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Music fans vote on best guitar riff of all time, placing above Prince’s Purple Rain in second and Dire Straits’ hit Sultans of Swing in third


  • The guitar riff in Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine was voted in first place

It’s an instantly recognisable prelude to one of the great rock anthems.

So perhaps it will come as no surprise that the guitar riff in Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine has now been voted the most iconic of all time.

And Slash, who wrote the riff to the band’s 1988 hit, has been named the fifth greatest guitarist of all time, with Queen’s Brian May taking the top spot.

Prince’s Purple Rain was voted as having the second greatest riff, with the one in Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing coming third.

Among the riffs from more modern tunes that were in the top 40 were those featured in Sam Fender‘s Seventeen Going Under, Pharrell Williams‘ Happy and Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wanna Know. The survey of 2,000 music fans found an overwhelming 83 per cent preferred music with guitars in it. While 81 per cent said a memorable guitar riff was vital to a good rock track.

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards rocks the house, as singer Mick Jagger belts out a favourite during their concert in Munich, on June 6, 2003

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards rocks the house, as singer Mick Jagger belts out a favourite during their concert in Munich, on June 6, 2003

Jimi Hendrix performs live on stage playing a black Fender Stratocaster guitar with The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Royal Albert Hall in London on  February 24, 1969

Jimi Hendrix performs live on stage playing a black Fender Stratocaster guitar with The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Royal Albert Hall in London on  February 24, 1969

Prince performs on October 11, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris

Prince performs on October 11, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris

Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits performs in aid of The Prince's Trust at the Hurlingham Club on September 9, 2009 in London, England

Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits performs in aid of The Prince’s Trust at the Hurlingham Club on September 9, 2009 in London, England

The 1970s was the ‘golden age’ of the riff, according to 30 per cent of music fans, while 21 per cent felt the Eighties saw the release of the best ones.

Worryingly, just over half think the riff is dying out, with 74 per cent saying that is a bad thing. But there is hope yet – with 65 per cent still insisting the guitar is one of the coolest instruments you can play.

The survey was commissioned by Sky Arts ahead of its new series Greatest Guitar Riffs, which features rock guitar legends Andy Summers, Tony Iommi and Nancy Wilson.

A spokesman for the show said: ‘It’s the ultimate air guitar play list. Whether it’s the late, great Jimi Hendrix, stalwarts such as Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin or the new artists coming through, rock ‘n’ roll will never die.’



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