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Guitar World's 30 on 30

GEORGE HARRISON by Elliot Easton

I was 10 years old when the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show [in February 1964], and I was already playing a little guitar. To see George Harrion there, standing off to the side, looking down at his guitar while he played his licks—to my impressionable mind it defined what a lead guitarist was.

I knew right then what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be like the guy in the middle—the guy looking down at his guitar and playing all the little fills and solos. Harrison taught me about short solos and hooks, and what a hook is. All those mid-Sixties Beatles tracks—whether it was “Day Tripper” or “Ticket to Ride” or whatever—they all start with a guitar lick that you wait to come around again in the chorus. That’s where I learned to do that.

 

ULI JON ROTH by Kirk Hammett

Around the time of Metallica’s Death Magnetic sessions, I began listening again to some of the rock music of my teens, and it inspired me all over again. I’d forgotten how much those guitarists meant to me.

Uli Jon Roth is one of those players. When I started listening to him again, I realized that I can still learn a lot from him. I love his choice of notes, the attitude behind his playing and the way his solos “up” the level of his songs. He took Scorpions to a totally different level. After his solos, you’re left there shaking your head. It’s like being sideswiped by a truck.

The track I love the most is the one I play every night, “The Sails of Charon,” from Taken by Force. The opening motif is just great. It’s spooky sounding, exotic. It’s very old-school heavy metal. People in the audience who know the song recognize that I’m flying the flag for that old-school metal, and they come to me and say, “Bro, ‘Sails of Charon’ rules!” There are a lot more Uli Roth fans out there than I expected.

 

NEIL YOUNG by Nancy Wilson

Neil is identifiable whether he’s playing acoustic or electric guitar. For acoustic he has a completely unique type of tuning, detuning, attack and release. He plays a song called “Bandit,” from the Greendale album, and there’s a live version of it that’s incredible. He chooses a specific guitar that can be detuned on the low string down to a C and picks the particular gauge of string that will rattle in the perfect way. It sounds so wrong that it’s right. I think nobody in the world would do that on purpose except for Neil Young.

He has a monstrous electric guitar sound, too, and on “Cinnamon Girl” he recorded what is probably the best one-note guitar solo ever. He puts more feeling into one note than anyone else. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Of course, it’s his tone that makes all the difference. Touch sensitivity accounts for about 90 percent of everything. Neil has such expressive playing that he can play a onenote solo and make it memorable for decades, for generations.

 

FRANK ZAPPA by Dweezil Zappa

I was never intimidated by my father’s technique. I think most guitar players are just excited to see somebody do something they didn’t think was possible. We’d sit and play together, but what Frank was doing was musical. I couldn’t grasp it at a young age—it was too sophisticated for me. He’d show me inversions of chords and composition devices—moving triads around the neck and stuff. It sounded neat, but I didn’t always understand what was happening musically.

I do the Zappa Plays Zappa tour because I want to get Frank’s music more into the public eye. I want him to be better understood. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about his music and him as a person. First of all, Frank was really a composer who used a rock band like an orchestra. He could hear stuff in his head and just write it down. I didn’t have a musical background; I was just a guy who learned things by ear—more a guitar player than a musician. The first thing I learned was the incredibly fast passage toward the end of “The Black Page.” It took me a good five or six months, and I had to totally change my picking technique in order to play this thing. I’d have to play it really slow for hours and hours and hours. I definitely think Frank would enjoy that we go to such great lengths to get it right with Zappa Plays Zappa.