Rolling Stone top 100 Guitarists - Howe/Van Halen

OK, I just listened to The Yes Album for about the millionth time and I have one question; how on earth did the dudes at Rolling Stone put Steve Howe at number 69 on their list? I realize they tend to be a holier than thou (or smarter-than-thou) bunch, but come on. Didn't this guy win like every guitar award from musician magazines in the 70's? I was shocked as I read through the list and saw the names ahead of him. I just assumed he would be in the top 10 for unbelievable technical skill alone. The guy is simply amazing. I don't want to start a debate on some of the extremely questionable picks, especially in the top 10, but this guy is one of the all time greats.

To me it's like forgetting about Stan Musial because he played in St Louis instead of NY, LA or Chicago. Still one of the all time greats.

That brings me to the most amazing slight on that list: Eddie Van Halen at 70??? Didn't he basically invent speed metal? His tapping technic along with the rest of his unbelievable arsenal should put him in the top 10 if not the top 5, I mean come on. Because they didn't like Van Halen's pop/Rock they shun him down to 70?? I'm not a huge Van Halen fan but I think they had 2 great albums (Van Halen, 1984) and his playing on those alone should get him in the top 10.

I kept thinking that with the exceptions, IMO, of Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Kirk Hammett no one else could play all the music of all the other guitarists as well as VH could. George Harrison, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton or The Edge getting through 'Eruption', 'Ain't Talkin' Bout Love' or 'Hot for Teacher'? I don't think so. I can't think of anything Van Halen couldn't play extremely well, both artistically and technically.

Most the "Greatest" lists are BS, but this instance seemed really egregious to me.
Macdattexas- what's the link to this dubious "greatest list"? I already think I agree with your argument...smells like an injustice has been served. Would like to see who their top 10 are, however. Steve Howe is genius. Same for Eddie VH.
I would appreciate opinions from some guitarists out there. Come on, on this site with half of the systems and gear for sale in California, Tennessee and New York, I am guessing there are many, many musicians on these forum.

I sure some we have actually heard of.
Jeff Beck was "Tapping" long before VH. Agree that many on the list are questionable and I also really enjoy Howe.
I think I heard Derek Trucks question the merits the RS top 100 Guitarists in an Interview with some of the names that were listed and some that were omitted,
he never actually said who he thought should have made the list and those who slipped under the door and should not have been included, Mr Trucks was being diplomatic I guess.
No Joe Pass? Django Rheinhart?
What about including Bela Fleck? ok ok I know he plays the Banjo but it does have a fretboard, and can be plucked or strummed, lol..........
What about a certain mean country guitarist Mr Junior Brown?
Needless to say I am not going to lose any sleep over the list, as it seems a pretty pointless exercise, probably done to cause arguments on music sites such as this.
You likes who you likes regardless if somebody thinks the are a genius or not.
Rolling Stone is just a stupid magazine - I bet there are hundreds of political angles to that (and every) article in it.
That is one of the worst "Top 100" lists I've seen. What a load of crap.
Rolling Stone lists? Blah! Why should anyone care?

I've seen Yes many times. Howe is mesmerizing on guitar. You can put him in my top 10 list, though I must say there are so many to chose from, the top 10 is hard to pick.
Mark Knopfler should be MUCH higher than 27.
I kept thinking that with the exceptions, IMO, of Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Kirk Hammett no one else could play all the music of all the other guitarists as well as VH could. George Harrison, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton or The Edge getting through 'Eruption', 'Ain't Talkin' Bout Love' or 'Hot for Teacher'? I don't think so. I can't think of anything Van Halen couldn't play extremely well, both artistically and technically.

I've played for 40 years..but that doesn't qualify me to say who's good and who isn't. However I'd never measure another guitairst by how close he could copy 'EVH' playing Eruption. A guy like Keith Richards is no where near as 'technical' as EVH but if you go back and look at the body of music he wrote and played for 40+ years I think he too is a great guitarist. Being a great technical player doesn't make a 'great' guitarist IMO. ..and I like Eddie Van Halen.

The best I saw live was Beck, Clapton & Hendrix. Clapton with Cream @ 1968 live was amazing.

I don't agree with a lot of the order on this list, but most of these guitarists that many so casually dismiss were/are truly great players.
Again ratings prove to be no more than opinions of whoever is writing the article. Howe is a top 10 to say the least.
If they are talking talent and ability to make a guitar sound like no other then where is Bruce Cockburn? And Knopfler at 27 as mentioned? I want to thank you for reminding me why I quite buying this magazine years ago.
Where was Lindsey Buckingham in the list? The names that come to mind is too many to type.
Jack White before Johnny Winter?

