Best Opening Lines

guitarnotepadEarlier this year I collected from a broad cross-section of my music-loving friends a list of rock/pop’s best opening lines.

I was motivated by this post from vh1.com. My feedback to them — it is hyperbole to say that your intern has identified the 40 greatest opening lines in music history. Your list includes too many that don’t measure up and omits too many that deserve the props. More than a handful are obvious, in an obligatory way. If anything, your list is a reminder that there are many more than 40!

So what makes a great opening line? I’m not sure what the criteria was for my friends — all great choices by the way — but for me it’s imagery. Does the first line set the scene? It’s energy. Some lyrics pull you right in. One I chose for its cleverness. Does it compel you to sing along?

At any rate, I felt that my sound posse could put more genuine consideration into this topic. I’m sure no one thinks their list is exhaustive, but we’ve got everything from Jethro Tull to Robbie Williams, and even two each from Death Cab and Prince, so that counts for something, right?

From GenXatmidlife, who takes this kind of stuff very seriously…

Buckley– “Love, let me sleep tonight on your couch.” So Real, Jeff Buckley

– “Instant karma’s gonna get you… gonna knock you right on the head.” Instant Karma, John Lennon

– “How I wish you could see the potential… the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can’t read… just yet.” I Will Possess Your Heart, Death Cab for Cutie

– “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid,” It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, R.E.M.

– “Cold late night so long ago, when I was not so strong you know… pretty man came to me, never seen eyes so blue.” Magic Man, Heart

 

From Paul, who forces me to admit that, yes, Rush is a pretty good band…

led-zeppelin“Hey, hey mama, said the way you move… gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Black Dog, Led Zepplin

“You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar. If I were to say to you, ‘Girl we couldn’t get much higher.'” Light My Fire, The Doors

“I once had a girl… or should I say… she once had me.” Norwegian Wood, The Beatles

“The sky is burnin’. I believe my soul’s on fire. You are… I’m learnin’… the key to my desire.” Burnin’ Sky, Bad Company

“I was born in a crossfire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain.” Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones

 

Tom-Petty-ww04From Amy, who is Tom Petty’s girl (really, check out her post)…

– “She grew up in an Indiana town. Had a good-lookin’ mama who never was around. But she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights.” Last Dance With Mary Jane, Tom Petty

– “Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind’s elation. Little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations. And if you want these kind of dreams, it’s Californication.” Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers

– “Love of mine, some day you will die, but I’ll be close behind. I’ll follow you into the dark… no blinding light or tunnels to gates of white… just our hands clasped so tight waiting for the hint of a spark. I Will Follow You Into The Dark, Death Cab for Cutie

– “I want love to: roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around. I want love to: grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway, put my face into the ground.” Love Interruption, Jack White

– “I guess I should’ve known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last. See, you’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once love ’em and leave ’em fast.” Little Red Corvette, Prince

 

american_pie1From Sue, who introduced me to the genius of Morrissey…
– “A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.” American Pie, Don McClean

– “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you, that I almost believe that they’re real. I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you, that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.” Pictures of You, The Cure

– “I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar. I am the son and heir of nothing in particular.” How Soon Is Now, The Smiths

– “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since u took your love away. I go out every night and sleep all day, since u took your love away.” Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince

– “I sit and wait. Does an angel contemplate my fate? And do they know the places where we go when we’re grey and old?” Angels, Robbie Williams

 

queen-band-i14From Dave, who made country the majority shareholder of his musical tastes this past summer…
– “She keeps the Moet Chandon in a pretty cabinet. Let them eat cake, she says, just like Marie Antoinette.” Killer Queen, Queen

– “Suckers walk! Money talks! But it can’t touch my three-lock box.” Three-Lock Box, Sammy Hagar

– “In the twilight glow, I see blue eyes crying in the rain.” Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson

– “I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face, pajamas, a hair brush, new shoes and a case. I said to my reflection let’s get out of this place.” Tempted, Squeeze

– “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ is good tuned guitars and firm feelin’ women.” Luckenbach, Texas, Merle Haggard

 

lita-ford-liveFrom Jill, the source of all things pop culture, including the VH-1 list…
– “I went to a party last Saturday night, didn’t get laid, got in a fight.” Kiss Me Deadly, Lita Ford

– “He said the way my blue eyes shined put those Georgia stars to shame that night. I said, that’s a lie.” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift

– “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone. I recommend walking around naked in your living room.” You Learn, Alanis Morrisette

– “Come on, Virginia, don’t let me wait. You Catholic girls start much to late.” Only The Good Die Young, Billy Joel

– “You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht. Your hat strategically dipped below one eye. Your scarf it was apricot.” You’re So Vain, Carly Simon

 

albertking580From Mara, whose has seen everyone from Paul McCartney to Ricky Martin to the Black Keys…

– “Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, wouldn’t have no luck at all.” Born Under a Bad Sign, Albert King and others

– “Sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent.” Aqualung, Jethro Tull

– “Purple haze was in my brain… lately things don’t seem the same. Acting funny but I don’t know why. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix

– “She loves you… yeah, yeah, yeah.” She Loves You, The Beatles

– “There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.” All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan

Gimme some feedback. What did we miss? Please leave your comments below.

