A History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Give the talented Alex Chadwick 12 minutes, and he’ll give you A Brief History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, with each defining moment represented by a famous guitar riff. Our journey starts in 1953, with “Mr. Sandman” by Chet Atkins. Pretty soon, and quite seamlessly, we get to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, Queen and The Ramones, and eventually some more contemporary pairings — Green Day and White Stripes. The video is sponsored by the Chicago Music Exchange, a store specializing in vintage gear, like the $32,995 1958 Fender Strat played in the clip. A full list of riffs appears below the jump.

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1 Mr. Sandman – Chet Atkins
2 Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
3 Words of Love – Buddy Holly
4 Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry
5 Rumble – Link Wray
6 Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran
7 Pipeline – The Chantays
8 Miserlou – Dick Dale
9 Wipeout – Surfaris
10 Daytripper – The Beatles
11 Can’t Explain – The Who
12 Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
13 Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
14 Black Magic Woman – Santana
15 Helter Skelter – The Beatles
16 Oh Well – Fleetwood Mac
17 Crossroads – Cream
18 Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin
19 Paranoid – Black Sabbath
20 Fortunate Sun – Creedence Clearwater Revival
21 Funk 49 – James Gang
22 Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
23 Bitch – Rolling Stones
24 Layla – Derek and the Dominos
25 School’s Out – Alice Cooper
26 Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
27 Money – Pink Floyd
28 Jessica – Allman Brothers
29 La Grange – ZZ Top
30 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
31 Scarlet Begonias – Grateful Dead
32 Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
33 Walk This Way – Aerosmith
34 Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
35 Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
36 Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy
37 Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
38 Carry on My Wayward Son – Kansas
39 Blitzkreig Bop – The Ramones
40 Barracuda – Heart
41 Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
42 Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
43 Message in a Bottle – The Police
44 Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) – Neil Young
45 Back in Black – AC/DC
46 Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
47 Spirit of Radio – Rush
48 Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan
49 Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes
50 Holy Diver – Dio
51 Beat It – Michael Jackson
52 Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
53 What Difference Does It Make – The Smiths
54 Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen
55 Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
56 You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
57 The One I Love – REM
58 Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
59 Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
60 Sweet Child ‘O Mine – Guns N’ Roses
61 Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crue
62 Cult of Personality -Living Colour
63 Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crue
64 Running Down a Dream – Tom Petty
65 Pictures of Matchstick Men – Camper Van Beethoven
66 Thunderstruck – AC/DC
67 Twice as Hard – Black Crowes
68 Cliffs of Dover – Eric Johnson
69 Enter Sandman – Metallica
70 Man in the Box – Alice in Chains
71 Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
72 Give it Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
73 Even Flow – Pearl Jam
74 Outshined – Soundgarden
75 Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
76 Sex Type Thing – Stone Temple Pilots
77 Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
78 Welcome to Paradise – Green Day
79 Possum Kingdom – Toadies
80 Say it Ain’t So – Weezer
81 Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
82 Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
83 Sex and Candy – Marcy Playground
84 Smooth – Santana
85 Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers
86 Short Skirt, Long Jacket – Cake
87 Turn a Square – The Shins
88 Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
89 Hysteria – Muse
90 I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness
91 Blood and Thunder – Mastadon
92 Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
93 Reptilia – The Strokes
94 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
95 Float On – Modest Mouse
96 Blue Orchid – White Stripes
97 Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
98 Steady As She Goes – The Raconteurs
99 I Got Mine – Black Keys
100 Cruel – St. Vincent

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Comments (38)
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  • Andrew says:

    A technical masterpiece. Now I wonder if this guy has any of his own songs.

  • TJ says:

    “Pictures of Matchstick Men” was by the Status Quo (1967).

  • Calvert says:

    That’s fantastic. He did a History of Rock ‘n’ Roll while completely ignoring one of rock’s major genres (Progressive Rock). Did Jann Wenner sponsor this?

  • six-string-sling says:

    Pretty Woman? Aqualung? Thick as a Brick? :-(

  • Dario says:

    Where is Robert Johnson??!

  • Kostas says:

    So,in a video titled ”A History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs” there is no room for Rory Gallagher,while there is plenty for Muse and White Stripes!Ooooookkkkaaayy!

  • phb256 says:

    People always complain about omissions in lists like these, so I hate to be part of the problem. But seriously, a history of rock and roll without Bo Diddley is like a history of the US without Thomas Jefferson.

  • Im Inurband says:

    No Kinks = no good. Great idea but In Living Color and no Dave Davies? That alone is enough to flame this wanker.

  • The Reaper says:

    Black Magic Woman is a Peter Green song. Santana covered it.

  • tom cochrun says:

    Extraordinary exercise. Chadwick is brilliant. I too can quibble with what was and was not included, but that does not diminish the quality of the player!!

  • Mike Ramsey says:

    Sort of interesting and entertaining, but the exclusions are a lot more than quibbling. No Jeff Beck, Lou Reed, James Burton, Johnny Thunders, Bobby Fuller, Robert Fripp or Steve Howe; but we get Marcy Playground, the Toadies and 2 RHCP riffs. Nugent, but no Stooges, MC5, or Motown. 2 Motley Crue and 2 Van Halen riffs each, but no Steve Cropper or Dave Davies? Guitar Jamboree by Chris Spedding is dated, but a interesting listen.

