40 Guitar Anthems Everyone Should Know

Posted in: Musicouching by D. Minor on March 26th, 2008 | 48 Comments

Many of these songs are popular, but some are not. Get to know your inner rock star with these 40 masterpieces.

This is it. This is a list of the songs that have defined the words “rock star.” These songs have launched careers and maintained them. There are songs from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. It isn’t ranked, however, because I could never bring myself to put one of these songs over another. I will say, however, that my favorite song from this list is Tax Free by Jimi Hendrix, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has the best guitarwork, which is the point of this list.

  1. 1983. . . (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – Jimi Hendrix

  2. A sprawling, 13-minute epic. One of the best riffs I’ve ever heard, and an awesome start to this list.

  3. Alive – Pearl Jam

  4. The solo is two minutes long. Enough said.

  5. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin

  6. Beautiful blend of acoustic and electric. Jimmy Page at his finest. Big plus for catchy refrain.

  7. Back In Black – AC/DC

  8. It’s a classic, a staple. It’s on every guitar list, and for good reason.

  9. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp – Jimi Hendrix

  10. An obscure choice, but one of my favorites. The opening riff is unbelievably uplifting. At least to me.

  11. Castles Made Of Sand – Jimi Hendrix

  12. Another Hendrix tune (that’s going to be a common theme). Kind of a sad song, but Hendrix’ guitar work is as masterful here as anywhere.

  13. Dazed And Confused – Led Zeppelin

  14. Serious contender for Best Solo Ever. Plus, the opening (both bass and guitar) is just awesome. Still gives me goosebumps.

  15. Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton

  16. The opening riff might be the most recognizable from any song on here. I think everyone has heard this song at least once. Great refrain too.

  17. Foreplay/Long Time – Boston

  18. Another artful blend of acoustic and electric. An awesome refrain is a plus.

  19. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

  20. You knew it was coming. It’s probably the best solo ever. It’s the ultimate American epic.

  21. Heaven Beside You – Alice In Chains

  22. Another representative of grunge here. The intro has some soul to it, but it is by no means soft. Alice in Chains at their finest.

  23. House Burning Down – Jimi Hendrix

  24. More Hendrix. The intro is awesome, but the verse and chorus are even better. Solid all the way around.

  25. (I Cant Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

  26. Another very recognizable riff. A little repetitive, but when it’s this good, who’s keeping track?

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48 Responses to “40 Guitar Anthems Everyone Should Know”
  • Hollowman21 March 27th, 2008 at 11:40 am

    You should add some real solos listen to some metal and find out what a real solo is.

  • Dinorokr53 March 27th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    You include Goons & Roses and Alice In Chains but omit Eric Clapton and The Allman Bros. Band? Obviously the list needs to be longer or you need to broaden your listening.

  • Max March 27th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    bull**it! No Metallica? their solos defined the entire friggin’ metal scene! Stop listening to Britney and Justin! poser! (btw I agree with Hollowman21)

  • HeGGeR86 March 27th, 2008 at 12:19 pm



    calm down, if you took the time to read the title, “40 Guitar Anthems Everyone Should Know”

    clearly, this is a list of the guy’s personal choices, maybe he doesn’t listen to metal, maybe he doesn’t listen to Clapton or the Allman brothers, he never once said he was discounting them, this is just merely his list of 40 songs he thinks everyone should know…its clearly not meant to be a definitive list, nor is it in any way saying these are the best 40 guitar anthem songs ever…he’s merely listing 40 songs of his choosing, and of his liking that he thinks other people, possibly metal heads or other people who may not know them, would (and should) listen to.

    Good list D. Minor all great songs!

  • chruch March 27th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Cliffs of Dover

    and more metal

  • D. Minor March 27th, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    @ the people who say “metal has real solos”: Please reread the title and description. Nowhere did I use the word solo until my actual write-ups began. Secondly, I don’t listen to metal and therefore I don’t know many songs from that genre. This means that I am less likely to include metal songs.

