22 best opening songs on debut albums from the 1970s

This list of the 22 best first songs on first albums from the 1970s shows that some bands and artists get it right on the first track of their debut album.
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Debut albums are difficult to pull off perfectly. For every classic debut that skillfully showcases an artist’s ethos, there’s another first album that only provides poorly constructed song ideas and bad musical decisions. Other debut albums are inconsistent and, while they might feature a few good songs, don’t consistently deliver the goods like other, later albums in a group’s discography.

However, some debut albums are flawless, and the first songs on those albums are transcendent classics that represent the group or artist expertly – or at least dictate what future triumphs may await. Read on to explore the 22 best opening songs on debut albums from the 1970s.

The decade of the 1970s saw pop music splinter in hundreds of directions at once and rapidly change – just as rapidly as musical tastes did. Whereas something like the Eagles' debut album was a massive hit in the early ‘70s, by the end of the decade, spiky, arty post-punk music from acts such as Television, Wire and Joy Division would be eminently popular. In between, punk rose and fell, folk rock continued its ascent and AOR (album-oriented rock) dominated the airwaves.

The 1970s saw pop music begin to splinter in multiple directions

Note: This list does not include EPs or first singles, as it is strictly limited to the first song featured on the track list of the group or artist’s debut album – simple as that. As such, this list also doesn’t count first tracks on a group or artist’s first “major label” album, discounting their “independent” releases.

“Carry On”– Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1971)

The second appearance of a CSN-related band on one of these lists begins with one of the best-ever opening salvos in music history. Featuring extremely airless harmonies that blend perfectly, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s first album took the supreme combination of voices from the original CSN album and added renowned maverick Neil Young to the mix – with incredible results. “Carry On” serves as a top-tier showcase for the group’s astounding vocal blend, and it leads off a thoroughly engaging album from start to finish.

“Re-Make / Re-Model”– Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972)

If this list was delivered in numerical order, Roxy Music’s opening salvo from their first album would likely be a top-five inclusion. Absolutely bursting at the seams with brilliant musical ideas that turned the idea of pop music on its head, “Re-Make / Re-Model” features some brilliant technical playing as well as an unhinged vocal take from lead singer Bryan Ferry. Sometimes the group could get a tad too arty, but this song certainly delivered all of the band’s promise on a silver platter – shot through with some unforgettable musical moments.

“Take It Easy”– Eagles – Eagles (1972)

Say what you will about the Eagles, but they sure did know how to kick off an album. “Take It Easy” is a masterclass in economical songwriting, playing and performing. Stunning vocal harmonies, strong “everyman” lyrics from their pal Jackson Browne, and an eminently simple hook and title all added up to an all-time classic opening track on the group’s debut album – foreshadowing the group’s incredible critical and commercial success throughout the ‘70s.

“Feel”– Big Star – #1 Record (1972)

Big Star are a band that did not receive any fame during the group’s existence, but instead were discovered later on and are now remembered as a seminal pop group. Picking up where The Beatles left off, Big Sar featured the tremendous songwriting talents of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, both of whom delivered top-tier material for Big Star’s debut album. “Feel” is a spine-tingling affair, and it holds just as much power to impress listeners today as it did when it was released to little fanfare roughly 52 years ago.

“Do It Again”– Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972)

An assured debut, Steely Dan’s first album is also the last to feature a song with lead vocals by anyone other than Donald Fagen. The opening song on the album, however, is all Fagen, and his insouciant delivery fits the cool, Latin-flavored song perfectly. An album that’s chock-full of classic songs, “Do It Again” kicks off Can’t Buy a Thrill with tremendous success.

“Hallogallo”– Neu! – Neu! (1972)

Krautrock is an eminently rewarding genre of music that features a vast array of notable artists. Many of those artists, however, started rather slowly in their early careers, with Krautrock pioneers such as Can, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and more not hitting their stride until later on in their discography. As such, the only entrant on this list from that revered 1970s German musical movement is Neu!’s 1972 debut album opener “Hallogallo.” Representing the metronomic and hypnotic “motorik” style, this song is equally rewarding as focus-sharpening background music as well as upon closer listening.