Where's that air freshener...
Top 100 (or whatever number you choose) lists are intended for entertainment and controversy.

Take a deep breath and relax.

They're not important.
Agree with above. Who said Rolling Stone or their writer's opinion matters in the big picture? They're a few guys with their own opinions like the rest of us. That does not make them valid. And I agree with you about Steve Howe. As an old Yes fan, he is without a doubt great and I feel should rate much higher than #69 on anyone publication's list. That is ludicrous and ignorant. In my opinion Rolling Stone has zero credibility.
Those artists from 40 years ago, or 30, maybe even 20, very likely weren't in the minds of the 25-35 year old writer of the article. he/she probably Googled up a list and went from there.

I think it's true to these lists are about as important and viable as me deciding on what I want to drink with dinner.... last Sunday.

The "Top 100 fill in the blank" lists are so wacked they don't bare me wasting time perusing them. Vocalists, Groups, Albums, it don't matter... they're geared for controversy rather than accuracy. Most are just plain ridiculous wastes of time.

It's like saying what is the biggest/best selling movie of all time?

Unless only the number of tickets is tallied, and not the money spent, every new blockbuster production will claim that title as tickets get more and more pricey. Even counting the ticket numbers has quickly been skewed, as their are lots more poeple around now than in the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc.

Lists are made just to p*** everybody off.... like 'shock jock radio' personalities.
Any list with John Cippolina in the top 30 is alright with me.

It ain't serious, it's only rock 'n' roll.
I have been playing (rock) guitar for more than 35 years (started when I was a wee lad), not a professional but...I brought that up since you asked for guitarists is a huge matter of taste, of course, and I think there are many overrated guitarists...Howe should definitely been in top 10, so should Brian May and Peter Green....two of the most underrated guitarists of all time are Steve Hackett (did a lot of tapping too very early on) and Scott Gorham - also top ten in my book in my humble opinion...I don't care for lists like the one in Rolling Stone, I get bored just starting looking at it (I agree with ignorant and zero credibility - probably only trying to cash in on the recent rock band trend)...Yngwie Malmsteen should be another one in top 5 (surely one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time)...Jimmy Page is a no-brainer, of course, for the nr 1 spot...
How could they exclude Mike Oldfield? One of the best.
John Cippolina belongs in the top ten!
If that list is anything like Rolling Stone's movie reviewing I wouldn't find it worthy to line a bird cage. If you have an outhouse you might use it if the Sears catalogue is running out. You also might be interested in this extensive thread if you haven't seen it. There have been other threads on "best guitarist" as well.
cippolina was indeed a 'top ten of all time'. just being on any list like this however is an honor....there are thousands of great guitarists.
No Tommy Bolin, Joe Walsh, Joe Satriani, Neil Schon...I'm too sick to go on.
Other than the obligatory Jimi at #1, such a list is never going to seem right to everyone. The author must consider innovation, technique, influence, personal taste (and probably fame) in determining the order. How do you prioritize these factors? Probably differently than the author.

Steve Vai has great technique, but some find his arpeggio heavy lead style cold and uninvolving. Clapton is famous, influential, and has beautiful tone, but limited technique. Danny Gatton (#68 IIRC) was a technical monster before his injury and merely much better than (virtually) everyone else afterward, but he's obscure. How do you rank these guys?

I am studying guitar and play a little. I think I have a pretty fair insight into what I can't play and why. This colors my take on the list and illustrates the phenomenon that I'm describing. Go4vinyl (a much more experienced player than I am) laments Peter Green's low ranking. I'll point ou that Lindsey Buckingham isn't even on the list. I recently heard Buckingham nail Green's signature solo at a Fleetwood Mac concert. I suspect he can replicate it in his sleep. I also flat out 100% guarantee you that Green couldn't return the favor. Buckingham's technique combines very fine blues ability (IMO roughly on a par with Green's) with an utterly unique rythmic capability. His hybrid strumming/picking/fingerpicking style floors me every time.

Bottom line: YMMV.

BTW, did Django make the list?

I accidentally dropped my penultimate paragraph:

This is no shot at Green, who I've admired for decades. However, he was famous for acknowledging his own technical limitations and thanking his fans for looking beyond them and just "enjoying the show". Notwithstanding the difference in their technical ability, it should be noted that Peter Green invented the solo in "Oh Well," while LB merely played it. If you love the particular "voice" evinced here, you may not be impressed by "Come" or "I'm so Afraid", Buckingham's signature solos.

