May 26, 2008

Intro to intros

The Inside Dope Kollege of Musical Knowledge (r) would like to introduce you to introductions, otherwise known as intros.

These little things are often key to a song's success, and certainly it's memorability. They say that first impressions are key, well, I guess the same is true with a song.

There are many intros that have become immortal in their own right and instantly recognizable. I'd guess just about anyone can name that tune from listening to either this... or this famous intro from a certain aging rock band, probably within a couple notes.

I grabbed a few examples of intros out of the massive Inside Dope vault to explore this topic a bit further. They're probably not the best examples, but they'll do nicely.

A simple, memorable guitar hook is always popular. Here's another example in addition to the two previous.

But occasionally, even the drummer gets some, as in this intro which starts out sounding like a nitro dragster at the line, then the light turns green.

I'd wager there's been thousands of speeding tickets handed out to people listening to that tune full blast. (really, how could you possibly go the speed limit?)

Counting out the song by riffing on muted guitar strings seems popular as well, as in this example.

In this category there's this famous example, definitely one of the classic intros of all time.

Misdirection is also popular, where usually one instrument will start off on an entirely different sort of music or feel, then gradually, or suddenly, break into the song itself. This can be a very artful form of intro.

I'm sure there's better examples, but here's one.

Oftentimes musicians will decide to keep it interesting by adding a different twist or flavor to a well-known or overplayed tune by means of a new intro. This of course usually employs misdirection, thus keeping the audience baffled until the last moment when they finally recognize the tune. Audiences seem to go wild at the moment they realize it's an old favorite.

In the following example (the one that got me going on this weird topic) the band seems to come up with a different intro each time they play the song, which is interesting in itself.

But when I heard this version, I was struck by just what an interesting intro it really is, playing with and distorting a light classical tune, and the payoff chords are big and powerful. (you may have to turn this one (way) up a bit.)

Then there's the intro that defies explanation. These are almost routinely interesting, and this is probably the best example I'm aware of in recent years. A great 70's retro secret agent TV theme thing going on. (bonus points if you can figure out what the hell the guy is saying in the looped sample. The best I could figure still makes no sense. Not that it has to. OH, and you might want to turn the volume back down before this clip or risk having your ears bleed.)

And finally to my personal grand-daddy of them all. This is certainly not one of the most famous intros, in fact, I doubt any reader's even heard it before.

In creating a new intro for a very familiar song, it results in a very effective misdirection.

From the simple notes on the Fender Rhodes to the horn arrangement that's a thing of beauty, this one does it for me.

I love this intro so much I could listen to it over and over dozens of times at a sitting... and I have. I simply can't hear it without immediately starting it again and listening to the intro again, the louder the better.

Turn it way up. Here's the Steely Dan Orchestra and my favorite intro (for now) recorded live from the sound board at Poplar Creek a few years back. (by the way, Steely Dan will be at the Chicago Theatre July 15)

I'm not sure I've ever heard two notes on a snare drum have as much impact as when Dennis Chambers jump starts the groove. And the sheer precision of all the musicians (which included the late, great Cornelius Bumpus on tenor), is amazing.

I wanted to keep the song a mystery and let you guess it, but the intro is so effective at misdirection that it really offers no clues as to the song it leads into. Sorry about the give-a-way, but really, do you think you would have ever guessed the song?

Any readers that feel they're up on their music, or have a little time to kill, are welcome to take a stab at naming the tunes that go with the intros above. Some are gimmes, but others may be not so obvious.

And of course, I'd like to hear any songs you feel should be included in the pantheon of great, memorable, and/or distinctive song intros.

For this you'll be given 1.5 hours credit which is transferable to any fake college or university of your choice.


At 5/26/2008 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 new stories and not a sinbgle comment. how sad this dump has become. It's time to shut er down!

At 5/26/2008 4:53 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

You are so right, my crazy friend.

(note, this um, person, has been writing essentially this same comment (only the misspellings change) for literally over a year now.)

I had the last two posts up for all of five minutes when you left this drivel. The previous one was up less than 24 hours over Memorial Day.

