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The Top 10 Hard Rock and Metal Guitarists of the '80s

Yes, yes, shred until you bleed!
Yes, yes, shred until you bleed!

Well, it's the day after Christmas and many of you probably have some holiday blues. Maybe you had a rough Christmas. Maybe your family is making you crazy. Maybe you didn't get that brand new navel ring you wanted or perhaps you filled up on so much food and egg nog, you can't seem to walk.

I feel your pain and in an effort to ease your suffering and give you back some of the energy you lost chasing your twin five-year-old nephews around the Christmas tree while they screamed "WE HATE YOU!" (was that just me?), I would like to offer you this belated Christmas gift. If Santa was ever going to stuff your stocking (ahem) with anything, wouldn't it be cool if it was shredder guitar players from the 1980's? I thought so. Happy head banging!

10. Warren Demartini

The dextrous lead guitarist from RATT was one of a cadre of brilliant young guitar players to emerge from Los Angeles in the 1980's.

9. Kirk Hammett

It's hard to argue that Hammett, while not widely considered one of the most influential guitarists during that era, has emerged as one of the true founders of really heavy guitar playing.

8. Steve Vai

Vai, who began his career at the age of 19 with Frank Zappa, is arguably the most technically gifted guitarist of his generation. His playing is so fluid and effortless, it's really kind of sick. I saw him several years ago and his technical skills are almost hard to believe.

7. Paul Gilbert

A true guitar players' guitarist, Gilbert made a lot of players in the '80s want to give up when they heard his solos with Racer X and Mr. Big. Gilbert also happens to be brilliant at "stump the band" (he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of music) and is hilariously funny.

6. George Lynch

Playing in Dokken couldn't have been the easiest thing in the world for anyone. The much maligned band was extremely popular in the mid-80s, but seemed oddly comical later. Lynch, however, was brilliant from day one and despite a brief stint with bodybuilding he now calls "the silliest thing" he ever did, he still can shred like crazy.

 5. Yngwie Malmsteen

It may seem hard to believe, but, at the time, there was no greater phenomena among guitar players than the young Swedish virtuoso who burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere. His classically-influenced style of shredding completely altered the trajectory of metal guitar playing and created a whole new sub genre of heavy music.

4. Slash

Underneath that tangled mess of curls and that tophat lies one of the great guitarists of all time. In the '80s when it seemed like bands were more interested in makeup and hairspray than music, GNR came along and gave heavy music a kick in the crotch driven by the fearsome chops of its lead guitarist.

3. Joe Satriani

Guitar playing was such a huge part of the music world 25 years ago that instrumental guitar records actually did well on the charts and Satch was the guy that started it. Not only is he a brilliantly gifted musician, he personally taught and heavily influenced two other players on this list -- Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett.

2. Randy Rhoads

It's hard to imagine what a guy like Rhoads could have accomplished had he lived past the age of 25. He was supremely talented and, by all accounts, had a monumental work ethic. Even with his career cut so short, he is still one of the all time greats.

1. Eddie Van Halen

There may not be a hard rock guitar player who has been more influential than Edward Van Halen. He essentially invented the concept of shredder guitar and the entire Sunset Strip metal scene of the '80s would built on the foundation the Van Halen, the band, built.


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