This week’s question is from reader Justin Hofstetter:
Some of my friends and I grew up as big professional wrestling fans, and even those of us that didn’t are big fans of pitchers’ walk-up music in baseball and the music some specific players get when they leave the tunnel at an NFL game. I, for one, cannot hear “Hot In Herre” by Nelly without wanting to see Ray Lewis do his signature dance.
In an alternate universe where 11-year-old me got his way (and worked out better in middle/high school) and I managed to become a professional wrestler, I’d pick “Holy Diver” by Dio, complete with the nonsensical mystical intro; it’s got that killer riff that just comes out of nowhere that’d be really fun to have playing as I entered an arena.
My question, A.V. Clubbers, is this: In a universe wherein you had a career that necessitated entrance music, and you could pick an established song instead of having one written for you, what song would be your entrance track?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and each time I envision my walkout, it’s to a packed baseball stadium. The only thing competing with the roar of the crowd—because in this fantasy I’m a fantastic hitter—is The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump.” And they play this song all the way to the lyrics “White Americans, what? / Nothing better to do? / Why don’t you kick yourself out? / You’re an immigrant too,” because I’m sort of the bad boy of the league and that’s my big “fuck you all very much!” to the stodgy people complaining about baseball players. As the pulsing song rings through the stadium for that many verses, the opposing pitcher almost wets his pants. I, of course, hit one of my many home runs, rounding the bases screaming “Eat my shit!” because I have no grace or sportsmanship in this scenario. If it’s any consolation, I don’t play for the Yankees or anything, but instead the Chicago Whales have been resurrected by some scrappy guy with a drinking problem and a heart of gold and have reclaimed Wrigley Field from the Cubs, because, let’s be fair, that team isn’t doing anything with it anyway.
I love this question. I’m tempted to answer “almost any song by Rocket From The Crypt,” but I’m going specifically with “Middle,” the opening track from 1995’s unstoppable Scream, Dracula, Scream! (You lowdown motherfucker.) At just over a minute, it’s barely a song, but it’s also the perfect length to walk on and get a crowd super excited. It’s got a driving beat, powerful riffs, and even a sing-along opportunity (“Are you stuck in the middle?” it asks, to which you answer, “Way-oh, way-oh.” “Are you broke?” it asks, and you answer, “Yeah!”) It might be the best track one, side one, of all time—take that, Rob from High Fidelity. Oh, and I should mention that in this fantasy walk-on scenario, I’m picturing professional wrestling.
I don’t feel good about this, but because the line I’d like to hear when I come onto the field is “the party don’t start till I walk in,” I’m going to have to go with Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” even though there is no way to defend my love for it. This is one of the best pieces of pop-culture writing I’ve ever read, and it argues passionately that “Tik Tok” is a harbinger of doom. I agree, but I also can’t deny that the song is catchy as hell. More importantly, though, as a person who is sometimes worried that way cooler things are happening all the time to other people, the grandiose narcissism of “the party don’t start till I walk in” both psychs me up for going out and convinces me that it’s okay if I don’t go to every little thing I’m invited to. I could probably hit a home run high on that level of self-absorption. Or, like, a goal. Wait, what sport are we talking about?
When it comes to my arrival, I think a sense of creeping menace is more appropriate than bombast, so I’d have to go with Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.” Like many entrance songs, it has the loosest of personal meanings: The O’Neal family crest is the Red Right Hand Of Ulster, and, like Cave sings, I have it “hidden in my coat” on a tattoo on my shoulder. But beyond that, the song’s low, tiptoeing bass and organ stabs, the rumble of Cave’s voice, and that ominous chime—announcing the dark hour that has now fallen upon us all—establish the looming danger that is watching me bowl. Oh, you didn’t realize that you were bowling against Satan himself, did you? Well, now you shall pay for your guilelessness.
Soul master Gene Chandler famously used his 1962 song “Rainbow”—best heard in its simmering, explosive live iteration, “Rainbow ’65”—as his onstage encore. But I think the song would serve just as well as my everyday walk-on music. Not only does Chandler coax, kindle, and conduct his audience like they’re his own personal orchestra, he funnels that energy into an atmosphere of exquisitely controlled hysteria. People don’t scream when I enter a room, but at least this way I can pretend they’re barely containing themselves.
