June 2, 2010

"What's the best opening track ever?"

A possibly interesting question for people who listen to music in album form. But the answers are too skewed by the assumption that the best albums must have the best opening songs. And I'd disqualify every track that put first because it's thought to be the best song on the album, the intended hit single or whatever. Tell me about an opening track that draws us in... in some special way. Like "Here Comes the Sun," if you play "Abbey Road" the way I always did, Side 2 first.

106 comments:

Steve said...

London Calling on the Clash's album London Calling.

kent said...

London Calling on the Clash's album London Calling.

As God is my witness: that is EXACTLY what I rushed over to post, just now! ;)

Steve said...

Are we talking about the opening track of side 1 or side 2. Or does that date me too much?

asthedeer.com said...

The fading in guitar music on More Than a Feeling, by Boston. Actually all of side 1 of that album. Fond memories.

Steve in Toronto said...

I came home last night to find my nine year old son raving about “Abbey Road”. His favorite track? Here comes the sun!

Kakashi said...

Everything In It's Right Place from Radiohead's Kid A.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Soundtrack of Conan

Bob Ellison said...

"Bridge Over Troubled Water".

KSLX in Phoenix used to run a "Perfect album side" show in the 1980s. That album side was, indeed perfect.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Pancho and Lefty

Merle Haggard, Pancho and Lefty album, 1982

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Where the Streets Have No Name (U2 - The Joshua Tree)

Daniel said...

From High Fidelity (a nice little movie):

Rob's Five Best Side One Track Ones (p.147)

1. "Janie Jones", The Clash, by The Clash
2. "Thunder Road", Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
3. "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nevermind, by Nirvana
4. "Let's Get It On", Let's Get It On, by Marvin Gaye
5. "Return of the Grievous Angel", Bruno Grégoire, by Gram Parsons

Lynne said...

The first thing that comes to mind is "We Belong Together" from Rickie Lee Jone's "Pirates."

This no game of Chicken, you were aiming your best friend
that you wear like a switchblade on a chain around your neck-
I think you picked this up in Mexico from your dad...


Sorry, just had to put in a vote for the obscure. It's the natural contrarian in me.

TMink said...

Welcome To My Working Week, Elvis. It gets extra points for being his first album and for having the best opening line.
Trey

Dangerous Dreamer said...

Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road opener: Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding....great concert opener too!

Jimmy said...

"Gimme Shelter" on Let it Bleed

ficta said...

- "Born Under Punches" from Remain in Light by Talking Heads
- "Metal Guru" from The Slider by T. Rex

I love both of these opening tracks since they start with the singer making an amazing and indescribably...noise that immediately grabs your attention.

rdkraus said...

Couple thoughts.

Statesboro Blues - The Allman Bros.

Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix

Triangle Man said...

Listening to Side 2 first is to murder Abby Road with a silver hammer. "Here Comes the Sun" works so well as a light happy counterpart to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".

Joan said...

So funny... Althouse's example of best opening track was from side 2 of Abbey Road, when I immediately thought of "Come Together", which is the actual opening track of that album. Doesn't make a bit of sense, but an awesome song nonetheless.

Triangle Man said...

I'm going with this one even though Daniel said it first:

"Thunder Road", Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen"

Paul Zrimsek said...

21 comments and still no "Baba O'Reilly". Dang.

Nels said...

"Love's in Need of Love Today" is one of my non-single, non-hit favorites.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z2LNsifEzg

Flexo said...

Not a helpful question.

A better question is which song has the best opening note or riff?

Since the Beatles were brought up, I've always been impressed with the opening to "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

Joe said...

So many good ones! Lately I'm enjoying the open cut from Oasis' classic album "(What's the Story,) Morning Glory" entitled 'Hello'. It's a rocker.

The opening cut from Paul Simon's "Graceland" should be considered. 'Boy in the Bubble".

And how about the opening, title cut from Joan Bias' "Diamonds and Rust"? Good one!

Michael E. Lopez said...

Black Dog, from Zeppelin IV.

It opens wickedly.

It sets the tone for an excellent album.

It's fun to listen to.

Jason said...

Heaven on Their Minds - the soundtrack from Jesus Christ, Superstar

John Coltrane - My Favorite Things

Rosanna on Toto IV

Running on Empty - thanks to the great David Lindley.