No flies on you.

Could it be that maybe people are kind of busy doing something more enjoyable than reading blogs this weekend? I'd certainly hope so. But I guess that kind of slipped past you.

You always find time to check in and leave one of your little droppings, kind of like a drunken rodent with nothing better to do.

And of course, being so amazingly clueless about the concept of blogging that you wouldn't know it if it jumped up and bit you on the ass, you continue to send in the same dumb remarks, over, and over, and over, all based on the odd belief that a lack of comments somehow translate into a lack of traffic or interest or anything else.

What? Do you think that comments are like dollars to a business, or gas to a car? Do you think I'll dry up and blow away if a post goes without a comment?

Geeze. I just realized you probably do. That's... sad.

The posts you cite had been up 5 minutes in two instances and less than a day in the other, and as you so illiterately put it, "not a sinbgle comment". Yet my daily average visits continue to stay at a very comfortable level and are higher now than they've ever been.

Go figure, huh?

Simply mind-boggling... at least to you.

Don't you get tired of hearing your addled brain churning out truly dumb things over and over? Or do you even realize how pathetic your attempts at putting the blog down are when you're half in the bag?

Where's the little switch in your head that stops you in mid-stream when you're feverishly typing out the same idiotic comment for the 85th time in a row? It's like "Groundhog Day" only pathetic.

Despite your rather creepy obsession with me and this blog and your sweaty desire that it fail or go away, you couldn't be more off base if you tried.

You can scare people off, trade in your usual business of lies and slander, but it just doesn't matter. You've been at this for years now. Get a clue.

And needless to say, I guess you're as ignorant on the actual topic of this post as you are on all the rest?

Any normal people care to take a stab at a comment that actually relates to the post?

At 5/26/2008 4:53 PM, Blogger tiz said...

1. Start Me Up - Stones. Did you pay Microsoft the royalties for that? :)
2. Jumping Jack Flash - Stones
3. Beautiful Girl? - I know for sure it's Van Halen
4. Bad For the Teacher? - Again, not sure of the song but I know it's Van Halen
5. Don't know
6. Back in Black - AC/DC
7. Pretending - Georgia Satellites?
8. Weapon of Choice - Fatboy Slim

I'd have guessed the Reelin in the Years, but that's only because I own Alive in America and have listened to it a million times.

There's a live version of Bodhitsattva on Steely Dan Gold where a drunk guy introduces them for like the first two minutes. Best "spoken" into ever.

At 5/26/2008 5:13 PM, Blogger tiz said...

It takes talent to get Clapton mixed up with the Georgia Satellites.

At 5/26/2008 5:41 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Tiz, you're a champ! (and thanks for getting us back to the subject at hand... yeesh!)

Of course, the first couple were indeed "Start Me Up" by the Stones (and I haven't gotten a bill from Bill.... yet.) and "Jumpin' Jack Flash".

Next you got "Beautiful Girls" by Van Halen, a perenial fave among strippers when it comes to music selection, right up there with "Pour Some Sugar On Me", or "Cherry Pie", but that shows how behind the times I am. maybe rap lends itself to pole dancing, who knows?

The next one, another by V.H. as you correctly surmised, is "Hot For Teacher", but I've consulted with the judges and they say that your answer is perfectly acceptible. ;-)

The fifth one I was thinking might be a little tricky, but I trust someone will know it.

The next was indeed the intro of all intros, "Back In Black" by AC/DC. (anyone who didn't get that would be severely penalized.)

The next one you scored half a point for getting the title of the tune correct. It is indeed "Pretending", though the artist is not the one-hit-wonders, "The Georgia Satellites". (they had the ultra-hooky hit "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" or whatever it was called, if I recall, and also had another minor hit with "Battleship Chains".)

You omitted one that was actually #8... the one with the organ intro. I think that one might prove to be the toughest.

And for the next one I'm duly impressed, mainly because of a mental block I have on the name of the band and can NEVER remember what it is without looking it up.

I love the tune though, and love the video featuring Christopher Walken doing a very stylish dance ala Astaire all over this big room, including the walls and ceiling, even better.

