We asked, and you answered. After presenting a diverse field of 25 alternative rock guitar heroes, the almost 60,000 votes from readers have been tabulated to result in your Top 11 Alt-Rock Guitarists of All-Time.
Before revealing the Top 11, it should be mentioned that there are more than a few surprising omissions from the list of guitar players moving on to the next round. Adam Jones of Tool was edged out by Bink-182/Angels & Airwaves leader Tom DeLonge by a mere 12 votes for the 11th and final slot. The Edge (U2), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and Daron Malakian (System of a Down) are also among the notable axe-slingers who were unable to garner enough votes to make the Top 11 cut.
In terms of votes, no one came close to clear winner Mike Einziger of Incubus, who generated over 10,100 votes. Coming in at Number Two was former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who pulled more than 7750 votes. The Top Five was rounded out by Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, The Nighwatchman), Jack White (White Stripes/solo and Mike Ness (Social Distortion).
“Wow, what an incredible and unexpected honor,” Mike Einziger said when informed of the tally. “I need to thank all of the Incubus fans out there for their support, I love and appreciate you guys & gals so very much. Thank YOU for supporting Incubus from the very beginning. “It’s such an honor to be alongside all of these incredible guitarists, many of whom are good friends of mine and surely deserve this honor much more than I. I wake up every single day in total amazement that I’m able to live a life of music, day in and day out. Thank you to all.”
“First, it’s an honor to be placed in this category amongst such incredibly talented musicians,” echoed Mike Ness of Social Distortion of placing in the Top Five. “Second, and most importantly, thanks to all of my fans. Without you, Social Distortion would not have been able to maintain its career of 33 years and I would not be able to do what I love. Regardless of where I end up on this list, I wouldn’t be here without you – so thank you.”
Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Matt Bellamy (Muse), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta/At The Drive-In), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and Tom DeLonge (Blink-182) round out the list of guitarists who’ve made the cut to the second and final round. Who is the single greatest guitarist in alternative rock? Voting will be open for exactly one week, during which you can support your favorite guitarist in the bunch. Here are the nominees, in order of votes received:
1. Mike Einziger (Incubus) This wildly inventive guitarist makes the most of his effects units, which he pairs with a studied musicality and good, old-fashioned chops.
2. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) Inventive and eclectic, Frusciante’s wild blend of playing styles and emotive phrasing has made him one of alt-rock’s most respected and beloved axe-slingers.
3. Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave/Nightwatchman) Combining classic metal inspirations with the profound influence of old-school hip-hop, Morello’s style ranges from flashy shredding to making his guitar sound like turntables-scratching or even a charging elephant.
4. Jack White (White Stripes/Dead Weather/Raconteurs/solo) In the tradition of legendary blues men like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughn, White’s heavy emphasis on feeling has helped him create an individual and immediately recognizable sound big enough to power football stadiums.
5. Mike Ness (Social Distortion) With as much of a rockabilly-roots influence as OC punk, Ness has developed a rich, muscular tone to motor the life-affirming anthems of Social D.
6. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) The late rock legend had an innate sense of melody, creating unforgettable guitar lines out of chaotic punk riffs.
7. Matt Bellamy (Muse) Representing Great Britain, Bellamy’s grandiose licks and lyrical melodies keep the spirit of prog-rock alive.
8. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) Punk’s reigning prince remains an underrated guitarist, despite a seemingly endless bag of riffs and the ability to rip out a blistering solo when necessary.
9. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta/At the Drive-In) The prog-rock prodigy is a six-string technician, incorporating a plethora of tones and complex time signatures to the heady, art-rock stew of both Mars Volta and ATDI.
10. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) Heavily influenced by blues masters and metal mavens alike, McCready’s blistering technique fits perfectly with fellow six-stringer Stone Gossard’s rhythmic attack.
11. Tom DeLonge (Blink-182/Angels & Airwaves) DeLonge’s catchy, pop-punk riffs power Blink-182’s high-energy tunes, while he explores his more grandiose, arena rock side with the band Angels & Airwaves.
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local