Back in the meedly-meedly-meedly ’80s when speed was the name of the game, a guitarist friend of mine said to me: “Nobody at a party will ask you how many notes you can play per second. They’ll ask you what songs you know. People want to hear songs.” In that spirit I offer you the real rock and roll hall of fame — ten songs that anyone can master, or at least play well enough to get by at a party:
1) Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry. The granddaddy of them all. This is the guitar equivalent of buying a hammer for your new toolbox.
2) Peter Gunn Theme, Henry Mancini. Not much to say, really — just cool and easy.
3) Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple. This really is the ABC’s for future rock gods.
4) Barracuda, Heart. Super cool, super easy riff. Bonus: Your intro to harmonics.
5) Blister in the Sun, Violent Femmes. Play the riff, watch people who weren’t even paying attention to you clap-clap/clap-clap, repeat until the beer runs out.
6) Iron Man, Black Sabbath. As ubiquitous as “Smoke on the Water.”
7) Louie Louie, The Kingsmen. Nobody knows the lyrics beyond the chorus, but they’ll sing along anyway.
8) Wild Thing, The Troggs. (If you know “Louie Louie” you know “Wild Thing.” Don’t tell anybody I told you. P.S. You’re on your way to “Nevermind,” too.)
9) Hold On Loosely, .38 Special. I don’t know if this one would still play at parties or not, but it’s awfully fun to play and will get you moving around the neck a bit more. Bonus points if you can get through the whole song without getting your hillbilly beard tangled in the strings.
10) Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley. If “Johnny B. Goode” is the backbone of rock guitar, the Bo Diddley beat is the monster’s pulse. Don’t want to learn that boring old ’50s stuff? Learn The Who’s “Magic Bus” instead, or “I Want Candy.”