Between all those pointed
and flashy guitars, between enough lacquer to destroy the ozone layer and so
much artificial pose, in the 80s Slash and Guns'N'Roses
appeared to return to the best essence of classic hard rock once more. With
his top hat and a tuft of hair that made it impossible to see the features of
his face, Slash was a kind of bastard son of Jimmy
Page who, like him, carried the blues to the aggression of rock and, in
Slash’s case, the dirt of punk. He also recovered one of the most important ‘binomials
of rock’, the Les Paul and Marshall; although his main guitar was a handmade replica
by Kris Derrig. Here are some of our
favourites solos of his career.
This song represented the biggest change in Guns'N'Roses’ career, as it took them from being the most incendiary and dangerous band in the world to a stadium rock band. The fact that Axl played it with Elton John at the 1992 MTV awards, gave the impression that he wanted to become a kind of John of 'hard rock' but this was not true: in fact the singer had pointed out two years before its release that his favourite album at that time was Something / anything by Todd Rundgren. November Rain is one of the best-known ballads in history and, to some extent, his Stairway to Heaven or, if you prefer, his Bohemian Rhapsody. As he had done with Sweet Child O'mine, it is Slash who gives the heart to the song with his solos. It is impossible to separate this song from the band’s spectacular video in which the guitarist appears wearing Joe Perry’s legendary 59 Les Paul Tobacco Sunburst (although he recorded it with his beloved Derrig replica), a guitar that Perry would end up ‘returning’ to Aerosmith as a birthday present. This is the solo for which Slash will be remembered eternally and I do not think he can complain; it is the musical equivalent of having a broken heart, showing that behind that hair and the top hat hides a desperate romantic.
Sweet Child O’ Mine
This song provided one of the most iconic riffs in the history of rock, up there with Satisfaction, Smoke on the Water or Whole Lotta Love, and which, possibly, is the best known song of the band. Although the beginnings of the song could not have been less promising, with Slash creating the riff while ‘fooling around’ with the drummer, thinking that he was playing a "circus" tune, it was Izzy Stradlin who asked him to repeat it and added the chords, and Duff McKagan a bass line. Axl Rose, who was in another part of the building, listened to what they played and liked it, and wrote a lyric there and then, based on his relationship with his girlfriend Erin Everly (the daughter of one of the Everly Brothers) and finishing the song the next day. Of course, the absolute cherry on the cake is Slash's solo; not in vain was it the favourite part for Axl himself, who became a beast when MTV decided to cut the solo for its broadcast. It was not for nothing, because with this solo Slash showed that he could sound sweet without losing a bit of the fierceness that characterized him on the rest of the album. It is one of those melodic solos that remain etched in the memory and that anyone can sing note by note. He got it in the first take and could not have improved it even if he had recorded it a hundred times more. For the sound of the riff in the recording studio, a Roland SRV-2000 Digital Reverb was used, and the solo was again the combination between his replica of Les Paul and the Marshall.
It is evident that Appetite for Destruction is Guns 'N' Roses’ greatest album but that does not mean that the two volumes of Use Your Illusion lack value. At the height of their fame, the group of Axl, Slash, Izzy and Duff released two double albums at the same time, which in their first week sold more than half a million copies and placed them in 1st and 2nd place of half the world’s charts. It was not surprising that the albums were filled with grandiloquence, something that can be appreciated in all its fullness in the more than nine minutes (the second longest song in their discography) epic Estranged. But that does not mean it does not work, Estranged is a perfectly orchestrated song, with several differentiated parts and without any refrain, in which Axl chronicles the failure of his relationship with model Erin Everly. And, yes, the great hero of the song is again an incendiary Slash whose Les Paul is unique every time he takes the lead on four separate occasions; highlighting the dramatic force of the final single.
Let me tell you the story of how Slash finally found his sound. Guns'N'Roses went on to record Appetite For Destruction in early '87, and by then Slash's lead guitar was a B.C. Rich Warlock with which he recorded the basic tracks. But he was not at all satisfied with his sound, so much so that for My Michelle he used a Gibson SG that ended up crushed against the band’s van. The manager of the band took note and decided to stop by Jim Foote's instrument store to see if they had anything. Foote did not hesitate to show him a replica of a 59 Les Paul that Rick Derrig had made, a man who made these replicas to make improvements to his car. Niven was delighted and paid about $ 2,500 for it. When he took it to Slash, and he plugged it into his Marshall JMP 1959 Super Lead, he knew he had found his sound. This you can see on this jewel of Appetite For Destruction that used to be the one that opened their first concerts. It was Slash's favourite song to play live, where he used to go crazy in the fantastic final solo. But back to the beginning of the story, Appetite was released on July 17, 1987 and sold over 18 million copies making it one of the most successful debut albums in history. Everything indicated that Derrig was going to become immensely rich and he was going to be able to buy the car he wanted but it was not like that. The man who made these incredible replicas of Les Paul, and who tried them out by playing them over Allman Brothers albums, died two months earlier, on May 17, 1987. He never knew that the guitar he had made became one of the most famous of all time.
