June 13, 2008

A Short Treatise on the Excellent Opening Lines of Four Different Songs, and Why They Rock My World

I am notoriously bad at understanding lyrics, even in English, but recently I have noticed that the opening lines of these four songs pack such a wallop that I simply must continue listening:

1. “It’s Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again,” by Cornershop
Nobody has actually listened to this song since the late 1990s, but if you were to listen to it, the first line you’d hear is: “And by the time that she gets home / She’ll realize that I am gone / I’ll be sitting in a back bar drinkin’ / Drinkin’ to my friends, and drinkin’ to my foes / For both keep a young heart movin.’”
This is great because it’s sort of funny, but I love it mainly because the singer starts his song off with the word “and,” which is sure to make grammarians cringe. Later on the song even mentions “Chattanooga” and “Tokyotown,” both of which, for some inexplicable reason, make my heart smile a bit.
This song is also part of a good but under-appreciated album called “When I Was Born For The 7th Time.” You remember that song “Brimful of Asha?” Well, if you heard it right now, it would surely ring a bell. Anyhow, as it turns out, that album had other songs that were even better.
I think I now recall that Bobby once told me that Spin magazine had rated this as the album of the year for the year it was released, putting it even above Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” This, obviously, is absolute bullshit, but “…7th Time” is still a good, weird album.

2. “How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?” by Morrissey
I got the CD “You Are The Quarry” from my friends Dustin and Sam, and I’ve been liking it more and more each time I hear it. The long song titles alone are worth the trip, but the lyrics are even better. The opening line of this song is: “She told me she loved me / Which means she must be insane / I’ve had my face dragged in / 15 miles of shit / and I do not, and I do not, and I do not like it.”
The words here basically speak for themselves, and you can really see Morrisey’s bitter, ironic humor coming through. Plus, the “I’ve had my face dragged in…” part is actually a sort of bridge to the chorus, and you gotta admire a guy who already takes you to the chorus after just one sentence of verse.
Finally, I like how his face is dragged through 15 miles—and not kilometers—of shit. Mark my words: the metric system is useful, sure, but it’ll never be poetic!

3. “P.S. You Rock My World,” by the Eels
This song starts off with: “I was at a funeral / The day I realized / I wanted to spend my life with you.” This mixing of heartwarming and utterly depressing lyrics is what makes the Eels great, and for me, this song demonstrates the pinnacle of that effect. If you’ve not heard much of the Eels, or if your only exposure to them has been from the Shrek soundtracks, get your ears off their asses and hear some more songs by this band. They’re great!
By the way, the ending lines of this song are also great: “…a careful man tries to dodge the bullets / While a happy man takes a walk / And maybe it’s time to live.”

4. “Somebody To Love,” by Queen
I never really appreciated the opening line of this song until I was in Argentina. My new friend Nacho asked me, “What is that they’re saying? ‘Each morning I get up I die a little’?”
I confirmed that he had understood the lyrics correctly.
“Ay, que feo!” he replied. Just like the songs by the Eels, this one mixes downer lyrics with soaring, operatic music. It’s required listening if you’re looking for that Special Someone…and even the live George Michael version from the Freddy Mercury tribute concert is really good, although he does a cop out and tries to get the audience to sing a bit at the end. Nevertheless, good stuff.

So, check out these songs. Tell me if you come across other great opening lines that grab your attention and don’t let it go until the last note fades out.


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3 comments:

Dustin said...

Always awesome to hear references to The Moz!! That song IS awesome...

Paul said...

I was thinking, and like you, I don't usually put too much stock in lyrics, but I always remember hearing the opening to "Last Kiss" for the first time and how shocking and altogether depressing it was. "Oh where oh where could my baby be? The lord took her away from me. She's gone to heaven so I've got to be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world." Ouch.

Sitzman said...

Paul--This is true. Good point.
--Ryan