Take it Easy, by Jackson Browne, with Sneaky Pete's beautiful segue into Lady of the Well. It doesn't get much better than that.

Welcome to the Jungle has got to be on any list. Wow. I remember being a guitar player in LA at the time, and that wild, over-the-top sound just took the scene by storm.

Lads of Laois/Gan Ainm/The Heathery Cruach, by James Kelly, but I'm partial to Irish traditional dance tunes anyway.

Adam said...

Best opening track? 'The Man Comes Around' Johnny Cahs from American IV

Other great ones are 'Lay Your Hands on Me' off New Jersey (Bon Jovi, and such great cheese), 'Cadence to Arms' from The Dropkick Murphy's 'Do or Die' and 'Down to the Waterline' from Dire Straits eponymous debut album, which not only set the tone for the album, for for 2 decades of brilliant music.

Adam said...

@Flexo: There's no challenge there, it's the Stone's (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. If you don't know exactly what song it is after the first measure, you aren't paying attention.

Joe said...

Bat Out of Hell - Meatloaf

Give a little bit - Supertramp Even in the Quietest Moments

Speak to me/Breathe - Dark Side of the Moon.

(Okay I'm stretching it since these songs may not be the best from their fantastic albums, but are great and work great as first songs.)

Jethro Tull - Songs From The Wood is the best song on that album, and the first.

DBrooks17 said...

"Stolen Moments" by Oliver Nelson on The Blues and the Abstract Truth.

Rialby said...

Wouldn't It Be Nice, Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys

Like a Rolling Stone, Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan

MadisonMan said...

I also liked the beginning of Glass Houses by Billy Joel.

Is it the Best Ever? Maybe not. I also like Boston's More than a Feeling -- mentioned above -- and the opening of The Cars. I haven't listened to all the albums more elderly members of the Baby Boomer Set value so dearly.

Rialby said...

Burning Down the House, Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads

Rialby said...

And, although far from the best song on the album:

Zoo Station, Achtung Baby, U2

It set the mood for an entirely new direction for U2 at the beginning of a new decade.

Scott said...

The piano glissando at the beginning of "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5 is absolutely the best intro to any pop song ever recorded. Ever.

wv: thwel ... hell yea it is!

ET1492 said...

"Zoo Station" from Achtung Baby was a pretty good first track. It's a pretty simple song, but the production is weird and it sounded a lot different from anything U2 had done on any of their previous albums.

Robert G. said...

Although I really don't like the album, I would have to begrudgingly admit that London Calling has a great opening track. "Wouldn't it Be Nice" tricks you into thinking you about to listen to a rockin' record instead you get a bunch of EZ Listening music (not necessarily a bad thing). I'm biased towards "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" by Spiritualized which opens with a scratchy sample and then a gradual fade into a hypnotic melody that sets the tone nicely for the drugged-out 70 minutes that follow.

kent said...

A better question is which song has the best opening note or riff?

The ominous and muscular guitar-and-drum opening to the Who's "I Can See For Miles."

Alexander said...

Come Together, Abbey Road
You Make Me Feel So Young, Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Thunder Road, Born to Run
Where the Streets Have No Name, The Joshua Tree
That's What I Like About the South, The Red Stick Ramblers

Triangle Man said...

The piano glissando at the beginning of "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5 is absolutely the best intro to any pop song ever recorded. Ever

Better than the one in Abba's "Dancing Queen"?

William said...

This is no longer the way people listen to music. This is like asking who had the superior hot licks--Harry James or Benny Goodman?...."Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones wins hands down, although it probably doesn't fit with the criteria that you small minded bigots have established.

Mike said...

Side 2 of Billy Squier's Don't Say No album: "Lonely is the Night"

c3 said...

My first thought was "Aqualung" on "Aqualung"

great opening guitar riff and lyrics:

Sitting on a park bench
eyeing little girls with bad intent.


(and the best use (and maybe the only use) of "snot" in a song lyric)

kent said...

The clever little intro guitar lick to Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust."

c3 said...

Also (and I'm not a big Eagles fan) "Hotel California" on....(wait for it)
Hotel California

Largo said...

