Intros are important for songs, and no one does them like the legends of classic rock. Without a solid introduction, a song really has no launching off point to lead you to the rest of it. For your listening pleasure, we put together 10 of the best intros to ever happen.
10. “Heartbreaker” – Led Zeppelin
Yeah, “Stairway to Heaven” is more iconic, but it’s also kind of weak. Led Zep is known for heavy riffs, driving drumbeats, and powerful vocals, and “Heartbreaker” is a perfect example of all three. No one writes a guitar intro like Jimmy Page (not even Jimi Hendrix), and the rest of the band is right there with him.
9. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – The Beatles
Although the bright and poppy rock music is what made the Beatles famous, they also did drug-induced droning jams as well as anyone. From “Strawberry Fields Forever” to “Helter Skelter,” it’s hard to really hate any Beatles song, but everyone has their favorites. As far as which one makes you feel it right from the start, the end of the first side of Abbey Road is tough to beat.
8. “Pretty Vacant” – Sex Pistols
The first great punk intro came at the beginning of one of the best early punk songs. The guitar riff is an appropriate take on ABBA’s “S.O.S.,” and the whole track is one of punk’s first big everlasting jabs at pop music. No one would argue the Sex Pistols as great musicians, but they certainly had the whole attitude and rebellion thing figured out before almost anyone.
7. “The House of the Rising Sun” – The Animals
With so many different bands doing their own versions of this song, you could really argue that it’s the song itself that perfected the intro, regardless of who’s performing it. That said, it’s the Animals’ version that stands the test of time. It captures just the right level of darkness in the tune without losing the rhythm and storytelling that made the old folk version such a classic. Leave it to the Brits to capture the vibe of New Orleans.
6. “Live Wire” – Mötley Crüe
Among all of the ’80s metal songs, “Live Wire” might be the pinnacle. Blazing guitars, ridiculous drums, and just the right amount of theatrics within a single song show everything that was great about vintage metal. “Live Wire” hits you right in the gut from the first note, and doesn’t let up until it’s done with you.
5. “Gimme Shelter” – Rolling Stones
There are only a few dozen albums in rock history where you could blindly pick a song from it and guarantee that it’d be awesome. The Stones have at least a few of those records, and probably more like a handful. “Gimme Shelter” is one of the many Rolling Stones songs that could be on this list, but it’s pulls you in from the start and makes your feet start moving immediately.
4. “Baba O’Riley” – The Who
Outside of the Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius” (better known as “the song Michael Jordan came out to during his time with the Bulls”), “Baba O’Riley” might be the most epically exciting intro you can use at a sporting event. “Crazy Train” gets a lot of love too (and nearly made the list), but it just doesn’t have the drama and windmill effect of the Who’s classic. After all, it’s only teenage wasteland.
3. “Straight to Hell” – The Clash
It’s a lesser known Clash song, but it was also cool enough for M.I.A. to make internationally famous as the sample for her megahit, “Paper Planes.” Know where it came from, people.
2. “Thunderstruck” – AC/DC
More than any other band, AC/DC absolutely mastered the art of the rock ‘n’ roll introduction. From “Highway to Hell” to “Back in Black” to nearly every other song that made them one of the biggest names in music, Angus Young and Bon Scott/Brian Johnson knew exactly how to kick off a song. Even with Axl Rose now fronting the band, it’s impossible to listen to the intro of “Thunderstruck” without getting excited enough to run through a wall.
1. “War Pigs” – Black Sabbath
Seriously, of every song to ever use a siren in the beginning, has anyone ever done it as well as Black Sabbath did on “War Pigs”? Forget the overplayed “Iron Man” that lands on every list, “War Pigs” is the best Sabbath song from start to finish (but particularly the start).