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.

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Meeting the Beatles for the Non-Believer

The Beatles Later YearsAnyone interested in parting with roughly $190 US for the new Oasis deluxe box set? Me neither. Nor is my fellow blogger at everyrecordtellsastory.com. He has issued a Vinyl Challenge to see how else he might spend the equivalent in British pounds. He’s set out to build the best record collection he can for a friend who needs to get hooked on vinyl. Check out his last few posts to see how he’s accomplishing this. If you haven’t shopped for vinyl in a while — or say 20 years — you’ll be surprised at how things have changed.

Every Record Tells a Story has inspired me. I’m not in the market for an Oasis deluxe box set, either, so I’ve thought about what else I could do with the money… some way that I could help out a friend… some way that I could build a package of the best the world of music has to offer. And, coincidentally, you could say it was inspired by Oasis in reverse.

But really it was motivated by an incident that took place a few weeks ago at a party we hosted. There I learned that one of our guests does not like the Beatles. Like most people who say this, he seemed to imply that the band is overrated.

A shrug for the Beatles? This is quite curable.

With people one knows well, the remedy can be achieved over time and a paced series of recommendations. But in the case of a person one sees occasionally and at social events that primarily revolve around their children’s school, it’s a bit trickier as people aren’t so receptive when one dominates the conversation with talk about bands. (Trust me, I’ve been down that road before.)

So the challenge I have undertaken is this — find a way to budget the $190.00 to develop my own “box set” that provides the critical education necessary for enlightenment and enhanced musical pleasure, because, after all, life is so much better when you have the Beatles around to enjoy.

You might ask, “Can’t you just download some hits from iTunes and be done with it?”

The key here, though, is context. My friend probably has already heard most, if not all, of the Beatles chart-toppers and a handful of B-sides. Somewhere along the line, their brilliance was not absorbed. (In fact, I argue that the prevalence of things like The Beatles 1, etc., does more to inhibit understanding of the Beatles than develop it.)

Like the Oasis box set, my collection includes more than just music. In order to appreciate the Beatles, a person needs to understand their role in the development of the rock and popular music canon, how they transcended boundaries — the disappearance of which we take for granted, and the foundation they established for the artists who emerged with them and afterwards.

I don’t know said friend well enough to spend $190 on him, regardless of how life-changing this gift would be, so this is fact-based but fictitious. So, let me introduce to you…

THE GENXATMIDLIFE.COM BEATLES ENLIGHTENMENT BOX SET

IMG_2083Hard Days Write ($9.98 at Barnes & Noble) — The Beatles were prolific. Maybe it was the 10,000 hours of practice, the intensity of Hamburg, the early years spent in hotel rooms sheltered from mobs of teenage girls bent on plucking the hairs from their growth follicles — but few bands (or none) have produced so much, so good in such a limited amount of time. It probably helped that they didn’t tour after 1965 — more time for songwriting and working in the studio.

This book does a great job of illustrating the bridge between the Beatles’ early years — simpler songs, “innocent” subjects — and the more sophisticated compositions of their later years. These guys could write about anything… from pets to prostitutes… and make it awesome. In fact, if they were sitting in my house right now, they could probably craft a Top 10 hit about how much I’d like new granite in my kitchen.


revolver

Rubber Soul ($19.99 on amazon.com) and Revolver ($19.99 on amazon.com) on vinyl. Post Hard Days Night the title for “the Beatles’ Best Album” is up for grabs. Is there really a consensus? Each has it merits, but in my opinion, these two are the most important for the non-believer, as they are likely the ones they don’t know that well. (This observation is based only on conversations I’ve had with said people and is in no way quantifiable or scientific.)

You can’t have one without the other. The transition began before Rubber Soul, but it’s at this point that it is fully emerged. With Revolver, it is fully realized, and there is no turning back (even with the stripped-down efforts of Let It Be). By this time, the Beatles had obviously matured significantly as musicians, songwriters and observers of the world.

This is one case where I insist on vinyl. There is something about the act of placing the needle on the record, the shiny outer strip that marks the anticipation of the first notes, that prepares the listener for the power of what they are about to hear. It’s like a ritual, paying homage to those first listeners who slid the vinyl disc from its dust cover, delicately securing its edges between the pads of their middle fingers and thumbs, placing the hole on the center spindle, setting the speed to 33 1/3 and switching on the turntable. If my friend is going to really listen to these albums for the first time, this is how it needs to be done. (And if they don’t have a working turntable, they can come to our house where we will be happy to provide educational commentary between sides.)

Rubber Soul ($12.99 on amazon.com) and Revolver ($13.88 on amazon.com) on CD. For practical reasons.

