Jun 072009

My wife and I were listening to Neil Young‘s After the Gold Rush today, and when a particular line came up in the title track (ie, “…and I felt like getting high”), we both smiled and remarked at how great a crowd-pleasing line that is. Surely you’ve been at concerts where an artist sings a particular line that rings true for the entire crowd and causes an immediate, loud cheer from the crowd as the song continues. Excluding songs that give shout-outs to particular cities, which only get that reaction in the particular hometown city, I’ve thought of two other rock songs with similarly themed crowd-pleasing lines, but I’ll let you state them – and as many other themed crowd-pleasing lines as possible.

What’s the crowd-pleasing line that gets you to join in as part of the crowd’s collective raised fist? What’s the crowd-pleasing line that you must object to, that you stay seated for and shake your head in haughty disgust?


  30 Responses to “Crowd-Pleasing Lines in Rock Songs”

  1. One line that always seems to get some sort of reaction at Bob Dylan concerts is if he is doing “It’s Alright, Ma.” The line is, “Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked…”

    I don’t react either way.


  2. Mr. Moderator

    That’s the kind of line I’m looking for TB. Nice work!

    I heard another such line on the radio this morning, also playing up to the common theme of my Neil Young example: Daltry’s “We’re all wasted!” from “Baba O’Riley.” Do modern artists still serve up lines that play into stoned youth culture values?

  3. pudman13

    I’m disgusted by pretty much anything of the sort. Good lyricism doesn’t get a cheap rise out of people.

    One obvious example of this is the live version of “Margaritaville,” with the added lyric about cocaine. (By the way, I’m not suggesting that the lyric isn’t effective on its own–in fact it intensifies the waste his life has become, kind of like the Jackson Browne version of the old not-JJ Cale “Cocaine.” I’m just saying that playing to the audience’s basest instincts that way is a cheap shot.)

    It’s not nearly as bad, though, as live albums where the band stops singing and has the crowd carry the song.

  4. When I saw Neil recently, that line from “Gold Rush” did elicit a response from the crowd.

    When I saw The Who, I can’t remember if the audience reacted either way to being wasted, but I always find it fascinating when the crowd sings along with Pete, “Don’t cry, don’t raise your eye, it’s only teenage wasteland!” It’s a beautiful. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that the audience enjoys singing along with Pete (“I’m One”). Maybe it’s an identity thing.

    It’s a little weird for me to be ina singing audience. Ben Folds’s audiences are very musical. One of my greatest memories was singing a choir-like chorus of “bitches can’t hang with the streets…”


  5. Let’s see… go see Pearl Jam and you get an odd communal moment when they do “Wishlist” and get to the “50,000,000 hands upraised and pointed towards the sky” part and the entire crowd raises its hands.

    When Wilco plays Chicago and does “Far Far Away” the crowd goes nuts in the goofiest “Hey, that’s where WE ARE!” kind of way when Tweedy sings “kiss and ride on the CTA.”

    Drive-By Truckers has TONS of these lines, ranging from the legitimately awesome “with Bon Scott singin’ ‘Let There Be Rock!'” in “Let There Be Rock” to the corny but effective “It’s great to be alive!” in “A World of Hurt” to the crapulently pandering “goddamn Bush is in the White House” in live versions of “Putting People on the Moon.”

  6. sammymaudlin

    Isn’t it “They’re All Wasted”? And I always thought it was cheered in a deeply misunderstood way. But maybe I’m projecting.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Speak for yourself, Sammy. Heh heh heh.

  8. Excluding songs that give shout-outs to particular cities, which only get that reaction in the particular hometown city …

    Which don’t even matter, because live they invariably get changed to the city that the concert is in.

    Anyway, of course any drug reference gets a crowd to hoot and holler. “Where were you while we were getting high?” from “Champagne Supernova” (right?) is perfect.

    My goat is gotten when someone who hasn’t been around for a few years (usually not even that many) sings a song with a line that says something like “It’s been a long time but I’m back,” and does it in that smarmy self-congratulatory way so that the crowd goes wild. It happened at Phish on Saturday night; I’m no fan, but I wouldn’t have figured them for that particualr sin.

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    There’s some inexplicable cheap applause on “Live Rust” where Neil Young sings the line, “This is the story of Johnny Rotten…”

  10. saturnismine

    true, hvb. i always wondered if that wasn’t overdubbed there by neil and briggs.

    the line from that song that always gets the cheap applause is “rock and roll will never die.”

  11. saturnismine

    sammy, i think it’s “they’re all wasted,” too.

    concerning its being cheered in a deeply misunderstood way: “don’t get fooled again” states “you know that the hypnotized never lie.”

  12. Mr. Moderator

    I love the “rolled myself a j” line – or whatever Paul Simon calls it – in “Late in the Evening.” That may be the last of the ’70s-era pot references serving as a queue for cheap applause.

  13. I know that the Dead had some but I’m totally blanking right now. Maybe “GODDAMN well I declare” from Uncle John’s Band?

