They says first impressions count and in that spirit we present our Top Ten opening lines.
Be they profound, funny or just plain stupid, they are the indicators that get you reaching for the hair brush microphone and heading for the dancefloor.
Some artists spend weeks crafting the perfect poetic intro, setting up for what’s to come and hinting at the resolution (“Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son?”), others bash it out and end up with an accidental classic (“Some people call me the space cowboy”). Either way, we all know how important a good opening line is, here are a few of Clash’s favourites:
The Stone Roses
“Burst into heaven, Kissing the cotton clouds
Arctic sheets and fields of wheat, I cant stop coming down“
The perfect encapsulation of their early period (not the Goth years, we’ll ignore that) as makers of classic guitar pop. Angelic harmonies and heavenly lyrics with a sneaky sinister undertone saw them heralded as the Rave generation’s Beatles. Not much to live up then! After this they went funky and frazzled then disappeared for five years and came back as Led Zeppelin for the roundly criticised Second Coming. Me? I loved it.
House of Pain
“Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin”
I bet, even as you read those words aloud in your head, you continued onto the next line, and the next line. A classic sing-a-along tune, there’s no great depth here just the usual threats and boasts, but teamed up with Dj Muggs bouncing backbeat you can’t help but join in.
Bring the Noise
“Bass! how low can you go? Death row. what a brother knows.”
Stripped of it’s impact due to a certain over familiarity (it’s opening line having been sampled countless times) Bring The Noise is classic Public Enemy. Over a dense buzzing Bomb Squad production Chuck D lets loose on the track which kicked off the astounding ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’.
The Sugarhill Gang
“I said a hip hop, the hippie the hippie, to the hip hip hop, a you don’t stop “
Part of the early hip hop double whammy alongside Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’, like House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ you just can’t help joining in. Released on, and featuring the house band of, Sugar Hill Records this early example of the form has rarely been bettered although the full version doesn’t half go on (over 14 minutes!).
“Just what is it that you want to do?
We wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time”
Not even a lyric but dialogue sampled from the movie The Wild Angles, apt given it comes from Primal Scream’s sampleadelic phase. A self remix of the band’s own ‘I’m losing more than I’ll ever have’ track it saw them swept up in the E fuelled revolution in music and labelled ‘dance traitors’ by some. A fitting motto for the band’s activities, perhaps destined to be seen on Bobby Gillespie’s gravestone.
The Rolling Stones
Jumpin Jack Flash
“I was born in a cross-fire hurricane “
The usual gibberish from Mick on this classic, propelled by one of the all time great riffs. Who knows what he’s going on about but still it adds to his rock star mystique (rather than highlight his actual existence of someone who sits about in air conditioned studios all day being waited on hand and foot). And, of course, the inspiration for a terrible movie featuring Whoopie Goldberg as an accidental spy. She was better in Star Trek.
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
“I woke up with the power out, not really something to shout about.”
My first proper experience of Arcade Fire, and a lot of people’s it would seem, was their appearance on Later with Jools Holland performing this beauty. The opening line all the more notable as it’s the only lyric you can make out before the band disappears behind a stormfront of fiddles, guitars and yelped vocals.
My Morning Jacket
“Gideon. What Have You Told Us At All? “
From the ever brilliant Jim James and My Morning Jacket, ‘Gideon’ appeared on the band’s ‘Z’ album. Besides being the kick ass tune that it undoubtedly is, it’s also a sly dig at ol’ raisin eyes, George Bush Jnr. Although not American myself I’ve met enough to know the line “Hated And Feared For Something We Don’t Want“ from the song stuck a major chord with young Americans over the war in Iraq.
“What’s with these homies, dissin’ my girl? ”
I struggle to keep up with these sub genres sometimes, what were Weezer? Nerd-rock? Wuss-rock? Playing against their geeky image, the excellently named Rivers Cuomo opened their best know song (thanks to it’s Spike Jonze directed Happy Days spoof video which was, bizarrely, included on Microsoft’s Windows 95 installation discs) with a line you’d expect from an Eminem record.
I Can’t Explain
“Got a feeling inside, I can’t explain”
From Townshend’s ‘voice of the kids’ phase (careful now). Any of those early Who songs portrayed a fair representation of teenage life in Sixties Britain but ‘I Can’t Explain’s opening gambit, simple as it is, really nailed it. Analysing the teenage experience in a lengthy thesis is all very well but how many teenagers would a) read it and b) understand it. Townshend manages it in seven simple words.
So have i missed a classic? Highlighted a stinker? Let’s hear your suggestions for the best opening lines…