Guns N’ Roses’ classic anthem ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ has been voted as having the most iconic guitar riff of all time.
Yes, admittedly, the answer was arrived at by one of those polls – those notorious mass surveys that have come under scrutiny in recent years for not always being entirely accurate. But it at least gives a flavour of where people’s ears are at.
This one was carried out with over 1,500 people and concluded that the 1989 hit ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was the most iconic, followed by Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in second. In third place, was ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen.
Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ came in 24th place. And, somewhat remarkably, there wasn’t a single track from The Beatles in the top 30 – not because their guitar riffs are particularly noteworthy, but merely because it’s The Beatles sitting outside outside the top 30 on a list of musical history.
Here’s the top ten from the survey, which was carried out by Muse Group, creators of Ultimate Guitar.
Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N’ Roses (37%)
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor (31%)
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (29%)
Sex On Fire – Kings of Leon (28%)
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (28%)
Beat It – Michael Jackson (26%)
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (25%)
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (23%)
Layla – Eric Clapton (23%)
Money For Nothing – Dire Straits (22%)
No doubt being most iconic doesn’t necessarily equate to being the most interesting or enjoyable. Stairway to Heaven’s riff is by far and away superior to the Guns N’ Rose hit in the sweet eyes of mine at least. But it does denote the most memorable. The more than 1.1 billion streams ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ has on Spotify alone is testament to that.
In a 2010 interview, the band’s lead guitarist Slash explained how he came up with the riff, saying he couldn’t precisely pinpoint how it came about. “I started playing this pattern,” he said. “It was one of those things that I was in the process of discovering as I came up with each note and I sort of turned it into something that kept rotating.”
Frontman Axl Rose overheard what was being played and started writing the lyrics – and that, quite simply, is how the song came together.
“In those days I don’t remember spending more than one day writing a song,” Slash added.
Simple work for a track that’s now been voted the most iconic guitar riff of all time. Well, according to a survey at least.