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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