100 Greatest Riffs?

This came out a couple days ago and I felt compelled to document it here. The list could be better, could be worse. I’m actually OK with Whole Lotta Love at the top. For me the best part of my favorite rock doc It Might Get Loud starts with Jack White, Edge and Jimmy Page sitting around with guitars. I kind of forget the order of the first two but, let’s just say Edge plays something crappy, then Jack White plays something decent. Then Jimmy Page launches into the Whole Lotta Love riff. The other two look at each other with expressions best defined as, “Holy Shit!” or “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.”

1) I could do a Steveslist on Best Five Riffs Not On The List.

2) Gene will be mad at the omission of 90 percent of the old blues guy riffs that are either better than these or ripped from the old blues guys.

3) Peter? Who knows? One day he’s frustrating me with his fifth Not Rock article in a row. Then, out of thin air, he declares he’s been listening to The Hellacopters.

4) Lawr has run away.

Enjoy. Or enjoy getting mad:

The 100 Greatest Riffs Of All-Time:

100.Get Lucky – Daft Punk
99. Unbelievable – EMF
98. Loser – Beck
97. Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
96. Rocks – Primal Scream
95. Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols
94. Jack & Diane – John Mellencamp
93. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
92. September – Earth, Wind & Fire
91. The One I Love – R.E.M.
90. Wheels – Foo Fighters
89. C’mon Everybody – Eddie Cochran
88. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle – Electric Light Orchestra
87. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
86. That Lady – The Isley Brothers
85. Mr Tambourine Man – The Byrds
84. Words of Love – Buddy Holly
83. Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley
82. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll – Rainbow
81. Boom Boom – John Lee Hooker
80. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
79. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf
78. Cannonball – The Breeders
77. Runnin’ Down A Dream – Tom Petty
76. A Girl Like You – Edwyn Collins
75. My Sharona – The Knack
74. Block Buster! – Sweet
73. Rumble – Link Wray
72. Every Breath You Take – The Police
71. Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
70. Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure
69. There She Goes – The La’s
68. Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes
67. Shakin’ All Over – Johnny Kidd & The Pirates
66. Pride (In The Name Of Love) – U2
65. Need You Tonight – INXS
64. Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
63. Marquee Moon – Television
62. Song 2 – Blur
61. Misirlou – Dick Dale
60. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
59. Good Times – Chic
58. Peter Gunn – Duane Eddy
57. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
56. Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
55. Walk This Way – Aerosmith / Aerosmith & RUN-D.M.C.
54. Don’t Believe A Word – Thin Lizzy
53. Beat It – Michael Jackson
52. Killing in The Name – Rage Against The Machine
51. Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash
50. Spoonman – Soundgarden
49. Milk & Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood
48. Life In The Fast Lane – Eagles
47. Atomic – Blondie
46. Stay With Me – Faces
45. Run To You – Bryan Adams
44. Apache – The Shadows
43. Fools Gold – The Stone Roses
42. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
41. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen
40. Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
39. I Can’t Explain – The Who
38. No One Knows – Queens of The Stone Age
37. Cigarettes & Alcohol – Oasis
36. Hocus Pocus – Focus
35. No Surprises – Radiohead
34. Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
33. Pretty Vacant – Sex Pistols
32. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult
31. One Vision – Queen
30. Alive – Pearl Jam
29. The Riverboat Song – Ocean Colour Scene
28. Day Tripper – The Beatles
27. I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) – The Rolling Stones
26. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
25. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
24. Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
23. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
22. Oh Well – Fleetwood Mac
21. All Right Now – Free
20. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
19. Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
18. The Spirit Of Radio – Rush
17. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
16. Enter Sandman – Metallica
15. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys
14. 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
13. Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers
12. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
11. Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
10. Money – Pink Floyd
9. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
8. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
7. Down Down – Status Quo
6. How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths
5. Layla – Derek And The Dominoes
4. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
3. Back In Black – AC/DC
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses
1. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

3 thoughts on “100 Greatest Riffs?

  1. My only problem is, what is a riff?

    Whole Lotta Love has a good one. A handful of notes that grab you.

    Sweet Child of Mine? Great rock song, but what is the “riff?” Clue: There is no riff, the song is a ballad.

    Smoke on the water however, primo handful of notes.

  2. Nah. Sweet Child Of Mine definitely has a riff. It’s that do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do guitar thing that plays throughout the song.

    I’m glad this list came from England. You certainly wouldn’t find 20th Century Boy, with its monster riff, on an American list.

    I shudder to think what would be on an American list. Pitbull and Kesha?

    • Obviously they define “riff” to include chord progressions and themes, which is fine. I’m glad to see some of my faves (Stay With Me, Unbelievable, Ziggy Stardust) that I wasn’t expecting to see, but quite a few lamer-than-lames on there too. I mean, Life in the Fast Lane but not Get Ready (or Bitch or Rocknroll Queen which are almost the same), no Wild Thing? I can’t even remember the riff in Living on a Prayer and why should I? I’m not a huge Led Zep fan but no Heartbreaker? How about The Last Time? Brown Sugar? In a gadda da vida? And Back in Black is much better by KRS One:

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