by Dave Segal
on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 8:45 AM
*As not recognized by Rolling Stone.
This is somewhat old news, but I just recently came across the Dec. 8, 2011 Rolling Stone in The Stranger’s editorial bathroom (the place where mainstream publications go to die inglorious deaths). This issue contains a list of what that venerable magazine thinks are the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. As a repository for conventional wisdom, the list is archetypal Jann Wennerite orthodoxy.
The top 10 might as well be carved into Mount Rushmore, so sure are the mag’s contributors to the list—dozens of guitarists, band managers, and RS writers, most of whom are older than you—that this is THEE TRUTH, a truth set in (Rolling) stone since, oh, 1979. Those 10? Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman, Pete Townshend. Yes, yes, these guys all rule in some way, but this litany is about as surprising as finding out a strident homophobe is a closet case. Next thing Rolling Stone is going to tell us (again) is that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the greatest album of all time. Roll over, Ben Fong-Torres, and tell Greil Marcus the news.
The overall thrust of this top 100 is conservative, with blues and blues-based rock guitarists from the US and UK dominating things. (Tangential thought: Was Ted Nugent excluded because of his ultra-right-wing political views? I’m thinking yes.) Of course, most of these musicians are indisputably crucial, but the panel’s experts totally short-change prog, jazz, and fusion’s six-string stars. I appreciate appearances by Frank Zappa (#22), Robert Fripp (#62), and John McLaughlin (#68), but there are a plethora of guitarists in those realms who also deserve recognition.
While about 67 percent of the musicians included in this survey surely are important and worthy, some crucial innovators and distinctive masters were left out. Some of the omissions are downright shocking. Of course, all such lists are subjective, but an established musical source such as RS carries a lot of weight, flaws and all. I would like to take this opportunity to counter its received opinions with an alternate viewpoint.
In response to Rolling Stone’s canonization exercise, my sonic soul mate Explorateur and I brainstormed our own top 100 (and then some). The boldfaced names are those who we think really got shafted. Surely we forgot some key players, and surely you’ll tell us about your picks in comments, but this is our attempt to present a list that can stand headstock to headstock with ol’ Rolling Stone’s. (Note: The order’s kind of random after #30.] Deep breath…
01 Kevin Shields [My Bloody Valentine] 02 Sonny Sharrock 03 Helios Creed [Chrome] 04 Dennis Coffey 05 Pete Cosey [Miles Davis, Cadet Records session player] 06 Manuel Göttsching [Ash Ra Tempel] 07 Michael Rother [Neu!, Harmonia] 08 Phil Manzanera [Roxy Music, 801] 09 Jimmy Nolen [James Brown] 10 Andy Gill [Gang of Four] 11 Michael Karoli [Can] 12 Larry Coryell 13 Sigi Schwab [Et Cetera] 14 Terje Rypdal 15 Sir Richard Bishop [Sun City Girls, Rangda] 16 Phil Upchurch [Cadet Records session player] 17 Yamamoto Seiichi [Boredoms] 18 Campbell 2000 [aka Ryan Shinn, Hovercraft] 19 Brad Laner [Medicine] 20 Curt Kirkwood [Meat Puppets]
Pete Cosey with Miles Davis
