I was listening to an old Lyle Lovett album, The Road To Ensenada, the other day, and was struck by the first line of the title track. As I always am. To me, “As I lay sick and broken / Viva Mexico”, is just one of the greatest first lines ever. There’s so much packed into those eight words that you could almost call the song done and pack it up then and there.
That got me thinking about the whole Songs With Great First Lines category, which is surprisingly underpopulated, considering how far you can push a song’s Overall Song Awesomeness score just by nailing this one element. Maybe that’s because it’s really, really hard to write a first line that’s that good. Like these:
- Bruce Springsteen, Hungry Heart: “Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack / I went out for a ride and I never went back”
- Patty Griffin, Mad Mission: “We were drinking like the Irish / But we were drinking Scotch”
- Bob Dylan, Tangled Up In Blue: “Early one mornin, the sun was shinin, I was layin in bed / wonderin if she’d changed at all, if her hair was still red”
I’m always looking to expand my mental collection of these things. Anyone else got nominations for songs with the greatest first line ever? Let’s have ’em!