50 years of Satisfaction - the 10 greatest guitar riffs

I DON’T want to make you feel old but it’s half a century since Keith Richards came up with the idea for what became the Rolling Stones’ smash hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

The Rolling Stones. (PA Photo/ Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur)

Not only is it one of the band’s greatest songs, it also has one of the best guitar riffs … ever.

The story goes that Richards came up with the riff in his sleep while on tour. He woke up in his hotel room and recorded it on a cassette next to his bed, scribbled down the phrase “I can’t get no satisfaction” and went back to sleep. The rest, as they say, is history.

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The guitar riff is to rock ‘n’ roll what saxophone solos are to jazz and they don’t come much bigger than this.

Here are 10 more guitar riffs that have rocked the world.

JOHNNY B. GOODE (Chuck Berry)

Few songs are more instantly recognisable than this foot-tapping classic. The song was recorded by Berry in 1958 and over the years has been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to The Carpenters (yes, really).

Berry’s original recording was later put in a capsule and blasted into outer space, just to show the rest of the universe what we’re capable of.

RUMBLE (Link Wray & His Wray Men)

Rock ‘n’ roll has always had an edge to it, and they don’t come much edgier than this ominous, yet strangely compelling, track - even the title has an air of menace.

Released in 1958, it was one of the first songs to explore techniques like distortion and feedback. It’s also one of very few instrumental singles banned from the radio airwaves - it was feared it would incite teenage gang violence.


Built around a frenetic riff by Dave Davies, this was the band’s breakthrough hit in 1964 and became a big influence on heavy metal and punk rock.

PURPLE HAZE (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

You can’t really talk about guitar licks without mentioning Jimi Hendrix, and Purple Haze is arguably his most famous track. Hendrix took guitar playing to another level and the opening riff to this song is arguably the king of them all.

After Purple Haze was released in 1967 music was never quite the same again.


Last year this was voted the greatest guitar riff of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners and it’s hard to argue with them. Time certainly hasn’t diminished its oomph.

LAYLA (Derek and the Dominoes)

Recorded in 1970 by Eric Clapton’s new group Layla wasn’t an instant hit, but over time it has become one of the most famous ever rock songs.


Another song that wasn’t a hit single at the time but has been namechecked as an influence by pretty much every hirsute rock band ever since.

PRETTY VACANT (The Sex Pistols)

In 1977 David Soul had one of the year’s biggest hits with Don’t Give Up on Us. Later that summer Pretty Vacant became The Sex Pistols’ third single. But only one of them is still really talked about today.


Few, if any, songs can bring carnage to a dancefloor in the way this can. If, like me, you were a student in the early 90s the chances are you remember this song with fondness.

SEVEN NATION ARMY (The White Stripes)

DUH… duh-duh-duh-duh DUH… DUH. And repeat ad infinitum. With its primal drum thump and simple, yet hypnotic, riff this was a top 10 single in the UK in 2003. Since then it’s taken on a life of its own and can be heard reverberating around football stadiums all over Europe and beyond.

No, it’s not rocket science, in fact it’s only rock ‘n’ roll ... but we like it.