All the attention is usually on the lead singer, but so often a song has been transformed by a great piece of lead guitar playing. Nick Barraclough tells the story of the lead guitarist; from Chuck Berry and BB King's licks to Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix's riffs. What's more, he reveals the difference between and riff and a lick.
There's more to it than just twanging those strings, though. He's got to have the right attitude, swagger- and volume.
Three of today's working lead guitarists sit round a kitchen table and strum their way through a few stories, we hear how Deep Purple recorded with the police beating on their door, and the ways in which lead singers treat their lead guitarists.
We hear from Frank Zappa's 'stunt' guitarist and we hear of Ian Gillan's submission, and there is a discussion on whether the colour of a guitar's paint affects its tone and, a question that has been asked by lead guitarists since 1964 is answered: exactly what was that chord George Harrison played at the beginning of A Hard Day's Night?
Producer: Nick Barraclough
A Smooth Operation production for BBC Radio 4.
Nick Barraclough explores what makes a great lead guitar player.