Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Best. Intro. Ever.

I had to throw my two cents into the pot when it comes to my favorite song intros of all time. There’s so many stellar, ear-tugging openers it’s difficult to narrow it down therefore I chose the following three knowing fully that I’ve left out too many to mention:

Rush - "Limelight"

MC5 - "Kick Out the Jams"

David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust"

Now, I know there are hundreds more so please refresh my memory with your favorite song intros.

What's the greatest intro in the world?

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Nowadays, in an age of sensory overload, the need for a song to grab the listener's attention as quickly as possible is more vital than ever


I was watching University Challenge the other night when, incongruously, the deathless opening riff of the Kinks' You Really Got Me popped up. To paraphrase Churchill, never can a pop song have been so identifiable to so many from so little as this classic proto-punk single from 1964. The intro does exactly what the song promises in the title: pins you where you stand, then drags you in. Even the team of scientists seemed to have a fairly good idea of what it was. Paxo, clearly a secret member of the Village Green Preservation Society, simply smiled indulgently.

Most producers, publishers and A&R men - yes, they still exist - tell aspiring songwriters that they have, at the outside, roughly 30 seconds for a song to grab their interest before the mind starts to wander, usually never to return. But what, the poor composer will cry, about the carefully constructed bridge that kicks in after two-and-a-half minutes? Sad to say, you might as well have recorded the sound of your dog scratching at the door for all the attention they're paying by that point.

Nowadays, in an age of sensory overload and increasing demands on our time, the need for a song to grab the listener's attention as quickly as possible is more vital than ever. Which means the intro remains king. But what to do? There are loads of tried-and-tested options. George Martin was a great advocate of leading from the front, sticking the chorus right where you can't ignore it - advice that heightened the initial impact of the Beatles' She Loves You, and has since been followed by everyone from Abba (Take a Chance on Me) to Amy Winehouse (Rehab).

If it's a powerhouse riff you're after, then AC/DC's Back in Black takes some beating, though Smells Like Teen Spirit runs it close. The naked bass line and tambourine combo - featured on the Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love, purloined to equally gripping effect by the Jam on A Town Called Malice - is similarly hard to resist. Sometimes, however, the story rather than the sound proves most effective: the opening seconds of conversation on Leader of the Pack contain the seeds of an entire soap opera; so, in its own way, does "it's Britney, bitch" on Gimme More.

There are other ways and means: the trippy fade-in (Stone Roses' I Wanna Be Adored); the dramatic sound-effect (The Doors' Riders on the Storm; Junior Walker's Shotgun); stark and sultry (Prince's Sign O' The Times); the power-chord-then-pause (Bowie's Moonage Daydream).

A capella. Choral. A bloody big bass drum. Let me know which ones take your fancy. We're after the greatest intro in the world - ever.

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