The first Guitar Hero became a smash hit in the video games industry. It gave every human being the ability to do something that previously required selling your soul – the ability to play guitar like a badass without having to practice.
First released in 2005 with the revolutionary guitar controller, there have been 7 major releases across several platforms, spanning a decade.
Guitar Hero and its controller was based on a game called Guitar Freaks, which was released in 1999, but didn’t see much success outside of Japan.
Guitar Hero World Tour (aka Guitar Hero IV) was released in 2008 and was jam packed with 86 songs. It was the first guitar hero game to have a drum and a microphone; going on to receive very high scores from critics world wide.
Here are some of my favourite songs from the game:
My Personal 18 Favourite Songs
Michael Jackson – Beat It
A hit single from MJ’s sixth album, Thriller, Beat It is a favourite amongst guitar fans, for Eddie Van Halen’s legendary guitar solo.
It’s a great song, with an incredible music video to accompany it. In what feels like a throwback to the cult movie ‘The Warriors’ (released 4 years prior to Beat It), the video starts out with two gangs approaching each other for a bit of street fighting.
The two gangs approach each other during the first half of teh video, meeting and sizing other up at Van Halen’s guitar solo. The two leaders meet for a knife fight and the n fortunately, MJ steps in, breaks the fight up, and the gangs break out in a tightly choreographed dance.
Slightly ridiculous, incredibly awesome, it’s a great song and the video has a cool narrative to it.
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
A legendary song amongst guitar players, notably for Rhandy Rhoads killer riff at the start of the song (fun fact – on my album Impetuous Desire, the song Waves of Tomorrow has a harmony that is this riff played backwards).
Released in 1980 as the first single from the ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ album, Crazy Train is a refection on the Cold War that was happening in the world, where nuclear annihilation was a real concern for many years.
The solo has been called one of the greatest in history and the song repeatedly features on lists for greatest metal songs of all time.
It’s easy to tell why when you listen to it!
Steely Dan – Do It Again
You gotta have a bit of love for the ‘Dan. A more chilled out song with impeccable production, Do It Again has some really nice guitar fills, and is a beautifully put together song.
Recorded in August 1972, written by Donald Jay Fagen and Walter Becker; Do It Again seems to tell the tale of a man who succumbs to his vices and traps himself in a loop of despair.
A classic Steely Dan song, we get treated to a guitar solo and an organ solo. The rhythm players are impeccable and the parts are deceptively simple, and fit perfectly.
A great song – it’s pretty difficult not to enjoy it!
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
You’ve heard this one before, right?
Made famous in the movie Rocky III, the song was actually written for the movie, at the request of Sylvester Stallone. Stallone originally wanted to use “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, but was apparently denied use of the song, which led him to requesting Survivor write a new song for the movie.
The song has been a major worldwide success since its release.
It’s so popular, that it has often been used without permission. Several American politicians have been taken to court over using the song at rallies without obtaining permission. A politician using someone elses work without asking? Who’d have thunk it.
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way
I could listen to this song all day.
This song is one of those songs where the mood of the song and the lyrics don’t really match.
The instrumentation has a really upbeat feel, the backing vocals on the chorus give a happy uplifting sound. Yet the lyrics seem to tell a story of someone wanting to give everything to their partner, who appears uninterested and wants to just… walk away.
While the song is lyrically heartbreaking, musically you want to jump around and dance.
Buckingham wrote the lyrics after Stevie Nicks broke up with him. They’d known each other since they were sixteen, toured the world together, and then he stayed in the band writing songs for her.
It’s hard to imagine what that must have been like, for both of them.
Pat Benatar – Heartbreaker
I can’t remember when I first heard Pat Benatar. I think it was on a compilation CD of some sort, probably one of the Air Guitar compilations that came out a while ago now.
This song is incredibly well arranged with some very simple, but very fun guitar parts. Any aspiring songwriter could learn a lot from analysing how this song has been arranged.
The lead guitarist gets a pretty tasty solo at the song. A very enjoyable hit from times gone by with some fun guitar playing, this is a song that is here to stay!
Bob Seger – Hollywood Nights
Bob Seger is a great songwriting, one of the old real American Songwriters that would tell stories.
Telling the story of a small town boy who, needing a change, travelled West and ended up in California, meeting a beautiful Californian girl. He went head over heels for her… until the morning came when he woke up without her.
But hey, that’s just how Hollywood Nights go, right?
