Great Opening Lines In 1980s Songs

As we’ve said before, the 1980s produced some fine lyricists. You couldn’t move for decent wordsmithery. But interesting lyrics came from the damndest places. 

What was that Trevor Horn maxim? A good pop song should be like a good story, such that the listener is always asking: what’s going to happen next?

And, like a good story, pretty much every good song starts with an intriguing opening line or two. As the proverbial cigar-munching music-biz mogul might say: ‘You gotta grab ’em from the first bar, kid…’ So here are some great opening lines from 1980s songs, lines that hopefully satisfy Horn’s requirements.

Everything But The Girl: ‘Each And Every One’

‘If you ever feel the time/
To drop me a loving line/
Maybe you should just think twice/
I don’t wait around on your advice’

 

The Replacements: ‘Torture’

‘A million baby kisses from a kissing booth on wheels/
This sound is pretty poison on the envelope she seals’

 

Associates: ‘Club Country’

‘The fault is/I can find no fault in you’

 

Wet Wet Wet: ‘Wishing I Was Lucky’

‘I was living in a land of make believe/
When my best friend wrote and told me that there may be a job in the city’

 

Lou Reed: ‘How Do You Speak To An Angel’

‘A son who is cursed with a harridan mother or a weak simpering father at best/
Is raised to play out the timeless classical motives of filial love and incest’

 

Steely Dan: ‘Babylon Sisters’

Drive west on Sunset to the sea/
Turn that jungle music down/
Just until we’re out of town’

 

Associates: ‘Party Fears Two’

I’ll have a shower then call my brother up/
Within the hour I’ll smash another cup’

 

Joni Mitchell: ‘Chinese Cafe’

‘Caught in the middle/
Carol, we’re middle-class/
We’re middle-aged/

We were wild in the old days/
Birth of rock’n’roll days’

 

The Smiths: ‘Reel Around The Fountain’

‘It’s time the tale were told/
Of how you took a child and you made him old’

 

Thomas Dolby: ‘Screen Kiss’

Miller Time in the bar where all the English meet/
She used to drink in the hills/
Only now she drinks in the valleys’

 

Love And Money: ‘Hallejulah Man’

On the blind side and down the back ways/
The roots of sadness crawl/
When you can’t get what you need/
You feel like taking a torch to it all’

Joy Division: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

When routine bites hard and ambitions are low/
And resentment rides high but emotions won’t grow’

 

The Teardrop Explodes: ‘Reward’

Bless my cotton socks/I’m in the news’

 

Tom Waits: ‘Swordfishtrombones’

‘Well, he came home from the war with a party in his head/
And a modified Brougham DeVille and a pair of legs that opened up like butterfly wings’

 

Prefab Sprout: ‘Moving The River’

‘You surely are a truly gifted kid/
But you’re only as good as the last great thing you did’

 

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions: ‘Brand New Friend’

Walking in the pouring rain/
Walking with Jesus and Jane/
Jane was in a turtleneck/
I was much happier then’

Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Cascade’

Oh the air was shining/
Shining like a wedding ring’

 

Bob Dylan: ‘Jokerman’

Standing on the waters casting your bread/
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing/
Distant ships sailing into the mist/
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing’

 

Robert Palmer: ‘Johnny And Mary’

Johnny’s always running around trying to find certainty/
He needs all the world to confirm that he ain’t lonely’

 

Prefab Sprout: Talking Scarlet

You hide under the eiderdown/
All you can’t sweep underneath the carpet’

 

The Human League: ‘Don’t You Want Me’

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar/When I met you’

 

Talking Heads: ‘Crosseyed And Painless’

Lost my shape/
Trying to act casual/
Can’t stop/
Might end up in the hospital’

 

Scritti Politti: ‘A Little Knowledge’

Now I know to love you/Is not to know you’

 

The Smiths: ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’

Sweetness, I was only joking/
When I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head’

Any more for any more?

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The Crap Movie Club: Homeboy (1988)

One of the pleasures of reading Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles’ is the way he follows his trains of thought wherever they go, however obtuse. Possibly the most random is a mention of Mickey Rourke’s performance in his self-penned, almost totally forgotten 1988 film ‘Homeboy’, seen by Bob during the difficult Oh Mercy sessions:

‘He could break your heart with a look. The movie traveled to the moon every time he came onto the screen. Nobody could hold a candle to him. He was just there, didn’t have to say hello or goodbye.’

