Great split-seconds in rock history -

Great split-seconds in rock history

Today’s task: identify moments from rock songs that are all kinds of awesome


Great split-seconds in rock historySince the Internet was created solely to aid in our workplace procrastination, thereby undermining our collective productivity and allowing the less advantaged citizens of China and India to gain economic ground in pursuit of the same middle-class fulfillment that drives many of us to the ritual use of psychotropic drugs, let’s indulge. Today’s task: identify great moments from great rock songs – not just the songs themselves, but the split second within that is not merely awesome but ALL KINDS OF AWESOME.

These selections can range from the obvious (the first chord after the “Onetwothreefour!” near the end of Born to Run) to the more esoteric (I’ve always loved the handclaps before the final chorus of Rebellion (Lies) by Arcade Fire). Or perhaps your tastes trend toward the way Chris Martin of Coldplay sings from the very depth of his vagina in the climactic “Ooooos” of Clocks.

Other instants that come immediately to mind:

  • The “I don’t know-ow!” in Something by The Beatles.
  • That first surge of electric guitar just as Damon Albarn sings “Woo-hoo!” in Blur’s Song 2.
  • The first “La la la la/La la la” toward the end of Cowboy Junkies’ version of Sweet Jane.
  • The way The Clash’s Joe Strummer yells “Hitler” in the line, “If Adolf Hitler flew in today/They’d send a limousine anyway” from (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais.

Got any split-second rock moments that come to mind?

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Great split-seconds in rock history

  1. Any awesome song that starts with two drumsticks being clacked together.

    The intro to Taking Care of Business (Homer Simpson disagrees and wishes they would just get to Working Overtime).

    • Needs more cowbell?

  2. And since you brought up The Hip – The precise moment in Fifty Mission Cap when you realize the song is about how much the Leafs suck.

  3. I'm not great with music, but my official answer is the moment in Barracuda when it goes from the mellow opening guitar riff to the actual song. One live event is on Youtube, and Nancy winds up before blasting into the chords. Pretty saweet.

  4. The moment you realize that In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida has exactly the same tempo all the way through!

  5. Roger Daltrey yelling, "They're all WASTED" during Baba O'Reily.

  6. Roger daltry scream after weird proto synth breakdown in "won't get fooled again." Probably the greatest scream in rock and roll history.

    That and the menacing intro to "Gimme Shelter." Probably one of the best riffs/song openings in history. Or is that too long?

    • Clearly, you're forgetting the scream uttered by Duran Duran when they realized the 80s were over.

        • Nope, I went to see them a couple of years ago in London and they look the same, but the saddest part were the spectators (MOI!) we were so hard trying to relieve our youth, hahaha, my kids keep telling me that the "L" in y forehead is for love : )

          • All I know is that my skinny black suit no longer buttons properly. It must have shrunk..

  7. Worst split second in rock: Robert Plant squealing "Does anyone remember laughter?" during Stairway, in the live version on Song Remains the Same.

    • ouch, yes, that ruined the whole record for me.

  8. "We're lonely, we're romantic and the cider's laced with acid and the Holly Spirit's crying Where's the beef?"

  9. I have three for now

    1. The instant the last note of Nessum Dorma was started by the Three Tenors in their Rome concert. And they were standing near rocks, or rock-like objects, so it counts. :-)
    2. The start of the guitar solo in Genesis' Firth of Fifth.
    3. U2, Where the Streets Have No Name: Near the beginning at the instant the guitar cries out.

    Thanks for bringing this. As a great fan of millisecond music, I'll be trying out these suggestions.

    I guess I'd better get back to work now…

  10. I'm partial to the beginning of the first chorus of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.

    High-five to those Who fans as well.

    • Have you heard Patti Smith's cover? It's amazing. Really dark and interesting. And, as a special bonus, you can actually make out the lyrics!

    • If you listen closely to the very first chord of SLTS, you'll notice he plays it wrong. If you watch Kurt play guitar, he played power chords with two fingers (instead of three), with his ring finger flattened to hold two strings. Trouble is, he often ends up holding three strings by accident, which is what happens in the opening F chord.

      After years of rock perfectionism, where every solo was played as neatly and accurately as possible in order to assure Major Label Production, this first chord of the first song to dethrone, simultaneously, Guns n' Roses and Michael Jackson brought the haphazard back to music.

      That's my favorite moment.

      • "he plays it wrong" unless you remember suspended chords (seasoned liberally with fuzz and chorus effects) as a defining feature of grunge/altrock at the time.

