Greatest Opening Lyrical Lines Ever

I was spinning one of my all-time favorite records last night, Dogbowl’s 1992 post-apocalyptic nightmare Flan, and was struck (as I always am) by how perfectly concise and scene-setting the album’s very first lyrical line is, in the context of the music and story that follow:

“Flan awoke to the terrible realization that his room was on fire . . . “

I posted this observation up on the “Xnet2 Too Too Liste” (hit the “huh?” button at that link a few times for a full sense of what this venerable and secretive Interweb cabal is all about), asking the Liste’s members what other albums contained such classic, scene-setting opening lyrics. The very clever folks there came up with some doozies, indeed. And here are some of the other ones that popped into my own head as I pondered the question:

“This is a public service announcement . . . with guitar . . .”
(From The Clash’s Combat Rock)

“In the corner of my eye, I saw you at Rudy’s, you were very high . . .”
(From Steely Dan’s Aja)

“Remember when we were young? You shone like the sun . . .”
(From Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here)

So what opening lines would you, Indie Albany readers, consider as all-time greats?

Keep in mind as the sole rule that these have to be first lines of first songs on albums as they’re originally issued, not compilations of earlier material. So while “I read the news today, oh boy . . . ” is one of the greatest song opening lines of all time, it doesn’t qualify here, since “A Day in the Life” is not the first track on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“Here come old flat top, he come grooving up slowly . . . “, on the other hand, would qualify, as those are the first words you hear on Abbey Road.

What else you got?

16 thoughts on “Greatest Opening Lyrical Lines Ever

  1. Gotta get up gotta get out gotta get home before the morning comes
    What if I’m late got a big date gotta get home before the sun comes up
    Up and away got a big day sorry can’t stay I gotta run run yeah
    Gotta get home pick up the phone gotta let the people know I’m gonna be late

    — Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson

    Deep breath, I request a requiem for apathy
    Momentarily lost hope, but now it’s back in me
    Temporarily felt defeated by the game
    Then the light came just after the nightingale sang

    — Common Market, Common Market

    Hard to top Combat Rock, though.

  2. It goes without saying, but Clutch is quite adept at the ear-catching, album-opening lyric. My favorite? Hmmm…probably “Big News I” from the self-titled…the rolling bassline, the guitar doubling up the riff, then that cymbal crash like a wave hitting a boat, followed by the intonation of:

    “The fog is rolling in
    The tide is high
    Diane’s as fat can be
    Aye, Captain, aye….”

    My all-time favorite, though, is off the Ramones’ “Road to Ruin,” which opens with “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do” and the lines:

    “Hanging out on Second Avenue
    Eating chicken vindaloo
    I just want to be with you
    I just wanna have something to do…”

    Honorable mention to Mclusky in the “please don’t play this in front of your mother” bracket, off their album “Mclusky Do Dallas.” Opening lines to “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” are thusly:

    “Eat what you are while you’re falling apart
    And it opened a can of worms
    The gun’s in my hand and I know it looks bad
    But believe me I’m innocent.”

    • I was bummed that “Please allow me to adjust my pants, so that I may dance the good time dance . . . ” didn’t open its host album . . .

      On the flip side, it’s darned hard to beat: “Hey, hey now, what’s that smell? Just like cornbread done too well. What you need, you know I got. So hands up, who wants to rock?!”

  3. The Meat Puppets “How much do I owe you I’ll pay but I don’t want to!”

    Captain Beefheart: “My smile is stuck! I cannot go back to your frownland!”

    Husker Du: “New day rising! New day rising!”

    Colossamite: “I live in the hot house! Get out!”

    In general, they oughtta have exclamation points.

    But this one doesn’t and still oughtta be mentioned:

    Low: “When they found your body, giant x’s on your eyes”

    • I had forgotten about that Beefheart one — definitely one of the all-time great kickoff lyrics.

      And listening to Blondie’s “Parallel Lines” the other night, that album starts off with a great scene-setter (a cover, but it sets the mood nicely):

      “I’m in the phone booth, it’s the one across the hall…”

    • …and having just heard it on the radio, how could I have forgotten the line that gets Cheap Trick’s “Heaven Tonight” LP started?

      “Mother told me, yes she told me, I’d meet girls like you…”

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