Therefore, I understand why Go4 prefers Green's material, even though I prefer LB.

If you look at another Rolling Stone list - the best albums of all time, you'll find all "Prog Rock" conspicuously absent. No King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, etc. It seems obvious that they don't like prog at Rolling Stone. Thus the Steve Howe ranking.


Yes, RS has always had a clear and major anti progressive rock bias as does the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This narrow mindedness in particular drives me crazy and is why I pay little attention to anything the mainstream media these days promotes. Its all about money and not artistic merit at all, just like much of modern American culture.

Very sad indeed!

I love the Rolling Stones, one of my personal favorites, and I have seen them live many times. Richards is a great guitarist, and a great songwriter. EVH is not in the same league as a songwriter. That said, this is not a list of songwriters, but musicians. Stevie Ray Vaughn as an example really didnt' write any truly timeless, great music, but is legend for his playing. EVH, is similar to SRV, that was my point. As a guitarist, come one Keith's not in the same league, much more limited.

John Lennon wrote better songs than almost anyone else ever, but he's not on the list, that my point.

Also, I hadn't noticed Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Vai not on the list at all, that is criminal.
I think it's apparent that the primary criteria for selection was not skill. Indeed skill and musicality are perhaps afterthoughts.
How about Terry Kath. An amazing guitarist.
As for George Harrison, I never thought he was the best guitar player in the band.
As a guitarist, come one Keith's not in the same league, much more limited.

Mac, I got it. I know it was not a list for songwriters. My point was I don't think a guy has to be 'great technically' to be a great guitarist. I'd bet that if many of the guitarists you asked to weigh in here would do so, many would say a guy like BB King is a great guitarist.. but you can watch 'you tube' videos all day of guys in basements who are 'flashier', faster & more technical then he is. I just can't consider Keith Richard as being 'limited' 'cause he's not as fast or smooth as SRV or EVH. Perhaps we can agree to disagree :)
People play guitar to make noise that sounds good to themselves and hopefully other people.

Being flashy is just one way to possibly succeed in this goal.

"Top" in the RS sense is largely based on reputation and popularity I would guess. Popularity translates to influence as well.

There are many great and unique guitarists that are influential beyond their level of fame that would never make such a list. Steve Hackett is one of my enduring favs that is a good example.

Andrew Latimer of Camel is another treasure out there that relatively few people know or have ever heard.
if you own the first 2 'earthquake' albums on a&m (1971, 1972) you'll pretty much get the 'blueprint' for evh and all van halen to come....not knocking eddie (he's great), but the whole 'style' (down to the west coast swagger) had been done by the time he got there.
Is there any question that Rolling Stone listmakers and writers impose their own limited bias and have no objectivity whatsoever?

I always knew that, and there was never a doubt.

So how can one take anything they write along these lines seriously?
I think these ratings are seriously tilted toward guitarists as "composers" of rock classics rather than players. John McLaughlin at #49 as an example. But that doesn't explain Pete Townsend at #50 or Richie Blackmore at #55. But why the hell is Jonie Mitchell on this list at all (at #72) unless they are looking at compositional skills as well as playing skills? And she precedes Trey Anastasio!!!

David Gilmour at #82 or Tommy Iommi at #86 - rediculous.

Maybe this list was just composed to stir up some controversial discussions, like this one.

I guess that you've gotta have a gal on your list:

Jonie Mitchell is a good choice for that role because she is considered the queen of alternate tunings. You can make a case that she was first on that bandwagon (Ritchie Havens might disagree). There is no doubt that she was deep into that approach very early on and -IMHO- that it was a significant contribution to the SOTA of pop/rock guitar.

Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, Susan Tedeschi, Joan Armatrading, and a few others probably fought it out with JM for the "distaff" spot on the list, but lost because they had no similar "signature" distinction.

One more thought:

I suspect that these lists are built with an eye toward the future. That is, the authors don't want to set themselves up to look foolish. Sins of omission are better than commision (except for political correctness.)

Add a female to prevent sexist critiques. Cover ethnicity. Nod a little to non- manistream (i.e. non blues/blues based) styles. Mainly, however, they want to stay in the middle of the fairway. Add the very famous, very influential, or very hip/cult choices. It becomes easy for guys like Howe, Buckingham, or Terry Kath to slip between cracks like these, because pop and prog players are effectively subject to a quota.

That approach explains (for me) a lot of this list.