A perfect anthem to sing ‘at full lung’ in a stadium, without thinking too much about how silly the lyrics are ("Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty"). It has a perfect start and a section with a spectacular riff that makes it little matter what is actually being sung, which could be "la, la, la, la" and would still be as effective. In fact, it might have been much more fun if they had left the phrase that Slash wanted to use, "where girls are fat and have big tits." His final solo allows us to see that, despite being a guitarist based on blues (and therefore, more on feeling than on speed), Slash is able to jump vertiginously up and down the neck demonstrating that, like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, he is also a Bad Motherfucker.
In this harrowing anti-war song Slash finds a depth and a desperation that fits perfectly with Axl's lyrics. It provides proof again of his diversity, as he manages to sound different every time, on occasion using his beloved Cry Baby wah pedal. It is difficult to choose one over the rest but, perhaps the one at the end is the most expressive, until you reach that nod to Hendrix at which point Axl asks "What's so civil about war, anyway?"
Welcome to the Jungle
In 1987 the 'glam metal' scene in Los Angeles was at its height, but you could see that it was something totally hollow, more concerned with makeup and 'girls, girls, girls' than doing something really dangerous to boost rock and roll. And into that situation arrived these few guys talking about the less 'glamorous' face of the city: listening to this song people could see the broken bottles, syringes and used condoms on the floor. All this around an amazing riff that seemed to announce the arrival of Armageddon and that seemed all twisted, while the boundless throat of Axl Rose warned you that you had just arrived in the big city, "do you know where you are? You are in the jungle Baby, you're going to die! " The funny thing is that Axl had written the song about him many years before when he exchanged rural Indiana for New York. Even so, his ‘warning to the clueless’ is still the moment in which the rock'n'roll discovered his reference band for the 80s. This solo is most interesting because it is one of the few occasions in which we see Slash use the slide, in addition to his characteristic 'bends' and his unique vibrato.
I had to stop when making this list to try to not only put in songs from Appetite for Destruction but it is one of the best rock albums of all time. Rocket Queen is the song that closes it and is one of its great moments. The song begins at 40 seconds with a powerful riff which is quickly followed by the voice of Axl posing as his 18-year-old friend Barbi Von Greif, the queen of the 'underground' of Los Angeles, ("I may be young but I'm not naive ") to make way for an instrumental bridge in which he added the orgasmic noises of Axl having sex with Adriana Smith - the girlfriend at the time of drummer Steven Adler (you never get bored with this band) - then at 3 minutes and half returning with another much more classic riff and closing with Axl going on to add his own perspective and offering his support to Barbi, "if you need a shoulder or a friend, I'll be here until the bitter end." The conclusion again shows Slash demonstrating his mastery of the vocabulary of blues.
Double Talkin' Jive
Another song by Izzy Stradlin, on which he also takes the lead voice, which has led some fans to think that the solo before the Spanish guitar is his as well; also because it is different from what we are used to from Slash. However, I believe that the solo is 100% Slash, which he plays with oriental and Spanish influences, until he reaches that haven of peace that the Spanish guitar brings and that proves the creativity and diversity of the guitarist's influences.
Always On The Run - Lenny Kravitz
Slash had commented that Lenny Kravitz's debut album, Let Love Rule, was his favourite album to make love to. Upon learning that, Kravitz invited him to the studio for his next album and when he accepted and they saw each other, they realized that they had gone together to the same college in Los Angeles. Slash took his Gibson Les Paul Standard 59 replica to the studio to record Fields Of Joy's solo but, between takes, he played with a riff he had, but that did not suit his band. Kravitz did not hesitate a second and turned that funky riff into one of the best songs of his career, Always On The Run. The curious thing is that Kravitz also owned a replica Les Paul by Kris Derrig, of which there are only 24, which makes it clear that these two were born to play together. So it's clear that when Kravitz yells "Slash!" he is honouring the person who gave him one of the best solos of his career.