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Quick, what are the first three names that pop into your head when I say the word "guitarist"? Hendrix? Clapton? Chuck Thudfucker? Nothing wrong with that. All three of those guitarists deserve that sort of respect because they've proven that they're among the best to ever pick up the instrument ... well, except Chuck. All that dude did was fuck thuds. I still don't understand what you people see in him.

But what if I told you that in your lifetime, you've seen some of the best guitarists to ever live pass right by, virtually unnoticed, because you were too busy making fun of their wussy bands? And no, I'm not talking about some underground bullshit that you'll only hear about from other musicians -- "What?! You've never heard of Franky Whopflopple and the Hambone Torso? I thought you said you liked music!" I'm talking about big-time bands that at one point in their careers sold out 50,000-seat arenas ...


The Ridiculous Band:

Yep, I'm talking about Winger, the late '80s/early '90s hair band that was relentlessly bagged on by Mike Judge in both Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. The very same Winger that Lars Ulrich is throwing darts at in Metallica's video for "Nothing Else Matters." They're considered one of the last hair metal bands before grunge stepped up in the mid-'90s and stomped that shit out like a wet cigar butt.

If douchebag were measured in weight, we'd all be a part of the singularity right now.

When talking about Winger, it's extremely tempting to dive right into their song about having sex with underage high school girls, "Seventeen." It's what most people remember them for because ... well, it's a song about fucking children. But what most people don't realize is that "Seventeen" wasn't actually their biggest hit. Their two highest-charting singles were ballads called "Headed for a Heartbreak" and "Miles Away." So while we picture the fully adult Kip Winger trying to knock off a quick one before his girlfriend's teacher notices she's gone and calls her parents and she gets grounded, the band was selling out stadiums filled with big-haired '80s chicks holding lighters while Winger played sappy romance songs.

The Amazing Talent:

Lead guitarist Reb Beach was a studio musician before Kip Winger hired him on with the band, and that's unfortunate on so many levels, because if he had been picked up by a band that wasn't mocked out of existence, we'd probably still be hearing his music on the radio today. Why? Because he happens to be one of the most technical "tap artists" in existence:

That's him on a Winger reunion tour, looking like he's getting steadily angrier as he tries unsuccessfully to find the ticklish spot on his girlfriend. His fingers are just so goddamn fast, and not just in one localized area. For those who don't know how to play, that's pretty important, because it's kind of easy to build up speed over the course of three or four frets. But spread that shit over the entirety of the fretboard, and it's extremely easy to lose accuracy. You go from what he's doing, which is producing a melodic, exact pattern ... to just random bullshit clunking out through the air and annoying the people who gave you money to see you play.

But don't worry too much about Reb. After Winger died, he kept on working, not only in the studio, but on tours with Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Night Ranger and a Winger reunion. He even replaced George Lynch in motherfucking Dokken:

White Lion


The Ridiculous Band:

White Lion. I understand that this is one of those band names that most people immediately recognize, but for the life of them, they can't place what the fuck they performed. Here, let me help:

Oh, you are so totally welcome for getting "When the Children Cry" stuck in your head for the next five days. Enjoy that. Just make sure that on day three, you stay away from sharp objects and ropes, because I promise you that you will use them.

Here's the thing, though. In the 1980s, hair metal had their formula down pat. You start a band with a pretty boy lead man who isn't afraid to wear skintight spandex. If his cock isn't prominent enough, stuff something down there. Whip out the first single as an upbeat song with heavy guitar and fireworks in the video. Then follow it up with a ballad or two. Instant success. The one thing that all of them absolutely had to have, though, was a ridiculously good guitar player. It was so important that, in many bands, the guitar player shared equal billing with the singer.

Hell, for that matter, most people can tell me what band that is without even showing the guitarist's face.

The Amazing Talent:

White Lion's Vito Bratta was so fucking technical with a guitar, and he put so much effort and passion into what he was doing, he actually injured his wrist while playing, taking him out of the industry for good. He was finding himself playing for 14 hours a day -- coming home from a show and playing two more hours before forcing himself to stop. And not just cheesy little bubblegum riffs, either. We're talking about extremely technical, classical solos that few people in the world have the mastery to mimic, let alone create:

That's him performing a solo that makes other guitarists shake their heads, put down their instruments and quietly mutter "Bullshit" while they consider another line of work. The reason is because he's one of the few people on earth who can seamlessly blend classical and blues riffs without it sounding like a drunken frat dude smashing his balls across random frets. There are Berklee professors who can't do what he's doing there.

He's not the most well-spoken guy in the world, but hearing him talk about it is one of my favorite things as both a fan of guitar and someone who plays it:

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The Ridiculous Artist:

He's motherfucking Prince.

