Listen to the song first.
This is a replica of Brian May’s “Red Special”, a hand-made guitar that he and his father constructed in 1963. There’s an excellent article about it’s construction on Wikipedia. He used it to play probably the most well-known rock guitar solo ever recorded, the blistering last 41 seconds of We Will Rock You.
I remember sitting in our family room, shortly after we had moved to Texas. It must have been sometime in 1979, and my Dad was putting a record on. He handed me the cover of the album he was about to play. It was a painting of a confused-looking giant robot apparently murdering the members of the band as they dangled from his hand. Not particularly shocking these days, but I remember thinking of it as exotic and cool.
Then I heard We Will Rock You for the first time. The tribal beat and raw, stream-of-consciousness vocals were unlike anything I’d heard before. Behind the final chorus grew a single resonant note, building with the vocal crescendo, and evolving into a raunchy solo that was so tight and perfect, while at the same time reckless and raw. I listened to that song over and over again as a kid.
Later, the chorus of the song became a cliché, to be banished to the purgatory of professional sporting events, with AC/DC and Bachman Turner Overdrive. But the solo has always remained separate and beyond reproach, rarely played and yet always remaining shocking in it’s simplicity and uniqueness.
I picked this as my first solo to learn not because it’s the easiest, but because it represents the perfect beginning to this project — an homage to one of my favorite bands and their amazing guitarist, Brian May. And I picked it because it’s short.
To learn this solo, I’m using the following web resources:
Instructional Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ70BVAIkj0
Here’s a girl playing the solo very well. She says it’s the first solo she learned, and she’s got a full YouTube channel of solos that’s she’s covered.
The original music video. Classic Freddie Mercury in star-shaped shades.
Queen performing it live at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Note Brian May’s extended solo at the end. I will not be learning this version.