Best Opening Track Of All Time?

Motivation was tough on Friday afternoon, and coffee wasn’t helping, but after blasting about thirty seconds of “Rocks Off”, I was already feeling amped.   The blistering opening track to the Rolling Stone’s great album, Exile on Main Street, prompted me to ponder the great album opening tracks of all time.  A great opening track may not lead to a great album, but it’s very hard to make a great album without one.  It’s like running basketball team without a point guard (hi Miami Heat).

I’ve simulated this game before with some friends, and based on that, have included this important caveat:  Track 1 cannot be the best song on the album.  It has to set the tone for the album, not define it. The biggest casualties of this rule are “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Gimme Shelter” and “Thunder Road”.  I would include “Tunnels” on that list, though people have forcefully argued that “Rebellion” is a better song, and “Power Out” was the big single anyway.

Without further ado, my top ten album openers of all time:

Honorable Mentions: “Rocks Off” (Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street); “I Saw Her Standing There” (Beatles, Meet the Beatles/ Please Please Me); “Who Loves The Sun”   (Velvet Underground, Loaded);  “A Sort of Homecoming”  (U2, Unforgettable Fire)

#10: “Holidays In The Sun” (Sex Pistols, Nevermind the Bullocks)

#9:  “Debaser” (Pixies, Doolittle)

#8: “Second Hand News” (Fleetwood Mac, Rumours)

#7: “Break On Through” (Doors, The Doors)

#6: “Boy In The Bubble”  (Paul Simon, Graceland)

#5: Black Dog  (Led Zeppelin, IV) / “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns n Roses, Appetite for Destruction)

#4: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (Beach Boys, Pet Sounds)

#3: “My Name is Jonas” (Weezer, Blue)

#2: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)

#1: “Where The Streets Have No Name” (U2, Joshua Tree)

Without the aforementioned restrictions, the list would look a little different:

#10: “Black Dog”

#9: “Miss You” (Rolling Stones, Some Girls)

#8:  “My Name is Jonas”

#7: “Tunnels”  (Arcade Fire, Funeral)

#6: “Like a Rollin’ Stone” (Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisted)

#5: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

#4:  “Where The Streets Have No Name”

#3: “Thunder Road”  (Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run)  If I can editorialize here:  “Thunder Road” might be my favorite song of all time, but I place it only third in this category because “Born to Run” would have been a superior choice to start the album.  It has more energy, and doesn’t leave you as emotionally drained after. “Thunder Road” could have been the epic closer that “Jungleland” seeks to be, or even closed the first half of the album, since this was during the vinyl era.

#2: “Gimme Shelter” (Rolling Stones, Let it Bleed)

#1: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”  (Nirvana, Nevermind)

Write in or comment with your own suggestions.

Update: The following comment came in from Russ-

Gone, Black Crowes, Amorica. Iit sets a great tone for an album filled with gems, and when the drums and second guitar kick in, i still freak out. Also, kinda surprised Welcome to the Jungle doesn’t get a mention. And in the first song as potentially best song of the album, what, no Purple Haze?

“Welcome to the Jungle” certainly should be on there.   Duly noted.

About Janos Marton

Janos Marton is a lawyer, advocate and writer.
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3 Responses to Best Opening Track Of All Time?

  1. Matt says:

    Black Dog is an interesting choice. The first song that came to my mind was “Good Times Bad Times” off the almighty Zeppelin’s debut album. I think it gets bonus points for being the first song on their first album.

    And while I like “My Name is Jonas,” I prefer “Tired of Sex” off Pinkerton – it really sets the tone for the rest of the album, and the opening guitar feedback simply rawks.

    • janosmarton says:

      ‘First song on first album’ would be a fun list as well, and “Good Times, Bad Times” would certainly be a pretty dominant pick there. What else would be good on that list…”Bone Machine” by the Pixies, “Break on Through”, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Time to Pretend”…

      As for Weezer, I feel like “Jonas” is way more anthemic, plus it has the same letters as Janos. “Tired of Sex” is plenty good too though.

  2. Great call including Second Hand News. It’s so great to buy a record, hear the first ten seconds of the firs track, and know immediately that you have made a wise investment.

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