Rock videos' most perilous guitar solos

Soundtrack: rating the bravest, richest guitarists

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Aerosmith's Joe Perry

AEROSMITH'S JOE PERRY COULDN'T CUT IT IN THE VILLAGE PEOPLE. The art of guitar solos is a special one that few artists possess. The ability to do one while in harm's way is even more rare.

Musicians who aren’t afraid to put themselves in harm’s way deserve respect. Their fans end up catching a glimpse of what rock ‘n’ roll is all about: danger and guitar solos.

Even if the danger faced by the guitarists in the following list is sometimes staged or achieved via special effects, they’ve all amplified the intensity of their songs and videos. They also do excellent jobs of capturing the emotion behind the lyrics, whether that emotion is angst, political unrest or beautiful isolation.

Guns N’ Roses " “Estranged”
The “Estranged” music video clocks in at almost 10 minutes. As a test of endurance, watching Axel Rose deal with the hassles of being rich is tedious, but waiting until Slash’s epic guitar solo around seven minutes and 45 seconds into the song makes it all worthwhile. Slash emerges from the middle of the ocean and proceeds to prove why he made the cover of Guitar Hero 3.

Former Sum 41 guitarist Dave Baksh has said that the solo in “Estranged” was the inspiration for his solo in the video “In Too Deep” where he rises out of a pool in similar fashion.

Red Hot Chili Peppers " “Scar Tissue”
This song is from Californication, the album that marked guitarist John Frusciante’s triumphant return to the Chilis. This video is a lot easier to take in than the Guns N’ Roses offering.

In this clip, the band members ¬" all showing the after-effects of an apparent brawl " ride through the desert in a classic convertible that looks about as beaten up as they do. At around the 2:45 mark, against the backdrop of a desert sunset, Frusciante unloads a soulful, tear-jerking solo while perched on the trunk of the moving vehicle.

Metallica " “I Disappear”
In the video for this song recorded for the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack, the entire band, not just intrepid guitarist Kirk Hammett, performs atop a monumental Mesa reminiscent of the one Tom Cruise climbed at the start of M:I 2. As the video lacks any sort of satisfying medium shot showing both the band and the cliff’s edge, it’s obvious the band is not actually on top of the massive rock formation.

The most remarkable parts of this video are the action sequences inspired by Hollywood movies like Die Hard and North by Northwest. At one point, in a nod to the Hitchcock classic, Hammett is relentlessly pursued across a field by a bi-plane. Later, drummer Lars Ulrich leaps from a tall skyscraper. Unfortunately, the pint-sized drummer did not suffer the same fate as the villain in Die Hard.

Aerosmith " “Livin’ on the Edge”
The last video on the list is from Aerosmith’s 1993 album Get a Grip. The clip features a young Edward Furlong, best known for his roles in American History X and Terminator 2, dealing with the pressures of going to an urban high school in the ’90s.

The “Livin’ on the Edge” video also features singer Steven Tyler in some rather loud, gaudy outfits. At one point he wears the body of a pheasant as a half-mask. In another shot Tyler is made up to appear as though his entire torso and head have come unzipped, with nothing between the viewer and his package but his one cupped hand.

But the part of the video that gave it its place on this list is when, after playing a 30-second solo standing on a stretch of train tracks, guitarist Joe Perry steps off the track an instant before he would have been crushed by an oncoming freight train. Perry defiantly keeps playing as it speeds past him. The moment is a perfect metaphor for Furlong’s character in the video and, apart from that, is totally badass.

The stunt comes off as far more realistic than Metallica’s effort and earns the title of rock’s most perilous guitar solo.

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