  11. Rooooooxanne!

    (or, frankly, "Roxaaaaaane, Roxaaaaaaaane")

    • One of my favorites!

    • We had a really wonderful and fun and cute girl, at this place I worked, one time….
      And one day, we guys, who cannot hold a single proper note in anything for as much as a milli-second, tried to serenade her with that song. (It was our honor to her…)
      She was SO thrilled, that she ran out the door crying.
      Never let it be said that my wonderful voice did not help bring a woman to tears!
      I am so wonderful, that like Homer, I amaze myself. Oh, wait, that was Han Solo! My bad!

  12. Boom lacka lacka lacka Boom lacka lacka lacka DA NAH NAHHH nahnahnahnahnahnahhhh…Hey! Hey! Hey!

  13. "Some people call me Maurice" Wooot Wahhhhh…

  14. Johnny Cash owning Trent Reznor's song Hurt. Specifically, the way he sings the "If I could start again," line right as the music starts to build towards the end. Chills every single time.

    And I probably only thought of this one because REznor covered it, but Ian Curtis singing "They keep calling me," for the last time on Dead Souls.

    Oh and of course. "My-my-my-my-my-my-my poker face" will obviously define this and the next generation.

    • yes, Joy Division's Dead Souls! I would also nominate when the guitar chords first kick in after 50-some seconds of noodley build-up.

      • The opening bass line from Transmission freezes me in place every time.

  15. Having just listened to the song for reasons known only to the shuffle button on my iPod, I would like to add to my above list by nominating Guns 'N Roses November Rain for 380,000 consecutive split-second great rock moments.

    • Also: Opening guitar/drum build for Love Will Tear Us Apart. Spectaculawesome.

      • Also: the first two notes of Ceremony. Damn, I wish I'd wrote that.

      • And the entire intro to Transmission. And when Curtis starts singing. And the middle bit. And also the end.

    • Speaking of GNR, the moment in Estranged, after everything's gotten quiet again, when Slash brings the chorus back with an artificial harmonic.

      Slash is by far my favorite expressive rock guitarist. Only Jimmy Page could make his guitar sing like that.

    • So true – that song is an obvious attempt to pack every standard rock and roll hook and cliche in one glorious 9 minut song. Pretty amazing. I also can't hear this song without picturing the video – that should get an extra mention.

  16. During Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives" the mood builds to a tense crescendo, with Elvis desperately screaming though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay before crashing to a complete stop! as he meanacingly whimpers it only took my little fingers to blow you away

    • Yesss!

  17. Legal Age Life at Variety Store by the Rheostatics
    You'll hit the point where they all start to sing "Each time I wake up I try to speak" and you WILL sing along. It will never leave your head.

    Or maybe, the first time you hear the bells in "Closer to the Heart".

    • That's weird – a friend forced me to listen to a bunch of Rush last night, and I completely forgot about the bells in Closer to the Heart – I remember that being a pretty standard pop song, but it's still pretty weird.

  18. "Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!"

    • You! Yes, you, behind the bikesheds! Stand still, laddie!

    • In my favourite Floyd tune, Fearless, I absolutely dig the integration of the Kopites' ''You'll Never Walk Alone'' (and this coming from a Manchester Untied supporter)… It (the chant) has complete relevance to Fearless and makes the Floyd tune that much more powerful.

  19. The final 42 seconds (or, as SF would have it, the last 21,000 consecutive split seconds) of A Day in the Life, by the Beatles. It resolves the tension built up by the crescendo as the orchestra works from its repsective lowest to highest notes and was created – according to what may be urban legend – by all four of the fabs coming down on separate prianos.

  20. The last four bars of Richie Sambora's solo in Wanted Dead or Alive. Screaming harmonics FTW.

  21. That weird whiny sound at the start of Exploding Boy.

  22. The first guitar licks in Money for Nothing (Dire Straits) that come in after the intro.

    The first twenty seconds of Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times (listen to Bohnam's drumming as he builds the complexity – frigging awesome)

    The mid-song pause in Good Lovin' by the Rascals

    The syncopated interplay of drums and guitar when Richards starts playing in Honky Tonk Women

    The moment when Garth Hudson resolves his incredible organ solo and starts crunching out the core riff to Chest Fever

    The abrupt ending to You Shook Me All Night Long

    "When I picked up the telephone, and heard that he'd died, out on the mainline."

