Start Me Up – Songs With Great First Lines

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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!

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6 thoughts on “Start Me Up – Songs With Great First Lines

  • If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
    And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
    Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
    Would you hold it near as it were your own?

    • Ripple! Almost makes me feel like i’m bathing in patchouli and spinning, spinning, spinning….

  • “Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?” – Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna
    “He came dancin’ across the water with his galleons and guns / Looking for the new world and a palace in the sun.” – Neil Young, Cortez the Killer.

    •  Oooh, nice one with Cortez the Killer! Totally forgot about that. Something about “dancing” across the water – no other verb would’ve worked as well.

  • Big Sky looked down at all the people looking up at the Big Sky
    Everybody pushing one another around
    Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry
    But the Big Sky’s too big to let it get him down

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