Slash picks the two British masters of the blues

Meta Description: Discover how British guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page influenced Slash’s iconic guitar style. Learn about the British roots behind Guns N’ Roses’ lead guitarist’s sound.

How British Guitarists Influenced Slash’s Iconic Sound

On the surface, Slash is one of the definitive American guitarists. He powered Guns N’ Roses to superstardom with his blend of grooving, blues-oriented riffs and bombastic bursts of hair metal noise, elements that are inextricable from the band’s creative identity. This unique fusion helped cement Guns N’ Roses as one of the ultimate acts of the late 1980s, a period when they took the baton from Mötley Crüe and Van Halen, forging a new all-American sound in the pre-grunge era.

With tracks such as ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine,’ ‘Civil War,’ and even their cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,’ it didn’t take long for Slash, Axl Rose, and the rest of Guns N’ Roses to carve out a space for themselves in the annals of American rock, despite their deeply polarizing nature. In an age of rampant commercialism, when sex, drugs, and leather jackets were still coveted, there was no outfit better suited to take MTV by storm.

Slash’s British Influences: Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page

While the sound of Slash’s Gibson Les Paul solidifies his status as one of the ultimate American guitarists, the model being emblematic of rock’s robust essence, ironically, he was deeply influenced by British guitarists known for their dynamic styles, despite their deference to the blues, America’s most significant musical export. This connection is fitting, as Slash was born in London and raised in a suburb of Stoke-on-Trent before his parents relocated to Los Angeles, eventually leading to his dual citizenship.

Although Slash is indebted to several notable fretboard maestros, two British icons—Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page—take his top spot. He’s praised the pair of friends and former Yardbirds bandmates on numerous occasions. When speaking to Esquire in 2014, he provided one of his most enlightening takes. He discussed how their mastery and repackaging of the blues sound resonated with him when conceiving his own distinctive lead guitar sound.

He said: “There’s a bunch of British guitar players I grew up listening to who were really the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll lead guitar in the seventies. Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, they’re just real identifiable personalities on guitar.”

The Impact of Led Zeppelin on Slash’s Sound

Slash explained that he was just seven years old when he first heard Led Zeppelin. Page’s fire on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ opened his eyes to the possibilities offered by the world of the guitar, with the expansive twist on the blues particularly impactful. Heavily implying how his own sound emerged, he explained that it was the most sleazy and primal thing his young ears had ever heard.

That was Slash’s introduction to hedonism, too. He didn’t know it at the time, but years later, he would be tearing it up on the fretboard of a Gibson Les Paul just like the Led Zeppelin man and causing equal amounts of chaos outside of his musical exploration. Just like Page, they would form his story’s two most notable parts.

Jeff Beck’s Influence on Slash

While Slash’s discussion of Beck was much shorter, his point was equally emphatic. He explained: “Jeff Beck to me is hands-down probably the best lead guitar of all time.”

Despite the late Londoner being known for his work on a Fender Stratocaster, which became so increasingly jazzy over the years to the point that Slash would stop listening, the expressive, blues-laced style of his early efforts fed into many of the Guns N’ Roses man’s best work. This includes the ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ solo and the hard-rock crunch of ‘You Could Be Mine’.

It’s safe to say that without both British blues masters, Slash, as we know him, might not have risen so meteorically, and America would lack one of its most coveted players.

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