Rocking out is universal because it’s all about unleashing the inner beast. Volume is critical; it’s more satisfying to yell ‘fuck you’ then mutter it under your breath. As such, we ought to thank the dude who invented the guitar amp for giving the world the gift of rocking out. It’s easy, all you gotta do is grab your guitar and crank up the volume. That said, the best rockers combine the power of the amp with an sensuous, artistic temperament. Here are a few such examples:
John Mayer – Gravity
For the longest time, John Mayer was content to sit back and put out cotton candy bullshit like ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’. Then out of nowhere he released ‘Try’ in 2005 and showed the world that he could rock hard, and more importantly, play blues guitar like no one since Stevie Ray Vaughan. Seriously — each solo sounds like a catalogue of Stevie Ray Vaughan licks. It sounds great, but its not authentic Mayer. Gravity is the exception. It embodies the best aspects of his two styles — his blues shreddage side and his corny sensitive chick magnet side. Here he keeps the corny lyrics to a minimum and lets his guitar do the talking for his soft side. Only then does he unleash the full wrath of the gods of rock. This solo doesn’t sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan — it sounds like John Mayer.
Bruce Springsteen – Because the Night
Bruce Springsteen isn’t the best guitarist in his own band (Nils Lofgren is), and it doesn’t matter because the man is simply raw. He pours his complete soul into every syllable and every note. I have a DVD of a 2005 concert in Barcelona — within 15 minutes he is drenched in sweat. He shows you that you don’t need great technique to rock hard. He doesn’t just champion the everyman in his lyrics — he plays guitar like the everyman. He makes me wish I was from Jersey. Bruce is a fucking force of nature, and that’s the only thing that can explain how 40 years later, he is rocking harder than ever.
Guthrie Govan – Waves
Props to Samson Koelle for showing me the light that is GOVAN. For the record this solo is improvised. At first, Waves sounds a lot like that Guitar Hero song Through the Fire and Flames, but I’ve heard that that solo is actually performed on keyboard. And even if it were played on guitar, it wouldn’t hold a candle to Waves. Govan doesn’t even need a snazzy song name to do the talking for him. And as evident at the beginning of this video, you don’t want him to do the talking either. He has no stage presence. He’s the opposite of Springsteen. He isn’t a performer — he is pure, uncut guitar cocaine.
Stanley Jordan – Stairway to Heaven
I’m not sure what Stanley Jordan is wearing, but he is playing two guitars at once. In the original Stairway to Heaven, Jimmy Page’s solo is the culmination of a 6-minute buildup, thus making the payoff that much greater. Jordan starts soloing after less than 4 minutes, and he doesn’t have the benefit of Robert Plant’s backup vocals, and he pretty much just plays the Page solo verbatim, in a jazzier, less exciting manner. But — he is playing two guitars at once.
John Legend and The Roots – I Can’t Write Left Handed
First of all, fuck Vevo. Second of all, this is probably one of the better songs ever written, and Kirk Douglas’ solo derives its dopeness from its context as much as its own merit. John Legend + The Roots + a BIll Withers song = automatic. They kill it. Literally. I doubt anyone could ever top this rendition of the song. by the time John Legend hands it off to Kirk, the song is gasping for air on the ground, all Kirk has to do is bring the hammer down to finish the job. And he brings the Hammer of Thor.
Hopefully this post has deepened your love of rocking out. If you want to share an epic solo, feel free to post it in the comments!