These Notable Guitar Riffs Turn 50 This Year

Looking back at some of the most memorable guitar moments from 1971 that still impact music of today.

Some pretty killer guitar riffs graced the airwaves in 1971. 50 years later, those same riffs are still inspiring listeners and musicians alike.

Check out the riffs that three generations of music fans haven’t been able to get out of their heads.

Click the audio player above to hear the notable guitar riffs of 1971


Helmed by Rod Steward, Faces released two albums in 1971. The one minute long opening of the song “Stay with Me” released from the album “A Nod Is as Good as a Wink… to a Blind Horse” featured the guitar riff the band would be remembered by to this day.

Alice Cooper

Detroit’s very own Alice Cooper, whose career has been active for over 50 years, released the album Killer in 1971. The classic riff on “Love it To Death” also featured a harmonica and a second guitar. 


Welsh singer and songwriter Pete Hamm was the lead vocalist of the rock band, Badfinger. Three of his songs continue to pop up all over the place still to this day. “Breaking Bad” featured one of his most notable guitar riffs. Hamm passed away in 1975, but the mark he left on music is still evident.


Marc Bolan’s memorable riff on “Bang a Gong (Get it On)” seems to be as prevelent today as it was in 1971.

The Who

The Who’s seminal 1971 album Who’s Next featured riffs a plenty from all four band members, but they all teamed up for the iconic riff on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull may be known for his flute playing, but most people identify his band for the heavy-hitting riff that opens “Aqualung.”

Rolling Stones

Sticky Fingers from the Rolling Stones was a guitar riff extravaganza. 

Led Zepplin

Led Zepplin IV came out in November 1971. Jimmy Page’s multifaceted guitar riffs and continues to inspire generations of great guitarists and likely will for a long time to come.

Fun fact: Another riff — The WRIF, Detroit’s Rock station — also celebrates its 50th birthday this yea, having adopted its call letters on Valentine’s Day 1971. 

Web story written by Haleemah Aqel.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »