Songs That Opened With Threats and Ended Up As Hits

My favorite radio station has adopted an all-Christmas format for the Holidays, even though it is still early November. While I appreciate an occasional jolly tune, I cannot listen to carols and jingle bells for the next two months.

Before I could turn away, I heard the opening lines of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." That threat of "You better watch out" makes me want to direct a similar one to the station. It might read something like, "You better watch out, You better not try, Your all-Christmas format will make me leave you dry."

Then it dawned on me how strange it was that a festive song like "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" opens with a series of threats. You can certainly understand beginnings such as "Dashing through the snow" or "Up on the rooftop reindeer paws." It is quite another thing to start a Christmas tune by warning, "You better watch out."

That realization led me to consider the popular non-Christmas songs that open with threats or warnings. The most obvious one is Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" from Long After Dark. He opens that hit with the line, "You better watch you say, you better watch what you do to me."

Here are nine of the most well-known threatening first lines and the songs from whence they derived.

"Watch out, you might get what you're after"

David Byrne issues this threat to open the Talking Heads' well-known hit, "Burning Down the House."

"Stop thief, you're gonna come to grief if you don't take a little more care"

The debut album My Aim Is True is the source of this first line by Elvis Costello in the track, "Pay It Back."

"Please take this as a warning"

A heartbroken narrator's hurt turns to anger in the John Gorka song "Armed with a Broken Heart."

"Oh Glenn, don't come to the house tonight"

The shortest track on the Smiths' last album, Strangeways Here We Come, opens with Morrissey making this plea on "Death at One's Elbow."

"Instant Karma's gonna get you, gonna knock you right on the head"

Shortly after the breakup of The Beatles, John Lennon hit the charts with this jaunty tune titled after its first two words.

"Wake up, Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you"

Rod Stewart serves as the alarm clock on "Maggie May," one of his most enduring hits.

"Well I've told you once and I've told you twice"

Mick Jagger sounds completely fed up with his romantic situation, as evidenced by this opening line from the Stones' classic "The Last Time."

"Hey get out of their way"

The Stranglers warn of a society taken over by robots on "Hey! (Rise of the Robots)," a quirky track from the excellent Black and White album.

"Southern Man, better keep your head, don't forget what your good book said"

This line from the track on After the Gold Rush would get Neil Young immortalized in Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."
By Doug Poe

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