Let It Be RooftopAbbey Road ($12.99), Let It Be ($16.29), The White Album ($19.88), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ($13.88), Magical Mystery Tour($13.88), Help! ($16.29) on CD from amazon.com*. Why CDs and not iTunes? Each of these need to be understood as a collection. On iTunes, it is too easy to perceive each song as a single, and that is no way to consider the works of the Beatles. You need to hear “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” roll into “A Day in the Life. You need to witness the range of “Rocky Racoon,” “Glass Onion” and “Julia” within a single (double) album. Worst of all is how iTunes severs The Medley.

With a CD, you can open the jewel case, check out the cover, hold the evolution in your hand. On iTunes, it’s too easy for very special music to get lost among the shuffle of Ratt’s first album, the Timberlake stuff you have for parties and that Edwin McCain song you downloaded for your friend at 12:03 a.m. last Saturday night after that second appletini.

If I had more money to work with — or was a better bargain shopper — I’d buy all the way back to Meet the Beatles. But given the limitations of my imaginary budget and, most likely, my friend’s willingness to listen, I can’t push it. Anyway, I want to leave something for the “new” Beatles fan to discover, so they can come back to me again and again and tell me how right I was.

IMG_2089Hard Days Night” DVD ($18.99 at Laurie’s Planet of Sound) — It’s easy to think of a band that recorded, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” as dismissible in the post-60s musical era. In fact, this is the song people (though they are few) bring up when I express my shock that they don’t care for the Beatles. These people need to be reminded that the Beatles had a lot of work to do before they could unleash “A Day in the Life,” and even “Help,” on the world. They had to chip away at the barriers of convention that dominated popular music.

In the movie, “A Hard Days Night,” the world was introduced to four young men from Liverpool, of all places, whom you could see right away had a kind of humor and humanity that gave hint to their staying power. After seeing this, how would anyone be able to resist?

Without tax*, I have spent $189.03, just shy of my $190.00 goal. Converting a non-believer for less than $200.00? As Master Card would say — Priceless.

* I know that shopping at markets and independent record stores is much more fun. But with Amazon Prime, shipping is free, it comes in two days and I don’t pay tax, which I have conveniently left off the B&N and Laurie’s “purchases.” Plus, it’s a bit cheaper than our local indy shop.

My once and future favorites

Who could resist this album art? It is a post unto itself!

Who could resist this album art? It is a post unto itself!

I knew lyrics to Beatles songs before I could understand them. When I was three years old, I was weaned on a steady musical diet of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The songs on this album are the soundtrack of some of my life’s first memories (along with “I Think I Love You” and “Sugar, Sugar”), and I believe that my views of the world were formed, in part, by what I heard in the music and lyrics.

I distinctly remember being three or four and cycling the lyrics to “She’s Leaving Home” through my mind, which was not at all prepared to understand the meaning of the song. I stumbled over the line, “She breaks down and cries to her husband, ‘Daddy, our baby’s gone.’” I wondered what in the world a husband-daddy was, and when it became too complex to imagine, I gave up and just sang along. I was probably ten before I reconsidered those words and then understood. That was about the time my interest in The Beatles was reignited and being mature enough to comprehend what they were saying was akin to finding hidden treasure under my swing set… it was always there but just waiting for the right moment.

The Beatles exposed my young mind to all kinds of other questions, such as:

  • Why would a banker wear a guy named Mac when it rains?
  • What spooky things were going on at that benefit for Mr. Kite?
  • Why did Eleanor Rigby wear a mask? I muddled this with Halloween and trick-or-treating and came up with a very odd image that perhaps I’ll share with Tim Burton if I ever meet him.

Early exposure to The Beatles is a beautiful thing. I can think of no collection of modern artists more appropriate to provide a lifelong love of popular music. When my children were born, I picked songs for each of them from the Lennon & McCartney collection, In My Life,” and “Here, There and Everywhere”.

They will always be my favorite band.

Remembering John Lennon

John+Lennon++Yoko+OnoThe morning of December 9th was frigid in the suburbs of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Inside a school bus, I strained to listen over the shouts of middle- and high-schoolers what the newscaster on WOWO was saying.  I couldn’t hear full sentences.  I barely heard the words — not with my ears anyway.  But an ulcerative pit expanded in my gut as I tried to confirm.

Did he just say that John Lennon was shot? Did he die?

I pushed my face against the window. I can still smell the metal and grease from the frame that hovered just below my nose. A single tear that escaped my eye cut a clear path through the opaque frost. The tone of the broadcast rose above its words. I knew John Lennon was dead.

