Distinctive intros, cont’d

I have up til now stayed out of this festival of list-making that Daniel Mount is breeding like citrus canker over at his site, if only because these sorts of things are rather like fantasy sports teams … a self-perpetuating fetish incomprehensible to those of us who have yet to have the fantasy chip implanted in the base of our skulls. But I’ve decided to get involved here, if only because I’m a sucker for that moment Mount alludes when the crowd starts spontaneously applauding when they recognize a song. If I had to make a full blown list, which I’m not going to do, I’d probably put “Plan of Salvation” at the top. The way the piano walks down to the five chord in the first measure and gets a kick from the bass when they land on the V-7 is beautifully simple and simply inimitable. I can hear and recall every note just sitting here. Distinctive, indeed.

That said, I think Mount overstates the importance of the instrumental introduction to the phenomenon of those reactive bursts of applause. Think of a song like “God of the Mountain.” I couldn’t hum one bar of the intro to that song if my internet connection depended on it, but everyone always applauds as soon as Peg drawls out those first words: “lahfe is eeeezzzee … whenuh yer up own thuh mouwntttin.” And even this line, while lyrically memorable and melodically savvy in its sparseness is not musically mindblowing. And yet we applaud. Why? Because the intro is “distinctive”? I don’t think so.

My rather unremarkable point: the “distinctive” intro has to do with evoking a certain feeling and set of associations in fans after a song has initially captured the world’s imagination. We’re applauding spontaneously I think (and I do mean only those times when the applause is genuinely spontaneous, and not those times when overzealous fans try to trump up phony applause for a song when it’s introduced in hopes of sparking an applause wild-fire in the crowd out of a sense of obligation), … I say, we’re applauding spontaneously for the individual and collective significance a song comes to represent and remind of us of, and less (if at all) because the music itself in the intro is just so gobsmackingly good that we can’t help but burst into applause.

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  1. e.c. wrote:

    Maybe the applause during the intro means that the audience recognizes the song before the first lyric is sung.
    God On The Mountain was(is) a very popular song by the McKameys. I have some interest in that I came up with the intro for their live concert recording.

  2. KD wrote:

    The trouble i see in most sg concerts is that the crowds don’t know how to properly respond to an intro they recognize.

    Generally, you get a smattering of applause that probably rises more because of crowd-peer pressure than a defined “wow this is gonna be great” moment.

    But, I do agree with Daniel’s “Champion of Love” and “Midnight Cry” being in that hypothetical list. I think he forgot Squire’s “Sweet Beulah Land.” The others he mentions likely won’t have the same pull on an audience 10-20 years down the road.

    But, then again, we’ve only mentioned classics in this discussion so far, “Jerusalem” excluded. But, if you open it up to stuff from the past few years, I’d offer Booth Bros. “He Saw It All,” Brian Free’s “Long As I Got…” and “Praying Man.” Little doubt when you hear those opening notes which song you’re listening to.

  3. Oldtimer wrote:

    I know that I am going to get grief for this - but no group has had more distinctive intros ( for better or worse) than the Inspirations. If you are listening to the radio or in concert, if you hear the opening bars of “When I Wake Up to Sleep No More” or “Is That Footsteps That Hear” or any of their other hit songs, you recognize them instantly. And even if you do not recognize the song, when you hear an Inspirations song on the radio you know it is them before a word is sung. Again - I’ll leave it to the experts that frequent this list to debate the quality of the music - but the fact that their music is distinctive is not debatable.

  4. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I agree with oldtimer.

    “Distinctive” is neither a compliment nor a criticism…or maybe it’s always one or the other.

  5. KD wrote:

    ‘timer, you’re correct about that. I nearly mentioned them in my first post (#2). Inspirations may be the only GROUP, not necessarily song, in southern gospel who can be identified by the opening bars of music.

  6. Dean Adkins wrote:

    “breeding like citrus canker”

    Nice phrase.

  7. Brandon Shreve wrote:

    I don’t think I ever heard a crowd explode more for an intro than when The Kingsmen did “We Do Not Die” at their reunion concert quite a few years ago. Beaver Dillards steel guitar totally sets the tone.

  8. Steven wrote:

    Every one knows when glory road is coming on :)
    I think if a group uses the normal kickoff to the lighthouse (da da da da duh) everyone knows. I would also most people would instantly recognize the kickoff to God walks the dark hills.

    Most recently (even though they change/changed it quite frequently) is the kick off to “through the fire”.

  9. Matureman wrote:

    The most distinctive instrumentalist I can ever recall was Wally Varner. His piano was instantly recognizable to my generation.

    Live band with the quartet? Not really… there wasn’t room for them when Wally hit his stride… he was all over that thang!

  10. Matureman wrote:

    Sorry, folks… my memory bank is running over today.

    The most recognizable intro to a SG song? May I suggest Jackie Marshall playing the intro to “Give the World a Smile” for the Blackwood Bros. from the late ’50s.

    The reason seems logical… every AM Station that had a “Hymn Time” program at 11:45a every day before Paul Harvey, played that intro for a theme song. My guess is that it is still being used like that, somewhere today.

    May God bless you, Jackie Marshall.

  11. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    True. Give the World a Smile is played at 7:30 AM every Sunday morning on the mega station KMJ in Fresno, California. Been that way for nearly sixty years since the late Don Smith began broadcasting his southern gospel hour which is now hosted by his daughter, Earlene. I could recognize that intro in the first two seconds.

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