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The Scorching Riffs of John Sykes

By Andrew Catania

John Sykes is a clear-cut reflection of the closest thing to a living legend. In his extraordinary existence of 57 years, he has already played with Streetfighter, Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sloman’s Badlands, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder. Apart from playing with such a multitude of artists, he has also created his own legacy by undertaking a career as a solo artist. As of 2013, he had produced 4 solo albums and is currently working on the 5th, which is said to consist of over 30 new recordings.

Sykes had his first taste in heavy metal at the age of 21 when he joined the Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980 as the second guitarist for two of their albums: Spellbound and Crazy Nights. Spellbound was rated as one of the best albums released that year by AllMusic and given a sturdy 8/10 by the Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal.

However, the success was short-lived as Crazy Nights barely made the half mark cut from reviewers. After the failure of Crazy Nights with Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sykes decided to move on to Badlands – a new band started by John Sloman.

Since then, it was clear that Sykes would go places since he continued to progress his career by moving on to the next big project. Whenever there was a drop in the reviews for his current work or when he felt that his career was no longer growing, he would decide to pursue the next chapter.

According to Eddie Trunk, John really took his time on all his new pieces and was conservative in his approach. It is nothing but this dedication to the deliberate pursuit of his art that led the esteemed critic Mick Wall to write that the album Coverdale wrote with Sykes wasn’t just the best Whitesnake album – but was also the best rock album of the era. It was the fact that Sykes was a part of Whitesnake that even led the critic Mick Wall to enjoy Whitesnake in the first place. Whitesnake, the self-titled album released by the band and co-written with Sykes reached #2 on the billboard 200 chart and sold over eight million albums.
Although Sykes is a guitarist, he has been proven an excellent lyricist and has even recorded rare vocals. His multi-dimensional talent scope has left even the most hardened critic in awe of his capability as a musician.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of John Sykes in 2017.