10 great album opening tracks
2 June 2022, 18:00
Radio X takes a handful of the great Side One, Track Ones in history. What's your favourite?
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
"'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life / Trying to make ends meet / You're a slave to money then you die."
The lead track from The Verve's iconic Urban Hymns album ran into trouble by sampling Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham's orchestral cover of the Jagger/Richards track The Last Time. It was claimed that the track used a significant proportion of the original arrangement and awarded a partial songwriting credit to the two Stones. However, Jagger and Richards finally signed over the rights to Ashcroft in April 2019.
Guns N'Roses - Welcome To The Jungle
"Welcome to the jungle / We've got fun 'n' games."
The raucous opening to 1987's Appetite For Destruction, later released as GN'R's second single. Talk about getting a recording career off to a no-nonsense start. This is rock 'n' roll, folks.
The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored
"I don't have to sell my soul / He's already in me."
One of the best "slow builders" of all time, from the eponymous debut album of 1989. The clanking, rumbling industrial sounds eventually resolve themselves into Mani's distinctive riff, before giving way to one of Ian Brown's most acclaimed lyrics.
The Who - Baba O'Riley
"Don't cry / Don't raise your eye / It's only teenage wasteland.”
Originally written for Pete Townshend's aborted Lifehouse theatre project, this was the lead track from the 1971 Who's Next album. Baba O'Riley's stadium rock style was partially offset by Townshend's use a synthesiser in the lengthy intro.
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Sprit
"With the lights out, it's less dangerous / Here we are now, entertain us..."
The opening track on the generation-defining album Nevermind remains one of the definitive calling-cards in modern rock. With this song, Nirvana strode out of the indie niche that was home to grunge and became stadium stars. And this was only the first song on a consistently excellent album.
Pixies - Debaser
"Got me a movie I want you to know / Slicing up eyeballs I want you to know."
The classic indie floor filler was originally the opening track to 1989's Doolittle, the second full length album from Boston's superstars. Not many albums kick off with a tribute to surrealist film-making, in this case, the 1929 short Un Chien Andalou, made by director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí.
The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
"Ooh, a storm is threatening / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter / Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away."
The Stones opened their album Let It Bleed and effectively ended the 1960s with this apocalyptic offering. The same month it was released, in December 1969, the band performed it live at the Altamont Free Concert in California, the chaotic show that saw one member of the audience murdered by Hell's Angels.
The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
"I'm gonna fight 'em off / A seven nation army couldn't hold me back."
Kicking off 2003's Elephant with a something unheard of on a White Stripes record - a bass guitar. The thumping riff kick started a new, more mainstream chapter in the duo's career.
Queen - We Will Rock You
"Buddy, you're a boy, make a big noise / Playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday..."
This stadium-rocking classic was released as a double A-side with We Are The Champions as a prelude to the band’s sixth album News Of The World in 1977. he idea for both songs came after Queen played a gig in Stafford in May 1977. The musicians were amazed when, at the end of the show, the crowd began to sing the football anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone. The pair of classic tracks kicked off the album in anthemic style.
The Beatles - Come Together
“Here come old flat top / He come groovin' up slowly…”
Originally planned as a campaign song for psychedelic guru Timothy Leary on his quest to become a politician, it wound up as the opening track of the last Beatles album to be recorded: 1969’s Abbey Road. Surprisingly funky for the Fab Four, and with a marvellous Lennon lyric, the words later came back to haunt him when legal action was taken over some “borrowed” phrases from Chuck Berry’s 1956 song You Can’t Catch Me.