Here was Bob’s take on the background to the song:
“The chorus just came into my head; I was driving around in the Hollywood Hills, and I started singing ‘Hollywood nights/Hollywood hills/Above all the lights/Hollywood nights.’ I went back to my rented house, and there was a Time magazine with Cheryl Tiegs on the cover…I said ‘Let’s write a song about a guy from the Midwest who runs into someone like this and gets caught up in the whole bizarro thing.'”Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. “Bob Seger Tells The Stories Behind The Hits. (link)
Van Halen – Hot for Teacher
David Lee Roth takes the sleaze up to 10 with this Van Halen classic, Hot for Teacher.
The song opens up with the drums slowly fading in, before we get a classic Van Halen tapping riff (you can learn how to do tapping on guitar here).
We then see Van Halen in the classroom, as the teacher enters, ripping off her clothes to a skimpy blue swimsuit.
It’s easy to see why Van Halen chose to never graduate with a school like that.
The scene of Eddied walking down the desks playing his solo is iconic, and the video ends bursting into colour, with hilarious “other lives” of the main cast in the video.
The video was good enough to warrant a protest from “The Parents Music Resource Centre” and is a classic to this day.
Eagles – Hotel California
Turning the sex down a few notches, my next favourite on the list has got to be Hotel California. With an instantly recognisable chord progression at the start of the song, this tune has been a favourite of guitar players around the world for years.
Winning awards across the years for best guitar solo of all time, it’s easy to see why this song is on Guitar Hero World Tour.
Steeped in metaphor, the song has had many interpretations, but this quote from Don Felder gives some insight into how the lyrics were written:
Don Henley and Glenn wrote most of the words. All of us kind of drove into L.A. at night. Nobody was from California, and if you drive into L.A. at night… you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images that start running through your head of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have, and so it was kind of about that… what we started writing the song about.“Don Felder interview segment”. The Howard Stern Show. Sirius Satellite Radio. July 17, 2008. (link)
Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
We are starting to get into some pretty heavy hitting classics now. I previously wrote about why Livin’ On a Prayer is one of the top 5 Bon Jovi songs, so I’m not sure what else is left to say!
Ozzy Osbourne – Mr Crowley
Featuring an impressive introduction on an organ, which sounds enormous; Mr Crowley was released on Ozzy’s debut solo album in 1980. One of two singles, released alongside Crazy Train, it features the awesome guitar work of Rhandy Rhoads, whose solo has become known as one of the best heavy metal solos of all time.
Lyrically revolving around the life and legend of Alistair Crowley (delusional madman extraordinaire), the song seems to poke a bit of fun at him.
With tasty riffs and cool solos, this is a great song.
Blondie – One Way or Another
Taking a large shift in genre, we goto Blondie, One Way or Another.
Rather than heavy metal guitars and lyrics of occult masters, we change gears to New York pop with songs of a aspiring lover who… well she sounds like a bit of a stalker.
As it turns out, the song was inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who stalked her after their breakup:
“I was actually stalked by a nutjob so it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event. But I tried to inject a little bit of levity into it to make it more lighthearted. I think in a way that’s a normal kind of survival mechanism. You know, just shake it off, say one way or another, and get on with your life. Everyone can relate to that and I think that’s the beauty of it.”Debbie Harry (link)
Motorhead – Overkill
Opening with an iconic double bass kick in the drums, similar to Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher (Hot for Teacher was released 4 years after Overkill…), Overkill is the title track from Motorhead’s second album, “Overkill”.
A punk laden heavy metal style that some attribute to the early influences for thrash metal, Overkill is a classic Motorhead song. It showcases everything the band is about, which can only be summarised as “Not giving two fucks”.
Maybe not even one.
Oh, and partying hard.
Dream Theater – Pull Me Under
Coming from the incredible album, “Images and Words”, Pull Me Under is a masterpiece, blending musicianship and songwriting skills in a way that is rarely seen.
At 8 minutes and 13 seconds, this is not a ‘radio friendly’ song. But it’s not too long. Every second of the song has been finely crafted.
The way the instrumentation and themes develop, just in the intro itself, showcases Dream Theater’s mastery of musical form.
Lyrically based on Shakespear’s play, Hamlet, the song tells the story of Hamlet losing his sanity to his desire to avenge the death of his father.
This song is a masterpiece and received heavy rotation on MTV. It was probably their most commercially successful song, leading to it being referred to as their greatest hit, on the compilation album “Dream Theater’s Greatest Hit (And 21 Other Songs…)
Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man
Featuring some beautiful clean guitar solos that are very nicely harmonised, we have another drastic change in gears compared to the previous song!
