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"
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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"
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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.