Now if we can only figure out what that guy is saying! To me t sounds like, "Folk'll get your tea smoked.", which is gibberish to me, but what do I know? I know gangs sometimes use the term "folk" and of course, "tea" was a slang term for weed, but that was a LONG time ago, like in the '20s.

Ah sweet mysteries of life!

And I must admit, I was a bit deflated when you popped up with the id for my favorite. I didn't imagine many readers have or have heard "Alive" ... you might be the only one! Just my luck.

Anyway, I love the album, especially "Book of Liars", a rare Becker vocal. I'm damn lucky I didn't have to get it on vinyl because I would have long since worn out the section with the intro to "Reelin'" in particular.

So Tiz, you're the current and reigning champ. But I hope others fill in the blanks and leave some suggestions for other great intros.

And now you've got me dying to hear the spoken intro on "Bodhitsattva." (thank God for cut and paste on that word.)

I know that Steely Dan/Fagan/Becker's liner notes can be quite... eclectic... to say the least, so if they included the intro, it's got to be good. ha!

At 5/26/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Ding, ding, ding!

Yes Tiz,

You correctly corrected your partially correct answer.

(while I was busy correcting my first reply, which is why they got out of order.)

Though I must admit, that once you knew the title, it could have been a matter of getting on "the Google", as Bush famously calls it.

But you nearly cleared the board. Well done.

And don't worry. I'm sure people confuse Clapton with the Satellites all the time. I can't really think of one without thinking of the other, can you?

Sometimes you just have to go big. ;-)

At 5/27/2008 2:31 AM, Blogger -shane- said...

Jeez, there are SO many great song intros out there. My tastes tend to get a little more eclectic than standard radio rock, but I'd have to include the following in any list of great intros:

(1) The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?" - The simplicity of the vibrato guitar just gets me every time.
Youtube link

(2) Teenage Fanclub, "Hang On" - Hands down my favorite intro of all time. After having dabbled with hard rock riffs on their first 3 albums, "Hang On" kicks off the Scottish group's 4th record with a balls-out grunge guitar (a certain indicator that the band is taking off in a scary new metal-edged direction) that builds and builds for 42 seconds before suddenly collapsing into the low-key, Beatles-esque perfect pop of "Hang On." It's the ultimate fake-out intro and gave MANY of their fans a near heart-attack when they first pressed play.

Youtube link

(3) Medicine - Aruca - Yeah, I know, you've never heard of them, but it's worth seeking out an mp3 just for a listen. Wanting to make an impact as the newest signing to Britain's esteemed Creation label, "Aruca" has one of the harshest and most innovative intros I've ever heard. 30 seconds of the most abrasive, in your face, atonal guitar feedback ever committed to tape... then suddenly the feedback gets sampled onto itself in different layered pitches, creating a strange percussive effect where the walls of feedback are serving as its own drum line, then a proper drum machine kicks in on top of it to establish the rhythm before the proper song starts at the 1:00 mark. GENIUS.
Youtube link

(4) Ride - Leave Them All Behind - One of my favorite songs from my all-time favorite band. It's a whale of an epic intro that, while certainly owing a lot to the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", encapsulates everything I love about music in its 2 minute intro.
Youtube link

(5) The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony - The intro that quite literally cost the band millions of dollars. Thieving and looping a 5 second sample of a Rolling Stones symphonic tribute album, the band created an epic build to their most epic of songs. Sadly it also caught the ear of Stones supremo and money grubber Allan Klein, who immediately and successfully sued the band for full ownership rights to the song. It was the Verve's only international smash single, and they never saw a penny off of it.
Youtube link

(6) New Order - Blue Monday - Name any other song that's ever been recognized for its drum machine pattern. All it takes is 2 seconds and you know it's "Blue Monday."
Youtube link

(7) The Kings - "This Beat Goes On / Switchin' To Glide" - The 80's one hit wonder double-A side where it can be argued that the 3.5 minute "This Beat Goes On" is simply an extended intro to "Switchin' To Glide."
Youtube link

Of course, probably the coolest intro I can think of is when the Flaming Lips would start all of their live renditions of "She Don't Use Jelly" (their only Top 40 crossover radio hit) with a taped sample of Shadoe Stevens announcing the song's debut on American Top 40. Later they switched to a video projection of a really corny introduction by Jon Stewart back when he had his less-than-cool MTV talk show.
Youtube link

At 5/27/2008 5:57 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


Thanks for that great contribution (and thanks for providing links as well.)

