Listening to the early demo of a song the verse of which would eventually turn into Muse’s ‘Plug In Baby’ for a blog the other day set me thinking of those other tunes that’ve pissed their best bits up the wall before the chorus kicks in, the songwriting equivalent of getting Heston Blumenthal to cook all of the starters at Wetherspoons. The thing is, it might sound like a recipe for lop-sided, front-loaded, wonky-arsed pop at its worst, but it turns out some of my favourite songs in the world are all about the verse, bunging in a chorus merely for a satisfying breather from the main action. I turned to Twitter and it too came up with a raft of tunes that shot their load in the first minute and still stayed brilliant. We’ll call it ‘premature erockulation’, and here’s ten of the best examples.
It opens like a rattling rock’n’roll wagon train hurtling downhill out of control, spewing hooks like sparks from its wheels. Where you expect it to crash in a fireball of righteous fury though, it merely hits a pleasant drawl of a chorus about a balding young rock star as if its found a patch of level ground, then dives back over the precipice of the next visceral verse. Kings Of Leon’s best song, easy.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Cornerstone’
Amongst Alex Turner’s archest and most moving lyrics, all of the pathos of hallucinating an ex across various pubs – along with the key hookline – is captured in the verses, leaving the chorus about sniffing someone’s seat-belt for kicks to sound a bit, well, creepy. Arctic Monkeys’ best song, natch.
Dido – ‘Thank You’
Eminem’s ‘Stan’ conditioned us to like the verse to Dido’s ‘Thank You’ long before we heard the soporific rom-song chorus that exposed her as more Bridget Jones than Mallory Knox. Still, probably Dido’s best song, although that is a bit like picking Pol Pot’s most successful atrocity.
Foo Fighters – ‘All My Life’
Grohl actually came up with a stormer of a chorus here, but it pales in comparison to the tense, urgent verse of coiled aggression that builds to the furious predator roar of “Done, done, on to the next one!“
The Beatles – ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
The Beatles’ best song (although that’s a whole other blog), the ear-grabbing verse of ‘While My Guitar…’ was George Harrison’s masterstroke, a strident declaration of man’s inhumanity to man – and his poor housekeeping skills – caressed by Clapton’s sublime guitar licks. The chorus was just a minute’s chill before the song threw itself back into the glorious verse fray. See also: ‘Come Together’, ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’.
Pixies – ‘Gouge Away’
Pixies were masters of the hook-cluttered verse and ‘Gouge Away’ didn’t even pretend that it thought its chorus was better, hammering out the verses at ten times the volume and full of all the fury and hellfire that Black Francis could drag out of Hades. The chorus here acted as a break akin to when the torturers in Hostel go to fetch a fresh pair of pliers.
The Strokes – ‘Last Nite’
Assuming the lines about people, girlfriends and aliens not understanding them are to be deemed the ‘chorus’, ‘Last Nite’ was one big jubilant verse, and the one that’s caused the most amount of spinal injuries from people jumping onto, off of and into each other.
The Who – ‘Pinball Wizard’
Dang-a-da-dang-a-da-dang-a-da-dang-a-da-dang-dang-DA-DAAAAYYYNGG! How could any chorus not be a disappointment after the paddle-flapping brilliance of The Who’s zappiest strum’n’powerchord frenzy?
Johnny Nash – ‘I Can See Clearly Now’
“Look all around! There’s nothing but blue skies!” Johnny Nash bellowed back in 1972, chucking every ounce of his heart and soul into what he thought was the climax and highlight of his song, only to look out at every audience forever afterwards and see people checking their watches and waiting to skank along to the catchy-as-chlamydia verse.
Babyshambles – ‘French Dog Blues’
“Good song, then he got to the chorus bit and didn’t really know what to do,” says Sound Of Confusion via Twitter, and we’re inclined to agree. Not exactly Doherty’s best song.