“Keep Yourself Alive”– Queen – Queen (1973)

While Queen wouldn’t hit their critical and commercial peak for a few years, one could see the elements already in place and ready to be plumbed on the group’s first song from their first album. Featuring a rare drum solo from drummer Brian Taylor as well as shared lead vocal duties (at least on two lines) between Taylor, guitarist Brian May, and singer Freddie Mercury, the multilayered and symphonic guitar and vocal arrangements that the group would become known for are already on display on the first song from their eponymous 1973 debut. Incredible heights were on the horizon for the group, but it’s interesting to see where it all started for the band on their first album.

"I Ain't The One" – Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) (1973)

Kicking off one of the most assured debut albums of all time is this salty rocker featuring the unique talents of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant as well as the frenzied multi-guitar attack of Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. Combining blues, country, boogie woogie and any number of other influences, one of the first “southern rock” albums of all time delivered the goods right away on its bold and confident opening track.

“When I Get To The Border”– Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

Richard Thompson broke into the music world as the incendiary guitarist for folk-rock stalwarts Fairport Convention in the late 1960s. After myriad lineup changes within the group, Thompson struck out on his own alongside his new bride, and the husband-and-wife duo delivered one of the most awe-inspiring debut albums of all time in 1974.

Littered with classic tracks, all of which are shot through with a heart-rending pathos, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight begins with “When I Get To The Border,” which showcases R. Thompson’s melodic sensibilities as well as he and his wife’s arranging skills and lovely harmonies.

“Magic Man”– Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1975)

Women weren’t known for rocking out in the mid-1970s. While Patti Smith had already released Horses, that was the exception, not the rule, and most women artists were in the singer/songwriter mold (Carly Simon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. et. al). Heart proved that women could rock just as hard and with as much radio success as major rock acts of the time.

The group’s debut album Dreamboat Annie featured two mega-hits, “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man,” the album’s opening track. Featuring a sprightly melody and crunchy, phased-out guitar, “Magic Man” is an enduring rock track that holds up very well close to 50 years later.

“Blitzkrieg Bop”– Ramones – Ramones (1976)

A punk classic, Ramones began their debut album with a rallying cry that’s echoed across sports stadiums the world over since it was unveiled: “Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go!” Clocking in at just over 29 minutes, one can’t accuse Ramones of overstaying their welcome on their debut album, but they knew the punk ethos was all about brevity – cut out all the waffling solos and get straight to the point, just like “Blitzkrieg Bop” does.

“Cherry Bomb”– The Runaways – The Runaways (1976)

Another punk classic, this one delivered by an all-girl group. The Runaways would’ve likely achieved bigger success in a different era, but the overtly sexual and rebellious nature of their lyrics and music was a bit much for timid 1970s America. Still, the band’s first album and its opening song have aged well, so much so that it was featured in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film in 2014.

“More Than A Feeling” – Boston – Boston (1976)

One of the biggest-selling albums of the 1970s, Boston’s debut album was littered with classic tracks, perhaps none more “classic” than the album’s opener: “More Than A Feeling.” Catchy and fun with an absolutely skyscraping chorus and anthemic guitar parts, “More Than A Feeling” is a banger opening salvo on a terrific first album. Sadly, Boston (namely singer Brad Delp and guitarist Tom Scholz) could never quite match the brilliance of their first album, despite multiple attempts to recapture that magic.

“Reuters”– Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

A moody and atmospheric opening track from post-punk pioneer Wire’s debut album, Pink Flag, the group has since expressed discontent with some of the lyrical content of this track, but that doesn’t make the song any less searing and interesting. A representation of media coverage of atrocities and evils committed the world over, the spacy and minimalistic first track set the stage for what would be a sprawling and transcendent first album for one of the most influential post-punk groups of all time.

