The Greatest Debut Album Openers of all time 10-1

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.

Took awhile to get here but here we are, let’s get into it!

10.) Phil Collins – “In The Air Tonight”

Album: Face Value

Origin: London, England (1963) (Solo:1981)

Genres: Pop / Soft Rock / Art Rock

Labels: Virgin / Atlantic / WEA / Walt Disney / Rhino

Active: 1963-2011 // 2015-Present

After reluctantly taking over vocal duties replacing Peter Gabriel for Prog Gods, Genesis, the band saw an immediate pivot towards a more accessible sound with Collins at the helm. The band would explode in popularity and the ensuing popular would come at a cost: Collin’s marriage. After unsuccessfully trying to reconcile his marriage, Collins would return to his empty home alone. Rearranging furniture and setting up make shift studios throughout his house. From these sessions one of the most iconic drum fills of all time would be created along with a song so emotionally charged it would create urban legends of its own.

9.) John Lennon – “Imagine”

Album: Imagine

Origin: Liverpool, England (1956) Solo (1970)

Genres: Rock / Pop / Experimental

Labels: Parlophone / Capitol / Apple / Geffen / Polydor

Active: 1956-1980

Okay, okay. I know. *TECHNICALLY* not Lennon’s “debut solo album”. BUT – overall – it is his second solo record and first where he shed the Plastic Ono Band moniker and ultimately, it’s John fucking Lennon. Gigantic asshole for sure, but genius songwriter? Absolutely. More than 200 artists have covered the song (not counting the unbelievably tone-deaf Gal Gadot COVID lockdown version), it’s been considered one of the greatest songs all time and it wouldn’t be until 1980 – shortly before John’s death when he would admit that Yoko wrote most of it. So suck on that Yoko haters.

8.) NWA – “Straight Outta Compton”

Album: Straight Outta Compton

Origin: Compton, California (1987)

Genres: West Coast Hip Hop / Gangsta Rap

Labels: Ruthless / Priority

Active: 1987-1991 // 1999-2002 // 2015

“Straight Outta Compton” would result in the notorious rap group’s first Top-40 hit nearly twenty eight years after their formation, thanks to the biographical film bearing the same name. Known for their deep hatred for police, the group found itself investigated by the F.B.I. for over three years leading them to dub themselves the “worlds most dangerous group.” At the time, they easily could have been or it certainly felt like it but one thing is for certain, they would go on to become the worlds most influential rap group.

7.) Bush – “Everything Zen”

Album: Sixteen Stone

Origin: London, England (1992)

Genres: Grunge / Post Grunge / Hard Rock

Labels: Entertainment One / Kirtland / SPV / Atlantic / Trauma / Interscope / Zuma Rock

Active: 1992-2002 // 2010-Present

Hailing from London, Bush took over the states almost overnight with its first single, “Everything Zen” a literal potpourri of pop culture references and blantantly stolen lines from artists including, Bowie, Alice In Chains, Jane’s Addiction and Tom Waits. But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a mash up of all things cool can be pretty damn…well, cool. And Bush were very cool. Maniac stud frontman, Gavin Rossdale may have been the voice and good looks of the band but the true brains of the operation lied in Nigel Pulsford. The guitarist, whose absence in later Bush releases would be undeniably noticeable.

6.) Audioslave – “Cochise”

Album: Audioslave

Origin: Glendale, California (2001)

Genres: Hard Rock / Alternative Metal / Rock

Labels: Epic / Interscope

Active: 2001-2007 // 2017

Cochise, was an Apache Indian Chief who furiously waged war on Union armies who attacked his home and people. Pretty badass. Really, has next to nothing to do with what the song is about BUT that doesn’t take away from the fact that the song itself, including its video (which had so many pyrotechnics lit off people thought the city was under attack) were totally fucking bomb. Audioslave is easily the most successful “supergroup” of all time, being the rare exception of delivering something incredible after a merging of phenomenal established artists.

5.) The Tragically Hip – “Blow At High Dough”

Album: up to here

Origins: Kingston, Ontario, Canada (1984)

Genres: Rock / Alternative Rock / Folk Rock

Labels: Universal Music Canada / Sire / MCA / Atlantic / Zoe

Active: 1984-2017

Titled after an old expression singer, Gord Downie’s mother used to use to mean, “something that can’t be changed” this song, along with the band would be a nearly unstoppable force for nearly forty years until Downie’s death in 2017. If there is only one band you take a chance on on this entire list, it should be Canadian legends and adopted Buffalonians, The Tragically Hip.

4.) Stone Temple Pilots – “Dead and Bloated”

Album: Core

Origin: San Diego, California (1989)

Genres: Alternative Rock / Grunge / Hard Rock

Labels: Atlantic / Playpen / Rhino

Active: 1989-2003 // 2008-Present

Vocalist Scott Weiland stated that “it’s not really about anything. It’s just stream-of-consciousness words. I mean, at the age of 21, 22, I didn’t have a whole lot of life experiences. So it’s more about the vibe, the angst and that kind of a thing, as opposed to actual life experiences.”

