By Steve Newton
Back in 2015 I wrote a fun blog in which I declared that Mick Ronson’s guitar solo on Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy was “the greatest guitar solo of all time“.
Now, I know as well as anybody that it’s pointless to try and rank guitar solos–or guitar players, for that matter–but I do it anyway.
Pointlessness is my stock in trade, I suppose.
Or maybe I just love to blab about the profound effect that guitars have on me sometimes.
Anyway, I still think Ronno’s six-string blast on “Once Bitten” is killer, but lately I’ve been wondering what might come second on my crazy-ass list of the world’s greatest guitar solos.
In 1974–one year before Mick’s cranked Les Paul stole my heart on Ian Hunter’s self-titled solo debut–I heard another lead-guitar wipeout that totally blew me away. I was 17 years old, and at the time my older sister was turning me on to wicked albums by Robin Trower (Bridge of Sighs), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced), and a guy named Bob Seger.
When she played Seger’s Seven LP the rollicking lead-off track cast a spell on me. It was only about 2 & 1/2 minutes long, but every second was precious–especially the 35 that were taken up by that scintillating guitar solo, which starts at the 1:08 mark, with a storm of pelting notes just after Bob sings “turned into a thundershower!”
I’m no Jas Obrecht-type scholar when it comes to the finer points of guitar, but it’s pretty clear that the solo owes a lot to Chuck Berry, as heard on “Johnny B. Goode” and such. But then at around the 1:25 mark, when Bob hollers a supportive “Yeeeaahh-yeah!”, the solo takes off on another tangent that includes three seconds–from 1:30 to 1:33–where the reckless licks seem to careen right off the tracks before being fabulously reeled back in.
Damn do I like that part.
For years I thought it was Drew Abbott, the guitarist in Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, that was doing the damage on “Denver”, but if I’d taken a closer look at the album’s credits I’d have seen that it was one of Bob’s “friends”, Jim McCarty, who is best known for playing in Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels, Cactus, and the Rockets.
God bless you, Jim McCarty, and your mind-blowing guitarwork.