It feels like the subject matter on the blog has been kinda heavy these past weeks, so how about a bit of fun?
Maybe you’ve seen the recent news article to the effect that the average intro time for a pop hit has dropped from more than 20 seconds to five seconds since the mid-1980s. I mean, I don’t know why the BBC are banging on about it now, when Mashable reported on the underlying research in April.
[Who cares? Read on for five of the best intros ever.]
I mean, what could have been going on on last Wednesday that Auntie Beeb’s flagship news and sports radio station was focussing on this pish?
Oh. International reaction to Foreign Secretary and professional liar, Boris Johnson making a crack about dead Libyans at the Conservative Party conference.
Thread. 😱 https://t.co/SSRzqkXwzZ
— Ricky Monahan Brown (@ricky_ballboy) October 4, 2017
Jeez, Stroke Bloke. Keep it light, will ya?
Right. Yes. Apparently – and almost as horrifyingly – the rise of streaming services means it’s now much easier to move on to the next song if you’re not instantly hooked. So we need to get right to those autotuned vocals.
To commemorate the days of yore when you could spend a shilling on a 78rpm and spend the length of the intro chewing through the half-penny chews you bought with the change, here are some favourite intros. Hopefully, they’re more interesting that the Premier League footballer list that the Beeb came up with…
1. JAMC – Just Like Honey
Let’s start at the top. Obviously, the best intro ever is the one Phil Spector produced for The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. Like, seriously. Here’s an AV Club article that’s simply a list of fifteen songs that borrow that drum intro. Job done.
Except, how much better would it be if it was introducing a song by an impossibly surly pair of twins from East Kilbride?
After each tour we wanted to kill each other, and after the final tour we tried.
2. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
And let’s get the other undisputed classic of the form out of the way. This being The Beatles, they were waaaaay ahead of their time. The intro to this song is just one brief chord before the lyrics kick in. But what a chord!
Take it away in blog touchstone Revolution In The Head, Ian MacDonald:
The mighty opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night – a G eleventh suspended fourth – has a significance in Beatles lore matched only by the concluding E major of A Day In The Life, the two opening and closing the group’s middle period of peak creativity.
3. Public Enemy – Fight The Power
Funnily enough, the blink and you’ll miss it intro to A Hard Day’s Night perfectly illustrates that an intro shouldn’t just be something to get through on your way to the song. Take blog favourite Fight The Power – it’s opening seconds are a statement of intent, a call to arms, a call to action, a message to conscience, a plea for unity, as a sample of a speech by civil rights attorney and activist Thomas “TNT” Todd regarding the Vietnam War leads straight into an impossibly dense half-a-minute of Bomb Squad production.
Even this text description of what, musically, the hell is going on feels like it’s going to collapse under it’s own weight. And as befits a statement of intent, things only get heavier from there. Awesome.
4. Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express
Trans Europe Express and Numbers by these dorks below were interpolated into Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits. Thus, four lads from Düsseldorf are said to have
exerted a lasting and profound influence across many genres of modern music, including synthpop, hip hop, ambient, post-punk, techno, and club music.
Damn. They wouldn’t have been able to do that in the age of Spotify. By the rules of introductions for the Beeb’s news article, this version of Trans Europe Express is more or less six-and-a-half minutes of intro.
But those first twelve seconds are still… transporting.
5. David Bowie – Station to Station
Rewind again. The lyrics of Trans Europe Express reference Bowie’s album Station to Station and meeting Bowie and Iggy Pop. And, one has to think that the music is influenced by the track Station to Station. The first minute is the sound of a trans-Europe express. Nothing really happens, except anticipation builds. Then, there’s two minutes or more of angular guitar and atonal piano chords and tom-toms and suchlike before the Thin White Duke makes his entrance.
And maybe it’s the coffee, but the anticipation keeps building.
I mean, I love ya, millennials, but if a second of that is better than three minutes of that…?
Next week, I’d like to round out a ten best pop music intros with, er, five more.
But my long list is 28 songs long. So, gonnae help a lad out…?
3 thoughts on “Introduction”
Isn’t the intro to wouldn’t it be nice – in a key which immediately modulates out after an iconic single drum hit – better than any of these? Asking for a friend.
Oh and you need a corollary blog of “best prog rock overtures” which is sort of the 6 minute version of the question here.
I will now resist the temptation to say more until next week.
Pop music intros worth noting:
1. Begin the Begin – R.E.M. The song title alone guarantees it’ll start off with a bang. The intro riff is so great, and the song so glorious overall, that it’s a “first name on the team sheet” for any compilation of my favorite songs of all time. If I’m going to play my music for you, this is how I want it to start.
2. Chase the Devil – Max Romeo. Just in case you weren’t paying attention – BOOM! Mr. Romeo announces his intentions right off the bat, and Lee Scratch Perry’s production keeps the song moving along nicely. Good for shaking yourself out of any roots reggae doledrums you may find yourself in.
3. Sleeping Lessons – The Shins. A brooding, hypnotic intro that takes up half the song and sucks you right in to the whole album. Quite different from your average pre-2007 Shins song, and very memorable.
4. The River (Live 1975-85 version) – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The Boss tells an intimate story from his young adult years to tens of thousands of fans, before launching into one of his best ever songs. Even if you don’t like Springsteen, you’ll appreciate his power to captivate a live audience. Moves me every time I hear it.
5. This Corrosion – The Sisters of Mercy. Andrew Eldritch wasn’t afraid to go big on this song, with help from the Meatloaf producer. First time I heard it was at a goth-like party in Middle America in the late ’80s, a strange place for an average suburban brat like me to be. When the opening chorus kicked in, I turned my head like never before and thought: What the hell is THAT?!? So yeah, it got my attention.
Love the variety in this, Marcelo – thanks! As I said to Paul, I knew a little pandering would bring you guys out.