Nothing gets a great song going like a great first line. For this volume of our “great first lines” series I’ve got five more songs (with nothing to tie them together than just not being punk songs) that have awesome attention-grabbing first lines. Each of these songs show exactly how much can be accomplished with a great opening.
Rod Stewart – “Maggie May”
This is one of the greatest opening lines of all time: “Wake up Maggie, I think I’ve got something to say to you.” The “wake up” grabs the listener’s attention and the rest sets the stage for what’s to come. Even though you might not yet know what he’s got to say to Maggie, you know it’s not good. Of course, this great opening isn’t wasted on uninteresting lyrics as Rod is apparently a young kid in some sort of cougar-eqsque relationship.
Elvis Costello – “No Action”
Elvis is the king (pun intended) of acidic lyrics. With his first three albums all opening with just a solo vocal, I think the best one is this opener from This Year’s Model: “I don’t want to kiss you, I don’t want to touch. I don’t want to see you ‘cuz I don’t miss you that much.” Tell us how you really feel!
Neutral Milk Hotel – “Two-Headed Boy”
I don’t need to say too much about this record as it is one of the most discussed of the last 20 years. If you’re into it, then you know. The opening lines to this song are a great example of the devastatingly sad and also downright creepy emotions that fill the entire album. Truly “haunted” music.
Two headed boy
All floating in glass
The sun it has passed
Now it’s blacker than black
I can hear as you tap on your jar
Hum – “Stars”
“She thinks she missed the train to Mars, she’s out backing counting stars.” These lyrics are probably not as strong as the rest of these songs, but Hum shows how to take an interesting line and highlight it by using an extreme loud-soft-loud arrangement. That full band hit might be the best full band hit of all time. The inter-stellar themed lyrics also fit well with the band’s “space rock” sound.
Owen – “Bad News”
Mike Kinsella knows how to pair emotionally contrasting lyrics with a delicate acoustic sound. I like this one so much because it starts with such a sweet and gentle sound, making the truth of the lyrics hits even harder, even while the soft accompaniment continues. This is an awesome use of contrast to build depth.
Whatever it is you think you are, you aren’t:
a good friend, unique, well-read good-looking, or smart.
Well now you know.
Man, I hope he’s not talking to me!