Best Guitar Solos of the 70s (with Tabs)

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Best Guitar Solos of the 70s

Let’s have a look at the best guitar solos of the 70s! The psychedelic guitar rock of the late 1960s was succeeded by the hard rock of the 1970s. Heavy melodic guitar riffs became defining for the sound of many bands. Led Zeppelin was one of the first bands to introduce this form of “heavy metal,” followed by AC/DC (who would not really break through until the 1980s), Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Van Halen, among others.

A subgenre that emerged from heavy metal was the so-called glam rock, with famous artists such as David Bowie, KISS and Alice Cooper. The English band Queen also reached an audience of millions, combining all kinds of rock such as heavy metal, hard rock and glam rock.

Below you’ll find the best guitar solos of 70s. For the best guitar solos of other decades, check these posts:

10. Ritchie Blackmore – Highway Star

Recorded with Deep Purple in 1972.

The Guardian described the solo as follows: “Blackmore’s playing is like a force of nature (…) those slashing chords in the intro, and that amazing solo featuring the distinctive neo-classical descending runs, combining the spirits of Bach and Jimi Hendrix.”

The opening riff of guitar and bass guitar is followed by vocal sections and an organ solo that lasts about a minute. The song then returns to vocals, and in the fifth minute the song begins with Blackmore’s legendary solo. Blackmore wanted a classic Bach-like sound and meticulously worked out the solo with arpeggios over the chord progression Dm, Gm, C and A, which is also borrowed from Bach.

Deep Purple - Highway Star 1972 Video HQ

The song was created when a journalist on a bus tour asked how the band wrote songs. Blackmore picked up his guitar and began playing a riff over a G chord, to which Ian Gillian improvised lyrics. The lyrics were about a man and his love for his high-powered car, which he says can out-race anything else on the road. The song was then played live the same night and was refined over several live performances.

Download Guitar Tabs for Ritchie Blackmore – Highway Star.

9. Allen Collins – Free Bird

Recorded with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1973.

‘Free BIrd’, along with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most popular songs. The song is about a man explaining to his girlfriend why he cannot commit to her permanently. The opening line “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” were inspired by Allen Collin’s girlfriend Kathy, who had asked him this question during an argument.

Lynyrd Skynyrd had three guitarists Allen Collins, Ed King and Gary Rossington who played long guitar jams with each other. The four-minute solo on “Free Bird” has been called one of the best solos of all time by Guitar World. The double guitar solo at the end of the song is in the same style as the Allman Brothers’ songs. The song ‘Free Bird’ was therefore dedicated to Duane Allman (who died in 1971) during live concerts, although the song was not originally written for this purpose. Four years after the recording of the song, band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines died in a tragic plane crash. Other band members were seriously injured.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird - 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium (Official)

Ronnie van Zand’s brother Johnny later took over as front man in 1987 when the group reconvened. He told the following about the song: “For years Skynyrd has always closed the show with that song and the song has different meanings for different people. This kid was telling me that they used it for their graduation song and not too long ago somebody told me that they used it at a funeral. And really it’s a love song, its one of the few that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ever had. It’s about a guy and a girl. Of course at the end it was dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers because it goes into the guitar part. If you can get through that one you’ve had a good night at a Skynyrd show.”

Download Guitar Tabs for Allen Collins – Free Bird (1)

Download Guitar Tabs for Allen Collins – Free Bird (2)

Download Guitar Tabs for Allen Collins – Free Bird (3)

8. Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody

Recorded with Queen in 1975.

A rhapsody is a piece of music (or poem) that consists of contrasting styles or moods, but nevertheless forms a unity. The songs often contain a recurring theme (in various forms) that is often based on folk melodies. The title refers to the bohemians, more specifically individualism and its accompanying creativity: “a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.”