This is an easy one, mostly because I have had the opportunity to use it as an entrance song in real life: “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. When my wife and I were married in 2001, we thought long and hard about how we wanted to walk into our reception, trying to avoid anything we’d had friends do, like “The Imperial March.” Instead, we opted to go with a song that meant a lot to both of us, due to the fact that we celebrated my 30th birthday by flying to Las Vegas and seeing Sir Tom in concert. (There’s nothing like seeing a 60-year-old belt it out on stage to make turning 30 seem like a walk in the park.) The song choice brought down the house, and as Jenn has said many times since then, with our friends laughing, cheering, and applauding, she’s never felt more like a rock star than she did when we strolled into the room. Would it get old if it played every time I walked into a room? Since it always reminds me of one of the happiest days of my life, I’ve got to say “no.”
Like Will, my wife and I used what I’d consider perfect entrance music at our wedding—only we used it for our post-ceremony recessional, blasting “Tell ’Em,” by Sleigh Bells as we exited the ceremony. As such, that song feels to me like it should punctuate a great triumph, rather than heralding the potential for a great triumph, which is what I think entrance music is supposed to do. Instead, I’d cannibalize another part of my past and go with “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” by Oasis, the instrumental lead-off track on their underrated-in-retrospect Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants album, which served as the unofficial theme song of the radio show I did with my best friend Rob during our summers home from college. It would be especially appropriate if it was my walk-on music for a sport, because likely Rob would be there with me so he could answer my questions about how said sport was supposed to work. But really, “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” works for any occasion because of the way it announces, with a combination of warm-up and bravado, that what follows could be totally awesome and badass, but no promises. Just like an Oasis album!
Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On” wouldn’t work in any situation that would require me to run (I’d probably default to the ridiculously poppy—if vaguely embarrassing—opening riff of Reel Big Fish’s ska cover of “Take On Me” for that). No, “I Turn My Camera On” is a song for strutting, with the pounding percussion and bass driving me calmly through a crowd of screaming fans, impervious to everything but the beat in my head. I’m a resolutely un-hip guy, but the tense, minimalist energy of Spoon’s song, like a knife fight screwed a snare drum and made beautiful musical babies, makes me feel like Mick Jagger casually slinking onto the stage every time I hear it.
While The Roots’ “Here I Come” has made inroads at sporting events, and seems to have gradually become the group’s biggest hit, I’m legitimately baffled that “Game Theory” isn’t played at every sporting event in America, and hasn’t been adopted as the fight song for at least one Philadelphia sports team (the band’s hometown is name-checked multiple times). The lyrics are full-on braggadocio (typical for hip-hop, but not for The Roots), but what makes the song an ideal upper-deck-rattling anthem is the music. The chorus floats through the speakers like a marshmallow right over the plate, and then the verse comes and the band knocks the song into the parking lot. Black Thought declares, “I’m about ready for a classic massacre / I make it hotter than when Shaft’s in Africa,” behind a series of percussive horn bursts that seem custom-designed to punctuate every bit hit, tough tackle, or slam dunk in some team’s highlight reel.
If you’ll excuse the cliché, I’m going to select Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” It’s a song people sing to me quite often but one I somehow never grow tired of. That’s largely became it’s much preferable to the other famous song that mentions my name, Outkast’s “Roses.” While “Sweet Caroline” might not be the most lyrically compelling, pretty much anything is better than having someone sing that you smell like “poo-poo-oo” (just ask eighth grade me). Diamond wrote the song in honor of a young Caroline Kennedy, linking it to a glamorous, complicated era of American history I’ve always been fascinated by (and the fact that it talks about how wonderful Caroline is doesn’t hurt either). “Sweet Caroline” is nostalgic, classy, and just a little cheesy, which I think sums me up quite well. And thanks to the Boston Red Sox I already know the chorus’ easily sung “Ba ba bas” play really well in a sports stadium.
No matter what profession this imaginary me had that necessitated theme music—in my dreams it’s center fielder/cleanup hitter for the Boston Red Sox or high-flying luchador, but more likely it’s an overexcited, barely-articulate podcast guest—my only answer is the unmatchable, operatic instrumental bombast that is ELO’s “Fire On High.” Sure, it’d be great if the song’s absurdly awesome crescendo led up to some equally gargantuan feat of athletic heroism, but I’m oddly tickled by the idea of me walking out and settling into a nice comfy chair just as that big finish slams down. And then I talk Mystery Science Theater 3000 for an hour in some other nerd’s basement.