To say this song has a vibe would be a gross understatement. One of the heaviest grunge album openers comes from a group of guys that were dogged by many purists to be grunge copy-cats. But most of that was born from sheer jealousy as Stone Temple Pilots would become a dominant act through the 90’s evolving with each record. Eventually splitting up in the early 2000’s.

3.) Nine Inch Nails – “Head Like A Hole”

Album: Pretty Hate Machine

Origin: Cleveland, Ohio (1988)

Genres: Industrial Rock / Industrial Metal / Hard Rock

Labels: Nothing / TVT / Interscope / Columbia / Capitol / The Null Corporation

Active: 1988-Present

While working nights as a handyman and engineer at Right Track Studio in hometown Cleveland, Trent Reznor would use “studio down time” to slowly work on his own record. Using next to no live instruments or other artists. All taped together samples, sequencers and synthesizers. Now, debut record, Pretty Hate Machine is considered one of the most influential industrial records of all time and would completely reshape music throughout the decade. Album opener, “Head Like A Hole” is the perfect introduction to Trent Reznor’s dystopian views on society, God and himself.

2.) Weezer – “My Name is Jonas”

Album: Weezer

Origin: Los Angeles, California (1992)

Genres: Alternative Rock/ Power Pop / Geek Rock

Labels: Geffen / DGC / Jive / Interscope / Epitaph / Republic / Atlantic

Active: 1992-Present

Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo achieved the unthinkable while Grunge was dominating the airwaves – he single handily killed grunge, championing Geeks, Heart-Felts and nerds the world over. With thick rimmed glasses, a boyish clean shaven look – Cuomo was the antithesis of Kurt Cobain. But few singers, especially at his age had such an advanced understanding of pop sensibility and lyrical maturity. “My Name is Jonas” is a genius, miniature epic that has more heart than anything alternative radio has ever seen since.

1.) Rage Against The Machine – “Bombtrack”

Album: Rage Against The Machine

Origin: Los Angeles, California (1991)

Genres: Rap Metal / Rap Rock / Funk Metal

Labels: Epic / Revelation

Active: 1991-2000 // 2007-2011 // 2019-Present

Ayo, it’s just another bombtrack, uh
Ayo, it’s just another bombtrack, yeah
It goes a one, two, three
Yeah, and it’s just another bombtrack
And suckers be thinkin’ that they can fake this
But I’ma drop it at a higher level
‘Cause I’m inclined to stoop down, hand out some beatdowns
Could run a train on punk fools that think they run the game
But I learned to burn that bridge and delete
Those who compete at a level that’s obsolete
Instead, I warm my hands upon the flames of the flag
To recall the downfall and the businesses that burnt us all
See through the news and the views that twist reality
Enough, I call the bluff, fuck Manifest Destiny
Landlords and power whores, on my people, they took turns
Dispute the suits, I ignite and then watch ’em burn

With the thoughts from a militant mind
Hardline, hardline after hardline
Landlords and power whores, on my people, they took turns
Dispute the suits, I ignite and then watch ’em burn

Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn (Yes, you’re gonna)
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn
Burn, burn, yes, you’re gonna burn

It goes a one, two, three, another funky, radical bombtrack
Started as a sketch in my notebook
And now dope hooks make punks take another look
My thoughts ya hear and ya begin to fear
That ya card will get pulled if ya interfere

With the thoughts from a militant, militant mind
Hardline, hardline after hardline
Landlords and power whores, on my people, they took turns
Dispute the suits, I ignite and then watch ’em burn

I mean, Jesus Christ. One of the most badass first songs off of one of the most badass debut albums from one of the most kick ass bands of all time. It’s a slam dunk. And these lyrics are lead singer, Zach De La Rocha just warming up. His verses would get even more razor sharp throughout his career gaining the group even more notoriety and fame – leaving him to question his own role in the grand schemes of things. Feeling as if he was a cog, himself in the exact machine he despised he would leave the group in 2000. Only reuniting for a handful of shows for most of the 21st century.

Thank you to everyone who read this list, it originally started as a top ten while listening to Blue Album by Weezer but then as I thought more about it, I wanted to do something big – like a Rolling Stone feature. So after I dug through all of my records I had over 115 songs I could use and press the list down to a top 100. It was around then I realized I was in way over my head. So I know, I missed obvious songs and screwed up rankings but I’d love to hear your suggestions or how you would do it differently.

Also for my gaming readers we’ll be back to those soon as I’m currently working through Spyro 2 Riptos Rage, had a deep dive with two Sega Tennis classics and will be moving forward with the Splinter Cell franchise soon. Until then, much love.

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