Listomania: The All Time Best Brian May Guitar Performances

BrianMay.jpg
Brian May
We shall now take a moment here at DC9 to send birthday wishes to one Dr. Brian May, Queen guitarist, astrophysicist, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and all-around superhero.

May, who turns 64 today, tops our personal list of greatest guitarists of all time (comments section debate, go!). I mean, come on: The guy built his famous Red Special guitar himself, from pieces of the fireplace in his parents' home. His tone and technique are unrivaled. Live videos of Queen back in the day beg the question: How did such a macho sound come out of this delicate, elfin guy?

In honor of Dr. May's birthday (he got his Ph.D. in astrophysics in 2007 -- like we said, superhero), we found it fit to indulge our Brian May fetish and collect a list of the top 10 greatest Brian May guitar performances of all time. Slobbering fandom is totally justified, as this dude is an international treasure -- no wonder Lady Gaga reportedly cried when May agreed to play guitar on "You and I" from her latest album Born This Way.

Hit the jump, and feel free to debate our choices (or make up your own list) in the comments.

10. "Seven Seas of Rhye"
Queen's first bona fide hit off their debut album. May is out of the gate like a shot, delivering a performance that lays the groundwork for his distinctive sound on later tunes.

9. "Millionaire Waltz"

A good example of why May's guitar tone can be described using a whole host of hyperbolic phrases that include the word "butter."

8. "Killer Queen"

An iconic solo that is instantly hummable. It's one thing when a song sticks in your head; when the guitar solo alone is catchy enough to do so, that's something special.

7. "Stone Cold Crazy"

The interplay between Freddie Mercury's peerless vocals and May's stompingly sexy guitars make for a wild ride, indeed.

6. "We Will Rock You"
It takes two things to get sports fans' blood pumping: a drum kit and May's heady riffs. Ass-kicking, in every sense of the phrase.

5. "Get Down Make Love"

In which May coaxes some truly original sounds from the Red Special. Rumor has it that many critics thought they used synthesizers on this tune. No synthesizers, just genius.

4. "Love of My Life"

This sweet, gentle love song brings out May's versatility by displaying his acoustic chops. The dulcet tones that come out of May's guitar belie his playing's underlying complexity.

3. "Tie Your Mother Down"

The balls-to-the-wall opening riff and slick slide work are classic May. Digitech sells a Brian May Red Special guitar pedal that apes May's tone for the everyday guitarist. One of the settings is simply titled, "Tie Your Mother Down."

2. "Bohemian Rhapsody"

One of the greatest guitar solos of all time. No other explaination necessary.

1. "Brighton Rock"

It's not as famous as "Bohemian Rhapsody," but May's work on this tune is about as impeccable as guitar solos go. May veers from chunky, macho licks to delicate tremolo effects with superhuman ease.

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10 comments
Bigdansharlow
Bigdansharlow

Dr. May happy birthday you great guitar player.  Still rocking at 60.  Did you see Ellen DeGeneres show aired 10/1/11?  You better make that movie about Queen...you got your Freddie Mercury on the piano on Ellen's show.  I mean it ...sounds just like him.  Check it out.  Happy Birthday Brian May and thanx for all the high standards you have set for the new ones coming along.  MAKE THAT MOVIE!!!!!!! 

Louise Binion
Louise Binion

Sorry but I cannot pick 1 number as the best as I listen I hear only Divine chords played by the God of the Guitar

Tapehead004
Tapehead004

definately Somebody to Love....thats pretty much regarded by musicians as one of his best, if not the best, solo

Andy
Andy

"Resurrection", the live version from the Brixton cd (import)...great dueling lead with Jamie Moses, his other guitarist from the Brian May Band...great stuff...

big ears
big ears

insanely talented guitar player and not even so much a player as he was a fearless master of his instrument.  definitely lost on a lot of the so called musicians of today...

ChrisU
ChrisU

good list. I just listened to side one vinyl of Sheer Heart Attack the other day, incredible example of May's genius. let's also include ths song Dragon Attack.

Claire
Claire

Anything snarky I said about you is hereby withdrawn. My apologies.

OldManJam
OldManJam

No Under Pressure? Keep Yourself Alive?

How about some love for:

Somebody to LoveDon't Stop Me NowI Want It AllHammer to FallNow I'm Here

Man, did they have a lot of great songs!

Lauralately
Lauralately

but...but...I like your snarky comments!  (for the record, you spell better than most of the snarkers on this site.)  I like all comments.  Comments, no matter the intent, make my posts go to the top of the "most commented" list, which makes my editor (and me) very happy.

Laura
Laura

nice list!  I tried to keep my list varied; Keep Yourself Alive and Somebody To Love almost made it, but I felt like "Stone Cold Crazy" and "Killer Queen" kind of represented the classic May solo in the way that Keep Yourself does, and the list would be more well-rounded if I stuck to a few classics and then threw in a few where he goes outside the box and tests our limits of what we think a Brian May solo should be.

yeah, Queen was kind of the perfect storm.  Every player was fantastic.  Will we ever see the likes of them again?  I sincerely hope so.

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