A better question is which song has the best opening note or riff?
Excellent question! But there is surely no way to chose just one. Opening note of any song, or opening note of the first song on an album?

"See Emily Play" [one of many]

Best outro/intro combination?

"Five Years"/"Soul Love"

Hurrah for "Black Dog", "Baba O'Reilly" and Boston! Fond memories, indeed.

Another variation: Most overrated, compared to a better but underrated, opening riff from the same album.

E.g. "Maybe I'm a Leo" -- not "Smoke on the Water" .

But the best ever performance of best ever musical opening? There can be only one winner.

Schroeder's Hammerklavier!

kent said...

Intro to Zep's "Kashmir," for the win. ;)

c3 said...

Sorry, I can't stop...

"Roundabout" on Fragile by YES

Robert Cook said...

"Search and Destroy" from RAW POWER (Iggy and the Stooges)

"Everything In Its Right Place" from KID A (Radiohead)

"Nonalignment Pact" from THE MODERN DANCE (Pere Ubu)

"Blitzkrieg Bop" from RAMONES (The Ramones)

"Gloria" from HORSES (Patti Smith)

"Young Man Blues" from LIVE AT LEEDS (The Who)

"Roadrunner" from MODERN LOVERS

And, I'm sure, more I'll think of once I've posted this.

Of course, any such assertions reveal more about the generation and musical tastes of the person making the assertion than it does about any objective reality.

Largo said...

@kent,

That's gotta be one of the best albums ever made. Nothing disappoints.

That would make another good list: albums which, while perhaps not perfect, just work from beginning to end. No filler.

Largo said...

@Kakashi,

Why does your avatar pic somehow make me think of Wittgenstein?

Robert Cook said...

"This is like asking who had the superior hot licks--Harry James or Benny Goodman?"

Artie Shaw.

kent said...

The breathy combo of vocal "Aaaaaaaaaah" and murderous six note guitar riff opening Joan Jett's "Crimson and Clover" remake.

Sofa King said...

Best album opened? There are really a lot to choose from. Right now I like "Where Eagles Dare" from Iron Maiden's "Piece of Mind" album.

Largo said...

William said... although it probably doesn't fit with the criteria that you small minded bigots have established.

What's that, sir? I'll have you know that I am a rather large minded bigot!

Clyde said...

"Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)," Cracker, off their eponymous debut album.

MadisonMan said...

How about the opening to the soundtrack to Goldfinger? I mean, is there a better more catchy song ever?

Is there anyone who has read this comment who is not now singing Gold -- finga -- he's the man, the man with the MI-dis touch...a spider's touch?

kent said...

That would make another good list: albums which, while perhaps not perfect, just work from beginning to end. No filler.

Get Happy!!! - Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren -- Todd rundgren

LordSomber said...

C'mon. "Communication Breakdown" from Zeppelin I.
Or the Star Wars soundtrack. Should that be a separate category?

And, yeah, almost any Bond soundtrack.

Mike said...

"It was twenty years ago today..."

nuf-said

And what is this "...side two" of which you speak?

t-man said...

Amy Winehouse: Rehab from Back to Black

or

Francis Dunnery I'm in Love from Man

holdfast said...

When I read the headline, and before I realized the reference is to the first track of an album, I thought of AC/DC's "Back in Black" at the start of Ironman - utterly brilliant choice for convoy music, and the fact that it is shown to be playing from a cheap-ass CD player in the back of an Army vehicle. AC/DC is without doubt the best band for convoy music (though the best single song is "Crazy Train").

Sarah said...

Hells Bells, from AC/DC's Back in Black.

It's great to me, as someone who started listening to AC/DC in the 90s. But if you had put that album on after Bon Scott's death, the first thing you hear is that church-like bell that opens the song, and I imagine it would have been just perfect in tribute, especially as it is followed by that classic guitar riff.

Scott said...

@Triangle Man:

You ask if the piano glissando at the beginning of The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" is really better than a similar device that starts Abba's "Dancing Queen." Thank you for offering this fascinating point of comparison.

The glissando at the beginning of Dancing Queen is a little curlicue of sugar work that adorns the intro of one of Abba’s many dozens of pretty but flavorless confections. It’s filigree. If it wasn’t there, the song would still stand on its own, although its tediousness would be exposed much sooner. Listening to this, no wonder that the Swedish are so predisposed to suicide.