I would actually put Joni Mitchell higher on the list. A great guitar player. Maybe had she windmilled, leapt over the mike stand, and smashed it she might have finished ahead of Pete at #50. But alas she just played it.

As for #50... I've often said that Pete Townshend is nowhere near the technical master of the guitar that, say, Eric Clapton is - but anyone who'd rather listen to Clapton than Townshend is bonkers.

Maybe they need 2 lists - a skills list and an adrenaline list.

Yeah, let's have more lists.

Eric Clapton might be the most over rated player, and musician, in history.

Maybe one day he will send over a nice fat check to Freddy King's family to compensate for what he stole.
Chashmal, I am 100% with you, but I didn't have the stones to say it first. I can't think of any Cream/Clapton songs where the guitar gives me a charge. Nothing like say Stevie Ray Vaughn playing "Pride and Joy", Tony Immomi playing "Paranoid", Jimmy Page playing "The Ocean", Jimmy Hendrix playing "All Along the Watchtower" Chuck Berry playing "Roll Over Beethoven" EVH playing "Hot for Teacher" where's the great Clapton moment that only he could play? I don't feel it.
While My Guitar Gently weeps or maybe Hideaway would be Clapton in top form. First off this list is ancient. I think it's over 6 years old. This does simply come down to personal taste. I mean Manuel Gottsching, Joey Santiago, Yngwie, Doug Martsch, Carrie Brownstein, Paul Gilbert, Holdsworth, Di Meola & a slew of neo-classical "shred" guys would be on my list but I'm sure people would be saying "who are these clowns". I also don't get the fascination with Mark Knopfler.
Manuel Gottsching, one of my favs. Steve Hackett is another.
Macdadtexas: anyone hearing Stevie Ray Vaughn for 2 seconds will respond with a 'what was THAT". In my opinion, Clapton evokes reputation before appreciation. I think people think he is the world's best guitar player simply because there has been 40 years of hype about him!
"I think people think he is the world's best guitar player simply because there has been 40 years of hype about him!"

Yes, hype/promotion is key!

#'s are required to objectively measure anything. Hype/promotion is the key to exposure and obtaining #'s.

The music industry has always understood this principle well.

Popularity assures some level of ability and influence on others usually but level of popularity does not correlate to level of quality. Artistic quality is a very subjective thing to measure as we all know. Still, there are many who are influential beyond their level of mass popularity. That usually is an indicator that something special may be going on there.

Clapton is good but certainly not better than many others to me.
Clapton. Badge. Brilliant.
My true Stevie Ray Vaughn story.

My first visit to Austin, TX was in 1983. A huge group of us were walking down 6th street about 6pm which is really early to be out on a Saturday night, it was a typical beautiful November (or late October) night and a bunch of people were already starting to congregate outside some random bar.

We walked over to see what was so interesting that early (2 for 1 drinks maybe?) and some dude is sitting on the stage by himself playing the guitar. So we squeeze in and basically steal a table, place maybe seated 70 people legally, and order some drinks. I had no idea who this guy was, and he's just jamming by himself, both with his acoustic and electric guitars as people are setting up equipment for a band. People start pouring into the bar at this point and Austin PD closes off the bar and the sidewalk right outside the bar. They come in an BS with the guy playing the guitar so they obviously know him.

Well the guy was Stevie Ray Vauhgn, and the bar was owned by some buddy of his, and his band just wanted to play that night so the called him and asked if it was OK. To this day I have never seen anyone play the guitar like that. He sat up there for about 45 minutes playing by himself, his brother came up and jammed with him a little but mostly he just seemed to be praticing.

So they got off the stage at about 7, hung out at the bar eating BBQ (County Line I am sure, very good if you are in Austin), and BS-ing (while we got very drunk) then the took the stage again about 9 pm with the full band and played until midnight.

Easily in my top 3 entertainment experiences ever. They were just great, and he was abolutely amazing. I never saw Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Chuck Barry or Jeff Beck. But I have seen Pete Townsend (great,well the band was great), BB King (great), Eric Clapton (see above), EVH (great), Steve Howe (great), Keith Richard, Lindsey Buckingham, Kirk Hammet, ..... I've seen a lot of guys live I guess. But no one ever just blew me away like SRV did. Maybe it's because I didn't know who he was before I heard him play, but man what an amazing talent.
people have rioted and died for lesser things than disrespecting david gilmour thus...
What, no George Gobel? B-O-G-U-S
Don't forget the underated LESLIE WEST OF MOUNTAIN.........