  14. BigSteve

    When Chrissie Hynde says, “Not me, baby, I’m too precious — fuck off!” at the end of the breakdown in Precious, it gets a big reaction from the crowd.

  15. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I tire of the misuse of “pandering.”

    It is not pandering to put a reference to Bush in a song that is about the breakdown of healthcare, no?

    My favorite crowd pleasing line is in Cheap Trick’s “Surrender:” “But don’t give yourself away, away, away!”

  16. saturnismine

    when i saw cheap trick at the spectrum when i was in 8th grade, zander threw a kiss album cover into the audience after that lyric.

    i thought to myself “if they do that every night of the tour, they’re bound to gash *someone’s* eye: ‘doink.’ “

  17. saturnismine

    and ps: the album cover was empty, which made it a little flimsier and perhaps less harmful. but he threw it vertically.

    talk about a low budget 70s stage effect…almost Spinal Tap / Stone Henge esque.

    perhaps another topic for another thread: home spun / cheap stage show effects in the arenas.

  18. Christian rockers Stryper used to throw Bibles to their audience members. Stryper.


  19. when i saw cheap trick at the spectrum when i was in 8th grade, zander threw a kiss album cover into the audience after that lyric.

    It’s usually Nielsen right after the “KISS records” line. Are you sure about the timing on this?

  20. Isn’t there a live recording of “Captain Jack” where the crowd reacts wildly to the use of the word, “masturbate”?

  21. Mr. Moderator

    YES, good memory, Cher! Yet another reason to cringe at the mere thought of Billy Joel.

  22. Oh, one more – What REM show would be complete without shouting “Leonard Bernstein!”

  23. It is not pandering to put a reference to Bush in a song that is about the breakdown of healthcare, no?

    If you’re name-dropping a 21st century president into a story-song set in the 80s, specifically because you know it’ll get the crowd fired up, it’s pretty much a perfect example of pandering from where I’m sitting.

    I got no love for Bush, and Patterson Hood is on my good list, but he can lay it on a little thick sometimes on stage.

  24. saturnismine

    rick asked:
    “It [the kiss album cover throw] is usually Nielsen right after the “KISS records” line. Are you sure about the timing on this?”

    you’re right. when i said “that line” i was referring to “that line that refers to ‘kiss records,'” not the line that dr. john had quoted right above my post.

    sorry for being unclear!

  25. Oh, one more – What REM show would be complete without shouting “Leonard Bernstein!”

    And for that matter, later in the same song, “RIGHT!”

    So do you reckon that the bands notice these cheap applause/shout-along lines in the writing process? The recording process? Do they think these are good things to have? Do you think any ever get vetoed?

    I’d love to think that some lunk-headed band put what they thought was a big cheap applause/shout-along line in a song, but no one cared, and the rest of the band gave the songwriter crap for it afterward.

    I’m going to go to bed now, and if I’m lucky I will dream that scenario into existence.

  26. Ever been to see The Mountain Goats and seen them do “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton”? When they get to the end (“when you punish a person for dreaming his dream/don’t expect him to thank or forgive you/the best ever death metal band out of Denton/will in time both outpace and outlive you/HAIL SATAN!” people go nuts. Whole audiences of hipster folk people in their 20s and 30s throwing devil horns and shouting “HAIL SATAN!” It’s great.

  27. 2000 Man

    Being a Stones fan, I’ve seen more than my share of these moments. They play a hit laden show, and everyone knows all the words to all the songs, but the “woo-woo’s” in Sympathy for the Devil, “It’s only rock n roll, but I LIKE IT!,” not to mention the tour they played Some Girls on and the roar after the line about black girls was pretty loud.

    I saw Supertramp long, long ago. During Bloody Well Right the sax player (who had nothing to do) held up a big, cheap megaphone that said, “Quite Right” on it, and that’s what he yelled into it. The crowd loved it, and it also qualifies it for the cheap effect in an Arena thread. They had a movie of a train that was huge and almost IMAX like. That was really neat. I liked that show way more than I thought I would.

  28. The only specific 80s reference in “Putting People on the Moon” I could find is “Reagan’s in the White House.”

    So I think Hood was trying to say that nothing has really changed for the people in the song.

    You may disagree with the artistic choice, but it does work in the context of the song. If it didn’t, then I would agree that it was pandering to the audience.

  29. Actually, the bits about the Ford plant closing, NASA shutting down, etc., all place it in the 80s, too. Pretty sure, anyway.

    Whether it’s a valid artistic choice to update Reagan to Bush or not, the fact remains: the song goes one way on record, Hood changed it something else live to create a crowd-pleasing moment. It feels forced and corny every time I see him do it.

  30. The last couple of times I went to see Lou Reed, he opted to perform “Endlessly Jealous” from New Sensations. The song more or less reaches it’s climax with the lines “Fighting, ending jealous fighting, I feel my fingers tightening, please don’t break her arm.”

    The crowd usually winds itself into a state of near hysteria at the end of that little chunk of magic.

    E. Pluribus

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