    @ whoever insulted Alice In Chains: AiC was one of the defining bands of grunge. Whatever your favorite metal band is sounds the same as all the other metal bands.

    @ whoever said I omitted Clapton: lol.

    @ Max: I don’t care if Metallica defined the metal scene. The metal scene, imo, sucks hard. Defining a scene that sucks does not make a band good, it makes a band bad.

    @ chruch: Yea I realized I forgot Cliffs of Dover after I made the list. My bad there.

    @ people who agreed with me: I appreciate the compliments and encouragement.

  • percyob1 March 27th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    no metal?…jeeez…sabbath is on the list for christ sake (excuse my language please)…i love metal dudes but i also listen to other styles and genres because you can’t help what you like…i listen to metal because i happen to like it not because i’ve ever wanted to fit in with a crowd…hendrix was awesome…zep were awesome…skynard was awesome…floyd were awesom etc…many of these songs are classics that everyone should listen to at least once and then, and only then, can you decide whether you like the song or not…thank you d minor for an awesome list:-)

  • Guitar_hero March 27th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    The Allman Bros man .. where they at?

  • LadyRammstein March 27th, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    May I make a few suggestions here

    1. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd, best outro ever.
    2. November Rain- Guns N Roses, possibly some of Slash’s best guitar work.
    3. Grace – Jeff Buckley, the intro is simply amazing
    4. The First Cut Is The Deepest – Cat Stevens, everyone knows the song the minute they hear the guitar.
    5. Layla – Eric Clapton, seriously dude how could you miss this?
    6. Bat Out of Hell – Meatloaf, some of the best guitar work ever. (and that was an effects pedal NOT a motorbike btw)
    7.Mutter – Rammstein, I’ll forgive because you probably haven’t heard the song but its got a recognizable rift.
    8.1979 – Smashing Pumpkins, you live under a rock if you cant recognize the intro.
    9.Hysteria & Stockholm Syndrome – Muse, again how could you miss?
    10.Woman, Minds Eye & Apple Tree – Woflmother, you live under a rock right? these guys are Australia’s new AC/DC
    11. Speaking of, Thunderstruck & TNT – AC/DC, *shakes head*
    12. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath, clearly you have not heard enough Black Sabbath.
    13.Cocain – JJ Cale, listen to the song, you’ll know why its here
    14.Zombie – The Cranberries, you do listen to Irish music right?
    15.Wonderboy – Tenacious D, simply brilliant.
    16 She Moves In Mysterious Ways – U2, awesome rift in that song.
    17.Ashes to Ashes – Faith No More, EVERYBODY knows this one.

    I’ll leave it there. Its obvious you only listen to Jimi Hendrix, personally i only like Foxy Lady by him.

  • Superfluous Moniker March 27th, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Needs “The Painter” by Deep Purple. And a lot less Hendrix. He takes up 27% of your list and he got all the deep cuts.

    Also: Smells Like Teen Spirit was an anthem of something, but it sure as hell wasn’t guitar.

  • Superfluous Moniker March 27th, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Needs “The Painter” by Deep Purple. And a lot less Hendrix. He takes up 27% of your list and he got all the deep cuts.

    Also: Smells Like Teen Spirit was an anthem of something, but it sure as hell wasn’t guitar.

  • Alias Unknown March 27th, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Heart – Crazy On You. Crazy intro. Those chicks can rock!

  • tina March 28th, 2008 at 12:41 am

    why don\’t i see the master, Stevie Ray Vaughan…..COLD SHOT, COULDN\’T STAND THE WEATHER, SCUTTLE BUTTIN\’ to name but a few !!!!

  • Loogibot March 28th, 2008 at 12:54 am

    D.Minor, you have the exact taste in music I have, only I like a metal a bit more but like grunge a bit less. Overall, nice list.

  • LoseTheLeader March 28th, 2008 at 1:10 am

    First of all, you have chosen good songs for the list, but your reasons for choosing them are all wrong. Several of your descriptions are, in a nutshell, you saying that everyone else has them, so you should as well.

