Editors' Notes Pete Townshend smashed them. Jimi Hendrix set them on fire. B.B. King nearly died trying to rescue one from a burning building. And Keith Richards apparently slept with them—which, as he put it, is how he managed to record the riff to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in the middle of the night without quite waking up. A great rock guitarist isn’t necessarily a virtuoso, but someone who shifts your understanding of what the instrument can do. So while this playlist pays deference to the fast (Eddie Van Halen), the smooth (Eric Clapton), and the powerful (Jimmy Page), it also makes room for primitives like The Stooges and Nirvana, Dave Davies of The Kinks, and Chuck Berry—players who weren’t flashy, but whose approach introduced sounds nobody had quite heard before. In six strings and a hundred songs, here’s what rock music sounds like.

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