    When Lennon and McCartney start harmonizing in I've Got a Feeling, having sung their phrases solo before that point in the song

    Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom, boom BOOM. (In the Air Tonight)

    Pick any line, and almost any word, Dylan sings in Visions of Johanna – each is thrilling and haunting in its own way.

  23. When Bonham comes in on Zeppelin's "Your time is gonna come." Pure rock 'n roll.

    • it's become trite, (thanks sampling!) but Bonham's beat (and that reverb) on When the Levee Breaks is still a killer

  24. the scream in we wont get fooled again by the who……"yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!"

  25. Neil Young singing Helpless in the Last Waltz, when he reaches for that high note on "yelllll-ow moon on the rise" I get that music shiver.

    • Only Neil could play a one note guitar solo (Cinnamon Girl) and turn it into an absolute classic. genius

    • Or when Joni Mitchell starts ad libbing in the background of the chorus from the side of the stage

  26. My first music purchase (eight years old) – chorus Y-M-C-A

    Some proper songs:

    Faithless – Insomnia – "Makin' mad love to my girl on the heath …. Tearin' off tights with my teeth"

    Ramones – Sedated – "hurry hurry hurry before I go loco ….. I can't control my fingers I can't control my toes"

    Outkast – So Fresh, So Clean – "we are … the coolest mofos on planet … in my mind"

    Nina Simone – Aint Got No – "than what have I got … why am I alive anyway …. " or "i've got life … i've got my freedom …. " both are awesome

    Van Halen – Little Guitars – "senorita do you need a friend …. i'm in love with you"

    And first fifteen seconds of Muse – Plug In Baby – makes me do air guitar every time.

    That's my list for today, probably completely different if we do this again tomorrow.

  27. Also: the "wheeeeeeeerrre" in:

    "Where is my mind?
    Where is my mind?
    Wheeeeeeeerrre is my mind?"

    Also: the ooooooooooooo-ooooooooooo in said song.

  28. The point in Copperhead Road (Steve Earle) when the song lets loose.

    The first twenty seconds of David Wilcox's Hot Hot Papa (studio version – I've never heard a good live take of it)

    "Wham Bam Thank-you-ma'am!!!"

    Opening acoustic riff to "Me and Julio Down by the School Yard"

    "Whoa I want her. Sh*t, I've got to have her…"

    "Are you ready, Steve? Aha. Andy? Yeah! Mick? OK. Alright, fellas, let's goooooooooooo!"

      • That's beautiful. Is that Daniel Lanois on electric guitar?

          • I love Ry Cooder – I wore out my first vinyl copy of Bop Til you Drop.

            I'm watching Jesus on the Mainline as I type.

            Feschuk is an economic vandal at the micro level.

  29. The last 20 seconds or so of Baba O'Reilly.

  30. The really fast drum-roll thump right after Mick sings, "Talk about the midnight gambler" THUMP … in the latter part of the song.

    When kd lang powers her voice into the sweet one of Roy Orbison on Crying.

    The sawing violins at the beginning of Linda Rondstadt's Silver Threads and Golden Needles. (I'm old).

    Marc Bolan's musical scream at the beginning of Metal Guru.

    The big choir on You Can't Always Get What you Want.

    Jangling tambourine on Everybody Must Get Stoned by Dylan.

    Cowbell anytime (kidding!)…

    This is fun; could do it all day instead of work.

    • I think I mean rambler not gambler.

      • but the next line's even better — "Honey, it's not one of those…"

        All Marc Bolan's screams are brilliant — like the one at the end of "Futuristic Dragon" — but my vote goes to the way he says "Take me!" on both "Mambo Sun" and "Get It On"

  31. When the vocals kick in 2/3s of the way through "Ballad of the Lonely Construction Worker" by Cuff the Duke.

  32. "Or perhaps your tastes trend toward the way Chris Martin of Coldplay sings from the very depth of his vagina in the climactic “Ooooos” of Clocks."

    Hahaha. Lulz and a half!

    • It's funny coz Chris Martin doesn't have a vagina!

  33. The moment in Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" when you realize John Cale is no longer playing anything remotely resembling music and is simply leaning on his keyboard. Nothing like pure noise!

    • White Light/white heat makes so much more sense now…

  34. Nina Simone: That first downbeat after the first time she sing "I'm feelin' good" in "Feeling Good".

  35. The first time Robert Smith sings the word "Saturday" in the Cure's "Friday, I'm in Love".

    • For me it would be any instance Robert Smith opens his pretty, lipsticked mouth. But that's a lot of split-seconds.

