Greatest Rock Guitar Riffs

A British guitar magazine recently polled it readers to compile a list of the greatest guitar riffs. Guns 'N Roses "Sweet Child of Mine" came in at the number spot. Here's a link to the poll results. As you can see the list is entirely metal oriented.

My list would include:

The Chuck Berry intro
The Chuck Berry rhythm
The Bo Diddley beat
Temptations - My Girl
Kinks - You Really Got Me
Steely Dan - Reelin' In the Years
Sam & Dave (Steve Cropper) - Soul Man
Stone Temple Pilots - Plish
Beatles - I Feel Fine intro
Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze intro

Is it my fault that nearly all the great riffs are pre-1980?

What's on your list?
Jetrho Tull - Aqualung
Night Ranger - Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Ten Years After - I'd Love To Change The World
Satisfaction - Stones
Love Me Two Times, People Are Strange - Doors
Aqualung - Tull
Ride My See-Saw - Moody Blues
Red House - Hendrix
Cliffs Of Dover - Eric Johnson
Bridge Of Sighs - Robin Trower
What Is Life - George Harrison
Layla, Sunshine Of Your Love - Eric Clapton
Drive My Car - Beatles
The Knack - "My Sharona"
John Lee Hooker - "Boom Boom"
Jimi Hendrix - "Purple Haze"
Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"
Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Heaven"
Steve Denny - Oscuro/Magic Box

Imagine David Gilmore or Jeff Beck with a Flamenco and Middle Eastern flair, and a few '50's/'60's movie samples to boot.

Pathos, power and emotion with great control.
we have a man down...he has lost all sense of zeppelin riffage...the hendrix and sabbath picks are acceptable, but...
"whole lotta love" and "heartbreaker" KILL "stairway to heaven"...which itself is a great although overplayed song...still,no contest...not even close...
btw, in no way am i trying to launch a heated debate or hurt feelings...
They ALL belong to Frank Zappa IMHO and the list of riffs is truely infinite.
im with marakanetz,fz did all of them the best,the entire shut up & play yer guitar double album is 1 big riff.


No hurt feelings. I threw that one in because when I was learning to play guitar in the mid 80's, Stairway was one of the most overplayed riffs of the day. It seemed like everyone of my era knew it (at least the beginning, few learned the whole song). Same for Purple and Iron, everyone knew them.
You're all forgettin' probably the greatest riff of all time:

Oh Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison

Honorable mentions:

Day Tripper - The Beatles
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
Dirty Water (Oh Boston You're My Home!) - The Standells
Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
Dang - this has got to be one of the stupidest threads I've looked at in years. Can you all imagine how expensive this is gonna get?

Started to go through the mental list, but started to show some years (and a senior moment or two 'cause I probably can't remember about half of what I'd put here). Then I went to the "magic closet" - the one where all the vinyl's stored. OMG - what a mistake! Dang - this is gonna be one expensive evening now. Already got the turntable and cartridge choices figured out, now just gotta get 'em & set 'em up... Stupid, stupid thread. Stupid, stupider me for going to that closet...

Tkmetz done real good there, & Marakenetz and Wellfed hit some classics (FZ furever). Also Santana (Samba Pa Ti? Song of the Wind?), Joe Walsh, Bromberg somewhere, Schon, Knopfler, prob. Beck, more Tull than just Aqualung (Barre done darned good), and I'm just going to have to hook everything up and listen again and we'll get back to this thread in a year or so with a better list (yup, got a bunch of time saved up from work ;~). Stupid thread...
freebird lynyrd skynyrd
comfortable numb pink floyd
eruption van halen
lunatic fringe red ryder
tush zztop
fire from the sky elo
The Stones - "Jumpin Jack Flash" or "Brown Sugar"

Clapton - "Layla"

Robin Trower - "Daylight Again"

Black Sabbath - "Supernaut"

Neil Young - "Ohio" & "Cinnamon Girl"

The Who - "Pinball Wizard"

Free - "Allright Now"

Grand Funk Railroad - "Rock n Roll Soul"

Spooky Tooth - "The wrong place,wrong time" (off of "Last Puff")?

Wishbone Ash - "The King will come"

Jethro Tull - "Cross-eyed-Mary"

Frank Zappa - "Crew Slut"
I originally thought it said horsehead so while reponding here to a genuinely hlarious answer to a well..... so imagine my delight at actually assimilating some letters and was .. actually .... hose. Im still laughing. This is the best answer i have read yet on AG and Mr , you deserve the title , keep posting my friend.
My Sweet Lord - George Harrison
Wild Thing - The Troggs
In a Gadda Da Vida - Iron Butterfly
Aerosmith - "Walk This Way"
FZ by far, but my biases are well known. Comfortably Numb is an all-time favourite, jeez the list has been well covered already.

How about some new guitar riffs, something more recent? Tom Moriello does some really fun stuff, check out "The Battle of L.A." by Rage Against the Machine.
Lots of good choices! Don't forget "Layla!"
Rolling Stones: "It's All Over Now"
The Who: "Happy Jack"
The Stones version: "Oh Carol"
The Stone Roses: "Drivin' South"
Echo & The Bunnymen: "Do it Clean"
Adrian Belew: "Momur"
Humble Pie: "I Don't Need No Doctor"
Mountain: "Mississippi Queen"
"Mississippi Queen" Yes! Now there's a slam dunk choice that had been long overlooked. Nice pull, John_fink!
Mountain: "Mississippi Queen" this song totally rocks.
Dire Straits "Money for Nothing"
AC/DC "Hell's Bells"
Scorpions "The Zoo"
Led Zeppelin "Bring it on Home"
Wow, how'd we all miss this one, this might be the most famous of all......

