Our Favourite Debut Singles

Published on 26 May 2020

Most artists grind out songs for years before anyone takes notice on a large scale, gigging relentlessly for local recognition in the hope that the right person picks up their latest release. However, some of 'lucky' ones, (although we don't think that's quite the right word for it... ) hit that jackpot right at the start of their careers with a track that makes such a statement, you just know they're destined for big things. We're always fascinated with how our favourite bands got started so we thought we'd take a look at some of the biggest debut singles of all time. Have a read through our rundown below:

Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the UK 

'Riiiight nooooooow!' snarls John Lydon... Is any intro quite as powerful as Anarchy in the UK? This track set off the human A bomb that was the Sex Pistols, introducing the world to their raw, spiteful and downright nasty sound - how could we possibly miss it out? Attacking the establishment and tapping into the alienation of the punk scene, this track was described by Malcolm Mclaren, was "a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them.". Though we may not be able to put it as poetically as Malcolm, we fully agree that this tune was monumental, creating a standard for no-nonsense UK punk that's yet to be touched, even today. Though their time at the top may have been short lived, for a brief period there was no one more explosive, dangerous and downright offensive. Long Live the Pistols.

Oasis - Supersonic

From one sneering band to the next, Oasis were a shoo-in for this list with the attitude-laden lazy riffs of Supersonic. The track was written and recorded in a single day and was based on a jam the band had while they were warming up. Apparently, it was completed in no more than 11 hours with Noel writing the lyrics while the rest of the guys had a break and ate a Chinese! We've no doubt Liam would dispute some of that but either way, Supersonic brought the Manchester lads to the world's attention with a bang. It's hard to believe that Liam's sneering vocals weren't that of an established rockstar but then, it was exactly that persona and confidence that drove him there wasn't it? We love every second of this tune from the pick scrape at the start to the epic chorus, stick it on and travel back to the glory days of Brit Pop. 

Pearl Jam - Alive

Has a more epic debut single ever been released? We'll wait... Still hailed by many as one of the band's finest moments, this track is an absolute classic. With Eddie Vedder at the helm of a truly killer lineup of musicians, Pearl Jam were always destined for greatness but what a statement to make on their debut. The song was actually written and recorded as an instrumental before the band found their vocalist and it's safe to say that Vedder did a number on it. His vocal is as powerful and potent as it is haunting, with the lyrics coming to him while he surfed after first listening to the tape. Alive cemented Pearl Jam's spot within the forefathers of grunge but set them apart with a sound big enough to fill festivals and stadiums. That's pretty impressive for your first release right?

Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop 

Hey Ho, Let's Go! Get your leather jacket out, Punk has arrived. Originally titled Animal Hop, this track was the band's debut and the opening track to their now-iconic first album. Borrowing a classic rock and roll sound and supercharging it, the Ramones took the world by storm with their 3 chord punk standard that just felt new, compelling and alive. Blitzkrieg Bop was penned by Tommy and Dee Dee but it's the drummer who came up with the legendary chant stating "I came up with the chant walking home from the grocery store carrying a bag of groceries"... That may not be very punk of you Tommy but the song it definitely made its mark!

The Smiths - Hand in Glove 

The track that instructed people to Morrissey's vocals, Marr's playing and the two as a writing partnership? Of course, the Smiths Hand in Glove had to make it into your favourites. Its beautifully delicate guitar matches Mozza's smooth crooning perfectly, making this song the perfect introduction to a band who just sound totally unique, no matter how you look at it. According to Morrissey, he wrote the lyrics for the track in 2 hours after Marr gave him a tape between their second and third gigs and Hand in Glove is simply about loneliness. How suitably sorrowful! The Smiths were fantastic at writing what were essentially simple pop songs but with depth and sparkle and the fact they nailed the sound first time around is just mad when you think about it. Their first recorded track and an undeniable classic.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

What can we say about this track that it doesn't already say for itself? A phenomenal vocal performance, instantly recognisable and epic, Wuthering Heights is a truly remarkable track from Kate Bush. Bush wrote it after being inspired by the 1967 BBC adaptation of the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, which she then went on to read. Upon its release, she became the first female artist to ever land themselves a self-written number 1 in the UK. That's not where the accolades end though, the song then went on to sell over half a million records granting Bush a gold award for it. For a first single, we reckon that's pretty good... As much of an instant classic as they come, this track rightly went down in history - Just don't try it on the karaoke folks, take it from us, it doesn't end well... 

Elvis Costello - Less Than Zero 

After trying and failing to get signed to Factory Records, Elvis Costello's confidence didn't waver in the slightest when he penned this suitably gloomy debut. Costello wrote this track after watching an interview with the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley on television. Disgusted by Mosley denying his racist past, Costello wrote the track as an attack on his character; however, when it was released in the States he quickly realised no one knew who the politician was! Not content on simply having a cool song for people to sing along to, this led to him re-writing the lyrics to focus on Kenedy shooter Lee Harvey Oswald. You can find the 'Dallas' version lurking on the internet somewhere! Inspired by Jimi Hendrix's chaotic performance on Lulu, Elvis also refused to play this on Saturday Night Live, launching into Radio Radio despite being asked not to by his label. He was then banned from the show for a number of years - you always have to be awkward don't you Elvis!?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it folks, the tracks that paved the way for greatness! What's evident to us how high the aspirations of each artist were. Not content in writing what everyone else did, each one of these artists stepped away from the norm and dared to be different. In fact, when you look back at the rich history of modern music, the same can be said for so many debut tracks, albums and performances - those who dared to be great had the confidence to know they could be. We could've included loads more singles but we want to hear your favourites, comment below and let us know!

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