This is the question I have been waiting for all my life. As a die-hard professional wrestling fan, I’ve spent many a moment thinking about what my entrance theme would be. Would it be Beyoncé’s “Diva”? Quite possibly. Would it be a cheap rip-off of “Lady Marmalade,” because for whatever reason, the promoter couldn’t get the rights to the Moulin Rouge version? Perhaps. Would it be Britney’s “Overprotected (Darkchild Remix)“? Chances would be highly likely. It’s fairly obvious though: “Fergalicious” by Fergie. I don’t understand how it’s not already the song that plays every time I enter a room. It’s simple, really. “She’s Fergie, and I’m Fergie,” I tell myself. Why wouldn’t I want to be introduced by a jam that basically defines my very existence? “Fergalicious definition make them boys go loco.” That is me in a nutshell. Anyone who knows me would agree. Plus, there’s just something about a song where will.i.am repeatedly misspells a word as simple as “tasty” that makes me proud to be a Fergie.
As Justin alluded to with his answer, any good piece of entrance music—at least as far as wrestling is concerned—needs an opening that’s instantly recognizable and punchy. The people need to know you’re here and that you mean business from the first moment it hits, especially when it comes out of nowhere and interrupts some jabroni’s overblown speech. Stone Cold had the glass shattering. Bret Hart had the guitar shrieking. Me, I think I’d have the first six skull-crushing notes of Lightning Bolt’s “Captain Caveman.” It’s a perfect piece of wrestling entrance music: repetitive, rhythmic, and aggressive. More importantly, it starts with a bang and quickly cuts to nothing but a lingering drone, leaving my fans plenty of time to lose their damn minds before the powerful riff returns and I make my menacing entrance.
While part of me wants to go with Bikini Kill’s “Suck My Left One,” I thought better of it. There’s only one true way to psych myself up for metaphorical battle: the opening chords of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” Australia’s finest are a traditional choice in the sports world, but clichés exist for a reason. While the intro before Brian Johnson comes in is the song’s most recognizable property, I also love it for the intonation of “thunder” placed at perfect intervals, clearly telegraphing my awesomeness at whatever sport I’m supposedly participating in.
I’m generally not a huge sports fan, but I have an appreciation for boxing due to its heavy reliance on psychological warfare. Earning the submission of your opponent’s body first requires forcing him to submit mentally, a process which includes the requisite press conference trash talk and the intense, homoerotic weigh-in stare down. I’d argue the entrance song plays the most important role in the sweet science’s mind game, sonically representing the fighter’s mental state. So if I’m shuffling into the MGM Grand Las Vegas, I’d make clear I’m an unstable sadist with “Ante Up (Fenugreek),” a remix marrying M.O.P.’s ode to armed robbery to one of MF Doom’s rowdiest beats. Its unbridled aggression already makes me want to punch everything in sight, so I pity the fool on the business end of my boxing gloves if it’s the last thing I hear before entering the ring.
I want to say I’d choose something badass. I want to say I’d pick some pounding beat that would get an entire stadium on its feet, pumping their fists and screaming for me to drink the blood of their enemies. I’d love to tell you I’d pick The Black Keys’ “Howlin’ For You,” or The Gossip’s “Heavy Cross,” or Sleigh Bells’ “Infinity Guitars.” But no. The second I saw the Dodgers’ Nick Punto strut out to Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” I knew I’d pull much the same kind of crap, because having a sense of humor about yourself is my number one most desired trait in another person. Picture it: The lights are on, the field’s crisp, the fans are salivating, and I walk out to the thumping beat of “Spice Up Your Life” by the Spice Girls. The crowd could go nuts, or it could too confused to function. Either way, I win.
An entrance song isn’t who I am, it’s who I want to be. So I’m going to go with “Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello And The Attractions for a few reasons. First, it’s an awesome goddamn song. Second, even though the anecdote has been repeated to the point of cliché, Elvis Costello breaking up his Saturday Night Live live performance just to switch to this song still gives me chills. And third, while I’m not sure all the lyrics are specifically relevant to my life, the rebellion against conformity and blind consumer acceptance will always be something to aspire to, even if I can’t always live up to it. “I wanna bite the hand that feeds me / I wanna bite that hand so badly / I wanna make them wish they’d never seen me” is a motto for the ages.