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John Simkin

Best First Line in Popular Music

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Let's be clear on this - the ultimate version of 'Walk Away Renee' is by The Left Banke.

This is probably more important than any league tables or SATs results!

:(

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Here are some good first lines from Don Mclean, one of the best songwriters over the last 30 years. I have chosen these because of what follows these excellent introductions:

It started out quite simply, as complex things can do, a set of sad transparencies till no one could see through (The Pride Parade)

A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile (American Pie)

No days you can borrow, no time you can buy. No trust in tomorrow. It's a lie. (Dreidel)

I coulda been almost anything I put my mind to be but a cowboy’s life was the only life for me. (Bronco Bill’s Lament)

I feel the trembling tingle of a sleepless night (Empty Chairs)

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The following was written by Janis Ian when she was in her late teens. Unfortunately, her creativity went into decline after this bright start.

I learned the truth at seventeen: that love was meant for beauty queens and high school girls with clear skinned smiles who married young and then retired. (At Seventeen)

You might be interested in the rest of the song. Could be used in the classroom.

I LEARNED THE TRUTH AT SEVENTEEN

THAT LOVE WAS MEANT FOR BEAUTY QUEENS

AND HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS WITH CLEAR SKINNED SMILES

WHO MARRIED YOUNG AND THEN RETIRED

THE VALENTINES I NEVER KNEW

THE FRIDAY NIGHT CHARADES OF YOUTH

WERE SPENT ON ONE MORE BEAUTIFUL

AT SEVENTEEN I LEARNED THE TRUTH

AND THOSE OF US WITH RAVAGED FACES

LACKING IN THE SOCIAL GRACES

DESPERATELY REMAINED AT HOME

INVENTING LOVERS ON THE PHONE

WHO CALLED TO SAY - COME DANCE WITH ME

AND MURMURED VAGUE OBSCENITIES

IT ISN'T ALL IT SEEMS AT SEVENTEEN

A BROWN EYED GIRL IN HAND ME DOWNS

WHOSE NAME I NEVER COULD PRONOUNCE

SAID - PITY PLEASE THE ONES WHO SERVE

THEY ONLY GET WHAT THEY DESERVE

THE RICH RELATIONED HOMETOWN QUEEN

MARRIES INTO WHAT SHE NEEDS

WITH A GUARANTEE OF COMPANY

AND HAVEN FOR THE ELDERLY

SO REMEMBER THOSE WHO WIN THE GAME

LOSE THE LOVE THEY SOUGHT TO GAIN

IN DEBENTURES OF QUALITY AND DUBIOUS INTEGRITY

THEIR SMALL-TOWN EYES WILL GAPE AT YOU

IN DULL SURPRISE WHEN PAYMENT DUE

EXCEEDS ACCOUNTS RECEIVED AT SEVENTEEN

TO THOSE OF US WHO KNEW THE PAIN

OF VALENTINES THAT NEVER CAME

AND THOSE WHOSE NAMES WERE NEVER CALLED

WHEN CHOOSING SIDES FOR BASKETBALL

IT WAS LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY

THE WORLD WAS YOUNGER THAN TODAY

WHEN DREAMS WERE ALL THEY GAVE FOR FREE

TO UGLY DUCKLING GIRLS LIKE ME

WE ALL PLAY THE GAME, AND WHEN WE DARE

WE CHEAT OURSELVES AT SOLITAIRE

INVENTING LOVERS ON THE PHONE

REPENTING OTHER LIVES UNKNOWN

THAT CALL AND SAY - COME ON, DANCE WITH ME

AND MURMUR VAGUE OBSCENITIES

AT UGLY GIRLS LIKE ME, AT SEVENTEEN

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I'm afraid they are full songs rather than first line but here are some interesting lyrics which certainly could be used in the classroom. Firstly Randy Newman

Political Science Lyrics

No one likes us

I don't know why.

We may not be perfect

But heaven knows we try.

But all around even our old friends put us down.

Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money

But are they grateful?

No they're spiteful

And they're hateful.

They don't respect us so let's surprise them;

We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded

And Europe's too old.

Africa's far too hot,

And Canada's too cold.

And South America stole our name.

Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

Bridge:

We'll save Australia;

Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.

We'll build an all-American amusement park there;

They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,

And boom Paris.

More room for you

And more room for me.

And every city the whole world round

Will just be another American town.

Oh, how peaceful it'll be;

We'll set everybody free;

You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby,

There'll be Italian shoes for me.

They all hate us anyhow,

So let's drop the big one now.

Let's drop the big one now.

