10 classic guitarist stage moves

Rock guitarists and ludicrous onstage antics go hand in hand. Whether it’s Jimi Hendrix’s innovative approach to flossing, Justin Hawkins' tendency to mount the security, or Townshend’s armoury of acrobatics, here are 10 classic guitarist stage moves…

1. Pete Townshend – The Windmill

(Image credit: Richard E. Aaron / Getty)

The daddy of stage moves by the god of guitar histrionics, Uncle Pete’s windmill is irresistible, simply requiring you to ‘rev up’ your strumming arm like a cartoon boxer. The only danger is that ‘the windmill’ can become ‘the kebab’, as the Who man learned when he impaled his hand on his whammy bar at a gig in 1989.

2. Angus Young - The Spasm

Yes, he's does a duckwalk too but that's another player's move (more on that latter). Here we're talking about Angus dropping onto his back, writhing, spinning and flailing, all while still soloing, the AC/DC manchild’s most iconic stage move is seemingly based on a toddler being refused sweets. It was actually invented when he tripped on a cable at a ’70s club show. And get this: he’s not even pissed.

3. Tenacious D - The Powerslide

The powerslide was patented by Pete Townshend in Won’t Get Fooled Again, hijacked by Premiership strikers, but stolen back by Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Coasting on both knees works best with velvet trousers, a polished parquet floor and a groupie with tweezers to remove the splinters.

4. Jimmy Page - The Bow 

Nothing in The Rules says you have to use a plectrum and a highlight of early Zep shows was Pagey manipulating his Tele and then Les Paul with a violin bow. He also inspired the funniest moment of Spinal Tap, when Nigel Tufnel plays his Flying V with a violin…

5. Yngwie Malmsteen - The Whirligig

More Malmsteen

Spinning your guitar over your shoulder à la Yngwie is child’s play. First, check your strap locks. Then step over your lead and launch that bad boy with intent. Wait for the sickening crunch of headstock on cranium, gather up your little brother’s teeth in a handkerchief and phone for an ambulance. 

Check out these fails for evidence… 

6. Jimi Hendrix – The Showboater 

As if Little Wing wasn’t hard enough, Hendrix’s past in R&B show bands meant he hit London with a bag of tricks, including soloing between his legs, behind his back and using his teeth. Watching slackmouthed, Britrock’s class of ’66 shared the same thought: ‘Well, that’s us screwed, then…’

7. Eddie Van Halen - The Scissor kick 

(Image credit: Ebet Roberts / Getty)

Might as well jump… Van Halen honed their craft in the clubs of LA and their stage show was as high energy as their debut album. David Lee Roth was ahead in the leaping stakes but Eddie was quite the leaper back in the day too. You'll need some kind of drum riser to pull it off… or a special box, but that looks a bit sad. 

8. Hank Marvin - The Shadows Shuffle

Back in the ’50s, when ankles were pornography, The Shadows minted a stage move so mild that audience arousal was not an option. It saw Marvin, Bruce Welch and Jet Harris toting their guitars like Buckingham Palace guardsmen and shuffling foot-to- foot like virgins at a tea dance.

9. Chuck Berry - The Duckwalk

Jutting your arse and waddling might seem more like symptoms of constipation than a cultural flashpoint. Yet in the ’50s, the duckwalk established rock was one part music, one part exhibitionism. Even though it was a mere side show for the man who effectively pioneered rock 'n' roll guitar playing. 

10. Justin Hawkins - The Shoulder Ride

His hero Angus did it first, but The Darkness man brought it back. You will need: one strongbacked roadie who doesn’t mind your groin in the nape of his neck, one wireless system and a burgeoning messiah complex. Now make your stately progress around the arena, soloing like a maniac, while your adoring audience parts like the Red Sea before you.

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.