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"Guitar solos are funny things," says Def Leppard axman Phil Collen. "To so many people who pick up the instrument, solos are all they can think about. They dream about the spotlight hitting them and that moment they can go, 'Hey everybody, look at me!' Personally, I've never really thought that way.
Coming from a man who's logged in thousands of such 'Look at me!' moments on stages across the globe, Collen's comments might at first seem a tad hypocritical. But the mega-platinum shred star insists that the mark of a great solo - and, for that matter, a great guitarist - is when "that little bit of time you're given to shine becomes a true part of the song. The second you start to overwhelm what's going on around you, that's when you have to ask yourself, 'Who am I really serving here?'
Collen credits producer Mutt Lange, with whom he worked during much of the 1980s, for instilling the philosophy that music is a team sport, with no room for divas. “Mutt really drove home the point that every part of a song, especially the solo, has to have groove, feel and rhythm. If a solo gets too wacky and complicated, then everything is lost.
“That said, you can still rip and burn and play your ass off,” he says with a laugh. “In fact, that’s what a guitarist is supposed to do. You just have to do it with purpose in mind, and that purpose should always be the song, the band, the creative whole.”
On the following pages, Collen runs down his favourite solos of all time, rippers and burners all. “Even something like Eruption, which I guess you could say is one continuous solo, it’s not this audacious attention-grab - not in my book, at least. It’s a beautiful composition, with feel and spirit and joy.”