Rank and File

The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time

on October 06, 2017, 12:00am

Artwork by Cap Blackard

This week in 1962, The Beatles released their first-ever single, “Love Me Do”, in the UK. Suffice it to say, our collective concepts of pop music, celebrity, and mop-top hairdos have never been the same since. There are at least a half-dozen maxims in English stressing the importance of first impressions. We won’t bore you with them here. However, for the purposes of this project, we more or less treated debut singles like first impressions.

Some of those impressions, like The Beatles’, changed how we listen to and think about music. Others found artists penning their signature songs their first time out or releasing a recording that hinted at greatness to come or inspired the musical direction of others. Of course, not all iconic artists shook the world with their first releases, and some of those omissions are also what make a list like this so compelling. As your dear mother might phrase it, these are the songs that dressed neatest, stood up straightest, smiled, and spoke most politely when we first heard them. And boy did they have us from the get-go.

But first, allow us to clarify a few things before you start reading: Keeping in the above spirit, we defined a debut single as an act’s first real introduction to the public. If the act already put out an EP or an album before pressing and releasing an official single, we didn’t count that. We really wanted to focus on first encounters between acts and the music-consuming public. Now, sure, we knew John Lennon as a Beatle, but we also considered his debut single as a solo artist, “Give Peace a Chance”. We kept that rule constant across the project.

Since The Beatles were the impetus for this list, we’ve only looked at singles that were released during or after 1962 – basically starting from around the time when the LP became the standard release medium. We are infallible … but should you see something, let us know below. That being said, click ahead to see our picks for the 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director