    As has been stated before in the comments, you chose from a very small pool of artists. There is so much music out there, and your top 40 is from about fifteen artists. I understand this is your opinion, but you may want to do some more research into music before making a top 40 public. Even if you had done research, you couldn’t expect everyone to agree with you.

    This list assumes that all epic rock anthems came from the seventies through the early nineties with the exception of a couple (”Seven Nation Army”). I understand the last ten years of music have been lackluster (Good going, music industry, trying to produce an “image” instead of a “sound”) but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t more than one song.

    Also, by saying that metal sucks, you’re doing exactly what those who said your list sucks did. You’re no different. Accept that people are going to make their suggestions and that some are going to be more adamant than others. Metal bands have just as much talent as any other kind of band, but it’s a different kind of talent. Some like it, some don’t. You also can’t ignore the fact that metal music has influenced music just as much as any other genre.

    Before you rush to conclusions about me, I did read the title. Again, I know it is your opinion. I know the title says “Should” and not “These are the best songs ever made, don’t argue with me because you’re wrong.” I’m not ignorant, I’m just offering my opinion.

    Now, here are a few songs that I would have included:

    “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton)
    Most songs of the “Absolution” album by Muse
    “Whole Lotta’ Love” by Led Zeppelin
    “New Noise” by Refused (You probably haven’t heard it and probably wouldn’t like it. It’s punk music, it’s hardcore music, it’s loud…)
    “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam
    Most songs off of the “Americana” album by The Offspring
    “Black Magic Woman” by Santana
    “Mother” by Danzig
    “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine

    These aren’t my favorite songs, though. Just songs I think everyone should hear.

  • Ringo March 28th, 2008 at 1:44 am

    No beatles?

  • ASDF March 28th, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Doesn’t really matter if there’s no metal or anything on the list, but the fact that you included Freebird is epic failure. That song is awful.

  • tronty March 28th, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Thought I’d chuck in:

    I am the Resurrection: Stone Roses – yes its over dubbed at the end, but the lead out is f’ing funky

    How Soon is Now: The Smiths – Marr is probably the most underrated guitarist, check out his current work with Modest Mouse..

    Man Sized Rooster: Supergrass

    Now one Knows: Queens of the Stone Age (although there may be a whole Grohl as a drummer thing going on there…)

  • LadyRammstein March 28th, 2008 at 4:56 am

    @ Lose the leader. I agree with the entire Absolution album (a must listen i would have to say)

    and i absolutely forgot Killing in the name of, brilliant song live i must add.

    I also agree that this strapping young lad needed to research a little more before making such a list public. (im presuming the author is male because no female would listen to that much Hendrix)

  • percyob1 March 28th, 2008 at 6:46 am

    i agree with ladyrammstein…comfortably numb is an awesome song, a song which i have been listening to for some twenty years (not continuously you understand :-) ) and it still makes my hairs stand on end, the solo at the end, was for me, jaw dropping the first time i heard it, and still is…rammstein have some awesome anthems also…mutter is good and also may i suggest wilder wein?

  • ClassicRocker March 28th, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Lose some of the Hendrix and add in some Rory Gallagher. If you don’t know any Rory Gallagher, FIND OUT. “Calling Card” and “Top Priority” are good albums to start with.
    Lose “Freebird” too…
    And yep definitely add in “I Am The Resurrection”. Stonker!
    “Parisian Walkways” by Gary Moore also deserves an honourable mention.
    “Sylvia” and “Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch group Focus from the 70s are great guitar tracks.

  • ClassicRocker March 28th, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Me again.
    I had thought on first pass that you had mercifully managed to avoid the dire “Smoke on the Water” but then I just noticed you have put it in. Back you go to the bottom of the class.
    That song is complete and total rubbish. Every guitar shop should have a sign right next to the “No Stairway to Heaven” sign saying “No Smoke On the Water”. In bigger letters.
    If I never hear that track again it will be too soon. Also, it put me off everything else Deep Purple ever did so it is an ANTI-anthem – it KILLED a band’s reputation for me.

