The GuitarHead office staff aren’t known for being the most romantic souls in the world, but even we can’t ignore Valentine's day - that annual expression of love and romance between couples (or strangers) that card-sellers, florists, restaurateurs, and jewellers await with glee.
Most of our guitar-toting idols are fortunately much better than us when it comes to expressing their passion through fantastic music, with some of the world’s greatest recorded love songs fuelled by the magic of the six-string. So here’s our list of 14 essential tracks for the 14th February...
Can’t Help Falling In Love With You - Elvis Presley
We HAD to start our list with the King of Rock and Roll, who recorded possibly his most famous ballad specifically for the Blue Hawaii film soundtrack in 1961. You can hear a considerable cocktail of talent supporting Elvis's legendary vocals on this masterpiece, including the amazing Hank Garland (who we've previously lauded in our 9 Guitarists You’ve Listened To But Never Heard Of article) and the phenomenal Scotty Moore (the man who first inspired Keith Richards to pick up a guitar...)
You Never Can Tell - Chuck Berry
Elvis may have been the King, but there were many other important members of the royal family that were responsible for creating rock'n'roll as we know it. And one frequently cited as an enormous influence by just about EVERY guitarist of note ever since is Chuck Berry, the duck-walking, ES335-playing, St Louis-born musical pioneer that brought us this magnificent track. You Never Can Tell is simply a beautiful poem about young love and marriage, and frankly probably tops this particular list of tunes when it comes to good, simple, old-fashioned romance.
Love Will Keep Us Alive - Eagles
Proving to the world that you can indeed reheat a soufflé, the freshly-reformed Eagles released their 'Hell Freezes Over' live album in 1994, delighting fans who had mourned the bands break-up 14 years previously. The only single from the album to hit the US Adult Contemporary #1 spot was Love Will Keep Us Alive, a gentle acoustic country rock classic that also marks the last appearance of lead guitarist Don Felder on one of the bands singles.
I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing - Aerosmith
Aerosmith are undoubted masters when it comes to the art of the power ballad, having produced countless high-volume love songs since their 1970 formation. This slow-paced, melodramatic masterpiece was actually penned by American song writing legend Diane Warren - apparently inspired by watching an interview featuring James Brolin commenting on his love for Barbra Streisand - and then subsequently recorded for the Armageddon movie soundtrack. It remains the bands biggest worldwide hit to date, along with ranking as one of the most popular slow dance songs at weddings and proms globally!
Baby Can I Hold You - Tracy Chapman
Want a good way to measure how good a love song is? How about "was it ever covered by a boyband?" This box was well and truly ticked when Boyzone released their 1997 single version (as an A-side incidentally), and then as a solo track by Boyzone frontman Ronan Keating eight years later, on both occasions to great success. Although in our opinion, neither version comes close to Tracy Chapman's gorgeous original acoustic-powered release of 1988 - the third single from her glorious self-titled debut album, and one of the most romantic ballads we can think of that emerged from the '80s.
Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
It's #37 on Guitar World’s "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" list.
It's #1 of Total Guitar’s "best riffs of all time" list.
It's one of Rolling Stone's "40 Greatest Songs That Changed the World".
It was the only #1 single from Guns'n'Roses debut album, and originally started life as a guitar exercise for Slash.
Sometimes you need reminding that this really IS a love song - and undoubtedly one of the greatest romantic hard rock recordings ever made.
Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
One evening in 1979, Eric Clapton was waiting for his wife Patty Boyd to get ready for a party thrown by Paul McCartney. Thus was inspired possibly one of the greatest and most intimately mellow ballads ever written by a besotted husband, who also managed to lay down that stunningly simple riff that nearly steals the limelight from the beautiful lyrics.
Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
Hard to believe that a song from the band by which ALL heavy metal is judged could make it onto this list, but it turns out that Metallica do have a romantic side. This is one of the few tracks ever recorded by the band that doesn't feature Kirk Hammett, with James Hetfield covering all guitar parts in the studio. He also came up with that glorious picked open E-minor chord, allegedly during a phone call to his girlfriend whilst on tour in 1990. Hence that wonderful and heartfelt lyric, "So close, no matter how far..."
Foxy Lady - Jimi Hendrix
We're gonna sick our necks out here, and declare THIS tune the simplest yet most explosive musical expression of love ever written. The greatest and most important rock guitarist of all time (check our Why was Jimi Hendrix so important article) was naturally responsible for many other similarly epic romantic songs during his all-too-brief career. But check out that magnificent scene from Waynes World to see how well this three-minute masterpiece works as THE perfect pick-up line!
More Than Words - Extreme
We've already discussed the least extreme song that Extreme ever produced in our 10 Songs Of The ‘90s Every Guitarist Must Know article, but (for all the same reasons as before) feel it essential to include this iconic acoustic masterpiece in a valentines article. A masterclass in what truly great artists can achieve with just two voices and one guitar, More Than Words remains the bands biggest ever hit, and a beautiful reminder of how there's other ways to say "I love you"...
Let Love Rule - Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz's debut single was actually the title track from his 1989 debut album Let Love Rule, kick-starting the absolutely phenomenal career of this NY-born troubadour. Never mind his incredible songwriting and guitar skills (who can forget his epic collaboration with Slash on Mama Said), he's also holds the record for most consecutive Grammy wins for 'best male rock vocal performance', and is also a dab hand at both production and acting! And he's naturally turned out a mountain of other tunes just as romantic as this one...
Fell In Love With a Girl - White Stripes
Who says punk/garage rock lacks romance?!? This sub-two-minute scorcher from one of the USA's most legendary alternative rock tag-teams packs a mountain of impassioned lyrics over some seriously brash guitar and drumming, at nearly 200 beats per minute. And if it's a more laid-back vibe you seek then we'd recommend checking out Joss Stone's gorgeous low-key soul cover Fell In Love With A Boy, which distils the essence of this song into one seriously sexy groove, underpinned by The Roots guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas.
Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
Some rock songs evoke images of love and romance, but this one blatantly and unashamedly sounds like sex. Everything from the lyrics ("You've got yearnin' and I got burnin'"), to that growling low-rooted blues riff, and particularly to Robert Plants orgasmic moaning during the one-and-a-half minutes of total free-form musical confusion in the middle of the track, all combine to make this lustful 1969 classic one of Zep's greatest releases ever!
Kiss - Prince
A slightly less in-your-face ode to good, honest lust than Whole Lotta Love - but only just! And even if you ignore those fantastically flirty lyrics ("I want to be your fantasy - maybe you could be mine"), the slinky clean funk chords hammered out throughout this 1986 classic are just spine-tinglingly sexy. This is to love songs what Prince himself was to fashion - unashamedly un-subtle, and all the better for it!
Wrapping It Up
It’s a tribute to the sheer diversity of music produced by guitar bands that we’ve only included three power ballads in this list (and yes, we were expecting more as well), but proof positive that us axe-wielding rockers can do romance just as well as Elton John, Aretha Franklin or the Bee Gees. So Happy Valentines Day to you all!