You know ... Prince.

The Amazing Talent:

I almost didn't include him on this list because I always thought that people just knew that Prince was a guitar legend. But over the years, I've been continually shocked to find out that many people don't.

I can kind of see where they're coming from. Prince's biggest hits have been laced with that synthesizer- and keyboard-based pop sound. And although his solos in songs like "Let's Go Crazy" and "Purple Rain" were insanely good, they weren't the focus of the songs. Because as flamboyant as Prince is, he's one of the few musicians in the world who know how to use subtlety instead of cramming the solo right in the listeners' faces and screaming, "Listen to how fucking good I am!" He uses his talent only as a means of enhancing the song as a whole -- not using the song as a mechanism for showing off his guitar skills. But when he does cut loose ... holy fuck:

That's him playing a tribute of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." And for the first half of the video, he plays a basic rhythm piece so subtle that if it wasn't for his blindingly red pimp hat, you'd hardly know he was there. But then the solo comes around, and he just explodes. It's the same in this one:

So yeah, behind all the sparkling women's clothing and gyrating fuck-dancing lies one of the greatest guitarists to ever walk the planet.

John Mayer


The Ridiculous Artist:

Sickening sweet bubblegum adult contemporary pop played to arenas filled with screaming women who would really appreciate it if you could buy her and her friends some beer -- because they forgot their IDs at home. Scan the audience at a John Mayer concert, and among the 20,000 women, you'll find like 50 dudes -- 20 of them are gay, 12 are boyfriends forced to go to the concert and the other 18 are guitar players.

He's known for making excruciatingly stupid faces while performing, making the entire audience concerned that he's about to throw up at any moment, but he refuses to stop the song long enough to do it. And he excels at being one of the biggest douchebag pieces of shit to ever taint an interview with his moronic observations.

"Dude, are you OK? Do you want some water? Stay right there, I'll go get you some water."

The Amazing Talent:

Sorry, normal, rational, thinking humans. As much as most of the Internet is extremely vocal about how much they want to punch him in the face, you can't deny that the guy is really, really goddamn good at playing that instrument. And it's not all solos and panty dodging that make him one of the best in the world. Listen to this acoustic performance of one of his older songs called "Neon" and try to keep in mind that you're only hearing one guitar here:

That's him doing not only rhythm guitar, but percussion, by using his thumb and the base of his hand to slap out a beat ... as well as throwing in lead licks, all while maintaining his vocals. But that's still not what makes him one of the top in his field. No, what really sets him apart is when he shares a stage with other respected musicians. He knows when to step back, and when to just completely cut loose. He shows respect not only to the other performers, but to the music itself, by using the guitar as an early accent to the song, then as an orgasm at the end:

The solo starts at 8:50, and that "holy shit" look that Corinne shoots him at the end of that video says more than I could. Top the whole thing off with a standing ovation from none other than motherfucking Prince. Sorry, but no matter what negative things people have to say about Mayer, they'll never be able to say that Prince gave them a standing ovation.

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The Ridiculous Band:

If you've never heard "More Than Words" by Extreme, you're not human (or are too young to remember the '90s). For almost the entirety of 1991, you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing the video. It hit No. 1 on the U.S. charts and No. 2 in the U.K. It's one of the few songs from that era that can be heard on the radio today and not feel dated or out of place.

But that doesn't mean that it wasn't a big ol' wussy song sung by sappy, wussy wusses. Because it totally was.

The Amazing Talent:

If I say that "Nuno Bettencourt" is one of the best guitarists who ever lived, other guitarists will give me a "no shit" look, followed by "no shit" words. See, they know that you've actually heard him somewhere else: the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The song that Beethoven is playing is called "Play With Me" by Extreme, and it's not sped up. That solo is being played in real time by Nuno Bettencourt. If you're cynical and think, "Well, yeah, given enough takes in a studio, I'm sure he could play something like that and make it sound badass," it's perfectly understandable. If you really want to impress us, let's see you do it live. While yawning.

If you want to get straight to that particular solo, it starts at 6:57 ... but I implore you to not skip a single second of that video because it's not just that piece that makes this performance jaw-droppingly, pants-shittingly incredible. It's the fact that for that entire eight and a half minutes, it's just him, throwing every complex composition he had done up until that point into one unbroken string. Including one of the fastest solos ever put on a record, "Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee" (starts at 2:45), based off of the Rimsky-Korsakov classical piece, minus the "wounded" part. Theirs was evidently a perfectly healthy bee.

But the point is that back in the late '80s, musicians and fans alike would hear those songs on record and sarcastically comment, "Yeah, let's see him do that live." So he did. All of them. All back to back. Every concert.

John is on Twitter, where he practices his cursing.

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