Released in August 1973 on the band’s 4th studio album, the song was inspired by Hank Williams song, “Ramblin’ Man”, released in 1951.
A southern rock classic, Ramblin’ Man got a massive reaction from the public, ranking high on several charts and getting voted as one of the best country rock songs of all time.
The song is notable for the long guitar solos at the end, which I personally think is a great way to round off a song.
Joe Satriani – Satch Boogie
Joe Satriani was a massive influence on my guitar playing journey. The album Surfing With the Alien blew my mind when I first heard it, and it sparked my addiction to shredding.
Apparently this is the hardest song to play on Guitar Hero World Tour… and also pretty challenging in real life!
Surprisingly for a track like this, it reached 22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts in 1988.
Metallica – Trapped Under Ice
The 5th track from Metallica’s storming album, Ride the Lightning; ‘Trapped Under Ice’ tells the (somewhat unsurprising) story of a man trapped under ice.
Written from scratch at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, the band had to work fast, as they only had 29 days to finish writing songs and get them recorded before heading out for a European tour.
A thrash metal classic – enjoy!
Guitar Hero World Tour has 86 songs, which are all master recordings (apparently this was a first for Guitar Hero). Here are the songs:
- Nirvanna – About a Girl (unplugged)
- The Enemy – Aggro
- The Guess Who – American Woman
- Trust – Antisocial
- Read more about Trust in 3 awesome French heavy metal bands
- Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
- Muse – Assassin
- System of a Down – BYOB
- Wings – Band on the Run
- Michael Jackson – Beat It
- 311 – Beautiful Disaster
- Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
- Blink 182 – Dammit
- Steely Dan – Do It Again
- Radio Futura – Escuela de Calor
- Foo Fighters – Everlong
- Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
- Dinosaur Jr – Feel the Pain
- Modest Mouse – Float On
- Korn – Freak on a Leash
- Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way
- Anouk – Good God
- Beatsteaks – Hail to the Freaks
- Pat Benatar – Heartbreaker
- Filter – Hey Man, Nice Shot
- Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Hollywood Nights
- Van Halen – Hot for Teacher
- Eagles – Hotel California
- Steve Miller Band – The Joker
- MC5’s Wayne Kramer – Kick Out The Jams
- Thirty Seconds to Mars – The Kill
- The Mars Volta – L’Via L’Viaquez
- Los Lobos – La Bamba
- Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye
- Bon Jovi – Livin’ On a Prayer
- This is one of my top 5 Bon Jovi songs
- The Doors – Love Me Two Times
- The Cult – Love Removal Machine
- The Stone Roses – Love Spreads
- Jimmy Eat World – The Middle
- Paramore – Misery Business
- Tokio Hotel – Monsoon
- Jane’s Addition – Mountain Song
- Ozzy Osbourne – Mr Crowley
- The Answer – Never Too Late
- Beastie Boys Feat. Kerry King – No Sleep Till Brooklyn
- Negramaro – Nuvole E Lenzuola
- Interpol – Obstacle 1
- Willie Nelson – On The Road Again (Live)
- At The Drive In – One Armed Scissor
- REM – The One I Love
- Blondie – One Way or Another
- Lacuna Coil – Our Truth
- Motorhead – Overkill
- Tool – Parabola
- Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
- The Living End – Prisoner of Society
- Dream Theater – Pull Me Under
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze (Live)
- The Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man
- Rise Against – Re-Education (Through Labour)
- Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
- Lostprophets – Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)
- Sublime – Santeria
- Joe Satriani – Satch Boogie
- Tool – Schism
- Bullet for my Valentine – Scream Aim Fire
- Coldplay – Shiver
- Oasis – Some Might Say
- NOFX – Soul Doubt
- No Doubt – Spiderwebs
- Black Label Society – Stillborn
- Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent Guitar Duel
- The Smashing Pumpkins – Today
- Airbourne – Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
- Stuck in the Sound – Toy Boy
- Metallica – Trapped Under Ice
- Creedence Cleerwater Revival – Up Around the Bend
- Tool – Vicarious
- Kent – VinterNoll2
- Black rebel Motorcycle Club – Weapon of Choice
- Linkin Park – What I’ve Done
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience – The Wind Cries Mary
- HushPuppies – You’re Gonna Say Yeah!
- Zakk Wylde – Zakk Wylde Guitar Duel