Elvis from a different angle

-Elvis-elvis-presley-30741633-440-619My first memory of Elvis is not a song. It’s an image of a him wearing a jumpsuit on stage with his band in the 70s, looking a bit sweaty and performing songs that had become so woven into pop culture that they blended into the background. I did not understand why the grown-ups gave him so much credit.

After seeing Donny Osmond sing “Are You Lonesome Tonight” on The Donny & Marie Show, I added one track to the Elvis log in my brain. Eventually songs like “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Jailhouse Rock” joined the list. “In the Ghetto” was kind of interesting, because it seemed socially conscious. But, to me, nothing stood out as any reason for this guy to be any different from the one who sang the theme song to Happy Days.

As a music fan, I have a basic understanding of the role Elvis played in the emergence of rock music in popular culture. I know a handful of people my age who actually do consider him “The King.” I know that many of the 60s artists that I admire were big fans of Elvis and that meeting him was a highlight of many of their careers. But his music had never elicited more than a shrug from me.

It wasn’t until I caught a few moments of a PBS show on Elvis’ gospel roots that I got it, at least on some level. Elvis wasn’t really about “Suspicious Minds” and “Love Me Tender”. He was about the energy he brought to the music… the sense that before the words passed through his mouth they started the trip deep in his soul. My husband recently said that what makes a singer good is their commitment to the lyrics. This is where it all clicked for me with Elvis.

This past weekend, my husband and I were sitting on our front porch listening to music on YouTube. This is where we go when we want something different from the thousands of songs in our iTunes account. I’ve been on a 70s light rock kick for about a year now, so I was playing things like Pablo Cruise and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, and he asked to hear some Elvis (which, of course, is where he’d want to go after “Don’t Pull Your Love“). I avoided the typical and found some gems from early in his career.

There are other artists out there who are known for work that doesn’t capture their true essence, unfortunately. Consider Heart and “Alone” vs. “Magic Man.” God forbid they are remembered for their 80s hits over their contributions in the 70s, but I have a feeling it happens. Some would call it selling out, but I think it’s more complicated than that. “Heartbreak Hotel” might sound trite to people who’ve heard it 100 times over the grocery store sound system (let alone the dozens of other places it’s played), but the swing of his cadence and deep reach of his voice probably sounded amazing to the people who first heard it.

There are probably other artists people believe are misrepresented in their popularity. Feel free to add some more. In the meantime, enjoy this one from Elvis. (Hang in there… he doesn’t start until about 20 seconds in or so.)

Remembering The Midnight Special

Last night, my husband was flipping through the channels and happened upon one of those infomercials I love — the kind that feature someone like Jack Wagner and some other soap-star-turned-crooner talking about the great love songs from the 70s or something like that for a full half an hour.  I generally only see these on a Friday or Saturday after midnight when I wander from House Hunters, so I was excited to sit down to one on a Thursday night.  And I was even more stoked when I saw that it was for a DVD collection commemorating The Midnight SpecialThe Midnight Special!!

Talk about an itch that hasn’t been scratched in a long time!  This was just what I needed to get back on track with my blog, because I absolutely loved The Midnight Special. This show isn’t necessarily one that people would associate with the GenX experience, but somewhere along the line I got a glimpse of this late-night smogsbord of the top acts of the day.  And after that it became the Holy Grail of staying up late.  If I was quiet enough to slip under my parents’ radar, I could sneak down to the basement and enjoy it for a half an hour or so.  I used the check the TV Guide each week to find out who would be on, and if it was someone that I absolutely couldn’t live without seeing (Blondie, for instance), my mom would kindly let me stay up, as long as the act appeared during the first part of the show.

The Midnight Special was so much better than American Bandstand, with all due respect to Dick Clark.  The acts were more diverse, less freshly scrubbed and even at that young age I could tell that the performances were live (though in the later years, there apparently was more lip-syncing).  Last night’s infomercial confirms this, as some of clips of the artists’ performances sound not much different than they would if they were singing karaoke in my basement.  I would, of course, be honored to host any of these folks in our jam room.  I also noted that several had that glazed over look that probably wouldn’t go over well on American Bandstand, but I was more naive about those things as a preteen.  It was late at night… perhaps they were just tired.

If you haven’t seen The Midnight Special or need something to jog your memory, check out this clip of Heart (completely underrated band, IMHO).  Still don’t remember it?  Maybe you remember Wolfman Jack, the show’s frequent host and commentator?  Maybe you are too young?  Age aside, there are tons of videos on YouTube from The Midnight Special, so you don’t need to order the DVD set unless you are staging a Midnight Special Viewing Party — in which case, don’t leave me off the evite list.

Unfortunately, the infomercial never really identifies how many DVDs come in the set.  Another flashback — the purchase is done in a very “old school” way.  You buy your first DVD and then get a new DVD each month which you can return at any time or keep to enjoy all the great memories of this landmark program featuring the greatest artists of the decade.  When it comes to buying things like this, I want it all at once, and I want to know exactly what I am getting.  Perhaps the full collection is online somewhere, but my fervent desire to own it has worn off in the last 24 hours.

One more from The Midnight Special.  It’s Blondie, and she has something important to tell us.  Enjoy!