A new series, something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. I’m hardly the first to indulge in lists, top tens or otherwise, but I think it will be fun, and maybe spark some rival choices.
Thought I’d start with something that is just pure fun: the air guitar playlist. Those songs that make you want to imagine you are there on lead guitar, or playing a very rocking riff. An indulgence that is usually associated with consumption of beer. It can be pure air guitar, or maybe the use of a nearby implement: a tennis racket, broom handle, hockey stick, frying pan… the possibilities are endless. But all are worshipping the god of Rock. With a knowing smile. It is absurd, you know it is absurd, it is the whole point. Celebration, laughter, rock’n'roll.
Metal lends itself best to the practice, the concept. The riffs are huge and the sense of humour strong. But there are outliers, not quite metal, but essential guitar. This, below, is my Top Ten. If I did it tomorrow it would be different – there are so many candidates. But the songs that made the Ten, well, they ROCK!
So, in ascending order…
10. 12 XU by Wire
I love this one because it’s so simple. Art punk. Off Wire’s brilliant album, “Pink Flag”. A choppy, tense rhythm – saw you in a mag, kissing a man – builds up to a frenzy and then explodes – 12 XU! At which point you leap in the air, and if you happen to have a broom handle in your possession at the time, you are at risk of sweeping a few glasses off the table! Yes, it has happened. A long, long, time ago…
9. Whiskey In The Jar by Thin Lizzy
This has been one of my favourite tunes ever since I first heard it in the early 70s. It’s the lead guitar that makes you want to play. Its roots are in an Irish folk song, but Lizzy added some searing solos and Phil Lynott sang like an angel, or maybe the devil.
8. Brighton Rock by Queen
“We Will Rock You”was obviously a candidate, but this song, off “Sheer Heart Attack”, is Brian May’s finest hour. He gets to wig out like he’s Hendrix, and you want to do the same.
7. Cortez The Killer by Neil Young
Some may call this song a dirge, but the opening minutes of yearning, grungy lead guitar, are some of the greatest in rock history. There’s real emotion in the playing – you can lose yourself in this one. For me, this is Neil Young’s finest moment.
6. Given To Fly by Pearl Jam
This is one of those tunes that builds slowly and then just erupts into a humungus riff. The build up, strangely, reminds me of the melody to Led Zep’s “Going to California”. Then it explodes and you just want to punch the sky!
5. Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin
You could fill the whole chart with Zep tunes. This one has a relentless, driving riff, and some fancy lead, and some great vocal posturing by Robert Plant… because you have to sing, too, when you are playing the air guitar.
4. Planet of Sound by The Pixies
This is another one of those slow build and explosion tunes. And when it explodes, it does it better than just about anything else I know. If you could smash an air guitar, you probably would by the end of this one.
3. The Day That Never Comes by Metallica
What a song this is! Saw them play it at the O2 in London, with shooting flames, the works. A two part air guitar special. First the soaring lead guitars laying down their own melody and then half way through some heavy riffing. It’s the singing guitars at the beginning that make it really special.
2. More Than A Feeling by Boston
This is metal at its most over the top. And all the better for it. The original air guitar song. Almost as if it was designed for the purpose. The slow build, the straining vocals, getting higher and higher, the chorus of guitars, the triumphant, punching riff. A hymn to Rock.
1. Enter Sandman by Metallica
The greatest metal track ever? I think so. All those things that I’ve said about the other songs – the slow build and explosion, the searing lead, the driving riff – they are all present in “Enter Sandman”. It takes you higher and higher and then… blows everything apart with a piledriver riff. And all before the singing starts! The song then goes on its volcanic way. Exit light, enter night! There is no respite. The guitar is pounding, soaring, cutting, thrusting, the choruses resounding. Relentless and intense. Only the strongest of air guitarists will survive the full five and a half minutes!
What did I leave out?
So many, but to illustrate the competition: “Black Dog’ and “Custard Pie” by Led Zep, “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Rock The Nation” by Montrose, “Silver Machine” by Hawkwind, “Ace Of Spades” by Motorhead, “Killer On The Loose” and “The Rocker” by Thin Lizzy, “Sweet Child Of Mine” by Guns’n'Roses, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest. To mention just a few. Let us rock!
You can listen to this Top Ten on Spotify at TFW510 – Air Guitar