A collection of stand out tracks off of debut albums.
First impressions are important. Doubly important in the billion dollar music industry. On average, musical artists have about fifteen seconds to capture a listener’s attention – so what an artist chooses to do with that first crucial quarter of a minute can be imperative to either gaining or losing a listener forever.
Granted the music industry has changed drastically in the past two decades, furthering itself from full album format, realizing it can make just as much, if not more, on a hot single without the multimillion dollar risk investment of sending a band into a recording studio for months but ultimately, the same truth remains: First impressions are critical.
This upcoming list of best opening tracks on debut albums is by no means an authoritative account. I am not a music critic or music writer by any means. I used to play music in bands but found no real mainstream success. This entire project is only a product of my undying love for the witchcraft that is music. The original time traveling device. The invisible muse.
The rankings are not based on the commercial or critical success of the song or band but it does seem to reflect that higher on the list. Some of these bands are even one hit wonders – with such good opening tracks, that are still impossible to ignore. I hope you enjoy this list and would like to know your favorite opening track of a debut album in the comments.
20.) Kiss – “Strutter”
Origin: New York City, New York (1973)
Genres: Rock / Glam Metal / Hard Rock
Labels: Casablanca/ Mercury / Roadrunner / Kiss / Universal
According to some dude on Wikipedia, Kiss is recognized as, “one of the most influential metal bands of all time.” I think that’s total bullshit. But what’s not total bullshit is how much, eponymous album opener, “Strutter” kicks ass. One of the few songs in Kiss’ catalogue written by both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley together, it’s widely considered the group’s greatest song ever.
19.) Björk – “Human Behaviour”
Origin: Reykjavik, Iceland (1975) (Solo:1993)
Genres: Art Pop / Avant-Garde / Electronic
Labels: One Little Independent Records / Polydor/Universal / Elektra / Atlantic / Nonesuch / Megaforce / RED
Björk would say on the background of her debut solo album: “As a music nerd, I just had to follow my heart, and my heart was those beats that were happening in England. And maybe what I’m understanding more and more as I get older, is that music like Kate Bush has really influenced me. Brian Eno. Acid. Electronic beats. Labels like Warp.”
18.) Fiona Apple – “Sleep to Dream”
Origin: New York City, New York (1994)
Genres: Art Pop / Baroque Pop / Avant-Pop
Labels: Epic / Colombia / Clean Slate
After accepting the award for 1997 MTV Best New Artist Apple had this to say:
“This world is bullshit. And you shouldn’t model your life—wait a second—you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself.”
No one has lived by those words more than Apple herself. Rejecting commercial success, Apple has released five albums in her career which have been greeted with universal acclaim.
17.) Big Wreck – “The Oaf”
Origin: Boston, Massachusetts (1994)
Genres: Alternative Rock / Progressive Rock / Southern Rock
Labels: Anthem / Atlantic / Warner Music Canada
Active: 1994-2002 // 2010-Present
Named after a rehearsal that went horribly wrong the Canadian/American prog-rock hybrid would go on to score two big hits in the US with, “The Oaf” and “That Song” off of their debut album. After releasing my absolute favorite album by the group, The Pleasure and the Greed the band would split and reform eight years later. Releasing three more award winning records before the death of guitarist, Brian Doherty.
16.) Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Foxy Lady”
Origin: London, England (1967)
Genres: Hard Rock / Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock
Labels: Polydor Records / Track Records
Released in 1967, Are You Experienced was immediately critically and commercially successful and is now regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. Hendrix’s unorthodox playing style and genius genre-blending led to a completely new sound, often imitated but with an unmatched ingenuity. Interestingly enough, the United States release would have, “Purple Hazel” as the opening track. Another smash hit and just another feather in the guitar legends cap. Jimi would pass away from an accidental sleeping pill overdose in 1970 – leaving a lingering shadow over Rock music forever.
15.) Counting Crows – “Round Here”
Origin: San Francisco, California (1991)
Genre: Alternative Rock / Roots Rock / Pop Rock
Labels: Geffen / Capitol / Cooking Vinyl
Duritz explained on VH1 Storytellers the meaning to the song:
The first way Counting Crows ever sounded, it was me and Dave in bars and coffee houses playing open mics, doing this song this way. The song begins with a guy walking out the front door of his house, and leaving behind this woman. But the more he begins to leave people behind in his life, the more he feels like he’s leaving himself behind as well. The less and less substantial he feels like he’s becoming to himself. And that’s sorta what the song’s about because he feels that even as he disappears from the lives of people, he’s disappearing more and more from his own life. The chorus is, he sorta keeps screaming out these idioms these lessons that your mother might say to you when you were a kid, sorta child lessons ya know, “round here we always stand up straight”, “carving out our names”. Things that you are told when you are a kid that you do these things that.. that when you’re grown up it’ll add up to something, you’ll have a job, you’ll have a life. I think for me and the character of the song they don’t add up to anything, it’s just a bunch of crap kinda. Your life comes to you or doesn’t come to you, but those things don’t really mean anything. By the end of the song he’s so dismayed by this that he’s kinda screaming out that he can stay up as long as he wants and that no one makes him wait…the sort of things that are important if you are a kid. You know that you don’t have to go to bed, you don’t have to do anything. The sort of things that don’t make any difference at all when you’re an adult, they’re nothing. And uh and uh this is a song about, about me.(Wikipedia)
14.) Led Zeppelin – “Good Times Bad Times”
Origin: London, England (1968)
Genres: Hard Rock / Blues Rock / Folk Rock
Labels: Atlantic / Swan Song
Few bands have had the influence that Led Zeppelin achieved in twelve short years. Inspiring an entire generation of rockers that would become alternative legends in their own rite throughout the 1990’s. This was the song that began it all.
13.) The Doors – “Break on Through (to the other side)”
Origin: Los Angeles, California (1965)
Genres: Psychedelic Rock/ Blues Rock / Rock
Active: 1965-1973 // 1978
In 2012, “Break on Through (to the other side)” was selected to be played on Mars during a NASA mission. While poet frontman, Jim Morrison was probably referring to the breaking through the band’s name sake, “doors of perception” rather than space – it isn’t any less ironic that a band so far ahead of its time would be played on a different planet nearly fifty years later.
12.) Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
Origins: Los Angels, California (1985)
Genres: Hard Rock / Heavy Metal
Labels: Geffen / UMG / Uzi Suicide / Black Frog
Active: 1985-1993 (original lineup) // 1998-Present (bastardized version)
The “most dangerous band in the world” was signed to a major record label within eight months of forming. Their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, anchored by opening track, “Welcome To The Jungle” has sold over 30 million copies to date. With the song, “Welcome to the Jungle” being called the “greatest rock song of all time” by VH1 in 2009.
Rose claimed the lyrics were inspired by an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York. Trying to put a scare into the young runaways, the man yelled at them, “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby; you’re gonna die!”
The Cars – “Good Times Roll”
Origins: Boston, Massachusetts (1976)
Genres: New Wave / Pop Rock
Labels: Elektra / Concord
Active: 1976-1988 // 2000 // 2010-2011 // 2018
The Cars were known for their tongue-in-check sarcasm throughout their career so it’s only fitting that the opening track off of their debut album is a complete parody of “rock n’ roll good times”. The dark moody music combined with the satirical lyrics left no one wondering what The Cars thought of their inevitable, upcoming Rock n’ Roll stardom.