Spin's list is equal parts provocation and re-theorization. Taking the Velvet Underground as its Adam, Spin trumpets an "alternative canon" that rages against the tyranny of lead-guitar bombast in favor of "making guitar solos gauche and using instruments as sadomasochistic tools for hammering out sheets of white heat." Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page (two and three on the Rolling Stone list, respectively) don't appear on Spin's list at all. Spin's co-number ones, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, barely make half an appearance in Rolling Stone (Moore is No. 99).
There's probably not a single person in the world who entirely agrees with either of these lists, but they're interesting in that they represent competing philosophies of rock and roll. The RS list celebrates heroic virtuosity, for which Hendrix is the archetype. The Spin list celebrates a DIY collectivism and sublimation of the individual, for which there is no archetype because even the suggestion of an archetype is overly hierarchical. They are polarized and polarizing positions, and the truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. If great bands were actually wholly cooperative spaces free from individualism, great bands would never break up, when in fact great bands always break up. And if Jimi Hendrix were so extraordinary an individual guitarist that context and collaboration made no difference in his playing, he would never have fired anyone (which he did, often).
But "somewhere in between" is pretty boring, and what in the world am I doing here if not taking the bait? While it might be just my own weariness with rock-radio hero-worship, I find myself pretty sympathetic to Spin's side. Joe Strummer or Mick Jones aren't the masters of the instrument that Eric Clapton is, but I will reach for a Clash record over a Cream record 100 times out of 100, and Clapton's made a career out of playing amazing solos amid music I otherwise don't much like (with one Lake Superior-sized exception). Spin's approach also leads to some cool risk-taking. I can't pretend to understand why Skrillex, an electronic artist, pops up at No. 100, but I love any list that puts Bad Brains' Dr. Know at 35 while ushering Eddie Van Halen to the curb.
The "canonical" take on rock also tends to be about as diverse as Augusta National, and from a gender standpoint Spin's list is commendably egalitarian, a welcome development in discussing an instrument whose phallic dimensions have been overimagined at least since the Eisenhower administration. Rolling Stone's list boasts all of two women—Joni Mitchell (75) and Bonnie Raitt (89)—both of whom should be ranked higher, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's omission is inexcusable considering that Rolling Stone includes guys like Joe Perry and Bruce Springsteen, who aren't even the best guitar players in their respective bands (although if Rolling Stone was ranking the Top 50 state capitols, Springsteen would somehow find his way into the Top 15). Spin, on the other hand, includes PJ Harvey, Kim and Kelly Deal, Sleater-Kinney/Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein, and a host of other worthy ax-women.