  • Rafael says:

    It’s “**A** history of rock ‘n’ roll in 100 rifs”, not **THE** history.

    Stop complaining about, your fools.

  • Wouter says:

    I liked the video so I made a playlist of these songs on Spotify.

    Some of the songs were not available by the original artists so I chose a version by someone else. (Feel free to make your own list if you don’t like this one)

  • Alby says:

    Yes, lots of omissions, and always debatable, but seriously: only one female artist? In 100?! No Joan Jett? Donita Sparks? Elizabeth Cotton? Hello? Not asking for 50% or even 33 and a third. C’mon, 10%, at least.

    And yes, I know Fleetwood Mac and the White Stripes have women in them, but this is a list of riffs. Jeez.

  • Shana says:

    Wow – thank you! That was a gift :-)

  • Johnny Fever says:

    Fortunate Son, not Sun.

  • Kostas says:

    Even if it’s ‘A’ and not ‘THE’ you can’t just ignore some of the guitaristic mastepieces of our age!And we are not fools,or our preferences are foolish my friend,a fool is the one without an opinion!

  • thisorangesky says:

    Yes, this list has a lot of omissions. Is that really surprising though, considering the limiting ‘100’ figure put on the riffs to be included? Plus this video isn’t just intended as a means of reeling off ‘good guitarists’, it’s meant to represent a history of R’n’R by selecting samples of particularly groundbreaking moments and era’s, so many will be missing, but their time in rock history, in my opinion, is displayed, just represented by someone else! A good video, very clever.

  • Rafael says:

    It’s impossible to include everyone. Always will have that one saying “Oh, what a crappy video, where’s ‘my favorite guitarrists’?”


  • Beatriz Sasse says:

    Amazing! Congrats!

  • RG says:

    This is awesome! I love it. Omissions or not it is still brilliant.

  • B May says:

    Fantastic guitar rendition of 100 Rock and Roll songs through history.

  • B May says:

    Really cool!

  • Sarah Silverman says:

    Gee, not a simple female riff…pretenders? Runaways Lita Ford?

  • perry says:

    seriously is this a joke? it says rock n roll, since when is michael jackson and chet atkins rock? and hello where’s the king? remember he wasnt the king of rock n roll for nothing, horrible sorry.

  • mrrockandroll says:

    I thought that was pretty fucking cool, dude. I’ve been playing for 35+ years and am also into a pretty wide variety of stuff and I though that was pretty impressive. I’m guessing you were using a pre-programmed multi-effects unit of some sort? Also: bonus points for pulling out that slide for the Crowes and Jack songs. Very cool stuff.
    And to all they naysayers, negative comments and morons yelling out their favorite omissions: Let’s see you pull off YOU’RE favorite hundred. What, is the guy suppose to fit in every single cool lick ever? Idiots.

  • Karl says:

    I’ve been around so long I couldn’t ID a good many of the later riffs. Impressive although you lost me at some point around #80. Don”t let these guys get you down. If it were called something other than “A history of R and R in 100 riffs”, they’d still bitch. Awesome talent!

  • Manuel Camblor says:

    No Clash? Wow. That is an insult.

  • 1950 says:

    Nice pickin’ but too many irrelevant riffs from the post 1970s era when rock and roll was officially dead. And without Louie Louie and Hand Jive or anything by Bo Diddly, this list is woefully incomplete.

  • ledimiche says:

    where is Bruce???? it’s rock’n roll !!

  • Brian says:

    No Eagles, No Journey, No Boston?

    Still pretty good!

  • Mike says:

    Wow – what talent! And what a remarkable trip. Thank you.

  • Charles says:

    A little choppy and tense at times…

  • Charles says:

    No Prince? Some of the tunes for a band were not their best work either. The Yes cut dates from when most of its faithful stopped listening, although it may have been high on the charts.

  • Robyn says:

    The Camper van Beethoven version of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” uses a violin riff instead of a guitar riff.

  • Lawrence Monteiro says:

    A memorable trip down memory lane. Great job. Thanks a ton

  • MimiB says:

    I’m part of the very first Rock and Roll generation… I grew up with fledgling rock, listening to it on the radio, then buying 45’s to play on my tinny record player. I stil listen though I’m an actual senior citizen now. Yeah, I’ll quibble over some of the choices here, but it’s meant, in my opinion, to be favorite iconic guitar riffs played by the talented Alex, probably his favs and what would fit into the time and palying structure alloted. It’s an amazing tour de force.

    Who would I have liked to be included? Well, Prince belongs there, but at least he had Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of the greatest ever, who I saw in person 4 times. To the person who said there were no females… well, a token or two, didn’t I hear Heart? Though the Pretenders should be there. No Jeff Beck? No

    I admit I’m unfamiliar with some of the last riffs. I’ve been out of it a few years, I guess. Still, I enjoyed this trip.

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