But in “I Want You Back,” the role of the opening piano glissando is far more important. It’s the swing of a hammer! That hammer is the relentless B-flat that drives the rest of the song. The intro restates the 4-bar motif twice, all built on the foundation of that single guitar note. It’s pure Tchaikovsky in its structure, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra violin section providing counterpoint. It’s exciting and powerful and elegant and brilliant and deep, and it’s three minutes long!

This is why African Americans dominate everything in culture that the world identifies as American – and why America rules the world. No cluster of silly Swedes could ever create such a perfect jewel.

kathleen said...

"second hand news" is the first track on Rumours

AMDG said...

Best opening song is "Wouldn't Be Nice" from "Pet Sounds". Of course side 2 opens with "God Only Knows" which ain't to shabby.

"So What" from "Kind of Blue" is a great opener to.

J said...

"Secret of the Shadow", Rev Up, the Revillos. Possible tie:

"Trouble/Guitar Man medley", Elvis Presley, Elvis '68 Comeback Special soundtrack.

Scott said...

John Pizzarelli does a great cover of "God Only Knows."

rdkraus said...

c3

If you're gonna talk YES, you have to go with I've Seen All Good People on The Yes Album, no?

Scott said...

@rdkraus: Yes!

John Stodder said...

God, lots of good ones here. Many of my faves mentioned at least once, like "London Calling," "Thunder Road" and "Wouldn't it Be Nice."

How about:

"Respect," Aretha Franklin, from "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." Those sweet-sour horns, those first few notes, convey everything the song is going to be about.

"Rocks Off," from the Stones' "Exile on Main St." Takes you right into that album's gripping mood.

"Across the Great Divide," from the Band's, "The Band." ("Standing by your window in pain/A pistol in your hand/And I beg you dear Molly, girl/Try and understand your man the best you can...")

Dylan has a few: "Tangled up in Blue" from "Blood on the Tracks," "Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35" from "Blonde on Blonde" and more recently "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" from "Love and Theft."

I also love "No Reply" from "Beatles for Sale." Not their best album, but a great first track.

MadisonMan said...

Musical Pretension, thy name is Scott.

Jeeze.

Most of the youtube captures of I want you back omit the glissando at the beginning. I wonder why that is.

Mike said...

"Battery" from Metallica's Master of Puppets album. What a great song, what a great record.

wv: Furth, a city in Germany I lived in for several years in the late 1980s.

Scott said...

I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

BTDGreg said...

I just blogged this topic (before I saw this post, but based on the All Songs Considered article linked).

My picks:

Plainsong - The Cure (Disintegration)
Feel - Big Star (#1 Record)
The Shining - Badly Drawn Boy (Hour of the Bewilderbeast)
Village Green Preservation Society - The Kinks (Village Green Preservation Society)
London Calling - The Clash (London Calling)

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popville said...

Some good ones listed (London Calling - possibly, Gimmie Shelter - certainly the creepiest, Tangled Up In Blue - possibly, No Reply - maybe my favorite Beatles tune).

But how about not only the greatest opening cut, but the greatest opening chord: "A Hard Day's Night"?

details...

(repost:typo)

Ann Althouse said...

"Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town."

Ann Althouse said...

"You Don't Love Me When I Cry."

Ann Althouse said...

"Wear Your Love Like Heaven."

MadisonMan said...

You vacuous, toffee-nosed, malodorous pervert!

Kovacs said...

"Down on the Street," on the Stooges' "Fun House." This is indisputably the correct answer.

DBrooks17 said...

Personally, I liked Scott's thoughts.

If you are talking Yes, then I think the opening sounds of Close to the Edge signaled that the listener was in for a new kind of ride, an album that is "symphonic" in structure, and musicianship.

Scott said...

@DBrooks17: We're on the same page. "Roundabout" is tremendous fun, especially at high volumes. And its length and episodic structure -- and its cold ending -- drive DJs nuts! :)

One Yes lyric is sage advice for the ages, and I wish the president would hear it himself:

Don't surround yourself with yourself.

Popville said...

Kent declared:
A better question is which song has the best opening note or riff? --- The ominous and muscular guitar-and-drum opening to the Who's "I Can See For Miles."