“See No Evil”– Television – Marquee Moon (1977)

Another titanically important post-punk group, Television’s debut album Marquee Moon featured an incredible twin-guitar attack from vocalist and lyricist Tom Verlaine alongside Richard Lloyd. The album’s opening track “See No Evil” combined the group’s trademark cascading guitar parts plus the rapid-fire drumming of Billy Ficca with the pouty, slithery singing of Verlaine – whose lyrics are at all times engaging, amusing, and fun to sing along with. Each track on the group’s opening album is a classic, but “See No Evil” sets the stage perfectly for everything to follow.

“Janie Jones”– The Clash – The Clash (1977)

An epochal opening album from punk pioneers The Clash kicks off with a terrific opening statement via “Janie Jones”:  “He's in love with rock'n'roll, whoa; He's in love with gettin' stoned, whoa; He's in love with Janie Jones, whoa; He don't like his boring job, no.” We’ve all felt like Joe Strummer at times, wanting to stay home, not work, and listen to music and watch films all day.

However, he somehow makes it sound cool and counter-cultural with his bleating growl of delivery, and his voice is by far the more dominant one on The Clash’s seminal punk debut – though the efforts of Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon cannot be denied.

“Feels Like The First Time”– Foreigner – Foreigner (1977)

While punk was making waves in England, another Mick Jones was crafting anthemic AOR-friendly songs stateside with American vocalist Lou Gramm. The result was a strong opening salvo from Foreigner, who started off their debut album with the aptly titled “Feels Like The First Time.” Both that track and “Cold As Ice” are all-time classics from the group’s first album, and while they might not be the “artsy” group here, their songcraft and musicianship are tremendous. Simply good fun.

“Welcome to the Working Week”– Elvis Costello & The Attractions – My Aim Is True (1977)

An extremely short song, Elvis Costello didn’t even need 90 seconds to introduce the world to his singular point of view, as evinced poetically by this song’s killer opening line: “Now that your picture's in the paper being rhythmically admired.” Led by this engaging, tuneful, and pithy post-punk opening track, My Aim Is True is a masterful debut album that features a bevy of classic tracks such as “Alison,” “Less Than Zero,” and “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.”

“Next to You”– The Police – Outlandos d’Amour (1978)

While The Police would certainly craft bigger commercial hits, their debut album’s first song was a spiky, punky number that showcased the group’s “post-punk” bona fides. A rocker through and through, the group would certainly soften up their rough edges over the years, but the promise of the group is on full display here – from Andy Summer’s spiky and engaging guitar lines to Stewart Copeland’s polyrhythmic drum parts and Sting’s dubby bass playing and singular yelping vocals.

“Good Times Roll”– The Cars – The Cars (1978)

An all-time classic album with a banger first song, Ric Ocasek and company were hard-pressed to follow up an album packed with so many brilliant tracks. Still, though, not many bands can boast an opener as good as “Good Times Roll,” let alone being able to follow up that classic number with two more classics in a row: “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed.”

“Runnin’ With The Devil”– Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

Van Halen’s first album was a big hit upon release and it’s easy to see why. Featuring the cocksure lead singer David Lee Roth’s bravado tacked onto a terrific band headlined by one of the greatest guitarists of all time (Eddie Van Halen), Van Halen came out of the gate swinging with a number of big hits and classic numbers, including the first song on the group's eponymous debut album – “Runnin’ With The Devil.” Delivering all of the trademark elements that would make the group big stars, it’s the alchemy of the group’s combination of talents that makes the album such an engaging and entertaining listen.

“Disorder”– Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)

“I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand.” The first line of Joy Division’s opening track from their debut album Unknown Pleasures certainly sounds like a mission statement and it features all of the elements that the group would be known for: the high-register bass playing of Peter Hook, the scrabbling, metallic guitar work from Bernard Sumner, the precise, razor-sharp drumming of Stephen Morris, and, likely most importantly, the mysterious and haunting lyrics and stentorian baritone vocals of lead singer (and tragic figure) Ian Curtis.

The outro devolving into Curtis shouting “Feeling! Feeling! Feeling! Feeling!” while the backing track implodes around him is a highlight, and perfectly representative of the album’s ethos.

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