The Top 10 Gibson Metal Guitar Solos of All Time

By Chris Gill

Part One: The '70s and '80s

The definition of metal changes every decade as musicians continually push the genre to new extremes. But several elements have remained consistent throughout the years: distorted guitar, heavy riffs, and lightning-fast solos. Some of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded can be found on metal classics from the '70s and '80s, and many of those solos were recorded using Gibson guitars.

What makes a guitar solo great? While technical precision and speed are certainly important, a good solo should also be inventive and imaginative. The solo should support the song, and the best solos are ones that are so melodically strong that you can sing them while you wail away on your air guitar. All of the following solos meet those criteria, and, even better, they were all played on Gibson guitars!

“Whole Lotta Love”

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II [Atlantic, 1969]

Jimmy Page

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard

Although it was released in 1969, “Whole Lotta Love” formed the foundation for hundreds of great heavy metal tunes that followed in the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond. Page’s solo at the climax of the “orgasm” section exploded with primal fury, accentuated by double stomping power chords that defined “heavy” and “metal” with a one-two punch. The entirety of Led Zeppelin’s second album is full of awe-inspiring solos, but with “Whole Lotta Love,” Page made his point loud and clear that the guitar hero for the modern age of rock had arrived.

“War Pigs”

Black Sabbath, Paranoid [Warner Bros., 1971]

Tony Iommi

Guitar: Gibson SG Special

Tony Iommi’s epic solo begins with a majestic symphonic line that would make Tchaikovsky proud before bursting into an impressive display of descending triplets and bluesy howls. Ozzy Osbourne’s lyrics may have painted a brutal depiction of war mongers, but Iommi’s solo made listeners feel like they were in the middle of battle, surviving an onslaught of machine-gun bullets, screaming rockets, and bomb blasts. One of Black Sabbath’s finest moments.

“Rock Bottom”

UFO, Phenomenon [Chrysalis, 1974]

Michael Schenker

Guitar: Gibson Flying V

This tour de force showcase of Schenker’s formidable guitar talents was the metalhead equivalent of “Freebird,” and it became the centerpiece of UFO’s live performances (captured brilliantly on Strangers in the Night). Schenker’s extended solo displays virtuoso skills that left an indelible mark on numerous Euro-centric players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen.


Ted Nugent, Ted Nugent [Epic, 1975]

Ted Nugent

Guitar: Gibson Byrdland

Another extended guitar solo, Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” summoned up a barnyard full of squawks, squeals, and howls along with hypnotic melodies that make this song a sort of heavy metal “Bolero.” Nugent’s use of a Gibson Byrdland—a guitar normally associated with jazz—was certainly unorthodox, but thanks to his uncanny ability to tame feedback he used it to great advantage.

“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

Blue Öyster Cult, Agents of Fortune [Columbia, 1976]

Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser

Guitar: Gibson SG Special, Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

Buck Dharma’s exotic solo on Blue Öyster Cult’s breakthrough hit takes the song to a dark underworld full of tension and wonder while retaining the tune’s somber, minor-key mood. Dharma’s Middle Eastern, raga-esque lines were unlike anything heard in hard rock before, but they fit perfectly.

“You Shook Me All Night Long”

AC/DC, Back in Black [Atlantic, 1980]

Angus Young

Guitar: Gibson SG Standard

Angus Young has always insisted that his main influence was the blues, and here he shows his roots in smashing form. But instead of fiddling about in the pentatonic box, Young delivers a rich, melodic solo that you can sing along with. An AC/DC classic.

“Flying High Again”

Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman [Epic, 1981]

Randy Rhoads

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Custom

Any of the solos that Randy Rhoads played during his brief time with Ozzy Osbourne could easily make the list, but “Flying High Again” fits just about everything that Rhoads was about as a player into a tidy package. You can hear Rhoads’s classical influences in the melody and his Van Halen inspiration in the tapped flourishes, but, in the end, this solo is all about Rhoads’s impeccable taste and immaculate phrasing, which few players since have matched.

“Stand Up and Shout”

Dio, Holy Diver [Warner Bros., 1983]

Vivian Campbell

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

The year 1983 should go down in history as the period when the new age of shred officially began, and Vivian Campbell deserves recognition for helping to kick-start this trend. No one knew who Campbell was when he joined Dio, but after they heard this blistering, thousand-notes-a-second solo they had to find out more.

“Thunder and Lightning”

Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning [Warner Bros., 1983]

John Sykes

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Custom

John Sykes is another shredder who completely turned the guitar world upside down with his stunning speed and tasteful technique. Like the song’s title, Sykes’ playing was loud and flashy yet mysteriously mesmerizing. Sykes later enjoyed even greater success and fame by helping craft Whitesnake’s breakthrough album, but from a guitar player’s perspective this remains one of his finest moments.

“Welcome to the Jungle”

Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction [Geffen, 1987]


Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard

By 1987, every guitarist was shredding like mad and studying exotic scales at GIT. Slash ripped across the grain with his boozy and bluesy playing on “Welcome to the Jungle,” which evoked Joe Perry’s raunchiest moments with Aerosmith. Sure, other players may have had more polished technique, but few of them could match Slash’s sweet emotion.

