A great first track won’t make an otherwise bad album good, nor will a lame first track ruin a good album. But don’t we all take special pleasure in an album that starts strong? You have your own favourite leadoff tracks; here are five of mine and my reasons for choosing them. No particular order.
1. Pearl Jam, ”Breakerfall,” Binaural:PJ is one of those bands that can almost always be counted on to kick an album off with gusto. “Once” (from Ten), “Brain of J” (Yield), and “Sometimes” (No Code) are among their best songs, and they’re all the first ones on those albums. But “Breakerfall” has that swing, that swing, that swing.
2. Dire Straits, “Down to the Waterline,” Dire Straits: I know that this band became a joke to some people later in their career. But I will never forget the way this album sounded when it was released, right from this stunning first song.
3. The Clash, “London Calling,” London Calling: it will not have escaped your notice that many albums’ title songs come first. How wonderful it is that the greatest rock-and-roll album ever recorded kicks off with one of the best songs ever recorded, too.
4. Pete Townshend, “Rough Boys,” Empty Glass: Wow. Just wow. After all these years, this song still knocks the breath out of me. The rest of the album ain’t too shabby, either.
5. Blondie, “Dreaming,” Eat to the Beat: I have only two words for you: Clem Burke. Sure, Debbie Harry got most of the attention (deservedly, right? What a great, great singer), but try to imagine Blondie without one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll.