Listening to Paradise City has got me thinking about intros to songs. I would probably back off a bit from saying Paradise City is one of favourite song intros, as there’s so many good song intros – but it’s definitely an intro I really like to a song I don’t particularly like.

It seems to me that it’s actually very easy to make a good intro – most songs seem to manage it. Whether it’s a long building up/layering approach, which quite a lot of songs do (Layla, Justified and Ancient, Nirvana of course do it) a jump straight in with the words or only a short instrumental that nevertheless represents the instrumentation of the whole song (Beautiful South tend to do this, as does Centrefold), or the plain odd or shock starter (e.g. Batdance by Prince, even Hey Mickey. Possibly even the Shoop shoop song, although this might be a jump straight in). I suppose you could add a fade in too (More than a feeling, by Boston).

Finishing a song seems a lot harder – repeat and fade seems very popular, and the other main one is probably back right off for the last time, quite possibly with a slow down (KT Tunstell, please step forward). A guess the rock ending is to sustain a power chord for a few bars and finish with a big BAM. Occasionally you get endings just to keep DJs on their toes, although I can’t think of an example right now. I guess Batdance is a bit like this. Do you get de-layered endings, where the instruments disappear one by one. In fact there’s a song tickling the back of my mind that does this, but can’t quite remember it.

My conclusion is that, in the main, endings are pretty boring. Intros are many and varied, after all you can choose which instruments to start with when – start with acoustic guitar (Pinball Wizard), leccy guitar (Sweet Child of Mine, Layla, …), drums or other percussion(Obvious Child, Walk like an Egyptian), bass (lovely day), piano (I can see clearly now). Then choose which are next, and so on.

All this pondering led to me to think about the fact that “spot the track” games are almost always based on Introduction. I guess “Bits and Pieces” on Radio 1 (do they still do it?) is a notable exception, but whenever I’ve been to a party that’s had a music game, it’s been based on the intro. The obvious reasons are

  1. It’s a lot easier to grab the first 5 seconds of a track, then it is to have to listen to the whole track and choose a section.
  2. Intros don’t usually have words, which makes it harder to identify the artist and title.
  3. Intros don’t always have an obvious connection to the main body of the song.

These are all good reasons, but I was thinking that if I ever hold a music quiz at a party I’ll do it on either the ending or on an instrumental bridge. It would make a change, if nothing else!