Five Overlooked Metal Solos You Should Know

“Sails of Charon” Scorpions (1978)

Uli Jon Roth’s epic Euro shred masterpiece.

“Hammerhead” Pat Travers (1979)

The prototype for ’80s speed metal.

“End of the World” Gary Moore (1982)

The two-minute intro is the NWOBHM answer to Van Halen’s “Eruption.”

“Far Beyond the Sun” Yngwie Malmsteen (1984)

Still awe-inspiring — many have imitated Malmsteen, but he’s still unequaled.

“Mr. Scary” Dokken (1987)

George Lynch’s off-kilter instrumental fireworks make ’80s hair metal seem okay after all.

Article thanks to - Check out the new Gibson Lifestyle

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As per usual no mention of the fantastic and unique Steve Clark, who could run circles around most of these guys. He's equal to Jimmy and Randy. He knew about music and he knew how to create a special piece of guitar magic. The guy was a genius and is ridiculously underrated and overlooked.

Tony Iommi rules

I Love Guns N' Roses and I think that they should have a come back tour playing their old metal way in a brilant new fashon. It would be totally SWEET!!!!!

I believe the solo on Whole Lotta Love is a Fender Telecaster played through a small Supro amp. Also, the SG Specials referred to above are actually Standards with Humbucking pickups. The Specials of that era had black plastic P90's. Santana and Pete Townshend among others used the Specials, usually found in Cherry finish.

my favourite guitarist is jimmy doubt has been a great influence to all those guitarists who play today...but i think whole lotta love is not his best performence..has any1 heard the live version of "no quarter" which was played at madison square gardens??/...thats the damn best of him....but i would have to say that jimi hendrix has to be the greatest guitarist ever....try the version that i told out...try to play it..but u may hurt ur self....long live jimmy page...luv ya..

I have to agree with the "loyal fan" above....WHERE IS STEVE CLARK???????? he promoted gibson guitars, and had FANTASTIC riffs on almost every song on the Pyromania and Hysteria records...where is "Gods of War", "StageFright", and his personal masterpiece, "Switch 625"???????????????????????????????????????????????????
I'm a little dissapointed at the lack of appreciation show to the late SMC and his creative genius, just because his stuff didn't sound complicated and mind blowing, didn't mean it wasn't!!!! He has an artist, while some of the guys above were only musicians...jmo...LONG LIVE DEF LEPPARD...RIP STEVE CLARK...

THIN LIZZY RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

yea where tha fuck is steve. He wrote the greatest shit ever.

diehard the hunter solo is magnificent and billys got a gun solo chorus is the greatest

yud are stupid. . . . .

I was surprised they put "Flying High Again" for Randy Rhoads. It was certainly ONE of his best, but I dont think it was THE best. I would have picked something else, possibly Mr. Crowly or Over the Mountain, maybe Crazy Train. Either way you cant really go wrong with randy, cuz pretty much anything he played was sick. And I also agree with "loyal fan" up there. Steve Clark was an amazing guitarist who is extremely underrated. RIP both Randy and Steve!!!!

i agree with every other steve clark fan

ive been listening to him ever since i was little
the most underrated guitarist ever

he needs to be more appreciated.


best guitar gipson i love you dzalian magaria very good

Only just found this thread, so apologies for this being late but... it's pretty common knowledge that although Slash is a LP fan, Appetite for Destruction was recorded using two LP copies, NOT Gibsons.

Here are some more great classic rock guitar solos - all in one fun video called "Cheap Guitar Tricks" by Daniel Minteer (YouTube)

@Jack Liu - The only significant solo Page recorded with a Telecaster was Stairway to Heaven. Whole Lotta Love was a classic LS6.

HMMMMMM Steve Clark from Def Leppard, right? Well, I've been around long enough to remember WELL before those guys and I really cannot say I was ever impressed with his playing, but then everyone has their faves, right?
As for being truly "underrated"....Michael Schenker is the first name that comes to mind there. Undoubtedly one of the BEST to ever pick up the instrument....and NEVER recognized for it. Randy Rhoads....also one of the best, but he was dead before anyone could see what he could REALLY do. AMAZING for the time he was here with us.
My top five would have to be:
(and not really in this order, either)
Van Halen

Oh Yes........

Oh yes ...I love Gibson Les Paul, but,,but of course Slash,..... he inspired me to like it.
no doubt has been a greatest influence to all those guitarists who play today including me.
And most amazing he is still alive so when ever he create a new pieces and get a chance to learn it,,, long live..

What the fuck, no Steve

What the fuck, no Steve Clark on this list? Is it not time for Gibson to release a Signature Steve Clark Gibson guitar? I'm sure that both Phil Collen and Joe Elliott could help, and Steve's brother has a number of his Gibsons as well. And Gibson, please release it BOTH right AND LEFT HANDED...

Steve Clark needs to be on

Steve Clark needs to be on this list. He needs a sig les paul. He is a huge influence to everyone. He is extremely melodic. He is unique. He wears his guitar extremely low. He is amazing to watch live. And oh one more thing, he only wrote ALL def leps big hits! HE IS AWESOME. Period
thank you and goodnight

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