October 2, 2023

Top Country MV

Music videos for your life.

The 25 greatest opening lines to songs

The 25 greatest opening lines to songs

Many aspects define a great song, including a special opening phrase or line. Some are downright legendary. Here are 25 of the greatest opening lyrics of all time.


1 of 25

“Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley (1956)

"Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley (1956)

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

“Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show. Three to get ready now go, cat, go.”

The legendary words of Carl Perkins, and obviously this intro, made Elvis Presley star. As legend has it, Johnny Cash encouraged Perkins to write a song about a military airman who referred to the issued footwear as “Blue Suede Shoes.” When it came time for the opening lines, Perkins approached it as a nursery rhyme and thought of “One for the Money. The rest, as they say, is history.


2 of 25

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel (1965)

"The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel (1965)

Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty Images

“Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again.”

While reportedly in his early 20s, Paul Simon’s penchant for writing songs with his guitar in the dark led to the opening lines to one of the great pop songs of all time. The song’s overall meaning has been a mystery over the years, but hearing something as simple as playing guitar in a quiet room with the lights off seems like a downer. Great, nonetheless.


3 of 25

“The End” by Doors (1967)

"The End" by Doors (1967)

Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images

“This is the end / Beautiful friend / This is the end / My only friend, the end.”

Jim Morrison had said often he wasn’t sure what exactly he was saying “goodbye” to when writing this song. It’s a haunting piece — from its simple yet emotional beginning to a maddening and somewhat frightening climax. The track earned a resurgence in popularity for its symbolic use in the opening scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War classic Apocalypse Now.


4 of 25

“All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan/The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)

"All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan/The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)


“‘There must be some kind of way outta here’ / Said the joker to the thief.”

This was Bob Dylan’s song, but the version done by Jimi Hendrix and his band is more widely recognized. Dylan loves to tell stories through his music. “All Along the Watchtower” is a conversational song in many ways. Opening with a quote is rather unique. Hendrix, meanwhile, added more emotion and plenty of amplification to make it a massive hit.


5 of 25

“Sympathy for the Devil” by Rolling Stones (1968)

"Sympathy for the Devil" by Rolling Stones (1968)

Michael Chow/The Republic, Arizona Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

“Please allow me to introduce myself / I’m a man of wealth and taste / I’ve been around for a long, long year / Stole many a man’s soul and faith.”

When telling a story from Satan’s perspective, it’s important to offer a proper introduction. Rock fans have never forgotten the one given by the Rolling Stones. There are songs we know will be special from the opening words, and this is one of them. We can argue for days if this is the Stones’ greatest musical effort, but we should agree these might be the most memorable opening words to any song.


6 of 25

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night (1970)

"Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night (1970)


“Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”

Though not every band member liked the song upon presentation, Three Dog Night eventually had fun with this beloved classic written by folk legend Hoyt Axton. The band has referred to it as a “kid’s song.” Chuck Negron’s opening proclamation is one of the most memorable lines in music history. The tune hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1971.


7 of 25

“Let it Be” by the Beatles (1970)

"Let it Be" by the Beatles (1970)

the Beatles

“When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me / Speaking words of wisdom / Let it be.”

It’s tough to choose from the Beatles’ countless notable opening lines. But this seems to be the most prophetic and poignant. Paul McCartney has stated that the “Mother Mary” reference is to a dream he had of his late mother during a particularly tough time in his tenure with the band.


8 of 25

“The Joker” by Steve Miller Band (1973)

"The Joker" by Steve Miller Band (1973)

Steve Miller Band

“Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah / Some call me the gangster of love /
Some people call me Maurice / ‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”

In addition to being one of the more underappreciated musicians of his time, Miller had fun with his music. That’s the case with “The Joker,” with reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This opening references some of Miller’s past songs and also enjoyed fame off the stage. Remember what Joey Tribbiani’s imaginary friend’s name and profession were?


9 of 25

“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

“Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

David Gahr/Shore Fire Media, Asbury Park Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

“The screen door slams / Mary’s dress waves / Like a vision, she dances across the porch as the radio plays.”

Like Bob Dylan, one of his idols, Springsteen fancied himself a poetic storyteller. That eventually became undeniable on the Born to Run record. These are the detailed and dramatic opening lines of the album. And while the metaphorical screen door slammed, the door was now open for the Boss to reach the stardom he desired.


10 of 25

“Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones (1976)

"Blitzkrieg Bop" by Ramones (1976)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“Hey ho, let’s go!

For many pop music fans, this chant defines the Ramones. The group was animated in its persona and attitude, and these words play along with the act while defining American punk rock within the mainstream, even if that’s not necessarily the case. In any regard, this basic fist-pumping mantra is highly unforgettable


11 of 25

“Hotel California” by Eagles (1977)

"Hotel California" by Eagles (1977)


“On a dark desert highway / Cool wind in my hair / Warm smell of colitas / Rising up through the air.”

“Hotel California” relates to a journey. These famous opening lines begin that journey into a world unlike any other in America. The dramatic first impressions of Don Henley and Glenn Frey upon driving into Los Angeles for the first time set the stage perfectly.