When it comes to instantly recognizable intros, I surely should have included "Bittersweet Symphony".

I'm fairly old school, so I appreciate getting turned on to newer stuff.

Thanks again.

At 5/27/2008 9:30 PM, Anonymous sueshedap;puhleeze said...

Missing itro I.D.= Wooden Ships Buffalo Springfield.........
the Clapton intro almost threw me as it starts off with a Little Feat Dixie Chicken/like riff ... never noticed that interesting....!

write ON , Mr. Dope

At 5/28/2008 3:07 PM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, one of your more interesting entries! While I was unfamiliar with some of your examples, I was suprised that you didn't include the all-time greatest intro, Eric Clapton's "Layla." In the days of real Top-40 radio (ala KSTT, WLS, WCFL, KAAY, etc.)I hated it when the deejay would talk over the intro, as many of them were almost better than the song itself.

Other intros that make good examples are the Supremes' "Reflections" (well, actually any Motown song), Thelma Houston and "Don't Leave Me This Way," and Strawberry Alarm Clock and "Incense and Peppermints." But in reality, the list could be almost endless.

Next time you decide to veer from the political, how about some song bridges. Those can be equally as distinctive, if not more. Case in point: Amboy Dukes, "Journey to the Center of Your Mind"; Creedence Clearwater, "Ramble Tamble"; Yardbirds, "Evil-Hearted You"; and Moby Grape, "Omaha" to name but a few. (Sorry I can't insert a clip of each - haven't got the appropriate software.)

At 5/29/2008 5:51 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...



Yes, you are correct... the tune is indeed "Wooden Ships", but.....
not by Buffalo Springfield.

Anyone else care to guess the artist(s)?

Also, I realized that I'd omitted a song with a very famous and instantly recognizable intro. Unfortunately, it's been tainted by having been usurped by the loathsome toad Rush Limbaugh who jijacked it as the intro to his radio shows. (much to the displeasure of Chrissy Hynde.)

Of course I'm talking about the famous bass line and guitar intro to "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders.

The Pretenders have many really interesting intros to their songs, another one being the intro to "Middle of the Road" and several others, including a tune with no intro at all, "Tattooed Love Boys" where the song is full tilt from the first note.

At 5/29/2008 5:57 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


Outstanding examples. Really interesting to go back and think about them.

Thanks a lot for the contributions to this admittedly odd, but interesting topic.

"Layla" indeed deserves to be on any list of classic intros.

And yes, I share your frustration with DJs who "step on" intros. I don't listen to much music radio these days as it's not like it used to be. But the same thing happens in the news biz when whomever happens to be on the air feels absolutely compelled to babble nonsense over speeches, or when there's live breaking news that they know nothing about.

Sometimes the chiseled in stone rule of broadcasting that there's no sin worse than dead air just doesn't apply.

At 5/30/2008 12:42 AM, Anonymous nooncat said...

As I recall, "Wooden Ships" was by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But since Stills and Young were both in Buffalo Springfield, Sue should get at least half credit, ISTM.

At 5/30/2008 10:32 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Good point Noon... and I'd forgotten that Stills and Young were a part of Buffalo Springfield. Which reminds me of Dusty Springfield, which made me think of Dusty Buffalo. But that's just how my mind is working at the moment.

At 6/03/2008 11:23 AM, Anonymous sueshedap;puhleeze said...

Thanks soon as I hit the publish button my memory glitch became apparent. My favorite version of that song is with Grace Slick's vocals...hmmmm now was that Starship, Great Society or J. Airplane?

BTW TID...gone for a few days and your blog goes nuts....!
Write ON......


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