What's the best opening lyric of all time?

Rick_lOur corporate cousins over at Spinner.com weighed in this week with their list of the 25 best opening lyrics in music history, from "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar" (Human League’s "Don’t You Want Me") all the way up to No. 1, "She’s a very kinky girl" (Rick James’ "Superfreak"; pictured).

They’re all pretty solid choices, but it still feels like something’s missing. Namely, where’s the rap? Spinner chose just two hip-hop tracks, one of which — 50 Cent’s "Go shorty, it’s your birthday" ("In Da Club") — isn’t even an actual opening lyric. (For the record, the "go shorty" bit is just pre-song patter; the real first words of "In Da Club," not counting the chorus, are the less-than-memorable "When I pull up in the front, see the Benz on dubs.")

That’s quite an omission, considering how much more lyrics-oriented rap music is compared to most pop and rock music. Did any of the well-known lines after the jump really deserve to be unseated by, uh, "Pigs, they tend to wiggle when they walk"? (Sorry, Malkmus.)

addCredit(“Rick James: Freek Arriens / Retna”)

"It was all a dream!/I used to read Word Up magazine/Salt’N’Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine."C’mon — even people who’ve never listened to a single rap album all theway through start shouting along when Biggie’s "Juicy" comes on. Thisone’s a gimme.

"Funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don’t fit your equation." Lauryn Hill’s ferocious salvo on "Lost Ones" stopped any doubters in their tracks.

"I bombatomically/Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses/Can’t define how I bedroppin’ these/Mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery."Inspectah Deck absolutely destroyed the Wu-Tang Clan’s "Triumph" withthis polysyllabic beast. Eight other tight verses follow from the restof the Clan, but none have a chance at beating this one.

"The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis/Shining, like ‘Who on top of this?’"Mos Def’s scene-setting imagery on his and Talib Kweli’s "Respiration"is more than just a classic hip-hop line — it’s a classic piece ofpoetry, period.

"International, underground/Thunder pounds when I stomp the ground."OutKast’s Andre 3000 used to drop nimble-tongued gems like this one(from "B.O.B.") all the time — and, thankfully, he’s recently starteddoing so again.

I could go on for days! And so, I’m sure, could you. Which great first lines (rap or otherwise) did Spinner forget?


Comments (112 total) Add your comment
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  • Thad

    I was workin part time at the five and dime, my boss was Mr. McGee. Prince, Raspberry Beret

  • Thad

    or… In France a skinny man died from a big disease with small name. Prince, Sign O the Times

  • Scotto

    I immediately went to this other Prince track:
    “I knew a girl named Nikki/I guess u could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine”

  • SJK

    How about “they tried to make me go to rehab, but I said ‘no, no, no” – Amy Winehouse

  • mikey

    Obvious hip-hop omission
    “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” — Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Baby Got Back
    Some of my personal faves
    “Sitting on park bench/eyeing little girls with bad intent.” — Jethro Tull, Aqualung
    “Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got/Not much of a girlfriend, I never seem to get a lot.” — Supertramp, Breakfast in America
    “You’ve got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend.” — Bob Dylan, Positively 4th Street
    “Imagine there’s no Heaven/it’s easy if you try.” — John Lennon, Imagine
    The list also had virtually no country representation (only Merle), so let’s go there as well.
    “Hey, Hey Good Lookin’/Whatch’ya got cookin’/How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?” — Hank Williams, Hey, Hey Good Lookin’

  • thdx3

    The screen door slams; Mary’s dress waves.
    Rock as screenplay.

  • mikey

    Of course Prince could get a list of openers all by his own bad purple self:
    “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
    “Dig if you will a picture, of you and I engaged in a kiss.”
    “I guess I should have known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last.”
    –and so on…

  • Mell

    “I wear tight clothing, high heeled shoes, that doesn’t mean that I’m a prostitute (ooh naw naw)” -En Vogue, Free Your Mind.
    One of those lyrics you never quite understood until you really listened…and then you wanted to tell everyone you knew.

  • John

    What have we done with innocence/ It disappeared with time and never made much sense – Monkey Wrench by Foo Fighters

  • jordan

    “You should’ve been gone/knowing how I made you feel”. Oh, Sherrie with Steve Perry’s glorious voice all by himself.

  • Annabelle

    Jeremiah was a bullfrog!

  • Bob ‘n’ Bruce

    “Early one morning the sun was shining/I was a layin in bed”…from Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.”
    How about the opening refrain of “41 shots” over and over from Bruce’s “American Skin?”
    and a personal Bruce fave;
    “Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night,” from “Atlantic City”

  • mike

    When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy with you dies-Some body To Love-Jefferson Airplane
    Don’t want to be an American Idiot/
    Don’t want a nation under the new media-American Idiot-Green Day
    We want multiply/Are you gonna do it-
    Some Like It Hot-Power Station
    You comeout at night. That’s where the energy comes.The dark sides light & the vampires roam-Building a Mystery-Sarah McLachlan
    Ooga Ooga Ooga Chaka-Hooked On A Feeling-Blue Swede

  • Simon

    “Now that your picture’s in the paper, being rhythmically admired …”
    -Elvis Costello, “Welcome to the Working Week”

  • daisyj

    I need some sleep; I can’t go on like this/I try counting sheep, but there’s one I always miss.
    -The Eels, “Need Some Sleep”

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