First month of the year, first post of the year, let’s kick things off with some other notable firsts (Yes it’s a totally unoriginal theme for a list but trust me there are some great tracks coming up).
Whilst it is often a great debut single that really kick-starts a bands career and launches them into the public spotlight, for many music fans looking for jumping on point for an established band often a greatest hits album, their latest album or simply their top played tracks on Spotify/Youtube provide that route into the wider back catalogue. However, hopefully as the following list will demonstrate, often the best thing to do is go right back to the start.
Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle” from Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Ranked as their third most popular track, I would argue that Welcome to the Jungle is Guns N’ Roses most iconic track. Instantly recognisable. As the opening track to one of the biggest selling albums of all time, that has shifted twice as many copies as any other GNR album, it may be argued that the band owe their entire careers to this track.
Frank Turner – “The Real Damage” from Sleep is for the Week (2007)
Probably the most personal entry on this list. This was actually the first Frank Turner track I ever heard albeit in a live context. In summer 2010 Frank supported Green Day at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. His opening lyric “I Woke up on a sofa in an unfamiliar house…” echoed my own experiences that very morning. The song went goes on to tell the tale of a young man leading a hedonistic lifestyle beginning to question whether the “best years” of his life are being squandered in his pursuit of meaningless fun. Like much of Frank’s earlier work the lyrics get straight to the point with little room for creative imagery or metaphor. The first time I heard this song I was 23 years old with no real career plans and my only worry in life was how I was paying my next bar bill and as such the lyrics resonated with me more than almost any other song had at that point.
Linkin Park – “Papercut” from Hybrid Theory (2000)
After the sad death of Chester Bennington in 2017 it seemed almost every music fan in their early 30s revisited Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” album but beyond the usual collective mourning that often follows the death of a famous musician it became a nostalgia fest. For those of us in our early teens when Hyrbid Theory launched it sounded like nothing we had previously heard. For so many of us this was not just the album that got us into alternative music, it was the album that got us into music full stop. This track was provided the gateway to a whole world of music.
Foo Fighters – “This is a Call” from Foo Fighter (1995)
Dave Grohl’s* first musical output since Nirvana… so no pressure then! I am not actually a big fan of Foo Fighter’s debut album. Ultimately this was a Grohl solo project with him providing all the recorded instrumental and vocal work single handed with 10 of the 12 tracks being adapted from demos recorded during Grohl’s time in Nirvana. The two that were not were the opening two tracks “This is a Call” and “I’ll stick Around” which to my ears are the two strongest tracks on the album both in terms of recording quality and in establishing what would go on to become Foo Fighters signature musical style.
*SIDE NOTE: Today is Dave Grohl’s 50th birthday!
Pearl Jam – “Once” from Ten (1991)
I feel there is a very strong case for Pearl Jam’s debut album “Ten” being the greatest debut album of all time due in part to the immense strength of its opening 6 tracks, all of which are amongst PJ’s all time strongest tracks. If I am honest “Once” is not my favourite PJ track and in fact probably would probably fall just outside my top 10 PJ tracks (but that is a fanboy list for another day) it is however still a fantastic track that demonstrates the amazing way in which PJ can transition between raw aggression and beautifully mellow and back again.
Velvet Revolver – “Sucker Train Blues” from Contraband (2004)
Slash’s second entry on the list, the dude just seems to have a knack for kicking off debut albums with a bang (“Ghost” the opening track from his first solo album is also fantastic). VR’s entire contraband album is immense and one of the few albums that even after several years I can still listen to in full without skipping tracks or cherry picking certain tracks for compilation playlists. Quite often when members of other big name bands form “supergroups” the resulting output is somewhat disappointing (I am looking at you Roadrunner United), however in this case Velvet Revolved smashed it out of the park by setting the bar high from the start with this energetic slice of dirty rock n roll.
King’s of Leon – “Red Morning Light” from Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
Anyone reading this who knows me personally has probably had to do a double take at seeing me putting a KoL track in one of my top 10 lists. I am not a KoL fan, in my opinion “Sex on Fire” is easily one of the most overplayed and overrated songs of all time. I feel they are a band that throughout their first 4 albums got steadily worse with each release until I just gave up on them. However that decline starts at a very high point with their debut album “Youth and Young Manhood” which starts with the brilliantly fun “Red Morning Light” which provides a wondefully manic piece of musicianship which provides such a stark contrast to the dirge they were releasing just 5 years later. A couple of months ago a colleague of mine asked me to play some Kings of Leon on the office sound system, I went for this album and, with them only being familiar with the newer material, from the opening track they refused to believe it was the same band they had seen on the BBC headlining Reading Festival.
Stone Sour – “Get Inside” from Stone Sour (2002)
I know I am in a minority when I say I prefer Stone Sour to Slipknot. To many hardcore fans Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor’s “other band” Stone Sour seem to be seen Slipknots poppier little brother sounding too mainstream to be considered “truly metal” (which is a ridiculous debate for another time). However Stone Sours origins actually go back further with demo material being recorded two years before the formation of Slipknot. Whilst Stone Sour took longer to get their debut album released I feel it was more than worth the wait. Get Inside allows Taylor to display a far greater range of his vocal talents in a single track that he generally gets the freedom to do with Slipknot. Most importantly this track establishes what Stone Sour all all about – not just a Slipknot side project but a damned good band in their own right who provide a more accessible listening experience (for better or worse) and a greater sense of fun that allows Taylor to put a bit more of his own charisma into the record.
The Rammones – “Blitzkrieg Bop” from Ramones (1976)
Is there a more iconic Rammones song? With 14 studio albums of varying quality to their name there really cannot be any other starting point with the Rammones than Blitzkrieg bop. Any music crowd you find yourself in if you shout “Hey Ho!” the reply will be “Lets Go!”. Not just one of the most iconic Rammones songs but one of the most important punk songs and one of the most recognisable songs of all time.
Motorhead – “Motorhead” from Motorhead (1977)
It takes a lot of balls to open your debut album with a track named after your band on a self titled album with lyrics that state “Motorhead, remember me now Motorhead, alright”. But this is fucking Lemmy we are talking about here. When a band introduces themselves to the stage like this could there have been any doubt they would become a staple of the world of rock music for the next four decades. Never has a flag been so firmly planted in the world of music.
Other honourable mentions:
Led Zeppelin – “Good Times Bad Times”
Neck Deep – “Kick it”
The Offspring – “Jennifer Lost the War”
Machine Head – “Davidian”
Faith No More – “We Care A Lot”
Eureka Machines – “Scream Eureka”
The Wildhearts – “Greetings from Shitsville”
R.E.M – “Radio Free Europe”
Manic Street Preachers – “Slash n Burn”
Queen – “Keep Yourself Alive”
Cheap Trick – “Hot Love” – (Although technically their self titled debut album had both a “Side A” and a “Side 1” so it may be argued this is not a true opening track, however subsequent re-releases have established it as track 1)