Who has the best ever guitar riff?

Last updated 11:24 17/07/2014
Joan Jett

IN THE MIX: Joan Jett's I Love Rock and Roll is on the longlist of the BBC's search for the best riff ever written.

Best guitar riff of all time: your picks

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Opinion poll

Which song contains the greatest ever guitar riff?

Sweet Child O'Mine - Guns N' Roses

Survivor - Eye of the Tiger

I Love Rock and Roll - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin

I Can't Get No (Satisfaction) - Rolling Stones

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - The Clash

Song 2 - Blur

Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf

Alright Now - Free

Sweet Home Alabama - Lynryd Skynryd

Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry

Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

Back in Black - AC/DC

Need You Tonight - INXS

Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

Day Tripper - The Beatles

Get Lucky - Daft Punk

Vote Result

Angus Young
BLACK MAGIC: AC/DC's Angus Young has so many riffs of note he almost deserves his own sub-poll.

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INXS, AC/DC and Jet have made a long list of the greatest guitar riffs of all time, but can they beat the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Blur, the Clash and Nirvana?

In a web poll bound to get music fans around the world passionately arguing for the next 10 days, British radio station BBC 2 has given its web users a long list of 100 songs by 100 artists from which to select the best guitar riff ever recorded.

The poll closes on July 25 and in an outrageous piece of possibly partisan British skullduggery, no one from outside the UK can vote in the official poll. The results will be revealed on August 25. But we can tell them the result before then: head to our poll on the left.

The list was chosen by a panel of BBC presenters and British music journalists.

Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit has to be a favourite, but could lose votes because it has arguably been so overplayed. It's most obvious rivals would be Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, The Rolling Stones' I Can't Get No (Satisfaction) and The Clash's Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Or maybe a wildcard choice like Guns N'Roses' Sweet Child O'Mine or David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust?

The Brits are a parochial lot and could spring a shock by going for an outsider like Blur's Song 2. But surely the ridiculously sing-along-able "wooo-oooo" vocal is cheating, in this context anyway.

American bands are right in the mix too, especially through classics like Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama and The Knack's My Sharona which are just about perfect though it's hard to see them winning with generations of voters probably not sure who those bands are. Even older and possibly even better are Bo Diddley's Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry's Johnny B.Goode, Dick Dale's Misirilou (made famous again by Pulp Fiction's remarkable 1994 soundtrack).

Equally, as good as contemporary riffs like Nile Rodgers' opening to Daft Punk's Get Lucky, and The Black Key's Lonely Boy are, they might not grab the ahem, mature listener. Our pick of the best of the picks from the last 20 years is The White Stripes's Seven Nation Army.

There were a few controversial omissions. Surprisingly, the Beeb chose Queen's One Vision, instead of, say, Brian May's iconic guitar work a minute 35 seconds into We Will Rock You.

The Beeb rightly chose a delicious English pop song, There She Goes by The La's - but the wrong riff (to this listener's ears anyway). Surely the flawless opening bars should have been picked.

It cannot go unnoticed that it's hugely male-dominated list - the only women selected were Joan Jett (I Love Rock and Roll), Debbie Harry (Blondie's Atomic), Meg White (The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army) and The Breeders' Deal sisters and Josephine Wiggs (Cannonball). That's right, four songs out of 100.

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Whatever the result, the Beeb have compiled probably one of the greatest rock and roll party playlists conceived since Angus Young filled his iTunes. And for that we should be thankful.

- Sydney Morning Herald


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