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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What are the Best First Lines in music history?

Some tracks and videos before this list at

Other artists down the line have chosen to follow [Billie] Holiday’s enigmatic lead:

Prince: “In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name.” (Sign O’ The Times)
John Lennon (The Beatles): “I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me.” (Norwegian Wood)
Paul McCartney (The Beatles): “Well she was just 17, you know what I mean.” (I Saw her Standing There)
Neil Young: “The world is turning, hope it don’t turn away” (On The Beach)
Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel): “Hello darkness, my old friend.” (The Sound Of Silence)
Leonard Cohen: “We find ourselves on different sides of a line nobody drew.” (Different Sides); “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.” (Bird On A Wire)
Bob Dylan: “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” (Blowin’ In The Wind)
Sam Cooke: “I was born by the river in a little tent and just like the river I’ve been running ever since.” (A Change Is Gonna Come)
Bruce Springsteen: “I stood stone-like at midnight, suspended in my masquerade.” (Growin’ Up); “Fat man sittin’ on a little stool, takes the money from my hand while his eyes take a walk all over you.” (Tunnel Of Love)
Elvis Costello: “I’ve been on tenterhooks ending in dirty looks.” (Pump It Up) 
Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees): “You can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man – no time to talk.” (Stayin’ Alive)
Jeff Tweedy (Wilco): “I will throw myself underneath the wheels of any train of thought.” (Open Mind)

Others preferred to come straight to the point:

Patti Smith: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” (Gloria)
Roger Waters (Pink Floyd): “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” (Another Brick In The Wall)
Johnny Lydon (The Sex Pistols): “I am an anti-Christ.” (Anarchy in the UK) 
Nick Cave (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds): “I don’t believe in an interventionist God.” (Into My Arms)
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails): “I hurt myself today to see if I could feel.” (Hurt)
Pete Townshend (The Who): “People try to put us down just because we get around.” (My Generation)
Bob Marley: “Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.” (War)

Others can be mystical and/or enchanting:

Van Morrison: “We were born before the wind also younger than the sun.” (Into The Mystic); “If I ventured in the slipstream between the viaduct of your dream.” (Astral Weeks)
Bob Dylan: “Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet.” (Visions Of Johanna).
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin): “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold.” (Stairway To Heaven)
Roy Orbison: “A candy-coloured clown they call the sandman tiptoes to my room every night.” (In Dreams)
Paul Simon: “The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar.” (Graceland)
Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones): “Please allow me to introduce myself I’m a man of wealth and taste.”(Sympathy For The Devil)
Morrissey (The Smiths): “I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour.” (Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now)

Or contemplative and/or humourous:

Neil Young: “Old man look at my life I’m a lot like you were.” (Old Man)
Paul Anka, Claude Francois, Jacques Revaux, Gilles Thibault (Frank Sinatra): “And now the end is near.”(My Way)
Bernie Taupin (Elton John): “It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside.” (Your Song)
Leonard Cohen: “Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey and I ache in the places where I used to play.”(Tower Of Song)
Ryan Adams: “Well I was waitin’ around for somebody to die, nobody did but part of me died, I suppose, from all that waiting (Natural Ghost)
Billy Bragg: “Take the M For Me and the Y for you out of family and it all falls through.” (Take The M For Me)
Frank Porter is an Australian music writer.

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