There is no mistaking the power of a guitar riff. One magical riff can turn a rock song into an instant iconic legend of a tune, remembered forever and covered endlessly. Here we pay tribute to some of the best riffs of all time. It’s a hotly debated topic, but there is no doubt that the same artists and songs come up repeatedly in this category. Here, in no particular order:
AC/DC – ‘Back in Black’
Known for their scorching riffs, this is one of their all-time greats. They certainly went above and beyond with this riff monster and it was the perfect comeback after the death of the original frontman Bon Scott. The ideal tribute to his legacy.
Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’
Totally awesome fretwork from the master Tony Iommi. Certainly, stunning work from someone who had to play left-handed due to sawing of the tops of two fingers on his right hand in an accident. Thankfully, this did nothing to affect his rock power ultimately.
Blur – ‘Song 2’
Not in the hard rock category, but sometimes a riff inspires for its powerful use of simplicity. Whether it was the band’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to grunge or not, it’s seriously catchy, fun and one of the hookiest riffs around.
Deep Purple – ‘Smoke on The Water’
At the time, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was told his riff was too simple. Thankfully for us, he pointed out that even Beethoven’s Fifth features a similar use of a four-note set up!
Jimi Hendrix – ‘Voodoo Child’
Every single second of this song, from the explosive starting riff to the awesome breakdown ending, is the stuff of legends. Jimi Hendrix was a man completely at one with his guitar. Imitated by many, done better by no one since. For all things guitar-related, visit Guitar Shops Gloucester
The Kinks – ‘You Really Got Me’
Ever the innovator, guitarist Dave Davis slashed his amp’s speaker cone to make the gritty, distorted sound for this iconic riff. Told they desperately needed a hit to survive, they achieved it and then some with this third single effort and out themselves firmly in the rock halls of legends.
Nirvana – ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Nothing gets the blood pumping quite like hearing this raw, guttural riff. No matter how many times you hear it, it never fails to excite. Propelling grunge to global status, these unlikely superstars fronted by Kurt Cobain shone brightly for such a short time.
Rage Against the Machine – ‘Killing In The Name’
This was the band’s finest hour – the quintessential heavy rock riff with a touch of funk. It is physically impossible to keep still to this song.
The Rolling Stones – ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’
For two whole decades, Keith Richards created incredible riffs like he simply plucked them out of thin air. He defines awesome guitar riffs and what’s even more amazing is that apparently, he came up with this riff in his sleep!