What Is The ‘Greatest Riff Of All Time’?

June 5, 2021

Total Guitar and Guitar World magazines asked their readers to answer an impossible question: Which riff is the the greatest of all time? You shouldn’t be surprised to see a Jimmy Page riff at the top of the heap.

Page’s riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” was voted #1, besting Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, AC/DC’s “Back In Black” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”.

Total Guitar wrote, “In 1969, the year Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, Jimmy Page launched his own giant leap for mankind. It wasn’t the first great riff, but it is the defining one. It’s why riffs became central to guitar music, the reason bands search for the guitar hook that can propel a whole song — or even a whole career.”

Here’s a look at the Top 10 ‘greatest riffs of all time’:

01. Whole Lotta Love (LED ZEPPELIN)
02. Crazy Train (OZZY OSBOURNE)
03. Back In Black (AC/DC)
04. Smoke On The Water (DEEP PURPLE)
05. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (VAN HALEN) 
06. Enter Sandman (METALLICA) 
07. Iron Man (BLACK SABBATH) 
08. Walk (PANTERA) 
09. La Grange (ZZ TOP) 
10. Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix)

Back in 2014 Page did an interview with The Wall Street Journal and talked about “Whole Lotta Love”, “I came up with the guitar riff for ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in the summer of ’68, on my houseboat along the Thames in Pangbourne, England. I suppose my early love for big intros by rockabilly guitarists was an inspiration, but as soon as I developed the riff, I knew it was strong enough to drive the entire song, not just open it. When I played the riff for the band in my living room several weeks later during rehearsals for our first album, the excitement was immediate and collective. We felt the riff was addictive, like a forbidden thing.”

Do you agree with the list? Any songs that didn’t make the Top 10 that should have?


Written by Todd Hancock

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