Everyone knows about Eric Clapton’s performance on the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
And Eddie Van Halen’s solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”? Fantastic, yes, but do we really need to revisit it again?
Instead, we decided to highlight 10 less-celebrated guitar guest spots from the annals of rock history.
Steve Howe “Innuendo”—Queen Innuendo (1991)
Yes guitarist Steve Howe had been a friend of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury for several years when he joined the band on this cut. Howe had gone to visit Queen in the studio after he’d heard through a mutual acquaintance that the group was working on its new album. Upon hearing “Innuendo,” he said, “I was fucking blown away.”
When they asked him to play on it, he thought they’d lost their minds. Eventually, they convinced him to play “some crazy Spanish guitar flying around over the top,” Howe recalled. It took him hours to work something around the song’s structure, but the results speak for themselves.
Jerry Garcia “I Used to be a King”—Graham Nash Songs for Beginners (1971)
This stand-out track from Nash’s solo debut, Songs for Beginners, is one of several songs on the album written about his breakup with Joni Mitchell. Jerry Garcia provides some beautiful, weeping pedal-steel playing on the verses before cutting loose on the solo, where his heart-tugging lines provide an emotional connection equal to Nash’s own aching vocals. Surprisingly, Garcia considered himself a novice on the instrument, but his work here is a testament to his musical sensibilities, tone and touch.
Mick Jones “Big Tears”—Elvis Costello Taking Liberties (1980)
Never one for guitar solos, Costello liked to play the riffs and leave the fancy work