10 super niche rock’n’roll riffs ever

Rock’n’roll has always been fueled by unforgettable riffs, the dirtier and grittier, the better. Dirty Honey, the LA rock sensation, has mastered the art of crafting filthy riffs, as evident in their self-titled debut album released in 2021. Now, as they gear up for the release of their second album, “Can’t Find The Brakes,” guitarist John Notto and bassist Justin Smolian take us on a ride through the ten filthiest riffs they’ve ever come across. Brace yourselves, it might get messy!

1. Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)

John Notto: This riff knocked me off my eight-year-old feet the first time I heard it. Led Zeppelin II had many legendary riffs, but there was something extra special about “Heartbreaker.” The bold, almost clean but incredibly heavy tone, paired with the cool and collected groove, created a timeless vibe that still captivates listeners to this day.

2. AC/DC – Back in Black (Back In Black, 1980)

John: “Back in Black” left a lasting mark on my childhood. The riff is heavy yet seductive, not demanding chaos but still carrying that unmistakable AC/DC flair. The mid-tempo backbeat provides the cool factor, and the riff itself is a masterpiece of effective simplicity, with Angus and Malcolm’s interplay elevating it to a whole new level of timeless style.

3. Van Halen – Drop Dead Legs (1984, 1984)

John: Perhaps not a chart-topping hit, but “Drop Dead Legs” oozes sexiness and coolness. The Strat riff feels like a groovy nod to Hendrix, with its nearly clean guitar tone and irresistible swagger. Fun to learn and with a catchy oddness to it, this riff is all about the pleasure of music.

4. Guns N’ Roses – Mr Brownstone (Appetite For Destruction, 1987)

John: Funky, groovy, and full of attitude, “Mr. Brownstone” showcases Guns N’ Roses’ diverse musical influences. It may not be simple, but the swing rhythm and bluesy undertones make it a head-bobbing groover that’s impossible to resist. And that iconic intro sets the stage for the coolness to come.

5. Rage Against the Machine – Killing In the Name (Rage Against The Machine, 1992)

John: The ’90s saw many incredible riffs, but “Killing In the Name” stands out as one of the best. It’s heavy, bluesy, and incredibly catchy without compromising its anti-authority sentiment. Rage Against the Machine masterfully made each part of the song as memorable as the next, defining a new style that fused heavy riffs with a hip-hop edge.

6. The Rolling Stones – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (Sticky Fingers, 1971)

Justin Smolian: “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” boasts the filthiest riff ever written. The Stones exude raw swagger, and Keith’s ever-changing intro riff adds an element of unpredictability. It’s that “shooting from the hip” feel that makes this riff truly exceptional.

7. Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)

Justin: “Heartbreaker” was one of my earliest Zeppelin riff discoveries. The way they shift the riff into different keys blew my mind. John Paul Jones’ distorted bass tone, achieved by sending his signal through a Leslie speaker, remains a significant influence for me.

8. Soundgarden – Outshined (Badmotorfinger, 1991)

Justin: Chris Cornell’s genius transcended bands and genres. “Outshined” introduced me to drop D tuning, and the combination of the sludgy half-time feel with Cornell’s powerful vocals is simply electrifying.

9. Eagles – Those Shoes (The Long Run, 1979)

Justin: The harmonized talk box guitars on “Those Shoes” are mind-blowing. The slow-hand guitar riffs blend seamlessly with the simple yet killer bass rhythm, making this song a standout in the Eagles’ impressive catalogue.

10. The Beatles – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Beatles, 1968)

Justin: The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” includes a riff, or rather a solo, that tugs at the soul with its wide, slow, and bending notes. The buzzy tone adds a sense of hopeless longing that leaves a lasting impression.

There you have it, ten super niche rock’n’roll riffs that define the essence of coolness, attitude, and timeless musical brilliance. These filthy riffs continue to inspire generations of musicians and remind us why rock’n’roll will always hold a special place in our hearts.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
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