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4 Unforgettable Rock Riffs

The electric guitar has historically been the biggest ego-extension in popular music. If you take a young rocker and hand him an electric guitar and amp, he will immediately fill the room with his personality through the blaring distortion of the amplifier. It’s no wonder that lead guitarists and assorted rock-gods are known for their huge egos. The electric guitar was made for the prima donna.

Accordingly, rock guitarists have been memorialized on rock music t shirts and in song. Here are four immortal riffs, written by axemen who will never be forgotten. They live on through their music and rock music t shirts.

  1. Smoke On The Water Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows this riff. Even people who have never heard of Deep Purple, have no idea who Richie Blackmore is, and don’t know the title of the song will recognize this riff. Smoke On The Water is truly the riff of riffs. Whether you’ve heard it blaring from the speakers of a passing jalopy or roaring from the hi-fi system out of someone’s open apartment window, you know this riff.

  2. Iron Man Smoke On The Water might be the Riff of Riffs, but Iron Man is hot on its heels in a close second. I’m convinced that it is physically impossible to reach the age of twelve or thirteen and not be able to hum this riff. I swear, you could track down some kid from an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon and he’d know this riff! As long as humanity continues, even if Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi are forgotten, I have a gut feeling that this riff will survive.

  3. TNT Angus Young is the prototypical don’t-give-a-toss noise-making punk urchin with a guitar. Anyone who has seen an AC/DC show, live or on film, can tell you that he’s a brilliant showman. More importantly, he wrote the main riff to TNT. The opening riff to TNT is one of the most recognizable riffs in rock music. As soon as that blazing distorted set of power chords comes roaring out of the speakers, you know exactly which song is playing. There’s no escaping this riff.

  4. Enter Sandman Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC are all hard rockers who hover right on the edge of the metal genre. Heavy metal did not really become a genre until the later years of Black Sabbath, but the first big-name metal band to sell out huge stadiums and make a name for themselves with generous radio airplay was Metallica. And they did that on the Black Album, which contains this infamous riff. Wicked, fast, and way cool, this monster of a riff sounds equally good clean or through the distorted channel, and Enter Sandman plays both versions. This is the riff that, for many people, came to exemplify what Metallica’s guitar work was all about.


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