High Fidelity (Nick Hornby, 1995) is a book for and about music freaks. It is a story of a middle aged guy, bit of a loser, left by his girlfriend, who owns and runs a record shop with two equally pathetic friends. Reading it felt a bit like reading about myself, about my musical secrets and the way I live my life. Let’s just say that I know the type of guy and that it could have been me. On page 147 Rob, the main character, describes the best ‘side one track one’ songs of all time. It reads as follows:

  1. The Clash – Janie Jones (from ‘The Clash’)
  2. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road (from ‘Born to Run’)
  3. Nirvana – Smells like Teen Spirit (from ‘Nevermind’)
  4. Marvin Gaye – Let’s get it on (from ‘Let’s get it on’)
  5. Gram Parsons – Return of the Grievous Angel (from ‘Grievous Angel’)

This made me think. What if I would do the same? What would my list be? And what if I would make it even more difficult by limiting myself to opening tracks of self titled debut albums? I should definitely also limit myself to the vinyl era. After all, the introduction of the CD, and later the mp3 file, killed the whole notion of an A and a B side. From Rob’s list only Janie Jones would survive such scrutiny. But why self titled debut albums? Because…the self titled debut album is like kicking in the door, entering the scene with a bang (not a whimper). Black Sabbath did the ultimate by opening the Black Sabbath album (1970) with the song Black Sabbath. It is not a rare phenomenon; many artists started their career with a self titled debut. Some even recorded multiple self titled albums (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Weezer). That this can lead to hilarious situations and is not necessarily a good idea can be read here.

Anyway, a bit of research and some soul searching resulted in my own top 10. Not in any particular order, just 10 brilliant songs on equally brilliant albums. Maybe I shouldn’t have included The Smiths because their debut was released in 1984, just after the introduction of the CD. I thought about it, and decided it was a borderline case and too brilliant a song to exclude. If it makes you any happier, it did exclude ‘Sunday Morning’ from The Velvet Underground’s first album, because the name of the album is ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’, and not ‘The Velvet Underground’. I can be precise, and picky. And I can kill my darlings.

  1. The Doors – Break on through (1967)
  2. The Stooges – 1969 (1969)
  3. Led Zeppelin – Good times bad times (1969)
  4. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
  5. Roxy Music – Re-make/re-model (1972)
  6. Queen – Keep yourself alive (1973)
  7. New York Dolls – Personality crisis (1973)
  8. The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop (1976)
  9. The Clash – Janie Jones (1977)
  10. The Smiths – Reel around the fountain (1984)