I walked into the school with my face down, wishing I could bury it in a scarf or behind sunglasses.  But I was too cool for extra winter layers, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. Several kids approached me.  “Did you hear what happened to John Lennon?” I hoped that one would tell me that he’d survived.  I had only heard that he had been shot.  But, no one relieved me.

I was a preteen, deeply passionate about this band I “discovered,” but I knew I couldn’t cry. None of the teachers would excuse me to the girls room to recompose. The other kids wouldn’t understand why I was so saddened by the death of someone I didn’t really know… someone that their parents, aunts and uncles listened to, not kids in the 80s.

John Lennon was an interesting character.  Many reports indicate things that make him seem not especially likable. I know that I’ve cringed when viewing documentaries, reading biographies and even hearing Lennon’s representation of himself in interviews. His talent made us pay attention. His message made him endearing to many of us.  I count myself among those who miss his work. The best years may have been ahead for him, and none of us will ever experience what would have transpired had his assassination been only an attempt.

Generations are, in part, defined by markers in time like this one. Younger GenXers probably won’t remember, because they were likely too young. But, if you do, where were you when John Lennon died?

Record Store Day — Something I Can Get Behind

How many of you feel sorry for the younger generations — and even the youngest of GenX — because they did not partake in the pleasure of purchasing their music on vinyl?  …I thought so.  I know there are still some very cool record stores around, but it’s not the pastime that it once was for pre-digital generations.  Record stores evoke a different experience now, I think, though I continue to enjoy a good browse through them.

In my current town, Laurie’s Planet of Sound exists today.  In my hometown, the Wooden Nickel comes to mind.  These places existed all over the country.  These places were the destination point where fans connected with their favorite artists, discovered new music, and flipped through the albums, posters, rock magazines and other assorted record store goods for sometimes hours.  The dudes behind the counter (almost always dudes) were either totally into almost any artist you came in to find, or they completely minded their own business and kept their nose out of yours.  Either way, I didn’t mind.

Recently I found a website for Record Store Day.  I had heard about this last year, but after the fact because I am completely middle age and don’t hear about cool stuff like this before it happens anymore.  (Renewing our subscription to Rolling Stone has helped only slightly.  I retain more from the political/social/cultural features than anything else.)  I stumbled across it again this year, and although I do not anticipate recognizing any of the artists slated for the new releases, I do know their ambassador (Iggy Pop), so I feel relatively welcome to engage.

The thing is, I spent hours upon hours in my town’s local record stores.  I was a record store snob.  I rarely visited the chain stores in the mall, and when I did, I often made comments about their poor (or non-existent) selection of Gang of Four or early-career Depeche Mode.  (I often hear my teen self laughing at my midlife self when I download music from iTunes now.)

Kids these days — there, I said it — have no idea how indulgent it is to commune among the album bins with a BFF or boyfriend on a Saturday afternoon under the somewhat watchful eye of a record store employee.  Recently, a friend of mine talked about a record store her mom owned, recalling the massive cardboard ham and eggs that dangled from the ceiling during the release of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America.  I totally remembered those promos!  I can see them hanging in my favorite record store.  I could probably even give you the dimensions if I thought hard enough.  When I think about it, the hilarity brings forth a chuckle — giant ham and eggs to sell an album?  It was all so innocent.

There is a lot to be said about the experience of listening to music on vinyl (another post, another time), but my memories of record stores also bring back that bittersweet feeling of desperation when a new album was on the verge of selling out.  Yes, albums could sell out.  The store could be out of stock with no hope of replenishment for a month.  Four weeks was way too long to wait for a beloved new release!  I remember hiding the last copy of John Lennon’s Double Fantasy at my local record store, hoping that the next potential purchasor would walk away without a thorough search in the artists nearby, but the record store dude must have watched me place it among the Ms.  Not ten feet from me as I pretended to peruse the A and B artists, he pulled it out and handed it to the man.  (Fortunately, my parents had already secured a copy for Christmas morning.)

I still have that album, along with hundreds of others comprised of my husband’s hefty collection, many of his dad’s old jazz records and a handful of albums I’ve bought at garage sales and antique stores.  Last year, a friend of ours put me to the test.  When I asked what he wanted to hear, he said, “Do you have any Adam & The Ants?”  Maybe he really wanted to hear them.  Maybe he thought I couldn’t deliver.  But I did — both in digital form and on vinyl.  I can picture that album, Prince Charming, sitting among the very few Ants albums our record store had… “Adam” with his war paint and pirate-inspired ensemble.  I can remember my thumb nail cutting into the shrink wrap that encased the cover when I got it home.

I don’t remember the specific occasion of every album I purchased, but I do recall more than I probably should.  How about you?