This weekend just departed I took a trip to Abingdon, near Oxford, to visit a friend for his birthday. Another friend of mine picked me up from Bath (ironically at a notorious dogging spot) and off we went down the M-something or other, music throbbing from the speakers of the car.
As we approached Abingdon the speakers began oozing the inimitable treacle of a Motown number. It was Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. I turned to the driver of the vehicle and said “It has to be the greatest intro of all time”. It’s menacing yet seductive, unsure yet confident – everything all at once. It got me thinking about similarly majestic introductions to songs and here be a small list (Come on, I didn’t think about it all weekend):
Reach Out, I’ll Be There – The Four Tops: Four bars of windswept raw emotion from Motown’s hit machine, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Perfection.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones: Despite having heard it almost as many times as Mick Jagger has paid off pregnant supermodels, it is probably the greatest riff of them all.
Help! – The Beatles: With so many to choose from it is impossible to pick just one but this 1965 single positively jumps out of the speakers with electrifying insistence.
20th Century Boy – T. Rex: Guaranteed to blow any set of speakers when played loud, never have two solitary notes sounded so bloody raunchy.
This Charming Man – The Smiths: Johnny Marr’s riff dances merrily from his guitar on arguably the Smiths most recognisable track.
Be My Baby – The Ronnettes: Generally lauded as one of the finest pop songs ever written, it’s all about that beat. Not bad for a murderer (Phil Spector).
Wouldn’t it be Nice? – The Beach Boys: Yes, Good Vibrations is probably the better song but this sun-baked, stoned and skewered intro captures the simple, child-like essence which make the Beach Boys so appealing.
Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads: Kicks in with all the bombast of a flaming hot, funky meteor landing in your lap from nowhere.
Fashion - David Bowie: I know, I know; my unhealthy addiction to David Bowie infiltrates every darn aspect of my life to the point where I only like people on the proviso that they like David Bowie but the synthy upbeat is an exceptionally wry observation on the mindless conformity of the songs subject matter. The listener is fooled from the off.