If you are the kind of person that thinks of “singles” rather than “tracks,” then this list is for you. This playlist is what we think are the greatest 45 debut singles; the first 45 rpm records that put careers into gear, and in many cases artists into the charts.
The first thing that many of you will notice is, no Beatles, ‘Love Me Do’ or the Rolling Stones and ‘Come on’ – for us, these weren’t great debuts, they sold themselves short — or, to be fair, their record companies did. So why then include, ‘Surfin’’ from the Beach Boys? Well, for a start, this was a band that already knew what they wanted to sound like – or at least, Brian Wilson knew.
We also cheated ever so slightly and picked ‘Ride A White Swan’ over ‘Debora’ because this was all about when Tyrannosaurus Rex became T.Rex. To be honest, either could have been on the list, and perhaps both.
Has there ever been a better debut than the Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’? It’s breathless, it’s raw but it’s also magical. The same could be said of the Jam’s ‘In The City.’ Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’ may have been years in the making, but it was certainly worth the wait. Who can forget Thunderclap Newman’s brilliant ‘Something In The Air,’ and at the other end of the musical spectrum, Richard Harris’s take on Jimmy Webb’s ‘MacArthur Park’ – bombastic, fantastic. And if you want atmospheric, there’s nothing like Booker T and The MG’s ‘Green Onions’.
Prog rock bands made great singles too, and Yes’s b-side ‘Something’s Coming’ is a whole new take on ‘West Side Story.’ From the west side of America there’s the Doors and ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ and ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ by the Byrds, which is surely one of the great openings to a debut single, as is Gene Vincent’s ‘Be Bop A Lula.’
Follow our Singles playlist to hear all of these influential hits.