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Five songs that prove Randy Rhoads was a guitar-playing genius

In terms of guitar playing heroes, you don’t get more revered than the late Randy Rhoads. The significant impact of his playing is elevated to even more dizzying levels when you note how short of a career he had. Between 1977 and his death in 1972, his output was prolific and boundary-pushing. 

What made his playing stand out was that it took the guitar to a visceral level that had never been reached. He and contemporary Eddie Van Halen refined the guitar and established the blueprint for heavy metal guitar playing moving forward. 

Tapping, dive bombs and the complex use of scales were his forte. Rhoads and Van Halen filled the hole left by Jimi Hendrix in terms of virtuosity and paved the way for every future guitar hero to dazzle the world. Strangely, you could also blame Rhoads and Co. for musical travesties such as Yngwie Malmsteen.

Famously, Rhoads tragically passed away in an aeroplane accident in 1982, aged just 25. But popular culture being popular culture, this only cemented his already colossal legacy. Even if you hate metal guitar playing and the perceived peacocking that seems to come as a prerequisite, it is impossible to deny the brilliance of Rhoads. 

Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, Mick Thomson and Tom Morello are just a few modern axemen who have cited Rhoads’ influence. Morello said in a 2012 tribute to Rhoads: “In a way, Randy Rhoads is the Robert Johnson of metal. It’s such a small catalogue of stuff that has been so incredibly influential.”

Rhoads first made his name in the late ’70s with LA metal band, Quiet Riot in the late ’70s, but it was on ex-Black Sabbath frontman, Ozzy Osbourne‘s debut solo effort, 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, where he really caught the eye. ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Suicide Solution’ and ‘Mr. Crowley’ were just three moments where he took the guitar to another level.

If it wasn’t for the influence of Randy Rhoads, it is certain that many of metal’s offshoots in the decades after his death would not have had their crucial guitar sound. Black metal, gothic metal and even metallic hardcore guitar playing would not be the same without his technique and dextrous licks. One would argue that he was a better guitarist than Van Halen, as he was not afraid to cross every inch of the fretboard and fuse different styles.

We’ve taken the massive step of listing five songs that prove Randy Rhoads to be what he was, a guitar god. This is just our opinion, and even if you don’t fully agree, it’s food for thought. 

Five songs that prove Randy Rhoads was a genius:

‘Crazy Train’ – Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Not only is ‘Crazy Train’ one of Ozzy’s best-known works, but it is often hailed as the definitive Rhoads track. The intro is a guitar classic, his licks in the verses are funky yet chugging, and the solo is face-melting in every sense.

Over the course of the track, Rhoads utilises every possible metal guitar playing technique and shows how it should be really done. Melodic but furious, ’80s guitar playing arrived with ‘Crazy Train’.

‘Mr. Crowley’ – Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Regarded by diehard fans as Rhoads’ magnum opus, it’s not hard to understand why ‘Mr. Crowley’ is so widely loved. Probably his darkest effort, his licks on this 1980 masterpiece leave you wanting more.

Slower than many of his other pieces, this, along with early Black Sabbath, established the blueprint for many of the slower, more oppressive sounding forms of metal that were to flourish towards the end of the decade. The solo is also pure genius.

‘Suicide Solution’ – Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

Possibly Rhoads’ most swaggering effort, the partnership of Ozzy and Rhoads was a fruitful one, and it’s a shame that he didn’t live long enough to help the former Black Sabbath man write more masterpieces.

Funky and attitude-laden, ‘Suicide Solution’ isn’t the most technically difficult song but it’s certainly one of his most memorable. When listening, you visualise Rhoads making his trademark pout whilst tearing through the high-octane riff.

‘Diary of a Madman’ – Diary of a Madman (1981)

The title track of Ozzy’s sophomore 1981 album, Rhoads, treats us to some amazing acoustic work at the start. Haunting and gothic, he then stomps on his distortion pedal and tears through the mix.

One of Rhoads’ most dynamically interesting and experimental tracks, ‘Diary of a Madman’ is one of the tracks where you can best hear just how dextrous of a guitarist Rhoads was. Clocking in at over six minutes it’s an absolute thrill. Ozzy also shines.

‘Laughing Gas’ – The Randy Rhoads Years (1993)

No definitive Randy Rhoads list would be complete without at least one Quiet Riot song. The song was released as part of The Randy Rhoads Years, a compilation from 1993. ‘Laughing Gas’ is a live take, which makes it all the more dizzying. He shines over the course of this nine-minute track, and it is one of the earliest recorded examples of Rhoads’s raw power.

The guitarist lifts the crowd with his work, and aided by fx such as delay and phase; he creates a cacophonous noise that many have tried and failed to imitate over the years.