The 50 best debut singles

24 August 2019, 19:00 | Updated: 24 August 2019, 19:01

Best Debut Singles
Best Debut Singles. Picture: Press

Which artists have come out of the block, all guns blazing? Here are 50 of the very best first time releases.

Do you remember the first time? Radio X picks half a ton of excellent debuts... in no particular order.

Some ground rules: EPs, compilation tracks and so on are NOT included! We're looking at singles that were made specifically as singles.

  1. Blur - She's So High

    The first outing by the band formerly known as Seymour was released in October 1990, but only made a lowly No 48 in the UK charts. The cover, featuring a painting by Mel Ramos depicted a naked girl riding on a hippo… which immediately brought the band accusations of sexism.

  2. Radiohead - Creep

    The 'Head released the Drill EP in May 1992, but it was this bona fide classic that was their first single proper that September. On its first release, it only made No 78 after Radio 1 refused to play it for being "too depressing". A re-release the following year made No 7. In your face, Radio 1!

  3. Sex Pistols - Anarchy In The UK

    The incendiary call to arms from the greatest punk band of all was released on the EMI label on 26 November 1976. However, the label kicked them off the imprint following a foul-mouthed TV appearance... That's showbiz!

  4. Bloc Party - She's Hearing Voices

    The original version of this track was Bloc Party's first release, on the Trash Aesthetics label in February 2004.

  5. Nirvana - Love Buzz

    Not their best-known song, by any stretch of the imagination, but as a quirky statement of intent, it's second to none. Released on the legendary Sub Pop label in November 1988, it was a cover of a 1969 song by the Dutch band Shocking Blue, best known for their hit Venus. Which was covered by Bananarama. Small world, innit?

  6. Suede - The Drowners

    First released on 11 May 1992 and boasting pleasingly androgynous sleeve artwork, this was the opening salvo from Brett Anderson and company. Britpop was just around the corner.

  7. Supergrass - Caught By The Fuzz

    An absolutely stonking first effort from the trio of Gaz Coombes, Danny Goffey and Mick Quinn, telling the story of a young chap who is caught red-handed in possession of some illicit substances. It just missed out on the UK Top 40, making #43.

  8. The Killers - Mr Brightside

    Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning's timeless tale of relationships and paranoia was released as the band's debut single in September 2003. It was backed by the equally excellent Smile Like You Mean It and made No 10 in the UK Charts.

  9. Elastica - Stutter

    Originally released in November 1993 on the excellent Deceptive label, this was one of the key early Britpop songs and later appeared on the band's self-titled debut album two years later.

  10. Bjork - Human Behaviour

    After a successful career as the singer in the Icelandic band The Sugarcubes, Bjork went solo with this idiosyncratic outing that teased ahead to her acclaimed album Debut. The video, featuring a malevolent teddy bear stalking through the woods helped, too.

  11. Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood

    Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's fictitious cartoon band had released an EP, Tomorrow Comes Today, at the tail end of 2000, but this was their first single, trailing the forthcoming self-titled debut album.

  12. Florence + The Machine - Kiss With A Fist

    The controversial debut from Ms Welch was released on 9 June 2008 on the uber-cool Moshi Moshi label. It later appeared on Flo's debut album Lungs.

  13. Foo Fighters - This Is A Call

    Drummers in rock had historically not been too successful when going solo (see: Ringo Starr, the guy out of Kiss), so hopes were not high when Dave Grohl announced his solo project. But he surprised the world with this excellent track, issued in June 1995.

  14. Franz Ferdinand - Darts Of Pleasure

    Huh, you thought Take Me Out was the debut? No, it was Darts Of Pleasure, back in September 2003, which just missed out on the UK Top 40.

  15. Editors - Bullets

    Originally released in January 2005, this was the Birmingham band's first release, which was reissued that September off the back of the excellent album The Back Room.

  16. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor

    Released on 14 October 2005 after the Five Minutes With Arctic Monkeys EP, this storming track shot straight to No 1 in the UK singles chart. However, Alex Turner was keen to emphasise: "Don't believe the hype."

  17. Embrace - All You Good Good People

    This instant classic was released on the much-loved Fierce Panda label back in February 1997 as a limited edition of 500 copies.

  18. Elbow - Red

    Released on 23 April 2001 as a teaser for the debut Asleep In The Back, this followed the Noisebox EP, which was issued over three years earlier!

  19. The Charlatans - Indian Rope

    Before The Only One I Know came this great debut single, released on the band's own Dead Dead Good label in February 1990. Copies quickly sold out, so it was released in June the following year.

  20. The Undertones - Teenage Kicks

    Originally released by the young Derry band in September 1978, it was re-issued a month later on the major label Sire. Despite being one of the most famous songs to come out of the punk era (and John Peel's favourite song of all time), it only made No 31 in the charts.

  21. Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop

    Da Brudders opened their account at the Bank Of Rock And Roll with this immortal 45, released in April 1976 on Sire Records. A lot of soon-to-be-punks were listening on both sides of the Atlantic.

