Fun list, guys. Thanks for the memories! (Not often you’ll see the words “Peter Green days” anywhere!)

    I would add:

    any song by The Old 97s
    ” ” by Steve Earle

  • No Douglas, please do not stop with the suggestions. I’ma be burning up Kazaa hunting down some of these suggestions. Maybe you could expound on them, a paragraph on what’s so hot about them.

  • Oh gosh, you got me goin’. I place a vote for ‘Waiting for Madge’ off the Fleetwood Mac ‘Then Play On’ album (Peter Green days) and one for ‘Two Headed Man’ by Lonnie Brooks, the version off the ‘Live In Chicago’ album.

    I just found this article this morning and I’ll try to stop with suggestions.

  • Of course, this is an impossible catagory to even narrow down to the top 1000. We can only provide excellent examples. For instance, me being from Seattle (an old punk who is hip to the killer scene here before the grunge thing) I would suggest almost anything by a Seattle band called X-15. ‘No Regard’, ‘Mad Again’, ‘Fog’ are amazing. Portland, OR had a band called Napalm Beach. I remember the songs ‘Angels Ride’ and ‘Pox On You’. Both bands highly skilled players and writers. The True Believers from Austin, TX had a song called ‘Hard Road’ that kicked.

    Anyway, more fine examples.

  • duane

    This is one of those categories that Bill Murray during SNL days would have dismissed with a “Who really cares, anyway?” It’s a nice list, Al, but it’s really impossible. It’s like having a list of The Most Beautiful Women of the 20th Century. There are about 1,000 contenders, if you could only remember all of them. And then my friend Bob’s Aunt Vicki was better looking than 500 of those, but she’s not famous, so I can’t put her on the list.

    A hell of a job, though, Al.

    I noticed that Smoke on the Water was on the list, which made me wonder what you meant by “greatest,” since, although a big hit for Deep Purple, does little to evoke greatness. I dunno. And Nugent — nah. Kid stuff.

    I know Jeff Beck does the backing guitar on Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation,” which is one of the meatiest rhythm guitar parts I’ve heard. Clapton’s work on “Crossroads, “Badge,” and “Let it Rain” is vurrry nice. Page on “Royal Orleans” is very busy funky precision. And “Battle of Nevermore” — mmmm. If you wanna know, Tom Fogerty’s part on “Born on the Bayou” makes the song what it is. John’s part is more obvious, but Tom gives it all its flavor.

    I agree with Johnno’s “Cold Shot.” I just have to grit my teeth every time I hear that. Good call. “Cinnamon Girl.” Yeah, that’s good. I think “Bitch” by the Stones has the coolest guitar riff.

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Greatest Rhythm Guitar Songs? hmmmm…..
    Buddy Holly – “Peggy Sue”
    Bobby Fuller – “I Fought The Law”
    Velvet Underground- “Rock N Roll”(from: The Velvet Underground – “Live 1969”)
    Modern Lovers – “She Cracked”
    Rolling Stones -“Brown Sugar”
    The Who -“I Can See For Miles”
    anything by Bo Diddley!!!

  • Thanx Al. So one that just popped into my head. On the debut Aerosmith record (Dream On) there is a track called “One Way Street”. I dig it. The guitar rhythms have a nice swing. Oh gosh, I could turn into a mindbomb of candidates for this catagory. Great list you’ve come up with.

  • Hadn’t thought of that one, Douglas. Good one.

    I don’t have enough Dylan, though. The list could use some “Tombstone Blues” for one.

  • Gloria by Them (Van Morrison). That one counts, don’t it?

  • Well SOMEBODY is playing guitar on all them tracks, though you might argue some over what constitutes “rhythm” versus “lead” guitar, particularly including basic riffs, such as “Satisfaction” or Roger McGuinn’s classic 12-string figures.

    Got any better ideas, hotshot?

  • JackSquiat

    hey man what do you meen rhythm guitar songs? Half those bands don’t have rhythms guitarist????

  • BB

    Ok Al you’ve been officially tempted so go for it! And while you’re at it how ’bout an all time greatest solos?

  • Yeah, “Helter Skelter” kicks ass. There are definitely a lot of possible Lennon/Beatles choices. You could come up with an all Beatles Top 50 Guitar Songs.

    Don’t tempt me…

  • BB

    Great list Al but I would have also included the Beatles ‘Helter-Skelter’. In fact I can think of numerous John Lennon licks to add, so much so that he would have dominated this list. He was the finest rhythm guitarist – ever (in my opinion, may if be forever humble

  • CC-

    Ouch! You are correct, sir! My mistake is particularly egregious considering that Johnny gives a little memorial to the dear departed Luther during the show.

    Well, Al Casey sure is good too.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Luther’s performance on San Quentin is particularly miraculous, considering he died 6 months before the album was recorded.

    The stellar work is by Al Casey.

  • Eric Olsen

    Al, I imagine I published it inadvertently – every day there are posts left accidentally in draft and I jsut publish them without thinking much about it. Sorry about that.

  • Al…. wonderful. And unassailable.

    But… can’t… resist:

    “Crosstown Traffic”: Jimi Hendrix (doubling the piano! Sweet!)
    “Cold Shot”: Stevie Ray Vaughan (tight!)
    “Ain’t Talking ’bout Love”: Van Halen (that touch!)
    “Walk This Way”: Aerosmith
    “Garbage Man”: The Cramps (Poison Ivy Rorschach: trashier than Traci Lords’ and Heidi Fleiss’ drug dealers, yet somehow majestic.)
    “Folsom Prison Blues”: Johnny Cash, guitar by Luther Perkins(Live at San Quentin version)
    “Pour Some Sugar On Me”: Def Leppard (studio trickery never sounded so damn good)
    “Under The Bridge”: Red Hot Chili Peppers (in the period between maturity and balladeering, John Frusciante has rewritten the textbook on rhythm guitar. Why is this man not venerated by millions every week?)

    And, Al, THANK YOU for acknowledging the glory that is the guitar of Prince.

  • for Elvis Costello fun-tunes-to-play-on-guitar i’d have to add “Mystery Dance”.

    three chords….loads ‘o fun.

  • Suzanne

    Nice list. I would have included the Beatles – I’m Looking Through You.

  • Greg

    not Jack Black… Jack White! 🙂

  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent list Al, kind of overwhelming. About my only issues would be the rhythm guitar on “Easy to Slip” by far blows away “Apolitical” as far as Little Feat songs go, as does “Fat Man In the Bathtub” or even “Willin'” for that matter.

    And how could you leave off your man Elvis on “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” – a classic hard-strumming slice of heaven, not terribly unlike your mention of Bram.

    Two arpeggio-based guitar parts I love are “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” by Todd Rundgren from Something/Anything, and “Can’t Stop Pretending” by Artful Dodger from around the same time.

    Oh, and I really hate “Black Betty,” but dude, you came up with some great ones, all over the map stylistically too.


  • Damn – “Detox Mansion”? That takes me back. Good list.

  • Al, no Sabbath Paranoid?