    • I have a long dance version of this on a compilation cd. Mega outstanding 7 minutes of awesomeness. The bass bumps along like crazy. Gets even the legless stumping around the room.

  36. Dave Abbruzzese copping Sly and the Family Stone to (really) kick off Pearl Jam's Last Exit (after the noodling)

  37. In the music video category…

    In what is a rather simple and ''low budget'' video, I dig Malajube's Montreal -40°C… When the guitar gets smashed against the wall and the drums kick in (at about 0:08), the ride begins!

    Great tune, great tempo!

  38. "Burn it down" – Torn Curtain by Television.

    The reprise at the end of Don't Leave Me Alone With Her by Daryl Hall, from his criminally-overlooked first solo album.

    The entry of the chorus at the end (2:15) of Sigh's Smell of Farewell — and Liz Fraser's closing chorus vocals from Those Eyes, That Mouth — by Cocteau Twins.

    Everything from 3:38 to 4:15 of Hajnal by Venetian Snares.

    [EDIT – okay, only the Television one was anywhere close to "split-second". Got carried away there.]

    • Oooh, yes. Cocteau Twins. Specifically the guitar solo from Heaven or Las Vegas.

      • Cocteaus: Need-fire. A rarity. Look it up, it can transport you to the other side of the galaxy if you let it.

        • I shall, thanks!

    • Or the first few haunting notes of "Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires"…

  39. Stop!

    Hammer time.

  40. Hope Sandoval singing faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade into you.

    Also, the intro to I love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett.

    And Siouxsie Sioux screaming "spell bound" at the top of her lungs with pounding guitars screeching behind her.

  41. Classic opening chords/riffs with a solo guitar do it to me every time:
    Hard Day's Night (Beatles)
    Hey Mr. Tambourine Man (Byrds version)
    Rebel Rebel; Diamond Dogs; Suffragette City (Bowie)
    Can't Hardly Wait; Alex Chilton (Replacements)
    Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
    Roadrunner (Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers)
    Cannibal Cafe (SNFU)
    Wave of Mutilation; Here Comes Your Man (Pixies)

    • I haven't heard Suffragette City in a million years; think I'll mosey over to youtube and get my groove on. Or off. In?

    • "Massachusetts when it's late at night, I got the radio on!"

    • Here comes your man is a fantastic choice!!

  42. The fake out in Radiohead's Let Down when you think the song is coming to an end, they're playing it out, getting ready to fade out, then the bass slides down and sets the song up for a whole 'nother verse

  43. Ok, some Leonard Cohen:
    "what was fresh" when he sings "I stormed the old casino / for the money and the flesh / and I myself decided / what was rotten and what was fresh" before the crescendo of strings, in "I Came So Far for Beauty" from Recent Songs.
    or, the more famous "I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet" in "Democracy" from The Future.

    Neil Young, every time he mentions Marlon Brando in "Pocohontas"

  44. The Rhythm guitar in Queen's 'Fat-Bottom Girls' Sloppy and oh, so good!

  45. Ooo! King Crimson, Live in Frejus, 1982, "Indiscipline": "I WISH YOU WERE HERE TO SEE IT!"POW

  46. Paul Simon, Graceland, "The Boy in the Bubble" when he says "stacatto signals of constant information / a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires and baby"

    Johnny Cash, Fulsome Prison Blues "just to watch him die" and "I know I can't be free"

    Soul Coughing, from Ruby Vroom, "Screenwriter's Blues", when the singer sings "Los Angeles beacons the teenagers to come to her on buses / Los Angeles loves Love."

    Willie Nelson, "Me and Paul", when he sings "I guess Buffalo ain't geared for me and Paul"

  47. the way Chris Martin of Coldplay sings from the very depth of his vagina


  48. Sigh. The idea of this entire thread is what happens when you spend too much time on Twitter.

    But since you started it, I'll second the Roger Daltry scream on Won't Get Fooled Again. As well as Eddie Van Halen playing his guitar with his electric drill.

  49. The big scream at the beginning of that Who song that starts with the big scream.

    Also the first guitar rake before the chorus of Creep by Radiohead.

  50. The drums at the start of Lipstick Vogue by Elvis Costello

  51. This is more than a second, but the 2 bars of pure bass magic about half way through "You Can Call Me Al" off of Graceland rock my socks. Comes at you out of nowhere.

