The Top 8 Debut Singles from Rock Stars

Whether they like it or not, a band’s first single sticks with them. More often than not, it remained a closer in their live sets for years—if not decades—and will be their calling card for the duration of their career.

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With that considered, picking a debut single can be a mammoth task. It needs to be powerful enough to actually launch their career and classic enough to stand the test of time. The 8 rockers below pulled off those two objectives in spades.

1. “Take It Easy” (Eagles)

Though the Eagles have a fair amount of variety in their music, when looking at their catalog from a bird’s eye view, the characteristics one would likely come up with are: breezy, carefree, and country-influenced. “Take It Easy” encapsulated all three of those descriptors right from the onset of their career.

What could sum up the Eagles’ laid-back vibe better than the line We may lose, and we may win
Though we will never be here again / So open up, I’m climbin’ in / So take it easy

2. “Good Times Bad Times” (Led Zeppelin)

The world’s first taste of Led Zeppelin’s magic was the 1969 single “Good Times Bad Times.”

All of what makes Zeppelin great is accounted for in this track—particularly Robert Plant’s singular vocals and Jimmy Page’s driving guitar.

The song (along with the rest of the record) effectively changed hard rock forever. “It was unforgettable,” Page once told Classic Rock (per Dig). “Everybody just freaked. It was like these four individuals, but this collective energy made this fifth element. And that was it. It was there immediately – a thunderbolt, a lightning flash—boosh! Everybody sort of went, ‘Wow!'”

3. “Mr. Brightside” (The Killers)

20 years on, “Mr. Brightside” is still uniting rooms of people for mass karaoke sessions. It’s a hit that just won’t die—despite some wearying from certain (lame) audiences.

Good rock music should effectively force the listener to scream along to the chorus with the same energy the band’s frontman is putting out. Few songs succeed in that goal better than “Mr. Brightside.”

“I still remember the hairs on my arm standing up when I heard our demo for the first time,” vocalist Brandon Flowers once told Rolling Stone.

4. “More Than a Feeling” (Boston)

The chorus of “More Than a Feeling” launches out of the speakers with a purpose. With this track leading the way, Boston introduced itself to the world as a force to be reckoned with.

It’s more than a feeling / When I hear that old song they used to play / I begin dreaming / ‘Til I see Marianne walk away, lead singer Bred Delp belts out in the chorus.

“More Than a Feeling” changed everything for Boston.  

“I have that letter framed now, but it said that there was nothing new about this music and they were in no way interested,” guitarist Tom Scholz recalled to Music Radar. “Then later, someone went through the proper political channels with Epic, and all of a sudden, they were interested. Still, we didn’t get signed until they heard More Than A Feeling.”

5. “Crazy Train” (Ozzy Osbourne)

Going further down the hard rock spectrum, Ozzy Osbourne made his solo debut with “Crazy Train.”

The guitar riff in “Crazy Train” is one of the most recognizable in music history and the lyrical content couldn’t be a better fit for The Prince of Darkness: Mental wounds still screaming / Driving me insane / I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.

“Crazy Train” offered a rebirth in morale for Osbourne after being booted from Black Sabbath. “I really did think: ‘This is the fucking end for me,'” Osbourne told Classic Rock. “I’d been booted out. I just got fucked up every day. Never went outside. Never even opened the drapes.”

The track ended up earning Osbourne a spot in the Top 10 of Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart, launching him into a successful career twice over.

6. “Creep” (Radiohead)

Though liking “Creep” has now become immediate grounds for poser status in die-hard alternative circles, it did its job back in 1993 when it catapulted Radiohead to the top of their scene.

It became such a ubiquitous hit for the group that even they began to grow weary of it.

“We seemed to be living out the same four and a half minutes of our lives over and over again,” Johnny Greenwood once explained of the band’s early tours. “It was incredibly stultifying.”

“Creep” has stood the test of time, remaining Radiohead’s calling card in the mainstream despite their distaste for it now.

7. “Hey Joe” (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Aptly, Jimi Hendrix opens up his version of “Hey Joe” with a mind-blowing guitar line. From the first few seconds of the track, there is no mistaking the fact that you are listening to a rock god. Given that his status as a deity would eventually be known the world over, “Hey Joe” was the perfect choice for Hendrix’s debut single.

Hey, Joe / Where you gonna run to now,” Hendrix sings in this hazy, ’60s staple.

8. “Dream On” (Aerosmith)

“Dream On” took a minute to catch on when it was shared in 1973 on Aerosmith’s debut album. In fact, it didn’t become a hit until it was re-released in 1976 as a single—a surprising factoid when you think about how iconic “Dream On” is now.

“This song sums up the shit you put up with when you’re in a new band,” Steven Tyler once told Songfacts. “Most of the critics panned our first album and said we were ripping off the Stones. That’s a good barometer of my anger at the press, which I still have. ‘Dream On’ came from me playing the piano when I was about 17 or 18, and I didn’t know anything about writing a song. It was just this little sonnet that I started playing one day. I never thought that it would end up being a real song.”

Photo by Dick Barnatt / Redferns

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