I haven’t made a music top 10 list in a while, and I love the way so many of my readers love to hate my lists. Even when the list isn’t mine. All I have to do is a publish a list and WHAM! I get yelled at. Right now, we’re working on compiling the best cuts from movie soundtracks. But in the meantime, a reader sent me a link to this article, which allegedly has the 25 best opening lyrics of all time. And I must say, I disagree strongly with quite a few of them. Their picks include:
“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar”–Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’
That doesn’t say anything! It’s a funny novelty song and all, but is this really a great song opener? Answer: No!
“Go, shorty. It’s your birthday”–50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’
Oh, come on. It wasn’t the words that made this song hype, it was the bounce and the delivery.
“I am an Antichrist”–Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’
Okay, I agree that this is a good one. But only when read as a couplet with the second line: “I am an anarchist!”
“Tommy used to work on the docks”–Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on Prayer.”
And then their #1 pick: “She’s a very kinky girl”–Rick James’ ‘Superfreak’
That’s the best opening lyric of all time??? Again: Answer: No.
As usual, I have an opinion of my own on this matter. After all, I can often tell from the first few beats–the first riff, the first lyric–whether I’ll like a song or not. For example, long intros with the sound of wind blowing usually means the song will be pretentious and “epic,” and it will probably also blow. Songs that begin with a guy saying, “Turn the music up in my headphones!” will probably have a very long intro. Songs that begin with someone shouting “onetwothreefour” as fast as he can are probably Ramones songs. You get the idea.
Here’s my ten favorites.
10. (tie) Mr. Brightside-The Killers. The opening licks are sweet, but that first verse: “Comin’ out of my cage, and I’ll be doin’ just fine . . .” It’s a tune that makes me wanna fight.
It’s Tricky-Run D.M.C. An old school snare and a brief snatch of the “My Sharona” riff, followed by the intro: “This speech is my recital, I think it’s very vital, to rock a rhyme, that’s right on time, it’s tricky is the title. Here we go!” Remember when rap was fun, simple, and still lyrically tight?
It’s Tricky vs. My Sharona (Mash Up)
9. Comfortably Numb-Pink Floyd. That accelerating music that instantly makes you feel like a plane is taking off, followed by: “Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me . . .”
8. The Authority Song-John Cougar Mellencamp. This is an instrumental entry. That first riff is one I always hear in my head. Infectious.
7. 1979-The Smashing Pumpkins. “Shakedown 1979, cool kids never have the time . . .” Is he talking about the Grateful Dead album that came out around the same time? I dunno. But this is a perfect song. It’s short, catchy, and classic. I remember going on a long car ride once and hitting repeat after the first kick-in, over and over and over. It gets the adrenaline going.
6. St8 Outta Compton-N.W.A. “You are now about the witness the strength of street knowledge.” Gangsta rap had existed before this record, but it wasn’t ready for prime time until these punk teenagers grabbed rap by the throat and shook this out.
Straight Outta Compton-Nina Gordon
5. Crazytrain-Ozzy Osbourne. Not really a lyric but a scream. “Alllll aboooarrdd! Ay ay ay ay ay!”
4. 99 Problems-Jay Z. Yeah, it’s one of Hova’s most popular songs so I’m sure lots of Hip Hop Headz are gonna say I’m simple, stupid, or whatever. My response: Fuck off. The first lines of this song, done acappella, deliver power, prologue the whole concept of the hook and chorus, and make a boast no one can dispute.
3. Layla-Derek and the Dominoes. “What’ll you do when you get lonely, and nobody’s waiting by your side?” Nothing gets me more charged up than the opening riff of Layla. Truly, it’s all I need to get my blood going. When CDs first came out, the first box set was Eric Clapton’s Crossroads. I resisted leaving the world of vinyl, but then I thought, “I must hear the opening chords of Layla on CD!” I bought it. And the fucking thing was remastered! They took away all the punch! Get the vinyl. It’s the greatest hook ever, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re just flat out wrong.
2. Rebels-Tom Petty. “Baby, don’t walk out. I’m too drunk to follow. Might not feel this way tomorrow.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this way. Well, I could. But it would be embarassing.
Rebels-Drive By Truckers.
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band-The Beatles. Not only an exciting and brilliant introduction to a song, but probably the greatest beginning of an album in history. It tells you you’re in for a radical concept: The biggest and best rock and roll band in the world wants to be someone else.
Agree? Disagree? Vote with your comments!