When I first started high school, I started taking guitar lessons. I was never very good at it, but I enjoyed it overall. I continued for just about a decade until grad school and then sold off all my gear. I just wasn't playing regularly, if at all, and my stuff was collecting dust.
And it certainly doesn't stop me from listening to all my favorite guitarists with the same reverence in which I always held them. Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, C.C. DeVille, Joe Satriani, Nuno Bettencourt, Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, you name it.
But one of my all-time favorites has always been Steve Vai.
I first learned of him as the lead guitarist for David Lee Roth's post-Van Halen solo band. He was incredible on the Skyscraper album. Then he went solo as well, playing mostly instrumental music. My favorite song comes from his second solo album Passion and Warfare, released in 1990. To this day, it remains, IMHO, one of the most amazing instrumental albums ever released.
And My Favorite Song by Steve Vai is track 8 "The Audience is Listening." It is such a symbol of youthful rebellion with young Stevie Vai taking advantage of his teacher's kindness to blast his classroom with shred metal. Just the sweet give and take between his teacher and Vai's talking guitar in the beginning to the authoritarian teacher ruling over her kids to her alternately begging and threatening him when he won't stop. The song is flawless, much like anything Vai does.
Here's the studio recording of "The Audience is Listening" so you can hear the bits with his teacher...
Here's a live version recorded in 2009 (you don't get the teacher until the end, unfortunately)...
And speaking of favorite guitarists, here's a live performance from the Vai Guitar Academy in 2017 with both Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde playing Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child."
Three of my faves, all in one fell swoop.