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Throwback Tracks  -- February 23, 2017

{MUSIC}

The Guys from {MUSIC}

Throwback Tracks -- February 23, 2017

David R. Smith

Every week, when I finish a TBT just under the wire, I think, "I should really get on next week's article so I'm not as pressed for time." But I never do and then Wednesday rolls around and I find myself - once again - under the gun. This week is no exception. I feel like one of these days I'll roll one of these things out well before my deadline. But today is not this day. 

Last week I alluded to a song that I was mulling putting in TBT and it never ended up happening. I thought that maybe this week it would. Well it's not. But the artist I was planning on using is in here. But I won't tell you which artist it is. You'll just have to guess that on your own. 

This week actually has a theme. This week's theme is "some of the best intros of any song ever." While there are many songs with great intros, these are some of my personal favourites. And, hopefully, they'll be some of yours too!

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

When one thinks of great openings, one can't help but think about this song. So it made sense to start this week's list of songs thusly. 

Everybody 15 years old and up knows this song. Even if you mention the title to somebody and they claim not to be familiar with the song, as soon as you play the opening riff that Kurt Cobaim lays down, everybody has that epiphany. It's been so famous for so long that it's gone even beyond famous to the realm of infamy. 

While the guitar alone is enough to make you take notice; once Dave Grohl kicks in with his drums (as we have witnessed in the past, I have a certain affinity for heavy drums) is when the song really starts to kick in. When you hear all the instruments alongside each other, coming together to make a song that became an anthem for a wide array of teenagers in the 90s, you can't help but understand why Nirvana were catapulted to the top of the grunge scene (even if it was fleeting.)

Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty

Certainly a different feel than Teen Spirit. It's a bit more fantastical with the chimes and the flute. This song is a bit of a slow burn. It doesn't sound like it's going to be anything special at first. In fact, it sounds like it might be more like Good Morning Starshine than it is something "epic" but then you hear that haunting saxophone and you kind of get it. While well used in many rock songs, the use of saxophone doesn't get much better than it does here. (I may find time to make a list of best use of saxophone somewhere along the way, but that's not a today list.) 

What's really funny is that the song is most famous because of the saxophone and yet the man who played the instrument on the song, Raphael Ravenscroft, is annoyed by it. "I'm irritated because it's out of tune. Yeah, it's flat. By enough of a degree that it irritates me at best." 

Hilarious.

Because the song is so good, it's been used in many different places, most notably when the Simpsons used it at the end of the Lisa's sax episode. Also, the Foo Fighters version is pretty unreal. And finally, (and this is pretty amazing because of the song I selected next - completely independently, I might add) apparently Slash cites this as inspiration for his solo of Sweet Child O' Mine. So with that segue...

Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses

Hand to god, I picked all the songs before I started writing about them. I had the five before I even delved into any research on the songs. It just so happened that these two were back to back. One might even call that serendipity. 

Some of the best songs have come out of completely random moments. For example: American Woman was invented when the Guess Who were just jamming on stage one night and Burton Cummings just started riffing on lyrics. Sweet Child is no exception...

Lead guitarist Slash has been quoted as having an initial disdain for the song due to its roots as simply a “string skipping” exercise and a joke at the time.[6] During a jam session at the band’s house in the Sunset Strip,[7] drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a “circus” melody while making faces at Adler. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin asked Slash to play it again. Stradlin came up with some chords, Duff McKagan created a bassline and Adler planned a beat. In his autobiography, Slash said “within an hour my guitar exercise had become something else”. Meanwhile, lead singer Axl Rose was listening to the musicians upstairs in his room and was inspired to write lyrics, which became complete by the following afternoon.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Child_o'_Mine

Cool, right? Apparently goofing off works out pretty well sometimes!

I've always had a soft spot for this song. When he got himself a guitar, my cousin Sean would play this over and over because he loved it so much. I'm pretty sure the rest of his family grew weary of it, but he didn't care. And because I didn't live with him constantly, hearing him play it was pretty cool. It is definitely a family favourite and that opening riff, as soon as I hear it, makes me so galt-damned happy. 

Would? - Alice in Chains

Okay, so far we've had heavy guitar, weird pseudo psychedelic flutes and chimes, a random guitar exercise and now we've just got heavy bass. Mike Starr of Alice in Chains is the man responsible for this intro. I mean, I suppose when it comes down to it, Jerry Cantrell is the man responsible for it because he was the one who wrote the song. But the reason it's so good is because you just know that with the way it comes in, that you're in for a good song. 

Listen to it again. Go ahead. Listen. You hear that bass slowly kick in, followed by the subtle tap of drum sticks on cymbals. This is the sort of song that builds and builds and builds. You then get to the tandem lyrics of Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley. And as we get to the chorus, you have Layne basically sing-shouting:

"Into the flood again
Same old trip it was back then
So I made a big mistake
Try to see it once my way"

Really the song is just a means to get to the epic ending. But it's bookended by having an epic beginning too. Well done, AiC!

Bat Out Of Hell - Meat Loaf

Arguably the best beginning to any rock song ever. A couple hits on an electric guitar a couple more and then some of the speediest piano I've ever heard. This is, without question, one of my favourite songs. Lyrically it's great and the fact that it's nearly 10 minutes long is pretty fun too. But it's like a symphony. It rises, it falls, it lulls and then it comes around again and just leaves you feeling so satisfied. 

There are some songs that when you hear them, you immediately want to listen to them again. This is kind of one of those songs, buy mostly because by the time it's over, you've nearly forgotten the beginning so it seems like a whole other song. 

I would like it if somebody more technologically capable than myself could edit out all the other parts of the song and isolated only the piano part. It's SO good and so cool that I would love to hear what it would be like standing on its own. So if anybody reading this can help me out with that, I would greatly appreciate it. 

Well that's it, kids. Tune in next week for more songs from the was before. It's likely that this theme of epic intros may come up again in Throwback Tracks, as I've messaged some people about it and the response has been great. So stay tuned for that. But in the meantime, here are other playlists!

Throwback Playlist for Dec 16/Jan 17

October 2016 Throwback Playlist,

September 2016 Throwback Playlist

August Apple Music Playlist

July 2016 Throwback Playlist

June 2016 Throwback Playlist

May 2016 Throwback Playlist

April 2016 Throwback Playlist

-D (@davidronn)

photo credit: armin_r Mono via photopin (license)