Short People Lyrics

Short People got no reason

Short People got no reason

Short People got no reason

To live

They got little hands

And little eyes

And they walk around

Tellin' great big lies

They got little noses

And tiny little teeth

They wear platform shoes

On their nasty little fett

Well, I don't want no Short People

Don't want no Short People

Don't want no Short People

Round here

Short People are just the same

As you and I

(A Fool Such As I)

All men are brothers

Until the day they die

(It's A Wonderful World)

Short People got nobody

Short People got nobody

Short People got nobody

To love

They got little baby legs

And they stand so low

You got to pick 'em up

Just to say hello

They got little cars

That got beep, beep, beep

They got little voices

Goin' peep, peep, peep

They got grubby little fingers

And dirty little minds

They're gonna get you every time

Well, I don't want no Short People

Don't want no Short People

Don't want no Short People

'Round here

Or my own personal favourite from Leonard Cohen below

Please Don't Pass Me By (A Disgrace)

I was walking in New York City and I brushed up against the man in front of

me. I felt a cardboard placard on his back. And when we passed a streetlight,

I could read it, it said "Please don't pass me by - I am blind, but you can

see - I've been blinded totally - Please don't pass me by." I was walking

along 7th Avenue, when I came to 14th Street I saw on the corner curious

mutilations of the human form; it was a school for handicapped people. And

there were cripples, and people in wheelchairs and crutches and it was snowing,

and I got this sense that the whole city was singing this:

Oh please don't pass me by,

oh please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, but you can see,

yes, I've been blinded totally,

oh please don't pass me by.

And you know as I was walking I thought it was them who were singing it, I

thought it was they who were singing it, I thought it was the other who was

singing it, I thought it was someone else. But as I moved along I knew it was

me, and that I was singing it to myself. It went:

Please don't pass me by,

oh please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, but you can see,

well, I've been blinded totally,

oh please don't pass me by.

Oh please don't pass me by.

Now I know that you're sitting there deep in your velvet seats and you're

thinking "Uh, he's up there saying something that he thinks about, but I'll

never have to sing that song." But I promise you friends, that you're going

to be singing this song: it may not be tonight, it may not be tomorrow, but

one day you'll be on your knees and I want you to know the words when the

time comes. Because you're going to have to sing it to yourself, or to another,

or to your brother. You're going to have to learn to sing this song, it goes:

Please don't pass me by,

ah you don't have to sing this .. not for you.

Please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, but you can see,

yes, I've been blinded totally,

oh please don't pass me by.

Well I sing this for the Jews and the Gypsies and the smoke that they made.

And I sing this for the children of England, their faces so grave. And I sing

this for a saviour with no one to save. Hey, won't you be naked for me? Hey,

won't you be naked for me? It goes:

Please don't pass me by,

oh please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, but you can see,

yes, I've been blinded totally,

oh now, please don't pass me by.

Now there's nothing that I tell you that will help you connect the blood

tortured night with the day that comes next. But I want it to hurt you, I

want it to end. Oh, won't you be naked for me? Oh now:

Please don't pass me by,

oh please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, but you can see,

but I've been blinded totally,

oh, please don't pass me by.

Well I sing this song for you Blonde Beasts, I sing this song for you Venuses

upon your shells on the foam of the sea. And I sing this for the freaks and

the cripples, and the hunchback, and the burned, and the burning, and the

maimed, and the broken, and the torn, and all of those that you talk about at

the coffee tables, at the meetings, and the demonstrations, on the streets,

in your music, in my songs. I mean the real ones that are burning, I mean the

real ones that are burning

I say, please don't pass me by,

oh now, please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, yeah but you can see,

ah now, I've been blinded totally,

oh no, please don't pass me by.

I know that you still think that its me. I know that you think that there's

somebody else. I know that these words aren't yours. But I tell you friends

that one day

You're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down on your knees,

you're going to get down ..

Oh, please don't pass me by,

oh, please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, yeah but you can see,

yes, I've been blinded totally,

oh, please don't pass me by.

Well you know I have my songs and I have my poems. I have my book and I have

the army, and sometimes I have your applause. I make some money, but you know

what my friends, I'm still out there on the corner. I'm with the freaks, I'm

with the hunted, I'm with the maimed, yes I'm with the torn, I'm with the down,

I'm with the poor. Come on now ...

Ah, please don't pass me by,

well I've got to go now friends,

but, please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, yeah but you can see,

oh, I've been blinded, I've been blinded totally,

oh now, please don't pass me by.

Now I want to take away my dignity, yes take my dignity. My friends, take my

dignity, take my form, take my style, take my honour, take my courage, take

my time, take my time, .. time .. 'Cause you know I'm with you singing this

song. And I wish you would, I wish you would, I wish you would go home with

someone else. Wish you'd go home with someone else. I wish you'd go home with

someone else. Don't be the per ause I can't make it by myself. I'm not by myself

anymore because the man I was before he was a tyrant, he was a slave, he was

in chains, he was broken and then he sang:

Oh, please don't pass me by,

oh, please don't pass me by,

for I am blind, yes I am blind, Oh but you can see,

yes, I've been blinded totally,

oh, please don't pass me by.