21 Richard Pinhas [Heldon] 22 Omar Khourshid 23 Leo Kottke 24 Steve Howe [Yes] 25 Gabor Szabo 26 Harvey Mandel 27 Zoot Horn Rollo [aka Bill Harkleroad, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band] 28 Bill Frisell 29 Fred Frith 30 Alain Markusfeld 31 Grasshopper [Mercury Rev, Harmony Rockets] 32 Pops Staples [Staples Singers] 33 Bert Jansch [Pentangle] 34 Daniel Fichelscher [Popol Vuh] 35 Sterling Morrison [Velvet Underground] 36 Gary Lucas [Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band] 37 Sérgio Dias [Os Mutantes] 38 Ike Turner 39 Achim Reichel 40 Freddie Stone [Sly & the Family Stone] 41 Syd Barrett [Pink Floyd] 42 Marc Bolan [T.Rex] 43 Will Sergeant [Echo and the Bunnymen] 44 Greg Ginn [Black Flag] 45 Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins] 46 Wes Montgomery 47 Bo Anders Persson [Pärson Sound, Träd Gräs Och Stenar, Harvester, International Harvester] 48 François Mativet [Lard Free] 49 Leo Nocentelli [The Meters] 50 Henry Kaiser 51 Adrian Belew [King Crimson, Talking Heads] 52 Ash Bowie [Polvo] 53 Jason Pierce [Spacemen 3, Spiritualized] 54 Pete Kember [aka Sonic Boom, Spacemen 3, Spectrum] 55 Pat Place [Contortions, Bush Tetras] 56 David Roback [Rain Parade, Opal, Mazzy Star] 57 Johnny Thunders [New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers] 58 Snakefinger [The Residents] 59 Tommy Bolin [Billy Cobham] 60 Kaki King 61 High Wolf 62 Robbie Basho 63 Kawabata Makoto [Acid Mothers Temple] 64 Dylan Carlson [Earth] 65 Keiji Haino [Fushitsusha] 66 Bola Sete 67 Ben Chasny [Six Organs of Admittance] 68 John Abercrombie 69 Marc Ribot 70 Gary Quackenbush [SRC] 71 Ernie Isley [Isley Brothers] 72 Doug Snyder 73 Keith Levene [PiL] 74 Roland S. Howard [Birthday Party, Crime and the City Solution, These Immortal Souls] 75 John McGeoch [Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, PiL] 76 Trey Spruance [Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3] 77 Michael Flower [Vibracathedral Orchestra] 78 Matthew Bower [Skullflower, Total] 79 Neil Campbell [Vibracathedral Orchestra, Astral Social Club] 80 Doug Jerebine [aka Jesse Harper] 81 Bill Orcutt [Hairy Pussy] 82 Paul Leary [Butthole Surfers] 83 Jack Rose [Pelt] 84 John Martyn 85 Randy California [Spirit] 86 Randy Holden [The Other Half, Blue Cheer] 87 Stacy Sutherland [13th Floor Elevators] 88 Junior Kimbrough 89 Franco Falsini [Sensations’ Fix] 90 Mike Deasy [Wrecking Crew session player] 91 Mick Hutchinson [Clark-Hutchinson] 92 Dave Brock [Hawkwind] 93 Alan Holdsworth [New Tony Williams Lifetime, Soft Machine, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Bill Bruford] 94 Carrie Brownstein 95 Erkin Koray 96 Wayne Kramer [MC5] 97 Bombino 98 Johnny “Guitar” Watson 99 Neil Michael Hagerty [Pussy Galore, Royal Trux, Howling Hex] 100 Pete Seeger
MORE CONTENDERS Anargyros "Silver" Koulouris [Aphrodite’s Child] Chris Karrer [Amon Düül II] Leigh Stephens [Blue Cheer] Janne Schaffer Tyondai Braxton [Battles] Ian Williams [Don Caballero, Storm & Stress, Battles] Davie Allan Mark McGuire [Emeralds] Charles Bullen [This Heat] James Williamson [The Stooges] William Reid [Jesus & Mary Chain] Mick Jones [The Clash] Peter Walker Skip Spence [Moby Grape] Roman Bunka [Embryo] Ron Bryer [Brainticket] Al Di Meola [Return to Forever] John Dwyer [Thee Oh Sees] Ken Camden David Byrne [Talking Heads] Grant Green Pat Martino D. Boon [Minutemen] Kim Thayil [Soundgarden] Nick Drake Bob Mould [Hüsker Dü, Sugar] Dick Taylor [Pretty Things] Oren Ambarchi Robert Quine [The Voidoids, Lou Reed] Robert Hampson [Loop, Main] Bilinda Butcher [My Bloody Valentine] Anton Newcombe [Brian Jonestown Massacre] Robert Poss [Band of Susans] Steve Tibbetts Andy Bell [Ride] John Perry [The Only Ones] Derek Bailey King Sunny Ade Ryo Kawasaki R. Stevie Moore Stephen Malkmus [Pavement] Spencer Seim [Hella, sBACH] Doug Martsch [Built to Spill] Stephen O’Malley [Sunn O)))] James Plotkin [Khanate, OLD, Phantomsmasher, etc.] Wata [Boris] Honey Owens [Jackie-O Motherfucker, Valet] Bjorn Copeland [Black Dice] J.J. Cale Jim O’Rourke Josh Homme [Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age] Jeffery Taylor [Climax Golden Twins, Spider Trio] Al Basim [Revival] Jon Waddington [The Pop Group] Edgar Breau [Simply Saucer] Jon Spencer [Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion] Caetano Veloso Mary Timony Dave Pearce [Flying Saucer Attack]