This is the first in an Alternative Nation series on guitar solos from iconic guitarists.
During Guns N’ Roses’ prime years, Axl Rose and Slash were looked at as the modern Mick and Keith. The two fed off each other’s energy to create a musical powerhouse that served as the foundation of each of their songs – no one would have ever thought they would be able to make it without each other. Slash’s 1996 departure from the band would change that notion forever, as he went on to have success with four separate projects: Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, his solo album Slash, and his collaboration with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. This transformed his label from being a pillar in a dynamic duo to a guitar god all on his own.
Slash has been on the go since 2014, jumping from a tour with Myles Kennedy to a 23 year-awaited reunion with GN’R. Because of his enormous contributions to the dwindling world of rock, we owe it to him to acknowledge the masterpieces he’s created over the years.
10. Double Talkin’ Jive
A less-talked about song on Use Your Illusion I, GN’R has been performing this in every set of their “Not In This Lifetime” Tour. The solo at the end of the song is deep and weary before transforming into an acoustic piece with a Spanish hint to it, demonstrating Slash’s ability as both diverse and creative.
9. Safari Inn
“Safari Inn” is an instrumental that appeared on Slash’s 2014 album World on Fire with Myles Kennedy. This blues-based piece shows his capability in a freestyle manner rather than having a strict verse-refrain song structure, though there is an easily identifiable peak about two-thirds of the way through the song.
One of supergroup Velvet Revolver’s most popular songs, “Slither” is nothing less than a ball of energy. The pause right before the solo can be best described as a “calm before the storm” as Slash then bursts into a powerful series of high-pitched shredding, combining elements of blues with speed and passion.
7. Civil War
Slash is given the spotlight several times throughout this song. The solos are deep and desperate, relaying the urgency the lyrics call upon. There is also a higher level of diversity heard as the different parts of the song alternate between rugged and composed.
This nine-minute ballad features very unique, eerie sounding guitar moments from Slash. The slow and shadowy parts that follow Axl’s whispering lyrics at the beginning echo the melancholy mood of the song. The main solo toward the end is immensely powerful and vivid, serving as a dramatic buildup for the final verses.
Appearing on Appetite for Destruction and as the opener for the majority of Guns N’ Roses’ concerts in the past, “Nightrain” definitely makes the top ten. The first solo has a rough and raspy edge to it while the fast-paced second one serves as the outro, leaving listeners thirsty for more.
4. Rocket Queen (Live)
Since he started touring with Myles Kennedy, Slash uses the middle of “Rocket Queen” to show his fans what he’s really made of. Sometimes exceeding twenty minutes, he keeps full attention of the crowd as he moves up and down the neck, hypnotizing them with his fingers. Sounding a bit different each time, this improvisation is only made successful by one of the true guitar heroes.
3. November Rain
If you can’t hear the heartache in the guitar in this song, then you can’t hear at all. In one of his more soothing pieces, Slash implemented a tremendous amount of romanticism into the long, swooping notes to create an impeccable flow that’s impossible not to hum along to. There are three solos throughout this ballad. The first two echo and cry along with Axl’s plea to “never mind the darkness,” while the third makes an aggressive yet alluring attempt to state that “you’re not the only one.”
For this pick, the solo isn’t the only part worth noting because the guitar work throughout the entire song is what makes it stand out so much. It starts off slow and mysterious and ends in a mashup of beautifully chaotic fingerpicking, with intense explosions in between. The effect the sound in this song has on the ears is similar to what a strobe light has on the eyes – both ballistic and fascinating all at once.
1. Sweet Child O’ Mine
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” was Slash’s turning point on Appetite for Destruction, proving to listeners that he could sound sweet and emotional while still being rugged and heavy. Perhaps one of the most easily identifiable solos in rock and roll history, it’s no question that this one takes the crown.