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10 Great Opening Lyrics

Does it hook you? Does it intrigue you? How does a lyric get a grip in your brain and start the descent to your heart? With it’s opening, of course! Here we salute some fine examples of opening lines;

Modest Mouse – Float On; “I drove my car into a cop car the other day, he just drove off, sometimes life’s okay”.

Isaac Brock is a loony, but even by his standards, that’s special. Starts weird, goes nowhere, ends positive. Dude.

Tom Petty – Free Fallin’; ‘She’s a good girl, loves her Momma, loves Jesus and America too’.

Highly underrated lyricist is Petty. Paints a scene so evocative it could come from an LA crime novel. (Note to British readers; it is wrong to spend the rest of the song hoping that the girl gets humped, dumped and dropped off on her ‘Momma’s’ lawn at 4am. It is not, however, difficult.)

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Lost Weekend; ‘I took a Lost Weekend at a motel in Amsterdam, Double pneumonia in a single room’.

Magnificent lucky white heather story from Derby’s finest Scotsman. Also a wonderful metaphor for those unfortunates afflicted by the Bad Luck Virus.

The Replacements – Here Comes A Regular; ‘Well a man can build up a mean, mean thirst doing nothing much at all’.

Singularly heartbreaking song from the greatest bar band of all time (and I include the Stones there.) Song made increasingly beautiful by Paul Westerberg’s refusal to judge and an empathy with the main character which says ‘I have been here too’.

Whiskeytown – Houses on the Hill; ‘Well I found a bunch of letters, they were written from the fellow who broke your Momma’s heart, and the envelope folds smelled of her ancient perfume’.

Ryan Adams was 22 when he wrote that. Imagine that. Rest of lyric so good he could have passed it off as a Mark Twain short story.

Bright Eyes – We Are Nowhere and It’s Now; ‘If you hate the taste of wine, why do you drink it til you’re blind? Why are you scared to dream of God when it’s salvation that you want?’

New Dylan tag is a heavy one on anybody but someone who can write lyrics like that – empathy and scorn both present and correct at the same time shouldn’t be worried about it. Props to Connor Oberst. Whatever that means.

Morrissey – November Spawned a Monster; ‘Sleep on and dream of love, because it’s the closest you will get to love’.

Another example of kindness and abuse broadcast simultaneously. Morrissey when he was unparalleled.

The Beach Boys – You Still Believe in Me; ‘I know perfectly well I’m not where I should be’.

If there is anybody who hasn’t felt this at one point in their life, then I think they are a member of the Royal Family.

Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns and Money; ‘Well, I went home with the waitress, the way I always do. How was I to know she was with the Russians too?’

You could pick anyone of about three dozen from Zevon’s back catalogue, but this one is just so perfect. Glamorous, funny and incorporating the ‘it wasn’t my fault!’ culture so beloved of us humans.

Lemonheads – Style; ‘Don’t wanna get stoned, but I don’t wanna not get stoned’.

Addiction summed up in 11 words. There was a lot more to Evan Dando than good looks and shagging Courtney Love (allegedly.)


18 Responses

  1. Hey – been trying to meet you. Hey – must be a devil between us or whores in my head, whores at my door, whores in my bed.

    A personal favourite by the Pixies.

    And another:

    If you didn’t want me you shouldn’t have been born. That started all the trouble, now the damage is done. You never should have been born, cause now you’re the one for me.

    Jonathan Richman brilliance

  2. Sir, I salute your good taste!

    Jonathan Richman is a genius. ‘Roadrunner’ says more about the power of being a teenager in a car than anyone, Springsteen included.

  3. It does, for sure – but lyrically it looks a bit crap written down, does Roadrunner. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TWO CHORDS. And the organ and the shouting.

  4. Agreed. Roadrunner is punk, more punk than the Sex Pistols (who had more production than Led Zepplin.)

    I saw an interview with Jonathan Richman in Q about 15 years ago where he refused to sit down as ‘that’s what lazy people do.’ God bless him!

  5. “Lazarus wasn’t grateful for his second wind,
    For another chance, to watch his chances fade like the dawn and leave..”

    Mark Eitzel….genius. I have very few musical heroes/heroines. He is the greatest for me. Lyrically I could have chosen any song from any album….and that’s the best tribute I can pay him.

  6. “I never thought it would happen,
    with me and a girl from Clapham..”

    Takes you straight to the drama of the kitchen sink….you gotta know what comes next.

  7. Yes, there’s something grimly romantic about a girl from Clapham!

  8. Well,while Im in that time frame – and similarly drawing you into the ” eh,what!”response to an opening line,how about ;

    ” I love the sound of breaking glass..”

    strangely strange I think.

  9. It’s pleasantly sinister.

    In terms of a ‘what the fuck is going here?’ lyric, Disorder by Joy Division takes some beating – ‘I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand, cure these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man.’ That’s ace, that is.

  10. ” looking at your watch the third time ,
    waiting in the station for the bus..”

    and some
    .this one could run and run.

  11. That’s not the lyric I know……;-)

  12. Oh,yeah – I get it now! bit too tired last night for any lateral thinking!

  13. “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen
    But you don’t know where that cock has been..”

    Arab Strap, superb stuff…..

  14. How about the waterboys “medicine bow” ;

    “theres a black wind blowin’
    a typhoon on the rise
    ,pumelling rain,
    murderous skies..”

    certainly beats “I wish I was a fisherman..”!

  15. Mike Scott laughs like Muttley. This is fundamentally a good thing.

  16. If I may be so bold – may I sugggest a ” very bad lyrics ” thread for sometime in the future? You know,the really cringeworthy guff.We must all have our favourites.

  17. We all ready have a review of the latest album by “The Feeling”

    Boom Boom!

    Seriously though, good idea.

  18. Any song,for example ,which uses “wind” in its title or lyric usually falls flat(ulently) on its face for me:

    Wild Is The Wind

    The Wind Cries Mary

    The Wind Beneath My Wings

    Winds Of Change

    you get my drift!

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