Rock and roll is rife with distinctive guitar intros, from the galloping riffs that kick off Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” to the doom-and-gloom figure that heralds Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” Guitar outros get less attention, but there’s something to be said for endowing a great song with a memorable send-off. Below are 10 songs fitted with outros that, in effect, slap a firm exclamation point on the music that went before.
“Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page)
Jimmy Page once said he used “an army” of Les Pauls to craft this lead track from Led Zeppelin’s classic fourth album. “We put my Les Paul through a direct box, and from there into a mic channel,” he told Guitar World, in 1993. “We used the mic amp of the mixing board to get distortion. Then we ran it through two … compressors in series. Then each line was triple-tracked.” Years later, when he revisited the original tapes, Page noted that the guitars sounded “almost like an analog synthesizer.”
“Layla” (Derek and the Dominos/Eric Clapton/Duane Allman)
Recorded three weeks after the main track was put down, this outro paired Duane Allman’s poignant slide work with Eric Clapton’s acoustic guitar, with drummer Jim Gordon’s piano composition providing the foundation. “The song and the whole album are definitely equal parts Eric and Duane,” producer Tom Dowd told Guitar World. “There had to be some sort of telepathy going on, because I’ve never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level.”
“Hotel California” (Eagles/Joe Walsh/Don Felder)
Don Felder used a 1959 Les Paul Standard to go toe-to-toe with Joe Walsh on the coda for this dual-guitar classic. Walsh talked about the outro in a 2012 interview with Gibson.com. “We decided that, at the end of the song, we would have a go at one another,” he said. “Felder and I pushed each other. It was competitive. We did that on purpose, because it created tension, that effort to be the tougher guy.” Walsh added, “Don and I might have spent two days, three hours at a time, building up the guitars on ‘Hotel California.’ Those were great times.”
“Free Bird” (Lynyrd Skynyrd/Allen Collins/Gary Rossington)
Allen Collins used a Gibson Explorer to fashion his lead work on this classic outro, while Gary Rossington handled the rhythm parts on a Les Paul and added slide fills with an SG. Amazingly, Skynyrd’s record company tried to persuade the band not to include the song on their debut album, insisting the track was too long. (Fortunately, the group held its ground.) The extended live version that later appeared on the 1976 album, One More from the Road, sealed the song’s iconic status.
“Starship Trooper” (Yes/Steve Howe)
The third and final section of “Starship Trooper,” from The Yes Album, finds Steve Howe playing a simple, repetitive riff as the rest of the band gradually joins in. At the peak of the crescendo, Howe unleashes a fiery solo that’s somehow beautifully dissonant. “The Yes Album was my golden opportunity,” Howe later told Innerviews.org. “[Keyboardist] Tony Kaye was a great Hammond player and he provided great support. There were many great moments to inject my style.”
“Ballrooms of Mars” – T.Rex
Producer Tony Visconti played a prime role in formulating the magic behind this song’s celestial outro, which also happens to be one of Marc Bolan’s finest solos. The glam-rock pioneer takes his Les Paul on a soaring flight that’s evocative of everything the song’s title implies. “We did five takes of the solo, and I could have made a composite from all of them,” Visconti later told Gibson.com. “But just for laughs, I threw up all five faders simultaneously, with all five tracks. Marc and I just looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it. That’s how it’s going down.’”
“La Grange” (ZZ Top/Billy Gibbons)
From the chugging boogie riff to the trademark pinch harmonics, the outro for “La Grange” has all the ingredients that make Billy Gibbons’ style so distinctive. Several years ago Gibbons was asked by Gibson.com if there was a point where he sensed ZZ Top had truly hit their stride. “That would be ‘La Grange,’” he replied. “We liked the tones, the richness of the instrumentation and the simplicity of the composition. We just thought, ‘Alright, this is us. We can do this.’"
“Mr. Crowley” (Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads)
Randy Rhoads’ classically inspired outro elevated this Ozzy classic into something of monumental proportions. The late guitarist spent hours working on the solo, but remained frustrated with the results until Osbourne suggested he simply wing it and play as he felt. Rhoads then nailed it. As always, Rhoads showed exquisite taste, coming up with something that served that song as opposed to burnishing his ego.
“Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” – The Rolling Stones
The Latin-tinged coda that caps off this track constitutes one of the Rolling Stones’ rare extended outros. Speaking with Jazzed Magazine, Mick Taylor said Jagger and Richards loosened up a bit when he came on board, allowing him to stretch out instrumentally. “I think I became really aware of it when we were in the studio recording Sticky Fingers,” said Taylor, “and we went into the instrumental section at the end of 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking.’ That was completely spontaneous. What you hear on the album is exactly what happened--we just kept playing.”
“Moonage Daydream” (David Bowie/Mick Ronson)
Mick Ronson’s soaring outro on this Bowie classic--played on a Les Paul Custom with a wah pedal for tone control--constitutes one of glam rock’s finest moments. Speaking with Gibson.com, producer Ken Scott said he was amazed when Ronson nailed the solo in a single take. “My recollection is that there had been no discussion, beforehand, regarding what it should be, or what it was going to be,” Scott revealed. “It was more like, ‘Okay, it’s time to do it,’ and he went and played it. David and I just went, ‘Wow!’”