Top 5 Guitar Solos From the 1980s (Not For the Meek).


The height (of hair) guitar virtuosity occurred during the 1980s, when lead singers were she-males and lyrics taken from the Book of Misogyny.  Reaganomics and the excess that defined the 80s were made audible by the face-melting six-string solo.  The solos below have their audio/video counterparts, so turn this blog up to 11.

Without question, Van Halen’s 1978 debut foretold the onslaught of pyrotechnics due in the coming decade.  Unleashing “Eruption,” Edward set millions of fingers flying, all in pursuit of chops that required more limbs than humans possess.  But rather than dissect the 1:42 masterpiece (it has its own Wikipedia page), let’s look at one of Eddie’s solos on the album 1984.

Frankenstein.

Frankenstein.

1) Edward Van Halen, Hot For Teacher (1984)

  • This solo has its own descending introduction–c‘mon!  Pealing off sharply, we’re subject to an ascending hummingbird run, ultimately slamming into a double-wide vibrato, and that’s just the first 6 seconds!  Eddie then digs deep into the minor blues box like a surgeon with a hatchet.  The second half is nothing but tasty, your first bomb pop from the ice cream man.  If we slowed it down, this portion would sound a lot like Eddie’s hero–Clapton.
  • Click here for solo.

I hope you brought your Appetite…

2) Slash, Sweet Child O’ Mine (1987)

  • We’re deceived by a mournful minor melody, and while well-played, this doesn’t blow our minds.  It’s not until 3:20, the back of our skulls exploding, when Slash hits the nitrous, eviscerating his Les Paul.  The right-hand chirping you hear at 3:40 is all feel–I’ve been aware this passage since I was 15, imprinted, no doubt, by Axl’s whacked-out slithering.  Eschewing the zeitgeist–two-handed tapping, Floyd-Rose tremolos and pompous flash–Slash just F’N goes for it.
  • Click here for solo.

“Where do we go…? Where do we go now…?”  We go to the Aussies.

3) Angus Young, Back in Black (1980)

  • Immediately, Angus and Malcolm engage in what can only be described as fault line call and response–this is plate tectonics, people!  Angus digs so deep between the strings, his attack a murderous rampage, his outfit a sophomoric sartorial stunt.  He’s a clean Jimmy Page, the next generation of Les Paul arbiters.  If ever there was a blueprint for Rock ‘N Roll tone, this is it.
  • Click here for solo.

Next up, a gem from Scotti Hill of Skid Row…

4) Scotti Hill, I Remember You (1989)

  • Obviously a graduate of Van Halenisms, as many were, but still, Scotti brings so much melody and technique.  His palm-muted chiming is wistful, but clearly ends on a preposterous artificial harmonic (I laugh every time I hear it).  The “pick-hand as capo” then allows fleet-fingered hammer-on pull-offs (this ridiculous move is viewable in the link below).  Finally, the sick dive-bomb into a blues run, leading us to the final three notes, ones that could easily make a grown man cry.  I remember you, Scotti.
  • Click here for solo.

And the minimalist award goes to…

5) Elliot Easton, Magic (1984)

  • By far the shortest solo on this list, clocking in at an emaciated 17 seconds, Easton, of The Cars, tells a story like Hemingway, deftly employing a trim vocabulary.  Now get this–the first 6 seconds are only one note, and, if you listen closely, he’s playing rhythm on it.  Just brilliant.  See-sawing bass notes, a little alternate-picking and what sounds like a dive-bomb is Easton manually de-tuning his guitar.  Love it.  Bottom line: Easton simply does not get enough press, which is why I’ve given him credit over, say, Randy Rhoads.
  • Click here for solo.

I know, I know.  We didn’t get into Yngwie or Vai or Paul Gilbert, all of whom could easily hold court here.  And I hear the obvious question already–why isn’t Kirk Hammett included here?  Because his vibrato sounds like a baby squirrel screeching for its mother.  And his mustache–those caterpillars need to be razed.

Get this man a razor!

Get this man a razor!

Obviously I’m a fan of 80s guitarists; this post was a labor of love, having poured over solos in order to determine their madness.  Imagine my depthless depression when, in 1991, I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Cobain’s purposely sloppy power chords, while an unimaginative reprise of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” pointedly said F-U to the virtuosos, and their reign ended soon thereafter.  I know.  It was time.

I still rock!

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8 Responses to Top 5 Guitar Solos From the 1980s (Not For the Meek).

  1. Oh, my gosh. I have not heard of Yngwie Malmsteen in so many years. Don’t even remember how I know of him in the first place. My mind is a scary place with all kinds of random things.

  2. Matt the Strat says:

    Love the interaction of you piece ! Hot for Teacher greatest vid!

  3. MKM says:

    Wow, your postscript anticipated my objections exactly! Brilliant. Great piece. I’m sure there could be 25 more . . . btw, I think virtuosity is back. Tom Morello. RT. and others.

  4. jumpingpolarbear says:

    Nice list. I have always loved the solos of Angus and Slash more than the ones of great shredders like Yngwie Malmstein or Buckethead. Maybe im just jelaous I’ll never be able to play some of their stuff 🙂

  5. Excellent list! Definitely some of my favorites too.

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