Godspeed You! Black Emperor, "Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven..." (2000)
The first movement of this Montreal collective's "Storm" triptych mixes austere chamber music with explosive guitar churn ï¿½ï¿½" it's emotionally gut-wrenching without uttering a word.
Rush, "YYZ" (1981)
With Moving Pictures, Geddy Lee and Co. proved they were mightily virtuosic, historically nerdy (rendering the letters "Y-Y-Z" in Morse Code via various musical arrangements), and capable of damn catchy melodies. Then, of course, there's the drum solo.
Mahavishnu Orchestra, "You Know, You Know" (1971)
Guitarist John McLaughlin is joined by drummer Billy Cobham and keyboardist Jan Hammer for a mind-blowing jazz-rock fusion blast-off on 1971's The Inner Mounting Flame, unleashing prog touchstone "You Know, You Know," which was later sampled by Massive Attack, Mos Def, and countless others.
The Ventures, "Walk, Don't Run" (1960)
A remake of jazz guitarist Johnny Smith's 1955 original, the Ventures' rendition became the Rosetta Stone of surf rock. (GOOO TACOMA!!)
Link Wray, "Rumble" (1958)
Wray's distorted guitar on his breakthrough foregrounded power chords ï¿½ï¿½" and feedback, paving the way for the Who, punk, and the White Stripes. It was also the only instrumental single ever banned from radio, due to its ominous tone and the title's use as a slang term for "gang fight."
Frank Zappa, "Peaches En Regalia" (1969)
On this standout track ï¿½ï¿½" from the mostly instrumental, post-Mothers of Invention albumHot Rats, Zappa delivers a melodic, innovative exercise in avant-jazz and fusion ï¿½ï¿½", inspiring young prog rockers, college-radio DJs, and arty stoners alike.
Funkadelic, "Maggot Brain" (1971)
On the 10-minute opener of this motor-booty crew's album of the same name, Eddie Hazel delivers one of the most emotionally devastating guitar solos of all time. How'd he do it? According to legend, bandleader George Clinton told Hazel prior to recording to play as if he had just been informed that his mother had died ï¿½ï¿½" but then learned that it wasn't true.
Yngwie Malmsteen, "Icarus Dream Suite Opus 4" (1984)
On this majestic track from his debut album, the onomatopoeically-named Swede defines the art of heavy guitar shredding, delivering classically-inspired songwriting with lightning-fingered speed.
Booker T. & the MG's, "Green Onions" (1962)
They served as the airtight house band for Stax Records, backing artists from Otis Redding to Wilson Pickett. But the MG's hit was their indelible signature, tossing off a blissful three minutes of Booker T. Jones' driving Hammond organ punctuated by guitarist Steve Cropper's Memphis-greasy Telecaster.
Edgar Winter, "Frankenstein" (1973)
Texas multi-instrumentalist Winter hit the top of Billboard's Hot 100 with this keytar-featuring single, one of the few instrumental rock songs to ever score that honor.
Van Halen, "Eruption" (1978)
Eddie Van Halen's epic solo from the group's 1978 debut features almost two solid minutes of dizzying shredding; it popularized the "tapping" style used on virtually every metal album throughout the 1980s.
Jeff Beck, "Beck's Bolero" (1967)
The British axe-man takes Ravel's "Bolero" as the inspiration for a three-minute psych blast, recorded in the late-'60s with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Keith Moon, and piano ace Nicky Hopkins.
Incredible Bongo Band, "Apache" (1972)
This funky 1972 oddity was rescued from the dollar bins by DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, who spotlighted the song's fabulously dramatic percussive breakdown ("Apache" later became one of the most-sampled pieces of music ever). No wonder it's been dubbed hip-hop's national anthem.