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Opening lines. (With value-added quiz content!)

Whoever it was who linked to this blog on Facebook yesterday: Thanks for your support, and thanks to you and your friends for the temporary loan of your eyeballs.

And now, on with the show …

The winners of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced a couple of weeks ago.

The BLFC, as you probably know, is the annual challenge in which writers compete to submit the worst opening line to a novel.

(Of course, the contest isn’t really so much about first lines per se as much as it is about the funniest literary-spoof gag lines that people can think up.)

Thinking about Bulwer-Lytton led me down a primrose path:

1) Just as a bad first sentence can do a lot to sink a novel, a good first sentence can do a lot to establish it.
2) To some of us, an album is just as much a work of art as a novel.
3) Hence, a good or bad first sentence is important to an album too.

So, then, a quiz, for the two or three pop geeks who read this blog:

Here are the opening lines from 20 pop and rock albums — some good, some bad, all reasonably well-known, and generally drawn from the 1965-80 period because that’s what I’m most immediately conversant with.

Without Googling them, can you name the albums that begin with each of these lines? (Imaginary extra credit, too, if you can name the songs.)

1. “Oh, I just don’t know where to begin.”

2. “With mistletoe and candle green / to Halloween we go.”

3. “The band’s on stage and it’s one of those nights.”

4. (spoken) “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.”

5. “Never been a millionaire / And I tell ya, mama, I don’t care.”

6. “What do you want? What do you want?”

7. “So your girlfriend slammed the door shut in your face tonight but that’s all right.”

8.  “I ain’t lonesome out on Times Square.”

9. “As I sit and close my eyes, there’s peace in my mind.”

10. “This is the age of machinery / A mechanical nightmare.”

11. “We’re driving fast from a dream of the past to the brave new world.”

12. “Standing tough under stars and stripes, we can tell.”

13. “If you were a bird and you lived very high / You’d lean on the wind when the breeze came by.”

14. “Ain’t seen a night things work out right go by.”

15. “Walkin’ down by the river / Water runnin’ through my knees.”

16. “There’s a new sensation/ A fabulous creation.”

17. “Rather than I wanna hold your hand, I wanna swallow you whole.”

18. “The sky is red, I don’t understand.”

19. “I’ve got a pocketful of pretty green.”

20. “Here we are again, the start of the end / But there’s more.”

I’ll be back in a day or two with the answers, if people don’t actually show up to guess them.


3 responses »

  1. I know three without having to look them up. Disappointing it’s only three, but hey.

    For those who don’t want spoilers, stop reading now:

    3. The Rolling Stones – “If You Can’t Rock Me” from It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

    8. The Band – “Forbidden Fruit” from Northern Lights, Southern Cross

    10. The Kinks – “20th Century Boy” from Muswell Hillbillies

  2. I was real excited that I knew the first one, from Elvis Costello’s “Armed Forces.” Then I ended up not knowing any of the rest.


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