Guitar solos used to be cool, right? A long-haired dude with some crazy-ass pants would get on stage and shred in a way that said, “Oh yeah, I know how to do sex to women.” These axemen would solo for hours at a time, and the solo would go from cool to awesome to tiring to annoying back to awesome again. Then something happened and being able to bring hordes of women to knee-buckling orgasm by wailing on the ol’ six-string was no longer hip. It’s fine if you want to bash simple chords extremely fast or wave the guitar in front of an amp to make an ugly noise, but these days, grown-ass men noodling around a la Jeff Beck for 40 minutes are frowned upon by music critics, who are more into stuff made entirely by machines and/or teenagers. But how does the general public feel about guitar solos? We went out to ask them.
Anthony, sales manager:I love 'em.
Just for the art of it, just because you can listen to one guy playing a solo and enjoy how good it sounds and how it makes you envision different things.
Is there such a thing as a guitar solo that’s too long?
What’s your favorite solo?
I like “Stairway to Heaven.”
I don't know, I can't pick a bad one.
Juan, drafter:I don’t really like them.
Juan: I prefer drums.
Why do you like drums?
I don't know. Whatever. I like drums.
Can a drum solo be too long?
Probably not. Maybe more than ten minutes.
That's a lot of drums. Do you play the drums?
Are you any good?
Yeah, I would listen to me.
Katy, musician, and Amy, textile designer
Katy: If they're tasteful, then they're good. If they suit the song, they work.
What’s your favorite one?
Katy: Shit. Uh…
Amy: This is before coffee, man!
Katy: Uh, there's a Carol King song… But I think that that's a saxophone solo.
Amy: You should be asking about saxophone solos, they're way gayer!
Katy: Maybe Prince?
What instrument do you play?
Katy: Guitar and piano.
Do you like playing solos?
Katy: Not really. I can't play solos.
What about piano solos?
Katy: Nah, I don't like those either.
Amy: I think solos are just a little bit overrated.
Katy: Solos are just lame. I'm all about songs. If you don't have a good song, then you should shut up.
Seth, 43, Musician:The best ones have changed my life. It's sort of like poems about roses. The first genius one was great and then everything else is kind of pointless. I'm more into songs. Guitar solos seem to be redundant and extraneous and pointless most of the time, but the great ones are great.
What solo has changed your life?
The double guitar solo on Jimi Hendrix's “Bold as Love,” the double guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb,” the double guitar solo on “Realize” by the Jayhawks, everything Neil Young has ever tried to do. And most of what George Harrison's tried to do.
How long is too long for a guitar solo?
If you have to ask then you'll never know.
Chiquie, works in finance:I love guitar solos. They’re not as prevalent as they used to be, but I dig 'em.
Why aren't they as prevalent?
I think pop songs are just shorter; people don't want to hear a five-minute song.
What's the best guitar solo you've ever heard?
I'm old school, man. I like the Slash guitar solo at the end of “Sweet Child O' Mine.” That's probably my favorite.
What makes that a good guitar solo?
I think it works well with the visual. You know he's like standing in front of that church in the middle of the desert wearing leather pants… That's just a kick-ass guitar solo.
Al, painter:In general? They can be kind of indulgent. But they can be good.
What defines a good guitar solo?
I don't think I know enough to put good language to this.
Some dude said “Stairway to Heaven” earlier.
I feel like it's hard to even categorize that guitar solo, because it's just so The Guitar Solo or something, you know? I know I'm being difficult. What's this for?
A magazine called VICE.
And you want to talk about guitar solos? I don't know man…