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (Official Video Remastered)

Freddie Mercury gave a copy of the song to radio DJ Kenny Everett with whom he was good friends, and commanded him (with a wink) never to play the song during a radio show. As Mercury expected, Everett did just the opposite. He then played the song fourteen times in a few days. Other radio stations picked up on that, and began playing the song as well. Bohemian Rhapsody became a worldwide hit for Queen, both in the 1970s and in the 1990s when the song was re-released. The song has six parts and combines progressive pop, progressive rock, and hard rock, among others. The song has no reffrain and each verse is unique.

May had carefully prepared the solo. He created the solo in his mind before playing it on the guitar. May says: “the fingers tend to be predictable unless being led by the brain.” His signature solo before was recorded on only one track, with no overdubbing. He stated that he wanted to play “a little tune that would be a counterpart to the main melody; I didn’t just want to play the melody.”

Download Guitar Tabs for Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody (1)

Download Guitar Tabs for Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody (2)

Download Guitar Tabs for Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody (3)

Download Guitar Tabs for Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody (4)

Download Guitar Tabs for Brian May – Bohemian Rhapsody (5)

7. Don Felder & Joe Walsh – Hotel California

Recorded with Eagles in 1977.

‘Hotel California’ is the Eagles’ best-known song and one of the most famous songs in modern music history. Walsh explained in 2007 that the title of the song refers to the many artists who moved around California in the late 1970s because of the freedoms there. California had something of a transit house, as many artists went as fast as they came, hence the reference to a hotel.

Eagles - Hotel California (Lossless Audio)

The lyrics are about a traveler who is tired and spends a night in a luxury hotel. That hotel looks seemingly welcoming, but turns out to be a terrible place from which one can never really leave. Because of the abstract language, there are numerous interpretations and theories about the meaning of the text. For example, the phrase “but the can’t kill the beast” would refer to the devil, which the Eagles have always contradicted.

Download Guitar Tabs for Don Felder & Joe Walsh – Hotel California.

6. Mark Knopfler – Sultans Of Swing

Recorded with Dire Straits in 1978.

Sultans Of Swing was the first single by Dire Straits and was recorded as a demo at Pathway Studios in London. The song is about men who go to the club after work, listen to music and just have a good time. They are there for the music, and not for their image. The idea for the song came about when Knopfler saw a bad club band perform for an audience of four or five drunk people. When their set ended, the lead singer said with no apparent irony, “Goodnight and thank you very much. We are the sultans of swing.” Knopfler: “There was something really funny about it to me because Sultans, they absolutely weren’t. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers.’

Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing (Official Music Video)

The song led to their first record deal and became an instant worldwide hit. The song placed guitarist Mark Knopfler in the spotlight. His distinctive guitar style seems to be a mix of the soaring sound of Hank Marvin of The Shadows and with the finger picking of J.J. Cale. The accompanying low nasal singing voice is also reminiscent of J.J. Cale and of Bob Dylan.

The song was written on an acoustic guitar. Knopfler played the solo on a red ’61 Fender Stratocaster, into which he had installed different elements (for those in the know, a Dimazio Fs-1 in the neck element, and a Fender vintage 57.62 in bridge and center element). As an amplifier, he used a Roland Jazz Chorus JC-120.

Download Guitar Tabs for Mark Knopfler – Sultans Of Swing

5. Dickey Betss – Jessica

Recordend with The Allman Brothers Band in 1973.

This instrumental song appears on The Allman Brothers Band’s 1973 studio album Brothers and sisters. The Allman Brothers Band formed around brothers Duane (guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals and organs) who, with their blend of blues, country, rock, jazz and even classical music, became one of the important rock bands of the 1970s.

The Allman Brothers Band - Jessica

Duane also played for many years as a session musician and is also known for his solo on the song Layla by Derek and the Dominos, in which he played with Eric Clapton. He also played with the likes of Wilson Pcket, Percy Sledge and Aretha Franklin. In 1971 Duane was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. The band decided to continue anyway: Dickey Betts took over Duane’s role. Dickey Betts’ daughter is named Jessica and she inspired him as she crept into the room while he worked on the song.

