Playlist: Five Truly Awesome Rock Guitar Recordings
All were released during the golden age of rock: the sixties.
The essence of rock is the electric guitar. Yes, the rhythm section and some keyboards are necessary to song-making, but without the guitar, you’re looking at a jazz trio.
The sound of a well-played electric guitar is a thrilling, blood-tingling, life-affirming, breathtaking, ecstatic joy-ride. You just know that feeling. If you don’t feel that, then you are not a rocker. It’s as simple as that.
This is not a “best of” playlist, just some random favorites of well-known guitarists and their bands that thrived in rock’s golden era of the sixties.
“Are You Experienced” Jimi Hendrix, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967.
So many choices from a tragically short career. I settled for the song that propelled Hendrix off the R&B circuit into London’s hard rock world, from his first album of the same name, an album that also gave us “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.”
Please enjoy this three and a half minute “behind the scenes” video that pays tribute to Hendrix’s versatility and incisive musical instincts, published by Jimi Hendrix via YouTube:
“New Potato Caboose” Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, 1968.
Despite the Grateful Dead’s Bear-inspired improvisational leanings, the band’s self-titled first album was tight and conventional. Garcia’s lone guitar solo was on “Cream Puff War.”
Remarking on the Dead’s second album, Anthem of the Sun, drummer Bill Kreutzmann wrote in his book, Deal: “It was easily our most experimental record. It was groundbreaking at the time, and remains a psychedelic listening experience to this day.”
On the raucous side one of the record, studio tracks and live parts from Bear’s (Owsley’s) sonic diary were spliced together, creating an amalgam of loosely-connected songs. One song, “New Potato Caboose,” stands out in particular, because Garcia (with Bob Weir’s help) gets more than his due. His solo, beginning at 4:03, starts out slowly, sweetly, and lasts the remainder of the song, hitting its crescendo at 8:48. Here it is, published by Grateful Dead and Rhino/Warner Records via YouTube, 4:45 of guitar magic:
“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” Jeff Beck & Jimmy Page, The Yardbirds, 1966.
As I’ve written elsewhere on this website, the Yardbirds, a British band that lasted five years, had on its roster three of the greatest guitar players of all-time. When Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds to play the blues with John Mayall, he suggested hiring Jimmy Page. But Page demurred, citing lucrative studio work.
Jeff Beck was chosen as lead guitar. But in subsequent personnel shifts, Page returned to the band…as its bass player. Beck was fired midway during a tour of America and Page took over. But in a recording studio before the tour, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, who would both go on to have gigantic careers, created a bit of psychedelic magic as dual lead guitars in “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.”
Here’s an image-filled three-minute video, published by riffaholik via YouTube:
“Fast Life Rider” Johnny Winter, 1969
Johnny Winter was already a blues guitar legend when he released his third studio album, oddly titled Second Winter in 1969. “Fast Life Rider” is the last song on side three of the album, meant to be his closing guitar statement because there was no side four of the original vinyl. Side four was simply left blank. It fascinated us in our dorm room.
The video below does not do Winter’s guitar justice, but it was just too tempting to show Johnny playing riff-to-riff with his brother Edgar Winter on saxophone, Edgar himself an accomplished solo artist.
The song’s studio recording included a chorus resembling a work crew hypnotically chanting “ohhh” to Johnny’s pulsating guitar beat. Pull it up on YouTube. In the meantime, enjoy the Winter brothers, published by circuit7active via YouTube:
“The End” The Beatles, 1969
While recording “The End,” the Beatles were possibly aware that this could be their final song as a band. In his book Can’t Buy Me Love, author Jonathan Gould provides a masterful summary:
In the blink of an eye, the musical setting had shifted from the orchestral uplift of strings and brass to the rawest variety of rock ‘n’ roll. Instead of a grand symphonic ending, McCartney had chosen–at the last possible moment–to bring the Beatles and their listeners back to the place where it all began…to the simple setting of John, Paul and George sawing away on their three guitars, [emphasis mine] as they had done…from the time George joined the Quarry Men eleven years before.
“The End” becomes an instrumental round-robin composed of nine two-bar solo breaks in which Paul, George and John (in that order) trade licks, with each guitarist playing off or building on his predecessor’s effort. Recorded live in the studio, these rotating two-bar solos are like musical character sketches.
Here is a study of that final Beatles’ guitar interplay, with the Beatles’ audio performed by JUN626 via YouTube: