I was forty a few weeks back. Thereby managing to reach an age that I previously believed to be "old" with absolutely no musical talent at all. I have made at least three aborted attempts to learn guitar but lack of any hand co-ordination coupled with a healthy dose of bloody-laziness means that so far I've failed horribly. Attempt four is currently underway. Partly because of this lack of skill, the guitar has been the instrument that most fascinates me. Those people capable of producing amazing sounds from it, that can stir the soul and excite the heart, will always be my heroes. I knew this would be a tough five to complete and my working list stretched to over fifty possibles. In the end I stuck with the guitarists that made my favourite music rather than those who are more regularly selected as the greatest in their field.
Incidentally my new definition of "old" is sixty which gives me another twenty years of leeway and a bit more time to learn guitar.)
1. Joey Santiago (Pixies) - The Pixies are my all time favourite band and Joey's guitar plays a huge part in that. I've been struggling to find the words to adequately describe why I like Santiago so much. It's probably as much about the songs as anything he does specifically. After initially being wowed by guitarists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai I realised that I actually prefer something less flashy. Santiago seems a laid back guy who doesn't look for the limelight, and his guitar added to that unique Pixies sound without dominating it.
2. David Pajo (Slint/Papa M/Pajo) - A post-rock alt-country genre-flitting legend. Pajo has been around a bit managing spells with Will Oldham, The For Carnation, Tortoise, Stereolab, Royal Trux, King Kong, Bush League, Zwan, and Peggy Honeywell as well as his prodigious solo output as Aerial M, Papa M and now Pajo. Just to rub it in he was born in the same year as me. I've got a bit of catching up to do.
3. Johnny Ramone (Ramones) - 1, 2, 3, 4! You have to respect Johnny's ability to play song after song of breakneck rock'n'roll guitar. His biceps must have been made of steel.
4. Larry Parypa (The Sonics) - My recent journey of discovery into Garage Punk and early 60's R&B began after hearing The Sonics first two albums. Their sound is astonishing when compared with their musical peers, the original protopunk band. Larry Parypa's fuzzy guitar and his customisation of the bands equipment helped achieve a wild and distorted rock'n'roll sound that was light years ahead of anyone else.
5. Kirk Hammett (Metallica) - I was a full on Metal fan when Metallica hit the scene. Their arrival took the genre to new levels and redefined what I considered to be heavy rock. Kirk Hammett had replaced Dave Mustaine (another great Thrash guitarist) and Mustaine was mightily pissed off about it for a long time. Hammett was on guitar by the time I saw them tour the UK and alongside James Hetfield's chugging rhythm set a new bar for those rock bands that would follow.
A special mention for Martin Barre of Jethro Tull (who was in this Top 5 until only a few hours ago). He is a brilliantly versatile guitarist who has coped with the changing styles of Tull and Ian Anderson's high expectations since he replaced Mick Abrahams on their second LP.