  52. Did I overlook the intro to "Mississippi Queen" somewhere in this list?

  53. The opening guitar likes of 20th century boy by T.rex

  54. "Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you"
    Bell Bottom Blues
    Song written with Patti Boyd in mind (George Harrison's wife)
    The desperation in Clapton's voice is unparalleled.

  55. New Order: The pregnant pause in "The Him" about four minutes in, right before it gets loud again, and the "I'm so tired… I'm so tired" line.

  56. Kim Deal's performance in The Breeder's Cannonball, specifically: the "Awooo-ooooh" once the guitar chords (1:00) kick in – and, of course, the guitar chords themselves (0:42). Love it.

  57. Jawbreaker's "Fireman," when the acoustic intro transitions to a nice distorted and choppy riff, combined with Blake Shwarzbach's smoky vocals as he sings "Dreamed I was a fireman…" Before I bought the album, I always thought he sang "Gino was a fireman."

    Jumpe to 0:34. Listened to this song off and on for more than 10 years, and it never gets old for me.

  58. So, so, SO many…and great picks from commentors so far.

    First one that comes to mind: That very first "ping" on Pink Floyd's Echoes.

    Will be distracted the rest of the day with this. How'm I supposed to get back to the pursuit of middle-class fulfillment now?

  59. Burton's "UNGH!" after the establishing riff in "American Woman"

    Daltrey's already-nominated primal scream in "Won't Get Fooled Again"

    Denny Doherty's too-early return to the chorus of "I Saw Her Again Last Night" that they brilliantly left on the master

    Warren Zevon – "And his hair was perfect!" – "Werewolves of London"

    Roth: "Reach down between my legs and uh …. ease the seat baaaaaack … " – "Panama"

    Stewart Copeland's snare-crash shot before Sting's first "Roooxanne …"

  60. First use of rock sitar on Norwegian Wood. Suddenly, "world music" was born.

    And the most obvious of all: the mindblowing opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night."

  61. The six drum strokes that Keith Moon adds to the key line in The Who's "Can't Explain:"

    "… I know what it means, but… (boom-boom-boom boom-boom-boom) can't explain, I think it's love… etc."

  62. The magical intro to California Girls.

  63. #1: The three seconds at the end of the a capella/clap singing in "I feel free" by Cream, just before the song really kicks in: Ginger Baker does a little drum roll, Clapton bangs two chords and then BOOM the song kicks in!

    #2: A similar moment in Axis: Bold as Love, just before the song blasts off into psychedelic jam heaven there's a short pause at 2:53, then Mitch Mitchell stutters a few beats, then an excited drum roll and then BOOM Hendrix blasts off!

    #3Finally, at the end of In Our Gun by Gomez, at 3:40 the funked-up instrumental ending breaks in, but the sweet moment is when it stops for a surprise harmonic played on one of the guitars at about 4:30.

  64. Bill Henderson's intro to Chilliwack's 'Fly At Night'.

  65. Elvis Presley intro from 2001 A Space Oddesey followed by Ronnie Tutt drumming him on stage re Hawaiian special

  66. Now this is nott exactly R&R, but they are great moments in music:
    1) Hawaii Five-o. Original Theme, when Magaret turns around…
    2) Magnum PI. I think you know at what point in the show intro….
    3) The first 5 notes to the Original Star Trek Theme….
    4) The Original Battlestar Galactica Theme, with Lorne Greene.

    They are not R&R, but they are great moments in our musical culture!

  67. There are gazillions of great split-seconds in the intro to Yes's Roundabout – and they come one after the other! All in a row! Too much, man! And then he starts to sing…<sigh>… Check it out;

  68. Lots of fun: thanks for the idea (and for the ongoing brilliance of this blog generally).

    This one's more gospel-infused R&B than pure rock, but it's definitely top of mind, since I just found it through the magic of the Intertoobz last night after seeing a 20-second clip on a music video trivia game (don't ask): Sam Brown's cover of Marvin Gaye's "Can I get a witness". It's really 3 minutes of sustained, uninterrupted awesome, but if I had to pick a favourite moment: "… I believe, I believe that a man should be loved that way". Oo, pick me, pick me!

    The YouTube bootleg of the video is extremely sketchy, but the sheer exuberance of the song and the (very) lovely and (very, very) talented singer more than compensate. [youtube XyqwOceWlFk youtube]

  69. From Bob Dylan's '66 Albert Hall concert, where they were being heckled by irate folkies. You can hear Dylan telling The Hawks to "Play F@#$ing loud!" before launching into an awesome version of "Like a Rolling Stone".

    Heck, the opening note of just about every version of that song is awesome.