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45 Of The Greatest Debut Singles On 45

The first 45 rpm records that put careers into gear, and in many cases artists into the charts.

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The Who I Can't Explain Debut Singles

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

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Format: UK English


  1. Sonja

    September 26, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” should be included.

  2. Shan M.

    September 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    My pick for greatest debut single would be “In the House of Stone and Light” by Martin Page: knocked our collective socks off lyrically, visually, and spiritually. That song struck a ‘soul-chord’ for many of us — millions at that — which has never quite been duplicated.

    • Ron

      October 21, 2014 at 5:48 am

      Wasn’t Martin Page’s debut single the more manic “Dancin’ in Heaven”? I love that song still.

  3. Ed Tobin

    September 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    How about ” Four Walls” great country crossover hit for Jim Reeves ?

  4. charlie greenberg

    September 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    I personally, there a lot more who should have made this list, then T Knack, Stevie wonder, ets

  5. Terry

    September 27, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Okay list until kanye west showed up

  6. Bill

    September 27, 2014 at 3:50 am

    “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals.

  7. Kelly Izaj

    September 27, 2014 at 4:43 am

    How about such singles as “I Can’t Explain” by the Who; “Paper Sun” by Traffic; “My Little Red Book” by Love; “Do You Believe in Magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonful; and “Night of Fear” by the Move?

  8. angel

    September 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Puro la reo con el regue

  9. Thomas Templeton

    October 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    ride a white swan is a great debut but not strictly a debut single. You’re splitting hairs. You forget about Thata Alright Mama? Ludicrous. Virginia Plain is the greatest debut single for reasons too numerous to mention.

  10. FJ

    October 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    No Elvis, you’ve got to be joking.
    That’s alright moma.

  11. Mike Stangroom

    November 1, 2014 at 11:55 am

    The Fat Man no. 8? – no way- NO.1

    • uDiscover

      November 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      They are not in order Mike, don’t worry! We agree with you!

  12. Similarly n

    December 13, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I am in fact glad to glance at this website posts which includes lots
    of valuable information, thanks for providing these kinds
    of statistics.

  13. BOB

    July 4, 2015 at 2:25 am

    you have elvis, fats, chuck berry, but no beatles. YOU PEOPLE DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT MUSIC, AND PROBABLY EVERYTHING ELSE TOO.

  14. Michael Tyree

    July 4, 2015 at 4:46 am


  15. marge hunt

    July 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    “Suzie Q” by Dale Hawkins…….”Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley……”Walk the Line”…….Johnny Cash (I first heard this back in the 50’s when it crossed over and I remember thinking “Who is this guy?”

    • Heinz Jandik

      September 27, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      I walk the line was NOT Johnny Cash ‘s debut single.

  16. the teeth

    January 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Do you believe in magic by the Lovin Spoonful if it ain’t there, i can’t seem to check the whole list!

  17. Alan Tomkinson

    January 26, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds. For many years (and may still be) the biggest leap to number 1 within the UK singles charts and Christmas number 1 as well.


    January 27, 2016 at 12:45 am

    kick out carpenters, blur, guns and roses, neneh candy.

  19. veranjan

    February 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    So what happened to “Diana” by Paul Anka?

  20. Haj

    February 13, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    I Want You Back – The Jackson 5.

  21. Ava

    May 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Why didn’t Love and Affection by Nelson make the list!
    I think its far superior to anything done by Christinia Augularia or Ricky martin just to name a few!

  22. John Filliter

    May 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I’ll Never Find Another You by The Seekers should be on your list, unless you’re confining it to American musicians.

  23. Bob

    May 30, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    “Baby One More Time” changed the face of music. I guess I’m not surprised to see a Britney snub, but to include “Genie in a Bottle” instead just seems wrong.

    Also agree that the Lovin’ Spoonful should be there.

  24. john

    July 2, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    you are correct about ticket to ride macarthur poark green onions surfin hey joe mr tqmborine man maybelinne that’s allright the fat man be bop a lula go where you wanna go do not leave out lets live for today sherry women women kind of a drag

  25. Philip

    September 15, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” should be on this list!

  26. Matt

    September 26, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    MC5 – Kick Out The Jams, X-Ray Spex – Oh Bondage Up Yours, B-52s – Rock Lobster, Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade Of Pale, The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties, Supergrass – Caught By The Fuzz & The Buzzcocks – (EP, Spiral Scratch) Ft. Breakdown & Boredom… Does an EP count? Probably not but such a classic had to include it.

  27. mitch

    September 26, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Creedence clear water ,Suzie Q.
    What an awsome debut album also.

  28. Charlie

    September 27, 2016 at 8:06 am

    No Beatles?

  29. Jacquelyn

    September 27, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Since you concur with Mike about The Fat Man being #1 I’ll forgive the fact that you missed I Want You Back by J5.

  30. trayec

    September 28, 2016 at 3:13 am

    how about the very first Musicor label that introduce Gene Pitney “I wanna, ( love my life away)

  31. Paul Watson

    February 14, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Hey… Where’s One Direction, Justin Bieber, Whigfield and Aqua? Greatest rocking single debuts of all time? Yes, I am taking the piss, but some of the songs mentioned are also taking the p. I mean… Spice Girls? Come on!

  32. Kaj Rasmussen

    March 30, 2017 at 10:59 am

    I miss
    Runaway – Del Shannon
    Tiger – Fabian
    Diana Påul Anka

  33. Brian

    September 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    You must be too young to know the meaning of great , some of thos are great , some are good and some just aren’t , you missed the greatest ones. But it is your list not mine so I don’t have to listen.

  34. Gil

    September 28, 2017 at 12:55 am

    “More than a feeling” by Boston … when I heard Boston for the first time, I was blown away … I’d never heard a rock band sound quite like that .. a tribute to the genius of Tom Shultz …

  35. Bob Wright

    September 30, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I would add the Box Tops’ “The Letter” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”

  36. Ralph Frost

    October 2, 2017 at 1:21 am

    Stay With Me ‘Til Dawn – Judy Tzuke
    An absolute gem!

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