Sweet Home Alabama - Skynyrd

or out of obscurity....

Hocus Pocus by Focus

another killer.....

Mississippi Queen

Looks like burning a killer compilation CD is on the horizon! Great suggestions!
Deep Purple "Smoke on the Water"
Bowie "Ziggy Stardust"
Cream "Sunshine of Your Love"
The Who "Punk Meets The Godfather"
Polythene Pam" - Beatles; "What Is Life?" - George Harrison; "It's Late" - Queen; "Livin' Lovin' Maid" - Led Zeplin; "Birthday" - Beatles; "Daytripper" - Beatles; "Pretty Woman" - Roy Orbison; "Venus" - Shocking Blue; "Gloria" - Them;
Paul Westerberg "My Little Problem"
Todd Rundgren "Hammer in My Heart"
Clash "Clampdown"
Yardbirds "Train Kept A Runnin'"
Talking Heads "Crosseyed and Painless"
Patti Smith "Pumping (My Heart)"
Jefferson Airplane "Volunteers"
Outsiders "Time Won't Let Me" (later appropriated by Pretenders for "Time The Avenger")
Deep Purple "Smoke On The Water"
Allmans "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"
Eric Clapton - The Core
AC/DC - Shook Me All Night Long, Back in Black
CCR - Born on the Bayou
Icon - Out for Blood
Oops, forgot "Sweet Jane"
Duane Allman on "Loan Me a Dime"-Boz Scagg's first album. Gary Duncan on "Who Do You Love"-Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Happy Trails" lp. Some early Neil Young stuff is in the same category.
Paperback Rider by The Beatles and Jumpin Jack Flash by The Stones are 2 I enjoyed in my youth.
Right Place Wrong Time Dr. John with Guitar Solo by David Spinozza.
Pink Floyd - Time
Steely Dan- Reeling in the Years
T. Rex - Get it On
Foghat - Slow Ride
Rick Derringer - Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo
Neil Young - Ohio
Rolling Stones - Can't You Hear Me Knocking
Scorpions - Rock You Like a Hurricane
Rush - Limelight
Eagles - Life in the Fast Lane
George Thorogood - Bad to the Bone
Steve Miller - The Joker
Aerosmith - Last Child
Joe Walsh - Life's Been Good
Van Halen - Ain't Talkin''Bout Love
Bob Seger - Her Strut
Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son
Boston - Smokin'
Here are some repetitive ones of the simpler variety that you can never get out of your head (once you've heard the song). Some are mind numbingly simple but like Beethovens 5th - the simple ones stick.

Queen - Another one bites the dust
Queen - We Will Rock You
Queen - I want to Break free
Queen/Bowie - Under Pressure
Paul Mccartney - too many great bass riffs to mention "Come Together" is memorable
The Who - My Generation
Pink Floyd - Money
Lynrd Skynrd - Sweet Home Alabama
Eagles - Life in the fast lane
Eric Clapton - Cocaine
Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall
Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead or Alive
Doors - Riders of the Storm
Tom Petty - I won't back down
Clash - Should I stay or Should I go

Nice thread
lots of great ones already the yardbirds-little games, t rex-hot love,shoes-too late, raspberries-go all the way
ps, i listed riffs not solos. otherwise, the guy who played the solo on the carpenter's 'goodbye to love' rules.
Day Tripper- Beatles
Mr. Tambourine Man- Byrds
Over Under Sideways Down- Yardbirds
Heartbreaker- Led Zeppelin
All Right Now- Free
Cinnamon Girl- Neil Young
Layla- Derek and Dominoes
House of the Rising Sun- Animals
Down on the Corner- Creedence
China Grove- Doobies
Needles and Pins- Searchers/Tom Petty
Brown Eyed Girl- Van Morrison
Woodstock- CSNY
Satisfaction- Stones
Bang a Gong- T Rex
Substitute- The Who
Superstitious- Stevie Wonder
La Grange- ZZ Top
Gimme Shelter - Stones
Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress intro - Hollies
Don't Fear the Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
Up Around the Bend - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Minstrel in the Gallery electric riff - Jethro Tull
Voodoo Chile slight return - Jimi
School's Out - Alice Cooper
Helter Skelter - Beatles
Pinball Wizard - Who

stay tuned I have more...
The only other one I can remember is from the one hit wonder band named Head East "Never Been Any Reason" 1975. Definately not the best, but a nice first 45 seconds.
good challenge - the one hit wonders great riffs

Tommy Twotone 867-5309
Devo - Whip It
Lipps - Funkytown
Gary Numan - Cars
Vapors - Turning Japenese
Sookie Sookie by Steppenwolf
The guitar solo in Sympathy for the Devil. Not a riff, per se, but IMHO the definitive solo. What Keith doesn't play is as important as what he does play.
some of the greatest riffs in rock history are so simple yet classic:

Motley Crue-Kickstart My Heart

Not technical fretboard wizardry, but the volume goes up when they come on.
Robert Wilkins "That's no way to get along" (1927)
Mississippi Sheiks "Sitting on top of the world" (1931)
Al Dimeola-"Race with The Devil on a Spanish Highway"
Whitesnake-Vandenberg/Cambel- Crying in the Rain
Zakk Wylde- "Bleed For Me"
Savatage-Chris Oliva - Gutter Ballet