  • reverie March 28th, 2008 at 8:51 am


  • D. Minor March 28th, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Whoever said to lose some of the Hendrix. . . lol. It was all I could do not to put more Hendrix on.

    Smoke on the Water deserves to be on there. Same with Free Bird. If you don’t like these songs, there is something wrong with you.


  • percyob1 March 28th, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    what people like is relative to the person, its no different when you get an ‘official’ 40 greatest…list it’s still the personal opinion of a small amount of individuals. for instance i don’t like the Beatles (i hear you hiss) not because i think they’re rubbish but because i personaly just don’t like their style (i shall prepare for the backlash) ;-)

  • Anonymous March 28th, 2008 at 3:19 pm


  • ClassicRocker March 28th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t like Smoke on the Water. There is nothing wrong with me. I might just as easily say there is something wrong with you because you don’t acknowledge Rory Gallagher (or quite a few other guitarists, and guitar anthems, which haven’t earned a mention).
    I will tell you why I don’t Smoke on the Water.
    It is because it is such a simple, easy riff, that any idiot can pick up an electric guitar and in 30 seconds work out how to play it. This then convinces them that playing the electric guitar is easy, man, there’s nothing to it. Turn it up loud, put on the distortion and hey, it sounds even better. And a host of poor, untutored, unskilled guitarists have ensued, who think they’re god’s gift to music. Here’s the key though… did you ever hear any amateur play the WHOLE SONG? No… they just get stuck on the opening riff. The rest of the song isn’t so easy. You have to THINK for that bit. And you have to sing, and be in time, and all that. You can’t rely on your volume knob or effects pedal. Even Ritchie Blackmore is embarrassed by it, and he wrote it.
    The reason why I don’t like Free Bird is it’s such a miserable song. If the guy is free as a bird now why does he sound so pissed off about it? And the other reason is that it’s been totally played to death.

  • keyboardologist March 28th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    What about JOURNEY? STYX? YES? By the way, I don’t know if it’s the same song from the 1940’s, but Johnny Winter did a version of “Just Like a Woman,” that was stellar. And as far as Rush goes, (one of my favorite bands) YYZ, I think, is best noted for the drum solo. Neal Peart ROCKS!! How about: “Sprit of the Radio?” Stevie Ray, Steve Gaines, Warren Hayes? Lot mre to add to the list. Rick Derringer?

  • LadyRammstein March 29th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    @percyob1: Wilder Wein for sure! Richard & Paul are both excellent guitarists (and Richard is good for writing music)

    I just remember having an image in my head with my first hearing of Mutter, it involved lighter in one hand and a fist through the air and saying “Mutter” it is one of those sorts of guitar rifts.

    May I also suggest Man I feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain and Wild Thing (i cant remember who sings that) and Freak by Silverchair if i havent already mentioned it and of course Where is my Mind by the Pixie’s (for those of you who claim to of never heard the song its the song played at the end of Fight Club, if you havent seen Fight Club, go and rent it out, Brad Pitt at his finest and I hate Brad Pitt but for Tyler Durden I make my exception. Also stars Helena Bonham-Carter)

  • Beatle Lover March 30th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    No Beatles? What!!?

  • percyob1 March 30th, 2008 at 2:48 pm


    indeed they are…i remember the first time i heard Rammstein, it was Du Hast on the Matrix sountrack cd and i went out to buy sehnsucht…blew me away!!! so did the rest of their albums…wish i could understand the lyrics though…yet even so many of their songs make my hairs stand on end :-)

  • OneDay March 30th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    No Scorpions? tsk tsk…

  • Jannick Genouw March 31st, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Just one comment :

    I think you are a hendrix fan.
    So, maybe you should have made your title a bit clearer. I think you meant that everyone that hasn’t heard of these songs, should try to get to know them because they are indeed a very good selection.
    Keep up the good work.

