The 10 Best '70s Monster Rock Riffs

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What? No Stairway? Denied!

Nah, we're totally lying. There's plenty of "Stairway" below, because bitchin' rock riffs are precisely what we're looking for.

Ladies and gentlemen, whip out the Ben-Gay and prepare yourselves for some injuries to your air-guitar arm, because with Deep Purple and Nazareth on this Throwback Thursday list, the burn? It's a'comin'.

10. "Hair of the Dog," Nazareth The title track off Nazareth's 1975 album is about a manipulative seductress who's kinda awful to dudes, using them for her every whim. But homeboy from Nazareth is there to let her know that she can't push him around, 'cause she's met her match and is messin' with a son of a bitch this time.

Seems that we aren't alone in our Nazareth adoration, either. The song has been covered by Guns N' Roses, who famously added a Beatles guitar riff at the end, along with bands like Stone Rider, Deep Purple the Michael Schenker Group, Warrant and -- while not technically a band -- anyone who's ever sang karaoke while drunk.

9. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," Blue Oyster Cult This song, off 1976's Agents of Fortune, uses more cowbell than one song should ever be able to pull off, and yet Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and the rest of Blue Oyster Cult somehow pull it off brilliantly. But not only that, guitarist Murray Krugmann brilliantly pulls off the distinctive riff on his Gibson ES-175. Throw that puppy in with the tin sound of the never-ending cowbell, and "Reaper" becomes one of our favorite '70s songs ever.

8. "Money," Pink Floyd Leave it to Roger Waters and company to be as dramatic as possible. As usual, it works, because "Money," from Floyd's inimitable 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, is pretty darn brilliant, especially when it comes to its dramatic guitar solo. David Gilmour is all wicked genius, easing the chorus from this super-dry, sparse sound into an echo-y, chaotic din on the final go-round. Doesn't get much better than this.

7. "Sweet Home Alabama," Lynyrd Skynyrd From 1974's Second Helping, "Sweet Home Alabama" was just one of the staples Lynyrd Skynyrd band contributed to both Southern and classic rock. We're pretty sure that their name is synonymous with "Freebird" at this point. But while the title may not be what annoying concertgoers scream at the stage, "Alabama" is still rocking the most most memorable riff of Skynyrd's catalogue, and one of the best to come out of the entire '70s.

6. "More Than a Feeling," Boston "More Than a Feeling," off Boston's 1976 self-titled album, is a song about a song. And while it is indeed pretty rad in and of itself, its incredible riff makes air guitar irresistible. You know what we're talking about.

While The Book of Rock Lists thinks that the chorus riff is a secret homage to the Kingsmen's classic "Louie Louie," Tom Scholz -- the dude who took five freakin' years to write "Feeling" -- says nope. Rather, it's "Walk Away Renee" by The Left Banke that served as the song's main inspiration, he says. But whatever the driving force behind Boston's biggest hit, it certainly inspired many songs to come, and many a failed air-guitar move as well.

5. "Layla," Derek and the Dominoes It's "Layla." That shit doesn't need an explanation. You know exactly why it's on here, and we know you're itching to press play. Go ahead. We won't laugh at your skillz.

Story continues on the next page.

4. "Stairway to Heaven," Led Zeppelin Guitars. Rock music. Robert Plant. Jimmy Page. Badass finger-picked guitar chords that give way to one of the most wicked guitar solos ever recorded. We don't need to continue. You already know.

3. "Smoke on the Water," Deep Purple This little ditty, off Deep Purple's 1972 album Machine Head, boasts one of the greatest guitar riffs ever. Period. Fact. The end. But it's not just our opinion that makes it so. "Smoke on the Water" snagged a spot on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and on Total Guitar magazine's list of Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever, and on Q magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks. We're sure there's more proof, but you get the gist.

2. "Brown Sugar," Rolling Stones This opening track from the Stones' 1971 album, Sticky Fingers, is all sorts of legendary for its wicked guitar. The gritty blues-rock riff is pretty damn untouchable, and is a definitive example of '70s-era rock songs in general. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it not only made it onto Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but also its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. So there.

1. "Kashmir," Led Zeppelin Not only is "Kashmir," from Zeppelin's 1975 album Physical Graffiti, lauded as one of the band's best musical achievements by all the legit rock critics, but it's also been deemed as such by all four members of the band as well. John Paul Jones suggested that "Kashmir" showcases all of the elements that made up the Led Zeppelin sound. Robert Plant has stated that "Kashmir" is the "definitive Led Zeppelin song," as well as "one of my favorite Zeppelin tracks because it possessed all the latent energy and power that wasn't heavy metal. It was something else. It was the pride of Led Zeppelin."

But, in case that wasn't enough proof for your puddin', noted Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis describes "Kashmir" as "unquestionably the most startling and impressive track on Physical Graffiti, and arguably the most progressive and original track that Led Zeppelin ever recorded. 'Kashmir' went a long way towards establishing their credibility with otherwise skeptical rock critics. Many would regard this track as the finest example of the sheer majesty of Zeppelin's special chemistry."

'Nuff said.


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