I’m a huge Mickey apologist, but I think Bob was way off the beam here. ‘Homeboy’ is irredeemable. It also signalled the beginning of Rourke’s 20-year slump. Clearly a ‘vanity project’ for our star (he started writing it during the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ shoot in 1980), it’s the film where Mickey started to believe his own hype and play the sort of parts which echoed how badly he obviously felt about the movie business.

‘Homeboy’ is a weirdly masochistic (at times reminiscent of Brando’s similar explorations in that area), relentlessly downbeat, funereally-paced, vaguely camp melodrama. The ‘plot’, such as it is, is almost identical to that of ‘The Wrestler’, the 2008 comeback that won Mickey his first Oscar. He plays Johnny Walker, a punch-drunk, third-division-south pugilist reduced to hawking his wares around Asbury Park for a few bucks with his portly coach in tow.

Possibly Mickey’s character is supposed to have endured some kind of stroke, because he spends the whole film squeaking out of the side of his mouth, rendering his sparse dialogue almost inaudible. Christopher Walken appears intermittently as the dodgy agent who wants Johnny’s assistance with a jewellery heist. Modelling a succession of deafening suits, he chews up the scenery a couple of times, dances a bit, sings a bit, clearly knowing this film is a heap of sh*t. At times amusing but not enough to rescue the movie, it’s a dry run for his superior turns in ‘King Of New York’ and ‘Wild Side’.

Poor Debra Feuer – Mickey’s wife at the time – underwhelms in the almost non-existent role of Johnny’s love interest. Eric Clapton phones in an always-too-loud soundtrack, obviously tossed off during yet another Albert Hall run, adding a few tired licks but mainly employing bassist Nathan East to improvise some fairly half-baked solo cues. Director Michael Seresin, previously the cinematographer on ‘Angel Heart’ (and recently one of the Harry Potter films), can’t seem to rustle up any convincing or memorable scenes. The final effect is sub-Golan-Globus.

Rourke has one great moment towards the end of the film though, possibly the one Dylan picked up on, where he peers up at his coach and tearfully asks (with shades of Brando again), ‘You think I coulda been good?’ But it’s too little too late. ‘Homeboy’ should probably have stayed in Development Hell.

Bigmouth Strikes Again: The 34 Greatest Music Quotes Of The 1980s

chrissie hyndeMusicians gave good quote in the ’80s. There were various factors at play: an eclectic, popular, influential music press, a phalanx of opinionated, ambitious journos, the rise of tabloid ‘diaries’ and of course a surfeit of great interviewees.

The decade’s cultural mix of politics, drugs, sex, music and fashion also made for a rich brew of conversation topics. Young, gobby and fearless artists wanted to make a significant first impression, knowing that good quotes made great publicity, while the big names of the ’70s were still hellbent on coming across as relevant or at least engaged.

So here’s a parade of sometimes preposterous, sometimes profound, sometimes downright weird and sometimes even intelligent quotes, archived from interviews, anthologies and mags of the time, all unapologetically taken completely out of context. Enjoy.

ON SEX:

34. ‘A lot of songs that have been called sexist are about my daughter. I did a song called Girl which went: “You treat me like a dog and I shake my tail for you”, because she’s the only girl who’s ever had me on all fours doing impressions of horses.’

David Coverdale of Whitesnake (1984)

 

33. ‘Women rule the world and no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.’

Bob Dylan (1984)

 

32. ‘Sex? I’d rather have a nice cup of tea.’

Boy George (1983)

 

31. ‘You do an interview and they ask you if your guitar is a phallic symbol. F**k off. I don’t hold it because it’s shaped like a cock, I hold it because it’s a guitar.’

Lita Ford (1989)

 

ON DRUGS:

30. ‘A lot of people I know are dead because of him.’

Chrissie Hynde on Keith Richards (1986)

 

29. ‘I’ve smoked so much pot I’m surprised I haven’t turned into a bush.’