  • ClassicRocker March 31st, 2008 at 7:57 am


    “Wild Thing” was originally done by The Troggs.

    Covered many times since.

  • Solara Man April 2nd, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Hey D nice job with the anthems!

    Maybe do u wanna check out some of my stuff and be friends?

  • Michael April 10th, 2008 at 11:39 am

    So it looks like this guy only listened to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Alice in Chains …


  • Matt April 18th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    you def still need to have Enter Sandman on here, regardless of how much you hate Metallica…

    Here’s a few i think you could include…
    2. Cochise by Audioslave
    3. Welcome to the Jungle by GNR
    4. Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue
    5. Fat Lip by Sum 41
    6. Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi
    7. You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
    8. Walk This Way by Aerosmith
    9. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
    10. Nothin’ But A Good Time by Poison
    11. Are You Gonna Be My Girl by JET
    12. Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas
    13. We Will Rock You (We Are The Champions) by Queen

    Those are all definetly anthems that you just want to belt out when the chorus comes in.

  • Matt April 18th, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    And one more thing :-)

    I’m not gonna deny that Jimi and Zep are two of my favorites ever, but songs like “Castles Made Of Sand” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” are not anthems. Awesome songs yes, but not anthems…

  • Jay D October 24th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Stream of Conciousness- Dream Theater (John Petrucci is a Beast)
    Betterman- Pearl Jam
    No Quarter- Tool (way better than Led Zep\’s version)
    Hey Joe/ Wind Cries Mary- Hendrix
    Comfortably Numb- Pink Floyd
    Hallowed Be Thy Name- Iron Maiden
    La Grange- ZZ Top (a how how how)
    Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation- Whitechapel
    Possession- Whitechapel
    Under the Bridge- Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Killing In the Name Of- Rage Against the Machine
    Crazy Train/ Bark at the Moon- Ozzy
    Bleed- Meshuggah
    Simple Man- Skynyrd
    Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp- Led Zep
    Emancipation- Knights of The Abyss
    Money For Nothing/ Sultans of Swing-Dire Straits
    One Last Breath- Creed
    Any Billy Squire (haha. you know you like it)
    Burnin for you/ Dont fear the reaper- Blue oyster Cult

    theres more….im just too lazy

  • witness March 20th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I have all but 2 of the list and have compiled a playlist in iTunes of them.

    Time to rock out ;-)

  • KangGuru March 24th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I agree with Sweet Leaf. Song is killer.
    Good list.

    @Jay D
    Meshuggah F’n'eh!!

  • Thos Weatherby March 25th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Too much Hendrix. Although I enjoyed seeing Hendrix in concert, you left out one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Who else has 9 CD’s of nothing but guitar solo’s? Who has a style that most guitar players aren’t good enough to play? Pojama People, Inca Roads, Watermelon in Easter Hay, I’m the Slime, I could go on for hours. Unbind your mind, There is no time. You really need to listen to Zappa.

  • Dave R March 25th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Fuc*ing Pearl Jam? Ok, so this is the best list of a guy who sat in his room and made his list from his sisters old CD collection.

  • Words March 28th, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Don’t post anything on the Internet and unless you are prepared to be flamed, criticized, mutilated, maimed, insulted, or anything thing else that falls under or around those words so please continue to fill the space of the Internet with your waste. It gives people something to make fun of.

  • judas June 11th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    you could have made the whole list with jeff beck songs

  • alexander July 4th, 2009 at 8:55 am

    you miss van halen, steve vai, joi satriani lol lol lol

  • HS July 16th, 2009 at 3:59 am

    What? no one mentioned Santana

    Here are just to samples:

    Black Magic Woman
    Samba Pa Ti

  • KP November 25th, 2010 at 12:28 am

    not denying that jimi is the man, but to be on a list of 40 songs about 10 times is a little ridiculous. good list. could be great with some more variety.

    @HS: Santana *definitely* needs to be on here.

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