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Music Notes: Where have all the riffs gone?

PUBLISHED: 16:13 23 May 2011

Guitar riffs

Guitar riffs

Archant

It must be a moment of pressure, or at least mild panic, in the life of any wannabe guitar hero. I'm talking about buying a guitar. And not just buying a guitar. Buying a guitar from a guitar shop.

Even more precisely, the moment the guy from the guitar shop hands you the thing and says ‘here, have a play...’

Now, this has been joked about and cringed over by musicians for many a moon. What do you play for your store-room audience? Something virtuosic? Something classic? Something that no-one else will have heard so they won’t know if you mess it up?

There are a sacred collection of riffs that have been played many times over in any guitar shop worth its wah-wah bars. You might remember one of the gags in the first Wayne’s World film when our hero tries out a new axe in a guitar store and is pointed to the sign “No Stairway to Heaven”.

I’ve only ever bought one guitar new and that was a bass guitar. I barely knew which end was which at the time so I wasn’t going to try anything clever. Or anything at all.

A ponytailed dude plucked, slapped and popped out a funky riff or two and made some complementary noises about the instrument he was flogging (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) and I was sold. Did I want to play it? No way in the world. I didn’t really want to touch it, look at it even. I wrote out my cheque, grabbed my purchase and was gone. I don’t think I even got a receipt.

I do wonder if I was done on that deal though. It’s never quite sounded like it did in that shop, what, 17 years ago now?

Still, anyway, I’ve gone off the groove like a Jeff Beck guitar solo. Let’s bring it back, if not to the bridge, then the point...

Which is – where have all those Guitar Shop Riffs gone? Is there anyone currently in a guitar shop, cranking out a riff that is less than 20 years old?

There are plenty of great rock bands about who play some mean guitar. But have any of them nailed one of those all time riffs? I’m struggling to think of any. Maybe you can help me out with this?

If ever there’s a poll of the greatest guitar riff of all-time, it’s always the same old contenders – Whole Lotta Love, All Right Now, Smoke On The Water, Voodoo Chile, Paranoid, Walk This Way, Sunshine Of Your Love. All mainstays of a guitar shop near you.

It says something that the young ‘uns on these lists — I’m thinking the likes of Metallica’s Enter Sandman, Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine and Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas cracker Killing In The Name — are all about 20-years-old.

So who’s writing the next generation of guitar riffs? Where is the next Jimmy Page?

(Incidentally, I can’t think of any other six-stringer who’s written so many monstrous riffs — it’s almost superhuman). So here’s a challenge to any budding guitar band, I want to hear one of your riffs ringing out of a guitar shop some time in the near future.

Otherwise, I’d have to be an old codger and say the old ones really are the best.

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