Well I hope I see you out there on the corner. Yeah I hope as I go by that I

hear you whisper with the breeze. Because I'm going to leave you now, I'm

going to find me someone new. Find someone new.

And please don't pass me by. son that you came with. Oh, don't be the person

that you came with, Oh don't be the person that you came with. Ah, I'm not

going to be. I can't stand him. I can't stand who I am. That's why I've got to

get down on my knees. Bec

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Has anyone noticed that all the contribution to this section on 'First Lines' are from men.

What does this say?

Is this just a second hand way of expressing our emotions?

I don't know you, you've been lately on my mind - New Riders of the Purple Sage

;)

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Has anyone noticed that all the contribution to this section on 'First Lines' are from men.

What does this say?

Is this just a second hand way of expressing our emotions?

I started a strand on another forum of my top 20 albums. Once again only men contributed. At the time I thought it was something to do with men’s interest in lists.

I am surprised by this one. From my experience, women are always better at remembering the words of songs.

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Guest Raynah Thomas

Just thought I'd drop this one in. Sorry, it's another whole song:

It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go

I am a backseat driver from America

They drive to the left on Falls Road

The man at the wheel's name is Seamus

We pass a child on the corner he knows

And Seamus says, Now, what chance has that

kid got?

And I say from the back, I don't know.

He says, There's barbed wire at all of these exits . . .

And there ain't no place in Belfast for that kid

to go.

(chorus)

It's a hard life

It's a hard life

It's a very hard life

It's a hard life wherever you go

If we poison our children with hatred

then, the hard life is all that they'll know

And there ain't no place in (Belfast) for

these kids to go

(Chicago)

(This world)

A cafeteria line in Chicago

The fat man in front of me

Is calling black people trash to his children

he's the only trash here I see

And I'm thinking this man wears a white hood

in the night when his children should sleep

But, they slip to their window and they see him

And they think that white hood's all they need

(repeat chorus)

I was a child in the sixties

dreams could be held through TV

With Disney, and Cronkite, and Martin Luther

Oh, I believed, I believed . . I BELIEVED

Now, I am the backseat driver from America

I am not at the wheel of control

I am guilty, I am war, . . . I am the root of all evil

Lord, and I can't drive on the left side of the road

(repeat chorus)

Nanci Griffith

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What about the best last lines:

Diving for dear life

When we could be diving for pearls

Elvis Costello (Shipbuilding)

:rolleyes: 'What's her name, Virginia Plain.' Roxy Music

'Wear your hair long babe you can't go wrong' Marc Bolan

'Any way the wind blows' Queen

'With a love like that, you know you should be glad.' Beatles

My current issue regarding whether I remain in teaching or try something else reminds me of this line:

'Should I stay or should I go?' Clash

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Also Manic Street Preachers but not a first line:

"If you tolerate this your children will be next!"

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Like ships without anchors

Wide is the ocean, no islands, no shores

All is well, only

This is such a lonely feeling to be lonely

Fame is illusion

Bright are the lights and you -

You are left in confusion

All is well, only

This is such a lonely feeling

This is such a lonely feeling

Driving fast, as fast as I can

Or sitting quietly on the windowsill

You've got all and nothing

Just put no more loneliness on my bill

This is such a lonely feeling

All songs should be happy

Actors young and soap operas crappy

Movies are x-rays

Our destinies are choosing our ways

And what should we do?

To enjoy life the most

Or hiding like ghosts?

All is well, only

This is such a lonely feeling

This is such a lonely feeling

Brainstorm - Lonely Feeling (To Be Lonely)

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Hey hey, good times

You're in so many lives

Why don't you walk into mine?

I've waited here for a lifetime

But you never showed your face

I'm sorry if I've been wasting my time

I lied to myself

I lie and I know

I can't figure out how my story goes

But, I lie to myself

And there's no Holy Grail

So why don't you come and lay your body down

on my bed of nails?

Hey hey I'm down

Well I'm stuck in a hole and I can't see

any way out

Remember when we were younger

And I showed you what to say

And now it seems I've lost that hunger

Why don't you lay

Why don't you lay

Why don't you come and lay your body down?

I thought it would last a lifetime

It only lasts a day

You've started wasting my time

Why don't you come and change the way

I lie to myself

I lie and I know

I can't figure out

how my story goes

I lie to myself

I lie all the time

I can't figure out why what's yours ain't mine

Hear me out (Hear me out)

Hear me out (Why don't you hear me out?)

Hear me now (Hear me now)

Hear me now

---------

Hey Hey I'm Down - Puressence

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Kill me

I begged and love said no

Leave me

for dead and let me go

Kill me

I cried and love said no

HIM - And Love Said No

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And the hardest part was letting go, not taking part.

The Hardest Part - Coldplay

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