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Music

Tom Morello's favourite guitar solos

Tom Morello is a wizard. He’s basically the Gandalf of modern-day guitar players. From the blistering tremolo of ‘Killing In The Name Of’, to the more romantic textures of Audioslave, Morello holds a fire, fury and fusion that makes him stand out from the other guitarists of his generation. But every wizard has to start off casting spells before they can complete their chosen path, and this particular wizard grafted his path on the influences that led his way to this point of acceptance

He was asked by a reputable magazine what his favourite guitar solos were, and he decided to opt for passages produced by Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Randy Rhoads. The first two were obvious choices, but the third option is a little bit more surprising.“There are a number of candidates,” Morello replied. “At number three it’s Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ – it’s symphonically composed and incredible. Number two is Jimmy Page’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ – you can go with the Led Zeppelin IV version or the live version from The Song Remains The Same.

Well, that makes sense for this young wizard. Hendrix and Page both flirted with the occult in their work (‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’, ‘No Quarter’), so it makes sense that he should choose those two. But number three is interesting because he performed on a track that paid direct tribute to the occultist himself: Aleister Crowley.

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“Number one A and number one B are the solos on [Ozzy Osbourne’s] ‘Mr Crowley’ by Randy Rhoads,” Morello said. “You could teach those on a college-level musicology course or bang your head [to them] in a heavy metal parking lot.” Osbourne owes his entire career to Rhoads, and it’s telling that his first album – soaked with Rhoads imprint – is the finest album of Osbourne’s career.

Morello was happy to point out the importance of the artist in question, feeling that Rhoads gave the former Black Sabbath singer a lift he so desperately needed. Rhoads’ influence is evident on some songs like the yearning ‘Like A Stone’. “Randy Rhoads is a peerless talent,” he said in the video. “He revived Ozzy Osbourne’s career as his gunslinger sideman. And it was Randy Rhoads’ poster that I had on my wall. You could study Randy’s songs in a university-level musicology class and bang your heads to them in a 7-Eleven parking lot.”

Morello’s finest work channelled his influences, but it’s to his credit that the guitarist imbued the work with a personality that was his and his alone. He had a funky style that was similar to Hendrix’s; a smoulder that stemmed from Page’s work with Led Zeppelin; and he could plunge through the instrumental sections with a swagger that was similar to Rhoads’ work. And of the three guitarists, Rhoads made the greatest impression on the aspiring guitar player, both as a person, and a musician of high repute.

“When it comes to musical excellence, there is no one more deserving of the highest echelon of recognition and praise,” Morello continued. “Now the incomparable Randy Rhoads stands where he belongs.” Morello has a point: He was the best musician Osbourne was ever fortunate enough to work with, and although his riffs weren’t as fiery as Tony Iommi‘s, his countermelodies, chord changes and character approach were second to none.

Rhoads was among the finest guitar players who ever walked this earth, and in some ways, he was wasted on Osbourne. There were only so many places the heavy metal singer could bring the guitarist to, but there was no shortage of places Rhoads guitar could venture to. Like Page, he could play blinding instrumental passages, and like Hendrix, he could play on, and on, and on until someone finally pulled the plug from his amp.

And yet there was only one guitar player who could play for Rage Against The Machine, and Morello has proven his right to stand beside the guitarists in the rock world, particularly because his standing is so strong as a person of great musical talent and genuine great thrust. With any luck, he’ll find himself in someone’s top three, and when that time comes, it will be most deserved.

Tom Morello’s three favourite guitar solos:

  • ‘All Along The Watchtower’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘Stairway to Heaven’ – Jimmy Page
  • ‘Mr. Crowley’ – Randy Rhoads