Top Five Opening Lines to Songs

I’m a bit of a lyrics nerd. All the tissue in my brain that most people allocate to useful information ( how to cook things with more than three ingredients, how to keep enough clean underwear on hand, etc.) I reserved for song lyrics I haven’t listened to since high school. So it goes.The only advantage it has served so far is being able to provide seemingly thoughtful responses in conversation that are really just lifted from something Conor Oberst or John K. Samson blabbered about at one time. I am a fraud. But here, for your enjoyment, in true Rob Gordon fashion, are my top five opening lines to songs.

1. “If I don’t have sex by the end of the week I’m going to die.” – The Dismemberment Plan, “Girl O’Clock”

Travis Morrison has this incredible way of twisting horribly bleak situations into laugh out loud moments. The protagonist in “Girl O’Clock” is in a pretty sad state. In fact, this may just be the least second least romantic song of all time.  There is not a single unique sentiment offered to the Object of His Desire in the space of this song, replaced instead by a frantic craving for soft lips and warm breath. You know, things most people technically have.  In other words, the dude just needs some fucking human contact. Then he goes and compares his cravings to the incessant, cold drone of a timepiece and it’s no wonder he’s not having much luck with the opposite sex.

“Hey, so I saw you from across the room and wanted you to know that the blood pumping through your veins and the life behind your eyes are just the biggest turn ons. Also, your lips. Nothing specific, just the fact that you have them.”

Boom, panty dropper. Writing that one down.

2. “The first time that I met her I was throwing up in the ladies room stall.” – The Good Life, “Album of the Year”

I don’t know which bar Tim Kasher was in when he managed to start a long term relationship by drunkenly vomiting, but I really wish he’d included that tidbit of info in the Album of the Year liner notes. For whatever reason that’s always the “um, I’ll call you later” moment of my nocturnal forays. In a lot of ways this encounter foreshadowed the <SPOILER ALERT>  alleged infidelity, romantic disillusionment, and eventual dismantling of the relationship over the course of the album </SPOILER ALERT>. And when examined through this lens, one doesn’t feel so bad for the girl that may or may not have been wronged. I mean, she found the dude throwing up his guts, which doesn’t exactly scream stability or faithfulness. I mean, shit, they tried beaking up at the end of the first song!

3.  “If I apologize for the swift and sudden rise of the reoccurring themes of love and God and war, will you make amends for the way we all pretend that these aren’t the things we think about when we don’t think about our jobs anymore?” – Crime in Stereo, “I, Stateside”

 

I’ll be honest: a large part of my appeal for this song lies in the outrageously long sentences Kristian Hallbert strings together. “I, Stateside,” the closing track of The Troubled Stateside removes the third wall of the record, abolishing the traditional “creator : listener” relationship and allows Hallbert to briefly comment on the significantly more political direction taken in their (then) latest effort. It’s as if he’s saying “Yeah, yeah I know I’m going on about all this shit, but, come on, you’re not worried about this too?” Afterall, this is year six of the Bush Era, Karl Rove has meaningful influence, and by now we’ve figured Donald Rumsfeld & Co. kind of cooked up the whole “Iraq with WMDs” scenario. The new found breadth of the record’s topics allowed Crime in Stereo to take a quantum leap from their previous album, Explosives and the Will to Use Them, which focused more on scene politics and relationships. To sum up just how far the band came with The Troubled Stateside, I’ll leave you with the last lines of the record:

“So we’re all going to hell, but with one hell of a plan. Presented in folded flags, embedded in foreign sand, written upon the dead skin of a dried up land, it began:

We’ll fix the fat and ugly with incisions.

We’ll stash the gay and liberal up in New England.

We’ll keep the black and poor either in or under constant threat of prison.

And we’ll all feel blessed just for being a part of the vision.”

4. “Had one of those days when you want to try heroin, drunk driving, some form of soft suicide.” – The Weakerthans, “Leash”

Some days you just feel like this:

High Fidelity

and that is why God created John K. Samson, singer/songwriter and creative engine of The Weakerthans. Incessantly meticulous, John, over the course of five full lengths, excelled at the art of capturing those ten second spans that get replayed in your head for years. Released on debut album Fallow, “Leash” details the moment of reluctant optimism that just may flit around on Monday after a weekend of staring through a computer screen or being Velcroed to a bed. I think the song could have excelled as a feel good pop-punk sing along (see “Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist” and “Aside”) instead of the somewhat plodding, meandering track it becomes. It’s hard to discount the poignancy, though.

5. “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol.” – Queens of the Stone Age, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”

Sure, drop-what-you’re-doing-and-listen wordsmiths deserve a special spot in any listener’s record collection, but there’s something to be said for ham-fisted bravado as well. The opening track to Rated R, which should be the quintessential rebuttal to anyone yammering about the sophomore slump, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” skirts elegance and nuance in such a terrific tongue in cheek fashion that it’s hard not to grin. I mean, the opening lyrics are really the only lyrics (save for the chorus, which is just “cocaine”), but the track lampoons the stoner rock label they outgrew in Rated R. Fortunately, the rest of the album is considerably more thoughtful and dynamic, ranging from spacey, psych-soaked jams to eerie guitar solos, but “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” serves quite well as the introductory message to the record. And yeah, dilated pupils and a bong rip don’t hurt either.

 

How about you? What are you favorite opening lines to songs?