12 of 25

“Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees (1977)

"Stayin' Alive" by Bee Gees (1977)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


13 of 25

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (1978)

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor (1978)

Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

“At first I was afraid, I was petrified / Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side / But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong / And I grew strong, and I learned how to get along.”

One of the great female empowerment songs and a No. 1 Billboard hit during the disco era. This intro sums up the general theme of a song about moving on from a difficult breakup, even when said ex comes back into her life.


14 of 25

“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon (1978)

“Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon (1978)

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

“I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain / He was looking for the place called Lee Hō Foōk’s / Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.”

While legend tends to state that Zevon had to be coaxed into writing the song and initially did not want it released as the first single off his stellar Excitable Boy record, it’s always been a fun romp that never took itself too seriously. That was the point. And it remains a classic. 


15 of 25

“Renegade” by Styx (1979)

"Renegade" by Styx (1979)


“Oh, Mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.”

Guitarist Tommy Shaw wrote one of Styx’s biggest hits (a favorite of Pittsburgh Steelers fans at home games). He’s also the lone voice heard, speaking these words as the song’s subject, humbly knowing his time on the run could end. His words lead into a strong classic rock track.


16 of 25

“You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC (1980)

"You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC (1980)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean / She was the best damn woman that I ever seen.”

With Brian Johnson debuting on vocals, AC/DC’s unabashed celebration of a wild night of passion, filled with the expected sexual innuendos the band was known for, remains one of the great rock songs. It’s one of the more upbeat tracks on Back in Black, the band’s tribute to late singer Bon Scott. The song also has a history of controversy, with those close to Scott alleging some of the lyrics were his, though he’s not given any writing credit.  


17 of 25

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (1981)

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (1981)


“Just a small-town girl, livin’ in a lonely world / She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere / Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit / He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

We’re actually talking about the entire first verse, but since “Don’t Stop Believin'” enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-2000s thanks to the Chicago White Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series title and the TV show Glee, it’s worth the space. 


18 of 25

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince and The Revolution (1984)

"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince and The Revolution (1984)


“Dearly beloved / We are gathered here today / To get through this thing called “life.”

Talk about a flair for the dramatic. Not many did it better than Prince. So, it was no wonder pop-rock fans in the 1980s ate up this church organ-like intro from a highlight on the Purple Rain album and movie soundtrack. Prince had many memorable musical moments and notable lines, but this stands tall above the rest.


19 of 25

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams (1985)

"Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams (1985)


“I got my first real six-string / Bought it at the five-and-dime / Played it till my fingers bled / Was the summer of ’69.”

Bryan Adams enjoyed massive success with his Reckless album, anchored by this up-tempo pop-rocker that reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. That memorable opening riff and these words got the ball rolling and took us on a musical trip through a song that had nothing to do with the actual year 1969. 


20 of 25

“Your Love” by The Outfield (1986)

"Your Love" by The Outfield (1986)



21 of 25

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. (1987)

"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. (1987)


“That’s great, it starts with an earthquake / Birds and snakes, an aeroplane / Lenny Bruce is not afraid.”

And with these opening words, Michael Stipe was off and running on his pop culture stream of consciousness. The song’s pace is non-stop, but the mention of Lenny Bruce to start is memorable, even if those singing along have no idea who the comedian/satirist was or why he mattered.


22 of 25

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (1987)

"Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses (1987)


“She’s got a smile that it seems to me / Reminds me of childhood memories / Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky.”

Guns’ frontman Axl Rose wrote the lyrics to one of the band’s biggest hits while dating Erin Everly (daughter of Don Everly from the Everly Brothers fame). It was the most endearing track on the group’s otherwise dark, gritty, brutally honest, and raw debut Appetite for Destruction. 


23 of 25

“Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy (1988)

"Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy (1988)


“Bass! How low can you go? Death row? What a brother knows.”

Whether talking about this original version from PE or the popular collaboration with thrash gods Anthrax, there might not be a more emphatic opening line in rap or hip-hop than the one spewed on this track. From there, Chuck D’s rhymes flow freely as he and Flavor Flav preach how rap is a new force on the popular music scene.


24 of 25

“Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. (1988)

"Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. (1988)


“Straight outta Compton / Crazy motherf—er named Ice Cube / From the gang called N—s With Attitudes.”

If we want to get technical, Dr. Dre leads into the song by speaking: “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” Then, it’s Ice Cube who delivers the opening rap and introduces the music world to N.W.A — with all its graphic and honest depiction of life on the deadly streets of Southern California. N.W.A. lays the blueprint for the gangster rap genre to take off.


25 of 25

“Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J (1991)

"Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J (1991)

Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.”

The album-buying public and some music critics might have felt LL’s rap career was on the downside. However, he didn’t think so, and this was his answer to those ready to write him off. He drew inspiration for the track from his grandma, who told him not to succumb to the naysayers and prove that he still had what it took to succeed.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he’d attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.