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Best Song Intros in Rock

Updated on February 21, 2013

Song intros

A great song intro can be the difference between listening to a song or turning it off. Some song intro's are so memorable that the rest of the track pales by comparison.

So this hub is a tribute to those intros that are instantly recognisable, memorable and in my opinion some of the greatest song intro’s in rock.

Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

"Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see"

These immortal words written by the late great Freddy Mercury lay the foundation for one of the greatest masterpieces in modern music. Bohemian Rhapsody manages to take about 6 completely disparate song ideas and forge them into something completely timeless. The song's intro starts of as a vocal harmony accompanied only by some sparse piano. This is great because it forces the listener to focus on the lyrics, and what incredible lyrics they are...poetic, dramatic, sad and mysterious. The song intro ends with the line “any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me” which are also repeated during the songs outro. Bohemian Rhapsody is completely unique, there has been nothing written before or after which sounds anything like it.

Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

There could be any number of Stones songs selected for the greatest song intro in rock, but for me “Gimme Shelter” is one of the greatest. Gimme shelter was written by Jagger and Richards but the intro to the song is all Keith Richards. The intro features an incredible Richards riff, it is a rhythmic minor key, and slightly bluesy guitar riff which is gradually builds and builds. It is an incredible intro to a great song.

Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix

Purple Haze is one of the classic guitar riffs of all time. The intro to the song which contains Hendrix powerful riff is instantly recognisable. Purple Haze was rated the greatest guitar Tracks by Q Magazine in 2005 and Rolling Stone had it at number 2 in their greatest guitar songs of all time. It is reported that Hendrix producer Chas Chandler heard him playing the riff offstage after a concert and liked it so much he convinced him to write lyrics to the song. That riff became the songs intro.

Sound and Vision – David Bowie

Sound and Vision was released in 1977 and appeared on the album Low. The intro to “Sound and Vision” is longer than the rest of the song. It clocks in at around 2 minutes before the vocals finally kick in. This is not entirely surprising as the song was originally written as an instrumental before it was decided later to add vocals. The intro is an incredible piece of music, it features a synth led instrumental track over the top of bouncy guitars and bass. “Sound and Vision” is a very original piece of music even by Bowie’s standards. An extraordinary song and an extraordinary intro.

Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple

Smoke on the Water contains one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock. Released in 1972 from the album Machine Head the song peaked at number 4 in the US Charts and reached 25 in the UK. The songs intro and central theme to the song is a four note blues scale played by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore on a Fender Strat.

The Who – Baba O’Riley

Baba O’Riley was released in 1971 and appeared on the Who’s Next album. The pulsating intro to the song is very unique. On first listen it sounds like a synthesizer loop which kind of resembles an Irish jig but according to the album’s release notes the sound was created by Pete Townsend playing a Lowry Berkshire Home Organ and using a pulse function to get that repeated note effect. However it was done, the song ranks an iconic piece of music and ranks as one of the greatest teenage anthems ever written and the who’s finest work.

Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

Released in 1985 on the Little Creatures album Road to Nowhere has an incredibly catchy and memorable intro. The intro to the song is an acapella vocal which is sung by the band, a little bit like the 80s version of Bohemian Rhapsody. The lyrics are classic David Byrne, absurd but also quite prophetic.

"Well, we know where we're going

But we don't know where we've been

And we know what we're knowing

But we can't say what we've seen

And we're not little children

And we know what we want

And the future is certain

Give us time to work it out"

Thats my take on the the best song intros in rock. Feel free to agree, disagree or tell me about all the great song intro's that I've missed.

More great rock song intros

It is impossible to include all of the great song intros in this hub so here is a list of some great rock intro's that could have made it on another day:

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N Roses

Layla – Derick and the Dominoes

Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin

Thunderstruck - ACDC

Shine on you Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd

Hotel California - The Eagles

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

Where is my mind - The Pixies

Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison

Sarah - Fleetwood Mac

Refugee - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) - Neil Young

Nothing else Matters - Metallica

I'm waiting for the man - Velvet Underground


Submit a Comment

  • Theeyeballkid profile image

    Theeyeballkid 5 years ago

    Thanks idigwebsites, It probably deserves to be further up the list but I was a little biased towards my personal favorites with some of the selections.

  • idigwebsites profile image

    idigwebsites 5 years ago from United States

    I'm glad you included Stairway To Heaven even if it's a honorable mention. Voted up and interesting. :)

  • Theeyeballkid profile image

    Theeyeballkid 5 years ago

    I agree. Thanks for reading!

  • 34th Bomb Group profile image

    34th Bomb Group 5 years ago from Western New York State

    Bohemian Rhapsody hands down. Interesting - thanks!