Sure, you can make a ballad with a sexy sax solo the first thing people hear on your new record…but why? Here are 25 bands that know how to make a first impression-with thunderous guitar riffs, plane crashes and cathedral bells that signal sonic apocalypse.
25) "Cherub Rock," Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
Billy Corgan, annoyed with the indie rock community at the time, constructed the sonic equivalent of an approaching army and was nominated for a 1994 Grammy for it. Epic in every art-metal sense of the word, this is a song that was built to open a record.
24) "Waiting Room," Fugazi, 13 Songs
This 1989 post-hardcore anthem outlined lead singer Ian MacKaye's new reggae-infused sound in the wake of the dissolution of hardcore punk band Minor Threat.
23) "Message in a Bottle," Police, Regatta de Blanc
An Andy Summers guitar figure opens this 1979 song about a castaway, and the themes of loss and loneliness have a universality that have given the song epic status among the band's fanbase. The band reformed in 2007 to play it at the Live Earth festival.
22) "Where the Streets Have No Name," U2, Joshua Tree
Inspired by the thought that, in Belfast, Ireland, one could tell a person's religion by the street they lived on, the band sketched a template for one of their most influential albums ever.
21) "Jailbreak," Thin Lizzy, Jailbreak
The Irish hard rock band fronted by bassist Phil Lynott broke through in 1976 with this urgent tale of dudes tougher than you. The song remains a classic rock-and Guitar Hero-staple.
20) "Airbag," Radiohead, OK Computer
Having shaken their one-hit moniker ("Creep") with the brilliant 1995 release The Bends, the band returned with a modern rock epic packed with paranoia, alienation and fitful lead singer Thom Yorke.
19) "London Calling," Clash, London Calling
Political and apocalyptic, the Clash went for broke from the first track of this 1979 double album. Over reggae-tinged punk rock, Joe Strummer ranted about "phony Beatlemania" and the possibility of the Thames River overflowing and drowning London.
18) "Sweet Home Alabama," Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping
This epic 1974 opener, originally written as an angry response to two derogatory Neil Young songs, has grown into an anthem for Southern rock and the South itself. A NASCAR fairground wouldn't be the same without it.
17) "Blitzkrieg Bop," The Ramones, Ramones
Originally called "Animal Hop" (which wouldn't have been as good), the band's 1976 single is known as the punk rock anthem. What good time isn't made better by starting with "Hey, ho! Let's go!"?
16) "Space Oddity," David Bowie, Space Oddity
Bowie's cinematic depiction of Major Tom launched them both into the realm of rock and roll fiction. The depiction was so fully realized the BBC featured the song in its television coverage of the real-life lunar landing of Apollo 11.
15) "Hotel California," Eagles, Hotel California
At a certain point in '70s rock, it was tacitly decreed that every band needed a true epic. This 1976 opener/title track about a creepy, druggy hotel somewhere in the Southern California of the mind was the Eagles triumphant entry to that list.
14) "Break On Through (To the Other Side)," The Doors, The Doors
The band's 1967 debut opens with a sinister organ part and builds into lead singer Jim Morrison's truly epic rallying cry. It remains one of classic rock's signature songs.
13) "Seven Nation Army," The White Stripes, Elephant
The opening riff on this #1 modern rock track from 2003 is, indeed, elephantine, created by Jack White running his guitar through a pedal that detunes it one octave. As with most epics, it is a favorite of sporting teams, particularly in European football.
12) "Let's Go Crazy," Prince, Purple Rain
Prince sets a raucous mood for his 1984 opus. The opening eulogy is known by heart if you're an '80s kid ("Dearly Beloved…" etc.) and the end guitar solo recalls the best of Hendrix.
11) "Taxman," The Beatles, Revolver
Beatles freaks may howl that this was picked over 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and there is a valid argument for either, but basically this is a cooler song that opens a cooler album. Cool?
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