The Six Sweetest Riffs of All Time
2. Led Zeppelin, "Black Dog"
There is much to love in "Black Dog," like its mischievously complexity, or the fact that whenever the riff is playing, that means Robert Plant is not singing. Burn. The start-stop structure almost sounds like the band is incapable of maintaining the sweetness any longer. When a deconstructed version of the riff in another key caps off each verse, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones push the last phrase forward as if the sweetness is getting away from them. You can hear the stares from John Bonham while he holds the band back. Additionally, "Black Dog" has become a standard in interruption. Take "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," when this riff blares through the R. Kelly parody when its characters turn on the radio. Even better, and more obscure, is a song titled "Black Bird Dog" by Adam Hucke of Funky Butt Brass Band, which juxtaposes the Beatles' tender "Blackbird" with Zeppelin's sweetest riff. The Internet doesn't even know about it, which makes me smarter than the Internet. And that's just math.
1. Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back in Town"
"Guitarmony" is easier said than typed. It is a compound word describing harmonized guitars. But not every guitar harmony is a guitarmony -- only those which can be described as sweet. This is where a distinction must be made. This is not a list of the best guitar performances or even the "best" riffs. These are the sweetest riffs, ones that encapsulate triumph. Sweetness is a feeling, the distilled version of the vague awesomeness that distinguishes rock & roll from other types of music. If there were a Wikipedia entry for "sweet riff" (I checked, and no, I did not mean "sweet rice"), there would be a little media player in the side bar with a clip of "The Boys Are Back in Town." The guitarmony alone does not make this riff, not like the way the Avenged Sevenfolds of the world harmonize mediocre melodies to mask them in the Designer Imposter scent of sweet. The guitarmony propels an already sweet riff, a non-blues shuffle with an interior, self-elevating motion. Just before the end, that third (maybe fourth?) guitar breaks through the attic and starts heading upward. If the song didn't fade out, it may have made it all the way up to heaven.