Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Famous first words

'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.' Great opening lines in literature make a great topic of conversation, and lists of the best literary opening lines abound. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...' 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.'

But I don't think I'd ever considered the equivalent in music before last month, when compiled a list of the greatest opening lyrics in pop music. Isn't that an interesting thought?

Some of their selections are strong: 'You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar'; 'I am an antichrist'; 'Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine'. Others seem to be there gratuitously. 'Well I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body' is included solely for the opportunity to joke about how it's a great line when George Michael sings it, but not when he says it in a bathroom. Please...

I notice that two of the twenty five lyrics are tautologies: Prince's 'I was dreaming when I wrote this' and Elvis Costello's 'Oh, I just don't know where to begin'. I can't say if that's grounds for disqualification, but I can say for sure that 'She's a very sexy girl' in no way deserves to be on such a list, much less at the top of it. Don't confuse a memorable opener with a great one.

So I got to thinking, what songs would I nominate to a list of best opening lyrics?

'Still night, nothing for miles, white curtain come down'
(Sisters Of Mercy - 'Driven like the snow')

'I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar'
(Smiths - 'How soon is now?')

'Load up on guns, bring your friends'
(Nirvana - 'Smells like teen spirit')

'Sooner or later this happens to everyone - to everyone'
(Pet Shop Boys - 'Love comes quickly')

'There'll be times when my crimes will seem almost unforgivable'
(Depeche Mode - 'Strangelove')

'Well I was born an original sinner'
(Eurythmics - 'Missionary man')

'There's a little black spot on the sun today'
(Police - 'King of pain')

'The world is a vampire'
Smashing Pumpkins - 'Bullet with butterfly wings')

'I live with snakes and lizards and other things that go bump in the night'
(Ministry - 'Every day is Halloween')

'I guess I should have known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn't last'
(Prince - 'Little red Corvette')

'Love, love is a verb - love is a doing word'
(Massive Attack & Elizabeth Fraser - 'Teardrop')

'Every finger in the room is pointing at me'
(Tori Amos - 'Crucify')