“It’s the hottest, burning, high-passion piece I’ve ever heard in my life.” – Brian May, Queen
If you were to look at records sold alone, then the figures of Queen should reign supreme over most of the British rock scene. The band, comprised of Brian May, Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon remain rooted at the top of the pile when considering the rock and roll bands who have transcended pop. It’s a state of affairs that has often seen the band’s output relegated to the concept of constructed pop. It also means the band’s impresario guitar player, May, is given the same treatment.
In reality, May is one of the most gifted guitarists rock and roll has witnessed on British shores. A technically gifted player, May put all of his studious tendencies to use when he worked with Queen, delivering lead lines and solos that most can only dream of. Who can forget his contribution to some of the band’s finest songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or, his personal favourite, ‘Killer Queen’ to name just two.
It’s a statement of fact which not only means you should be paying attention to the intricate work of May himself but also listen to his direction when selecting his favourite work of others. We all rushed to attention when May, while speaking to Classic Rock Magazine, picked out his favourite guitar solo of all time. Doubtless, it is the kind of performance that sends shivers down your spine: “It’s the hottest, burning, high-passion piece I’ve ever heard in my life,” said the guitarist.
Invariably, when artists of a certain age refer to such an experience, they’re noting the work of either Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, for May, it was the latter. But rather than point to a searing solo in Cream or Blind Faith or even his faithful favourite ‘Layla‘, May goes back a little further.
“It’s Eric Clapton,” he told the publication. “‘Key To Love’, from John Mayall’s Blues Breakers [with Eric Clapton] album. It’s the hottest, burning, high-passion piece I’ve ever heard in my life – still to this day. I just love it. It totally rips, and I’ll never get over that. That’s one of my great inspirations.“
“He burned in that solo! The whole track revolves around that solo. Every time I put it on, I’m just waiting… John Mayall’s great, but you’re waiting for that moment when Eric rips out and suddenly he’s whacking into those top notes. It’s incredible. Absolutely spine-chilling.“
Listen below to Brian May’s favourite guitar solo of all time and make sure you’re listening to as much John Mayall’s as you possibly can.