The 5 best songs to open an album

A few of us from Musicscramble HQ went along to the Hydro to see Nine Inch Nails recently and pre-gig were chatting about Mad Season, a band I’d no dealings with. Graeme was kind enough to lend me a copy of their only album, Above – released almost two decades ago – and on first listen, I instantly fell in love with opening track ‘Wake Up ‘.

I then got thinking “what are my favourite album openers?” so decided to go and trawl through my vast collection and put a top five together in no particular order a la High Fidelity. Here it is, my top 5 tracks which start an album; side one, track one.

Mad Season – Wake Up
mad-season-above-album-cover‘Wake Up’ starts off soothing the soul with a slow, smooth amble. With such a powerful and emotional feel to it, it makes you want to sink into that leather chair, put on the headphones, crank it and take it all in. That bass. Oh, that bass. I honestly can’t remember a time where I’ve fallen in love with a bass hook over a guitar or vocal, and we’re not talking about just any vocal here either, we’ve got Layne Staley on this. As for guitar, we have Mike McCready, who’s not too shabby with a bit of wood and six strings.

There’s some awesome riffage and a solo straight out of the Pearl Jam recipe book for good measure but that simplistic and dulcet bass from John Baker Saunders is up there with the best for me.

Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock
smashing-pumpkins-siamese-dream-album-coverBilly Corgan is a very Marmite character. Fortunately for me I can tolerate his flaws, probably because I can see the guy is an absolute genius. Yeah, he’s a controlling dick when it comes to arrangements and band members but look at the catalogue he’s going to leave behind then tell me he did it the wrong way. Nah, didn’t think so.

A piece of that genius is found on Siamese Dream opener ‘Cherub Rock’- one song on an album full of hits – It captures you instantly with its snare drum intro and simple-yet-effective opening riff, slowly but surely building into a fit of rage and torment.

The build up to the solo is magical too, lifting you up and throwing you off the top of a metaphorical skyscraper before allowing you to pull the cord and float back down with the remainder of the track.

Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
guns-n-roses-appetite-for-destruction-album-coverPossibly the most obvious choice here but I was 8 years old when I heard this for the first time. Safe to say it’s the song that sent me down this path of musical taste that I’m on. I sometimes wish I could travel back and listen to it for the first time, again.

The ringing guitars, Axl’s scream, the building tension between bass and drums – all giving way to one of the most recognisable riffs and opening line, “Welcome To The Jungle…”. Everything about this song is classic. I wonder how many others were hearing this song and thinking, “Wow!, this is the kind of music I want to listen to”? I’m guessing I’m not alone.

Deftones – My Own Summer [Shove It]
deftones-around-the-fur-album-coverThere’s just a sexy and dirty sound to the simple riff that kicks off this track. The down-tuned guitar is thick and the repetitive lick is mesmerising. The haunting style of Chino’s vocal helps build the mood before the pre-chorus comes crashing in.

‘My Own Summer’ was a bit of a gateway track for me. I’d never really dabbled in Deftones until Around the Fur was released and this one instantly grabbed me. Whether it be the aforementioned guitar and bass hooks, the exotic drums or Chino’s torn vocal. Something on this track will grab you, but if it doesn’t, you’re clearly never going to get Deftones.

Machine Head – Davidian
machine-head-burn-my-eyes-album-coverNever mind the famous line “let freedom ring with the shotgun blast”, this song takes a massive swing and kicks you directly in the balls. The speed of the kick-drum and the crunchy guitar mixed with harmonics has Machine Head written all over it.

An instant hit and crowd favourite ensured Robb Flynn would never have to sing the chorus at a live show ever again. The change-up at around three and a half minutes drops the tempo but allows for an awesome headbanging outro.

I’ve put together a playlist of these tracks and some others which didn’t quite make the top five spot. You can listen to them all below.

Alan Gray

Senior Writer at Musicscramble. Listens to a wide range of music. A sucker for a heavy bass line and a thundering guitar hook. Loves getting his gig on but also loves to walk up mountains and climb big-ass boulders.

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2 thoughts on “The 5 best songs to open an album

  1. Props for ‘We Die Young’ Them Bones would be up there too! I’d have to add ‘Only Shallow’ – My Bloody Valentine as well!

    • Alan June 2, 2014 at 14:19 - Author

      Thanks Ritchie, I’ll get ‘Them Bones’ added, that is a very good shout! As for MBV, not a personal favourite but that’s what’s interesting about the responses to this kind of article. What may not be great to me may be a favourite to someone else. Cheers for the feedback!