Here comes another “greatest guitarist” list sure to spark debate, raise blood pressure, and possibly provoke subscription cancellation. “SPIN‘s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” has been unleashed and provides a lot to digest. SPIN, of course, isn’t a guitar-oriented publication, so that should be taken into account. As they frame the list:
We don’t worship “guitar gods,” but prefer our axe-wielders to be resourceful, egalitarian, flawed, and human. We’re not drawn to Olympic feats of fleet-fingered athletics, unless they’re used for unique and exploratory ends.
Well … there are plenty of “flawed” mentions.
Here’s the good news: The list doesn’t terminate in a staid top 10 of Clapton, Page, Hendrix, et al. Those guys are nowhere to be seen. In that sense, it’s refreshing. The SPIN staff does include a great many praiseworthy players in the 100: Keiji Haino, Duane Denison, King Sunny Adé, and Robbie Basho are among the worthy and seldom-mentioned-on-top-lists guitarists they champion. And here’s what they say about Robert Quine:
(He) played with a fascinating combination of studied beatnik cool and gleefully abrasive anarchy. Quine was really at his best when he was cramming spectacularly “out there” solos into straightforward rock’n'roll songs, as he did with Richard Hell’s Voidoids, Lou Reed, and Matthew Sweet.
Then, of course, there are the entries that cheapen the whole thing. To wit: Skrillex (“[A]s far as we know, our asymmetrically coiffed party pal has never held a guitar in his life.” Ahh yes, an excellent reason to place him on the list …), PJ Harvey (“a craftswoman who erred first on the side of minimalism” … that sounds nice, but one of the greatest of all time?), and Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay (Again, not a guitarist. Yeah, we get it, he manipulated guitar riffs via the turntable …).
While I’m bitching: Another gripe with this list (and “greatest guitarist” lists in general) is the lumping together of tandems. For example, SPIN’s #7 is Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of Television. You could argue that they’re both deserving of independent mention. Cite each individually and throw out Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, with all due respect. (That sounded respectful, right?)
Unexpected conclusion: This article was conceived as a rant, but now I’m not so sure. Upon closer inspection, there may actually be only about a dozen or so entries with which I take exception. That’s probably a better ratio than, say, Rolling Stone‘s Top 100. Go figure.
Read the complete list and find out who’s the greatest right here.
Thanks (I think) to Gary Shindler for bringing the original article to my attention.