I Want My MTV Unplugged! The Great MTV Acoustic Concerts

Once upon a time MTV was a television station that actually played music. If you remember those days, you may recall a series that used to air on the music video network called MTV UnpluggedMTV Unplugged would showcase full-length acoustic concerts by world class artists of both classic and modern rock. For those of us who dig the sound of unplugged strings almost as much as we do the electric variety, this television series was a true bonanza. Whether you used to watch the show religiously or you’ve never seen an episode, we think it’s a treasure for any fan of live, acoustic music. Here are some of our favorite performances from a series that generated tons of great music.

Eric Clapton unplugged

Eric Clapton performing acoustic

1. Eric Clapton – Layla 

The first time we heard this rendition of “Layla” the song was nearly unrecognizable. Leave it to Clapton not just to strip his most famous song down but to completely re-vamp it for the sake of an acoustic show. Since this aired, it has been in the public consciousness almost as much as the electrified original. Almost.

2. KISS – Rock and Roll All Nite

Not only did KISS unplug their instruments for the MTV, but they also removed their makeup. Still, “Rock and Roll All Nite” loses none of its party-atmosphere oomph. KISS is one of those bands that you just wouldn’t think works as an acoustic unit. But it does, and the proof is in the pudding.

Neil Young unplugged

Neil Young playing acoustic

3. Neil Young – Unknown Legend

Neil Young is a rock and roller that has always been adept at incorporating acoustic guitar into his music. Perhaps the stark naked honesty of Young’s rootsy acoustic guitar-based songs is one reason why Young has always seemed like one of the most authentic rock and rollers of his or any generation. But of course, Young knows how to crank it up too.

4. Rod Stewart – Forever Young

We love Rod Stewart so much because of his fantastic vocal work as a member of The Jeff Beck Group. Of course, Rod Stewart is even more famous now as a solo artist. He certainly earned his own episode of MTV Unplugged and we have to admit, “Forever Young” is a pretty great song, plugged in or acoustic.

Bob Dylan Unplugged

Bob Dylan acoustic

5. Paul McCartney – Blackbird

Sir Paul may be known primarily for his bass playing with The Beatles, but he’s a damn fine fingerpicker on the acoustic guitar as well. “Blackbird” is the best and most famous example of this. His rendition on his episode of MTV Unplugged was delicate, gentle, and soothing. But then, “Blackbird” is always a winner.

6. The Eagles – Hotel California

We’re still reeling from the loss of Glenn Frey a few months back. But listening to this cut of “Hotel California” from Hell Freezes Over is one good way to honor his memory. The album was essentially a reunion of a band that we never thought would get back together. You can read about the backstory of that over here on the Ultimate Classic Rock website.

7. Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Bob Dylan, of course, began his career as an acoustic guitarist. When he switched to electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival, it nearly caused riots. But there’s something like coming home when listening to Dylan unplugged. We’ve always found “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” to be a particularly powerful piece. Stripped down to its acoustic essentials, it’s even more haunting. 

It’s not an MTV Unplugged show, but have you had a chance to listen to the incredible acoustic concert by Joe Bonamsssa, An Acoustic Evening at the Vienne Opera House? It’s a very special show featuring many of Joe’s best numbers all-acoustic. It features some crazy cool instrumentation like the Irish fiddle and the mandola. If you love acoustic music and the blues, we highly recommend checking this one out. 

– J&R Adventures

MTV Unplugged acoustic