Download Guitar Tabs for Dickey Betss – Jessica (1)

Download Guitar Tabs for Dickey Betss – Jessica (2)

Download Guitar Tabs for Dickey Betss – Jessica (3)

4. Ace Frehley – Shock Me

Recorded with KISS in 1977.

Shock me was inspired by an incident during Kiss’s Rock and Roll Over tour, in which lead guitarist Ace Frehley was nearly electrocuted. After falling to the floor and recovering for half an hour he continued the show, playing with no feeling in his hands. The song first appeared on the album Love Gun, in 1977. It was the first time Frehley performed the lead vocals. The song’s solo was included in Guitar World magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos Ever” list.

Download Guitar Tabs for Ace Frehley – Shock Me.

3. Jimmy Page – Stairway To Heaven

Recorded with Led Zeppelin in 1971.

Stairway To Heaven was written by Jimmy Page (guitar) and RobertPlant (vocals) and is often cited as the best rock song of the 20th century. A total of 1.2 million copies of the sheet music were sold. In addition to Page and Plant, John Paul Jones (recorder, electric piano, bass guitar) and John Bonham (drums) played on the Led Zeppelin IV studio recording, which was released in 1971.

Stairway to Heaven Live

The song broadly consists of three parts; 1) a slow opening section with an acoustic guitar chromatically descending a major test, accompanied by a recorder and others 2) a middle section with a pianet and percussion 3) a final section with the famous guitar solo, where the style changes to hard rock.

Page played the solo on a Telecaster and a Supro amp. In response to a question about the extent to which the solo was prepared in advance, Page said, ” had a start. I knew where and how I was going to start. And I just did it. (…) I thought ‘OK, take a deep breath, and play.’ I did three takes and chose one of them. They were all different. The solo sounds constructed – and it is, sort of, but purely of the moment. For me, a solo is something where you just fly, but within the context of the song.”

Download Guitar Tabs for Jimmy Page – Stairway To Heaven.

2. David Gilmour – Comfortably Numb

Recorded with Pink Floyd in 1979.

Pink Floyd - Comfortably numb

Comfortably Numb is the longest track on the album The Wall. It is the accompanying music in which Pink (the facist protagonist in the movie The Wall) can relax under the influence of administered medication (Pink slowly goes crazy). According to Gilmour, the solo was developed quite quickly. In doing so, he followed his usual procedure of first recording several solos and then listening back to them:

He makes a graph with ticks and crosses on different bars: two ticks if it’s really good, one tick if it’s good and cross if it’s no go. Then he composed the solo from the best parts of the previously recorded solos. Easy to compose or not, the solo has been cited for years as one of the best guitar solos of all time. We ranked the solo second among the best solos of the 1970s, just behind Eddy Van Halen’s solo in “Eruption.”

Download Guitar Tabs for David Gilmour – Comfortably Numb.

1. Eddie Van Halen – Eruption

Winner best guitar solos of the 70s

Recorded with Van Halen in 1978.

If we are talking about a solo that changed the complete landscape of guitarists and of the guitar it is this solo. Eddie once told that the recording engineer in the studio next door to his house had the instruction to run the recording tape as soon as Eddie Van Halen’s body crossed into the studio space and picked up an instrument. We can all conclude that it paid off 😉 This solo is history on tape: the documented beginning of a new generation of guitar playing.

Eruption (2015 Remaster)

We hear tapping, we hear lightning-fast arpeggios, leggato hammer-ons and pull-offs, pinched harmonics, whammy-bar dives and two-handed tapping, but above all we hear the virtuoso Van Halen making rock music that J.S. Bach would have been proud of.

Download Guitar Tabs for Eddie Van Halen – Eruption.

Be sure to check out our other posts in this series!

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Friso is as excited about playing guitar as the moment when he picked up the instrument for the first time, about 35 years ago. He is the founder of where he likes to share his knowledge about guitars, guitar gear and guitar playing.

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