Great classic novels, sort of like a successful ladies’ man, must have a memorable opening line. The same could be said of popular tunes, which rely on a catchy expression to make you keep listening.
Among the most well-known of the books would be A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of that time period.” British author George Orwell immediately lets his readers know that something is wrong when he starts the futuristic 1984 with the line, “It had been a bright, cold day time in April and the clock struck thirteen.”
American novelist William Faulkner used a similar teaser to begin The Sound and the Fury, which opens with “Through the fence, between the curling flowers spaces, I possibly could see them hitting.” In his next novel, however, Faulkner begins with an unconventional, and potentially less effective, technique known as dialogue.
The Reivers, which was published in 1962, opens with the words of Grandpa. “This is the kind of a man Boon Hogganback was,” the old man says. “Hung on the wall, it could have been his epitaph, such as a police poster.”
The Reivers is one of the few novels to open with dialogue, a technique that is simply as rare in popular songs. Here are eight hits that start with dialogue.
Save THE LIFE SPAN Of My Child by Simon and Garfunkel
The first track from the duo’s Bookends album opens with a distraught mother crying, “Good God don’t jump!” to a young man sitting down on the ledge of a tall building.
I Think We’re Alone Today by Tommy James and the Shondells
On one of their many hits, the group begins by mocking the adults who too often say, “Children behave” when the teenagers manage to get alone together.
Only A Fool Would Say That by Steely Dan
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker mock the useless dreamer who believes in “A world become one of salads and sun” on the melody that closes their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill.
She Said She Said simply by The Beatles
This classic slice of psychedelic rock from Revolver opens with John Lennon telling his listeners that she claimed “I know what it’s like to be dead.”
Drifter’s Escape by Bob Dylan
“Forgive me in my weakness” is what the man in trial says to open this ironic story from John Wesley Harding, by the end of which a lightning bolt into the courtroom allows him to escape.
One By One All Day by the Shins
The indie rockers try their hand at a bit of country music for this track from Oh Inverted World, which starts with Grandpa saying, “Howdy, Lem.”
God (Part A single) by Ian Hunter
“I’m going to kick your ass because all you do is ask, ask, ask,” is what the supreme being says to the artist in this closing track from All-American Alien Boy.
What She Said by the Smiths
Morrissey listens carefully and recites the line, “Why hasn’t someone noticed that I’m dead and decided to bury me personally, God knows I’m ready” on this hit from Meat Is Murder.