The beat: definitely. The energy: probably. The simplicity: most of the time. The lyrics: often. The audacity: goes without saying. But what really sets a great rock song apart is the riff. The hook that buries itself into your DNA, where it forevermore acts as a switch, a trigger, a hypnotist’s command.
BBC Radio’s Greatest Guitar Riffs have most of the ones you’d expect: Whole Lotta Love, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Back In Black, Smoke On The Water and Layla landing in the top 5. Can’t really argue with those.
And as you scan down the list, you realize – joyfully, I’ll bet – just how much great music we’ve been blessed with. Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Rush, Free, Fleetwood Mac, Cream … on and on it goes. I can’t think of one riff on this list that doesn’t deserve to be here.
However, it is nothing short of shocking that the Stones and Beatles have only one entry each. Nice of the BBC to spread the joy, but I can think of another dozen or so riffs from those two groups that are more than worthy. Nevermind. I’ll get over it.
Sad, though, that there’s nothing current. Rock riffs seem to have gone the way of the dodo, and that is not a good thing.