10 big riffs to listen to LOUD

6 October 2023, 11:36 | Updated: 6 October 2023, 17:13

Jimi Hendrix, Slash from Guns N' Roses and Jimmy Page
Jimi Hendrix, Slash from Guns N' Roses and Jimmy Page. Picture: 1. David Redfern/Redferns/Getty 2. Paul Natkin/Getty Images 3. Chris Walter/WireImage/Getty

By Jenny Mensah

As we celebrate Global's Make Some Noise Day, we look at some of the BIGGEST riffs in rock, as played on Radio X's Classic Rock.

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Are these the biggest and most iconic riffs in rock music? Read our rundown and decide...

  1. Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water

    Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water

    Released from their 1972 album Machine Head, Smoke on the Water tells the story of the 1971 fire at Montreux Casino. Its unmistakeable riff, which was developed by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore is a four-note blues scale melody in G minor.

    According to Dave Thompson's Smoke on the Water: The Deep Purple Story, Blackmore later claimed the main riff is an inverted interpretation of of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, saying: "I owe him a lot of money".

  2. Free - All Right Now

    Free - All Right Now

    The 1970 single was released on Free's third studio album Fire and Water and peaked at No.2 on the UK singles chart. A chart-topping hit in over 20 countries, the song is perhaps best known for featuring on the iconic Wrigley's Spearmint gum advert.

    The track was written by Free bassist Andy Fraser and singer Paul Rodgers in just 10 minutes after the band had experienced a bad gig in Durham.

    It's also been covered by everyone from Rod Stewart to Christina Aguilera.

  3. The Kinks - You Really Got Me

    The Kinks - You Really Got Me (Official Audio)

    Written by The Kinks frontman Ray Davies, You Really Got Me was released in 1964 as the band's third single and later included on the band's eponymous debut album. Despite it including one of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock history, the song was actually initially written on the piano. His brother Dave decided the chords would be better played on guitar, because they would sound more powerful.

    Ray revealed he was inspired to write the track after seeing an attractive woman on the dancefloor while he was performing in his college days with the Dave Hunt Band.

  4. Derek And The Dominos - Layla

    Derek And The Dominos - Layla Live 1984

    Written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon and originally recorded with their band Derek and the Dominoes, Layla was the 13th track on their one and only studio album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970).

    The 1972 track was inspired by a love story which originated in 7th-century Persia and went on to form Story of Layla and Majnun by the Persian 12th century poet Nizami Ganjav.

    It was also inspired by Clapton's own secret love for Patti Boyd - the wife of his friend and fellow musician (and Beatles guitarist) George Harrison. Clapton eventually married Boyd after she divorced the Beatle in 1977. However passionate the song, their love didn't last as Clapton and Boyd went on to divorce in 1989.

  5. Motörhead - Ace Of Spades

    Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (Official Video)

    Ace of Spades was released in October 1980 and came from Motörhead's album of the same name.

    The inimitable track, which opens with Lemmy's thundering bass intro, spent 13 weeks on the UK singles chart and initially peaked at number 15. However, its chart success doesn't end there. Following the death of the frontman on 28th December 2015, the song went to reach number 13 in the UK singles charts and in early 2016 Ace of Spades topped the UK Rock & Metal singles and albums charts.

  6. Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train

    OZZY OSBOURNE - "Crazy Train" (Official Video)

    The first solo single to come from the Black Sabbath legend, Crazy Train was released from Ozzy Osbourne's debut studio album Blzzard of Ozz in 1980.

    Randy Rhoads is credited on guitar for the song, but Greg Leon (who took Rhoad's place in heavy metal band Quiet Riot) claims to have contributed to the striking Crazy Train riff by showing him the riff to the The Steve Miller Band's Swingtown sped up.

  7. Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

    Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

    Voodoo Child (Slight Return), which is popularly now known as Voodoo Child or Voodoo Chile, was the final track on Jimi Hendrix Experience's Electric Ladyland album.

    The 1968 song was developed from the more bluesy Voodoo Chile on the same record - consisting of an improvised guitar and vocal performance from Hendrix which incredibly came as the result of a studio jam with Steve Winwood on organ and Jack Casady on bass. The following day, Hendrix recorded the song with Noel Reading on bass and Mitch Mitchell on the drums.

    After Hendrix' death in 1970, the song was released in the UK under the name Voodoo Chile (hence the confusion around its title), and topped the charts- giving the late icon his only UK number one single.

  8. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

    Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine (Official Music Video)

    Released in 1988, this classic track was released as the third single from Guns N' Roses' 1987 Appetite for Destruction album. The riff (and in a sense the origins of the song itself) came courtesy of Saul Hudson aka GNR's Slash, who began playing a 'circus' melody on guitar as a playful warm up during a band jam session at their house on Sunset Strip.

    Izzy Stradlin then came up with some chords, Duff McKagan created the bassline and Steven Adler created a drum beat. As the story goes, Axl was listening to the band upstairs in his room and was inspired to write lyrics.

  9. AC/DC - Back In Black

    AC/DC - Back In Black (Official Video)

    Back In Black, which was released from the band's seventh studio album of the same name, was penned as s tribute to the band's former vocalist Bon Scott, who had died in February 1980. The riff is widely hailed as one of the best written in rock and has been covered many times over. Sam Fender recently duetted on the track with fellow Geordie AC/DC's Brian Johnson at his mammoth homecoming show at St James' Park.

  10. Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

    Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love (Official Music Video)

    The opening track from the band's second studio album Led Zeppelin II, Whole Lotta Love is arguably up there among one of the most recognisable riffs of all time. Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page says he came up with the riff on his houseboat on the River Thames in the summer of 1968.

    Despite the 1969 track not being released as a single in the UK, it remains one of band's most iconic songs and provided the theme tune to Top of the Pops.

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