Are These The Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time?

Written by Greg Moskovitch on 27th August, 2014

Are These The Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time?

Lists of the greatest whatevers of all time serve a very particular purpose in the music world: to piss people off. BBC Radio 2‘s recent poll of the greatest riffs will likely do just that, with hordes of music purists already bemoaning the fact that Led Zeppelin‘s Whole Lotta Love nabbed the top spot.

Like News Corp’s list of the greatest Aussie guitarists back in April, the BBC’s 100-riff countdown presents an assembly of classic guitar riffs that have been dubiously declared ‘better’ than others. Zep came in ahead of choice cuts by Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Deep Purple, and The Smiths.

The riffs were chosen from a list of 100 contenders issued by BBC Radio 2 back in July, with fans then invited to vote for their favourite. The list was dominated by classic ’60s and ’70s bands, though a few modern acts like Daft Punk, The Black Keys, and Queens of The Stone Age made the cut.

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was reportedly “knocked out” by news that Whole Lotta Love had won the vote, telling BBC, “I wanted a riff that really moved, that people would really get, and would bring a smile to their faces, but when I played it with the band, it really went into overdrive.”

Naturally, the list was not without its peculiarities. Jet‘s Are You Gonna Be My Girl was voted in above Iggy Pop‘s Lust For Life, despite their near-note-for-note similarity, while OasisCigarettes & Alcohol made it into the top 40 despite being an admitted ripoff of T. Rex‘s absent Get It On.

BBC Radio 2's 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs Countdown

100.Get Lucky – Daft Punk
99. Unbelievable – EMF
98. Loser – Beck
97. Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
96. Rocks – Primal Scream
95. Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols
94. Jack & Diane – John Mellencamp
93. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
92. September – Earth, Wind & Fire
91. The One I Love – R.E.M.
90. Wheels – Foo Fighters
89. C’mon Everybody – Eddie Cochran
88. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle – Electric Light Orchestra
87. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
86. That Lady – The Isley Brothers
85. Mr Tambourine Man – The Byrds
84. Words of Love – Buddy Holly
83. Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley
82. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll – Rainbow
81. Boom Boom – John Lee Hooker
80. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
79. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf
78. Cannonball – The Breeders
77. Runnin’ Down A Dream – Tom Petty
76. A Girl Like You – Edwyn Collins
75. My Sharona – The Knack
74. Block Buster! – Sweet
73. Rumble – Link Wray
72. Every Breath You Take – The Police
71. Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
70. Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure
69. There She Goes – The La’s
68. Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes
67. Shakin’ All Over – Johnny Kidd & The Pirates
66. Pride (In The Name Of Love) – U2
65. Need You Tonight – INXS
64. Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
63. Marquee Moon – Television
62. Song 2 – Blur
61. Misirlou – Dick Dale
60. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
59. Good Times – Chic
58. Peter Gunn – Duane Eddy
57. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
56. Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
55. Walk This Way – Aerosmith / Aerosmith & Run-D.M.C.
54. Don’t Believe A Word – Thin Lizzy
53. Beat It – Michael Jackson
52. Killing in The Name – Rage Against The Machine
51. Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash
50. Spoonman – Soundgarden
49. Milk & Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood
48. Life In The Fast Lane – Eagles
47. Atomic – Blondie
46. Stay With Me – Faces
45. Run To You – Bryan Adams
44. Apache – The Shadows
43. Fools Gold – The Stone Roses
42. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
41. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen
40. Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
39. I Can’t Explain – The Who
38. No One Knows – Queens of The Stone Age
37. Cigarettes & Alcohol – Oasis
36. Hocus Pocus – Focus
35. No Surprises – Radiohead
34. Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
33. Pretty Vacant – Sex Pistols
32. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult
31. One Vision – Queen
30. Alive – Pearl Jam
29. The Riverboat Song – Ocean Colour Scene
28. Day Tripper – The Beatles
27. I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) – The Rolling Stones
26. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
25. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
24. Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
23. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
22. Oh Well – Fleetwood Mac
21. All Right Now – Free
20. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
19. Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
18. The Spirit Of Radio – Rush
17. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
16. Enter Sandman – Metallica
15. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys
14. 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
13. Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers
12. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
11. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
10. Money – Pink Floyd
9. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
8. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
7. Down Down – Status Quo
6. How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths
5. Layla – Derek And The Dominoes
4. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
3. Back In Black – AC/DC
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
1. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin


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