"I can't wait to tell Stone that I've almost figured his riff out" – Mike McCready admits to Chris Shiflett he doesn't know how to play the famous guitar intro to Pearl Jam's Alive

Lead guitarist Mike McCready of Pearl Jam performs live on stage at Moody Center on September 19, 2023 in Austin, Texas
(Image credit: Jim Bennett/Getty Images)

Chris Shiftlett's Shred With Shifty podcast has already featured its fair share of guitar heroes – Alex Lifeson, Richie Sambora and even a gear revelation from Weezer's Rivers Cuomo. But now it's time for one of the all-time greatest guitar solos with Pearl Jam's Alive. Fortunately, Mike McCready is on hand with his '60 Strat (or is it his new signature model?) to talk Shiflett through it, but before he does the Foo Fighters guitarist wants him to demonstrate the famous riff that starts Alive first. There's just one problem…

McCready doesn't know how to play it. 

"Stone [Gossard] does that so I don't know how to do it," he responds. He then attempts to play it on the spot to prove it, before finding something close. "That's the first time I've ever played it," he reveals. 

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Before we get judgemental, McCready has never had to learn it because that's not his part – he comes in with Hendrixy A to Asus4 chords with the rhythm section. Even Shiflett admits that he "feels like he's played it wrong it wrong every time he's tried to play it." To be fair, I have a similar feeling with it too. 

Nevertheless, Shiflett ends up demonstrating the riff to Alive for Pearl Jam's guitarist. A surreal moment. "I can't wait to tell Stone I've almost figured his riff out on your podcast," laughs McCready. But when it comes to the solo there's no messing around.

"I don't do the solo the same live all the time," McCready notes. But he does a grand job of teaching Shiflett and the rest of us the ket phrases from an iconic guitar break, that nods to McCready's own childhood guitar hero, Ace Frehley

Check out the full video above. 

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.