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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The Beatles Anniversary Special Celebrated More Than Just 1964

The Beatles in 1964I have to admit that even as a Beatles fan, I was slightly skeptical of the 50th anniversary special commemorating their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s not that I didn’t think it’d be filled with good performances. Rather, I was wary of it not capturing the essence of The Beatles, which means something very different, I’m sure, to a fan born several years after 1964 versus someone who watched the Ed Sullivan Show live that February 9th.

When I talk with other people about The Beatles, those who aren’t fans — and there are many more than I expect– automatically bring up “I Want To Hold Your Hand” or another one of their early hits. (It’s probably much like what Beach Boys fans hear from people who mention “I Get Around”.) They think of Beatlemania and the screaming girls and the matching suits. This is a far place from where I am, having “discovered” The Beatles through Sgt. Pepper and The White Album.

Rather than rehash that early period, last night’s show transcended that time of frenzy and wove many aspects of The Beatles’ contributions in a way that paid homage to the foundation of their influence on music. It didn’t all begin 50 years ago, and it has continued long after, but that event from 1964 made all that came after possible.

Wow — FIFTY years ago. That’s incredible when you see how relevant The Beatles still are — as last night’s special showed — and the degree to which they remain an influence on pop and rock music. Not every artist handled their assignments well, but there were some highlights, and it was in those that love for the music really shone. Maybe you agree with some of these:

Imagine Dragons did an incredible rendition of “Revolution”. They chose a more R&B treatment, kind of like what the skiffle bands of The Beatles’ origins would have done. It was interesting to see a young band use an old sound for a truly fresh take that didn’t stray too far from the originals.

Ed Sheeran paid beautiful tribute to “In My Life,” a song so amazing that everyone should learn the words and melodies the way we know Happy Birthday. Few have expressed love of any and every kind so well.

Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Gary Clark, Jr., really warmed up the theater with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” before Ringo Starr came out as the lead-in to the finale featuring him and Paul. By then, everyone was loose and moving. Usually when you see televised performances like this (the Grammys, etc.), only a few of the artists get up and really enjoy the music. Last night, we saw no stiff faces or self-conscious masks of boredom.

Both Ringo and Paul McCartney turned out solid performances. While Ringo was never known for his singing voice, he’s clearly an entertainer in front of and behind the drums. McCartney is always amazing. He may not have the vocal range he once did, but he is present for every minute of every song.

The (remaining) Beatles showed tonight why they are, in fact, The Beatles… why they occupy that echelon above all others. By the end of the evening, the audience was engrossed. Almost every performer who played one of their songs displayed a sense of gratitude to the music. (My one criticism about the evening was that artists who clearly weren’t inspired had the opportunity to perform. With all the talent available, they could have found an alternative to Alicia Keys, who seemed almost dismissive.) Not only have The Beatles inspired people to love their music, they’ve inspired people to love all kinds of music. Who can deny this after seeing that whole theater under the influence of “Yellow Submarine”?

Drill down to a single person sitting on her couch in Illinois. My opening Facebook comment about the performance was that I did a better job singing “Ticket To Ride” on my couch than Adam Levine. I don’t think that I am a better singer than him. Rather, there’s a passion in loving a song, in having sung a song thousands of times (quite possibly more than Adam Levine) that makes the difference.

That is The Beatles’ legacy. And to my surprise, the 50th anniversary special captured it. Click here for a great recap from Billboard, including the set list.

The Song That Changed Everything

Venus and Mars were all right that night.

Venus and Mars were all right that night.

In July of 1994, I was a young lady in the latter half of her 20s building a career, hanging out with friends, playing volleyball at North Avenue Beach and packing up her apartment to move across the alley from a studio to a one-bedroom.

One Friday evening that month, I took a break from the boxes and newspaper to meet a friend whose friend’s band was playing at a bar two blocks away. Something felt very different about that evening. I told myself it was buzz about the move.

At the bar, I was introduced to a guy who was cute, seemed nice and was a friend of a friend of a friend, which was considered something along the lines of an endorsement. We struck up a conversation that was very much like many others I’d had in bars on Friday nights… until a song came on that I would never expect to hear in a crowded Halsted Street drinking establishment, “Listen To What The Man Said,” by Paul McCartney.

In that moment, when the bouncy beat launched into, “Anytime, any day, you can hear the people say,” something changed. We were no longer two kids in a bar in Lincoln Park having a superficial conversation about how much we liked the Bulls. We connected on a deeper level.

I felt safe revealing my music nerd self and told him how much I loved Paul McCartney. He said that although he wasn’t a Beatles fan (I made sure that changed), he did like songs from Wings because they reminded him of his childhood. Was this love at first sight?

Maybe it was love at first discussion about rock music, a pastime that continues to this day. One of my favorite things is to talk about music with my husband. It probably always will be. The other day I asked if I was really going to be 72 years old sitting around listening to 1984 and talking to him about Van Halen. He confirm that, yeah, I probably would.

When we married three years later, we actually chose different McCartney songs for our first and final dances. This one was too tied to the magic of that first chance meeting. There was something so spontaneous about how it happened, and it is at its most perfect left as the song that brought us together.

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.