Joe Strummer (1984)

 

LET’S GET SPIRITUAL:

28. ‘I’m self-made. I always wanted to make myself a better person because I was not educated. But that was my dream – to have class.’

Tina Turner (1986)

 

27. ‘People only get one chance to meet you, and if you’re not an arsehole, why give them the opportunity of thinking you are?’

Phil Collins (1989)

 

26. ‘I don’t like to relax. Show me a motherf****r that’s relaxed and I’ll show you a motherf****r that’s scared of success.’

Miles Davis (1983)

 

25. ‘I think I’m fairly consistent with people. But at the end of the day, I don’t give a bollocks.’

Bob Geldof (1989)

 

24. ‘When you look like a cartoon, you act like a cartoon.’

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (1989)

 

23. ‘Fancy being a bee, leading an incredible existence, all those flowers, designed just for you, incredible colours, some trip.’

Kate Bush (1989)

 

22. ‘A lot of people think I’m clinically mad.’

Morrissey (1989)

 

ON MUSIC:

21. ‘I’m as good as anyone. Even Prince.’

Kevin Rowland (1988)

 

20. ‘I don’t mean to sound big-headed but I honestly don’t think we’ve put a foot wrong in 20 years.’

Mike Rutherford of Genesis (1989)

 

19. ‘Don’t forget Spandau did To Cut A Long Story Short, Chant No. 1 and True – three big changes in music.’

Gary Kemp (1984)

 

18. ‘One more hit and we’re the most successful girl group of all time. We’ll pass The Supremes. Sad, isn’t it?’

Sarah Dallin of Bananarama (1988)

 

17. ‘I was walking down the street the other day and I heard this sound. I thought it was a great new band playing something intriguing. It turned out to be an air conditioner unit in an elevator.’

Reeves Gabrels of Tin Machine (1989)

 

16. ‘Don’t buy one of those pointy guitars, kids. They’ll give ya VD.’

Paul Westerberg of The Replacements (1987)

 

15. ‘Unlike other guitarists, I don’t play things that are rubbish.’

Yngwie Malmsteen (1984)

 

14. ‘Some of our best songs were written on one string.’

The Edge of U2 (1987)

 

13. ‘I’ve just always been like this slowhand…like the arthritic guitar method.’

George Harrison (1988)

 

12. ‘I will say one thing – I invented the electric bass and everybody knows it.’

Jaco Pastorius (1983)

 

11. ‘Lots of people think songs without singing is not a song. Tell Beethoven that and he’ll kick your ass!’

Eddie Van Halen (1985)

 

10. ‘After the first album, Meat just lost it completely. “GRUNT! GRUNT! GRUNT! GRUNT!” I had to listen to that for nine months. That pig can’t sing a f***ing note.’

Meat Loaf producer Jim Steinman (1989)

 

9. ‘Protect my voice? From what? Vandals?’

Tom Waits (1983)

 

8. ‘I’m listening to my album now and wishing that I had kept my yap shut. I hate my voice. It just makes me sick.’

Chrissie Hynde (1989)

 

7. ‘Bob is Bob and he always will be. And that’s why he’s Bob.’

Jeff Lynne on Bob Dylan (1989)

 

6. ‘I hate it. It’s the worst. A pile of shit. There is not one good thing I can find to say about it.’

Lee Mavers of The La’s on their debut album (1989)

 

ON RIVALS:

5. ‘I’m not putting Elvis down but he was a shit-ass, a yellow belly and I hated the f***er.’

Jerry Lee Lewis (1989)

 

4. ‘Once upon a time it was enough to know that U2 are crap, but not anymore. Now you’ve got to know why they’re crap.’

Julian Cope (1983)

 

3. ‘My son likes Madness. I though he was going to start liking A Flock Of Seagulls, which worried me a lot…’

David Bowie (1983)

 

ON TRAVEL:

2. ‘I get a strange swell of pride when I hear of our football hooligans causing trouble abroad.’

Joe Strummer (1989)

 

1. ‘If you’re unemployed in New York, you’re an artist. If you’re unemployed in LA, you’re an actor. In London, everyone’s unemployed so it doesn’t matter.’

Lydia Lunch (1983)