Interestingly, the first cut of Who Sell Out - "Armenia City in the Sky (tho good, not one I would nominate) - was written by Speedy Keen & is the only Who song specifically written for them by a non-bandmember.

Although... Keen wrote & recorded another lead-off song called "Something In The Air" that should place very highly herein, issued on the album Hollywood Dream under the pseudonym Thunderclap Newman.

mRed said...

Rikki Don't Lose That Number, Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan

WV Whede. Yep, that fits.

Charles Purvis said...

Barracuda, on Heart/Little Queen

Western Skyline, on Bruce Hornsby & the Range. I bought that album because of Every Little Kiss, and when I dropped the needle on this first track, I backed up till I sat on the bed . . . and stayed there all the way through the whole damn album.

Deuce, Kiss Alive I

Owner of a Lonely Heart, Yes/90125

Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet, Wings Over America

Penny said...

Personally? Gimme Shelter, but since that's already been claimed, let me add, The Moody Blues, "In Search of the Lost Chord"...Departure.

c3 said...

rd;
the Yes Album, no?

Is this the first line in a "Who's on First"-type dialogue?

(When I first heard the Abbott/Costello routine I thought they could do one with 70's Rock bands such The Who, The Guess Who, Yes, The Band....)

BrianE said...

Unquestionably "Question" from "A Question of Balance" by the Moody Blues.

Thematically, "Higher and Higher" was a great lead-in in "To Our Childrens Childrens Children.

c3 said...

f you're gonna talk YES, you have to go with I've Seen All Good People on The Yes Album, no?

no

Still like Roundabout better but Seen All Good People IS a good piece.

c3 said...

And since I'm on this theme (Best opening track of an album of the same name) I should mention

"American Woman" by The Guess Who on American Woman"

Go, gotta get away, gotta get away
Now go go go

rhhardin said...

Every track on this blew me away in the early 60s.

c3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c3 said...

someone has posted a variation on my pursuit

wv: cingsl

No these were albums

Penny said...

"Unquestionably "Question" from "A Question of Balance" by the Moody Blues."

Ride my see-saw, honey. ;)

Greg said...

Thunder Road by the Boss, and Wouldn't It Be Nice by the Beach Boys.

Largo said...

Oh, man! Just imagine the following. You need to hear their voices in your head of course.

COOKIE MONSTER:
Me used to be angry young man.
Me hiding me head in the sand...
Me got to admit its getting better...

BERT (later with CHORUS):
...It couldn't get much worse!

Long Time Listener said...

"Mic Check" on Fantasma by Cornelius. Best ever? I don't know. Pretty freaking awesome for sure.

bagoh20 said...

"(You're) Having My Baby" on "Having My Baby" by Paul Anka.

From the first time I heard it, I was a changed man. Just thinking about it affects me deeply right now. I gotta take a minute. I'll be back.

Larry said...

1) Thunder Road - Born To Run - Springsteen
2) Running with the Devil - Van Halen I - Van Halen
3) We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions - News of the World - Queen
4) Let's Go Crazy - Purple Rain - Prince
5) Refugee - Damn the Torpedos - Tom Petty

Christopher said...

Seconds for "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space," and most definitely "Gloria."

I'm a big fan of opening tracks that lead to subverted expectations by not sounding much like the album they're on. Like:

Jens Lekman - I Remember Every Kiss (Night Falls Over Kortedala)

Love - Alone Again Or (Forever Changes)

Queen - Death on Two Legs (A Night at the Opera)

Also getting votes from me would be Big Star's "O My Soul" (Radio City--not "Feel"), Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" (Whiter Shade of Pale), Midlake's "Roscoe" (The Trials of Van Occupanther), and absolutely, of course, the Pixies' "Debaser" (Doolittle).

bluemoonpaul said...

Wouldn't It Be Nice - Beach Boys - Pet Sounds.

More at http://bit.ly/apItuM

Bierman9 said...

Not an opening track but a guitar riff: Can't You Hear Me Knocking.

So visceral, especially when volume is on "11".

Layla doesn't suck either...

Julian said...

the best opening track ever is "Why?" from Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band.

Scott Ross said...

"Gloria," Patti Smith, from Horses.