  22. Pearl Jam - Alive

    Eddie Vedder and co rode the wave of grunge when they released their debut single in 1991. Result: an instant classic.

  23. The Streets - Has It Come To This?

    Original Pirate Material! The world was introduced to Mike Skinner and his lyrics with this excellent tune.

  24. The Smiths - Hand In Glove

    Morrissey called the release of the band's debut single on the Rough Trade label in May 1983 as one of the most important events in musical history. He was kind of right.

  25. The Clash - White Riot

    March 1977 saw the first broadside in the Clash's manifesto, this tribute to the troubles on the streets of the UK back in that turbulent year. They drove the point home on the b-side: 1977.

  26. Kaiser Chiefs - Oh My God

    The witty first single from Ricky Wilson and his pals was initially released on the Drowned In Sound label in May 2004.

  27. The xx - Crystalised

    One of the band's best-loved songs was also their debut single, back in April 2009. It later appeared on their debut album, XX.

  28. Stereophonics - Local Boy In The Photograph

    Originally released in March 1997, this everyday tale of rail-based tragedy only made No 51 in the UK charts, but hit 14 on its re-issue a year later.

  29. Weezer - Undone (The Sweater Song)

    Uber geeks Weezer made a splash in June 1994 with their ironic debut single, aided by an excellent Spike Jonze video.

  30. Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name

    What a way to kick off a career! Released in the UK in 2 November 1992, it only made No 25 in the UK charts on its first issue... but famously hit the top spot at Christmas 2009.

  31. The Vaccines - Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)

    One minute and 22 seconds of manic perfection as the London band open their recording career. It’s the most bracing debut single since White Riot from The Clash.

  32. Kasabian - Processed Beats

    Originally issued as a very limited edition independent single in 2003, this gave listeners a taste of the Kasabian sound: swagger, big choruses and those processed beats.

  33. LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge

    Released in July 2002, this memorable rant from James Murphy set out the stall for LCD Soundsystem. Gil! Scott! Heron!

  34. The Libertines - What A Waster

    The unbeatable combination of What A Waster and I Get Along was the first missive from Pete 'n' Carl, back in June 2002. It didn't get much airplay, obviously.

  35. The Wombats - Moving To New York

    Young Murph had problems with his sleep when this song was originally released in October 2006. A reissue in January 2008 made No 13 in the UK charts.

  36. Oasis - Supersonic

    The first single from the Gallaghers was this no-nonsense statement of intent. "I'm feeling supersonic, give me gin and tonic."

  37. MGMT - Time To Pretend

    Another odd one. Time To Pretend was the lead track from a 2005 EP released by the duo, but later received a release as their first single in the UK in March 2008.

  38. Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

    The Australian band's best-remembered song was also their debut, released in September 2008, making No 6 in the UK.

  39. The Cure - Killing An Arab

    Robert Smith's debut single was released on the independent imprint Small Wonder in December 1978, but reissued on the Fiction label the following February. Radio programmers freaked at the A-side, which they took to be somewhat racist... rather than the punky tribute to the existentialist Albert Camus novel The Stranger that it actually was. They favoured the impressive B-side, 10.15 Saturday Night instead.

  40. The Doors - Break On Through (To The Other Side)

    “You know the day destroys the night / Night divides the day…” With that piece of pure poetry, Jim Morrison established himself as a major lyric writer and the band brought a new take on psychedelia.

  41. The Prodigy - Charly

    Frantically brilliant early rave tune from Liam Howlett that incorporates the meowling cartoon cat from a series of 1970s Public Information Films. Dismissed by some as a novelty record, the band’s subsequent career proved the naysayers wrong.

  42. The Jam - In The City

    “In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you.” The first words on vinyl from Paul Weller and an amazing way to begin a career.

  43. Bon Iver - Skinny Love

    Justin Vernon gave buskers the world over a new standard to play with this charming acoustic ballad.

  44. The Who - I Can’t Explain

    The mod legends began their recording career as The Who with this dancefloor classic about not being to express yourself.

  45. Courteeners - Cavorting

    Liam Fray captured the imagination of Manchester and beyond with this brutally honest slice of life.

  46. Royal Blood - Out Of The Black

    An astonishing noise from just two people - Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher backed this big tune with the equally awe-inspiring Come On Over.

  47. Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe

    It may have been a cover, but the distinctive guitar intro grabs the attention from the very beginning. A unique talent.

  48. Catfish And The Bottlemen - Homesick

    Van McCann proved he was a talent to watch with the first single from the Bottlemen - it’s a typically honest tale of relationships.

  49. Saint Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart

    A dancefloor take on Neil Young’s gentle ballad, the innocent vocals of original Etienne vocalist Moira Lambert make this one of the best cover versions ever.

  50. New Order - Ceremony

    OK, it's a bit of a cheat as New Order had been operating under the Joy Division name for three years. But following the death of singer Ian Curtis in May 1980, the remaining members reconvened to record the band's final material under their new name: New Order.