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Top 10 Album-Opening Tracks

The Who
Hutton Archives, Getty Images

The importance of an album-opening track cannot be underestimated. The first cut can either reel listeners in or turn them off. Some of rock's greatest songs are leadoff tracks, and the albums they open are among the biggest of all time. As part of our “Great Starts” week, here's Ultimate Classic Rock's list of the Top 10 Album-Opening Tracks:

AC/DC Hells Bells


‘Hells Bells’



From ‘Back in Black,’ 1980

In addition to paying tribute to late singer Bon Scott, this album-opening track off 1980's 'Back in Black' introduced the world to AC/DC's new frontman, Brian Johnson. 'Hells Bells' kicks off AC/DC's biggest album with a rolling thunder. It's a take-no-prisoners track powered by in-your-face lyrics, colossal guitars, pounding drums and Johnson's massive vocals.


Van Halen Runnin' With the Devil


‘Runnin’ With the Devil’

Van Halen


From ‘Van Halen,’ 1978

Van Halen's 1978 self-titled debut gets off to a roaring start with this cut. 'Runnin' With the Devil' provided the perfect introduction to the band, showcasing Eddie Van Halen's guitar virtuosity and David Lee Roth's powerful swagger. If only the band members' personalities gelled as much as their musicianship, the ensuing ride would have been a lot less bumpy.


Boston More Than a Feeling


‘More Than a Feeling’



From ‘Boston,’ 1976

It apparently took Boston guitarist Tom Scholz several years to write this song, but it took the music world by storm once it saw the light of day. 'More Than a Feeling' opens Boston's 1976 self-titled debut disc with what is now one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history. With the added ingredient of Brad Delp's histrionic vocals, the tune is a melodic tour de force.


The Beatles Come Together


‘Come Together’

The Beatles


From ‘Abbey Road,’ 1969

Of all the Beatles' hits, 'Come Together' is arguably the one that rocks the hardest. The track kicks off the Fab Four's 1969 classic 'Abbey Road' with Paul McCartney's groovy bass line and one of John Lennon's strongest vocal performances. The song was famously covered by Aerosmith on the soundtrack to the 1978 film 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'


Queen We Will Rock You


‘We Will Rock You’



From ‘News of the World,’ 1977

Queen didn't need instruments to introduce their 1977 disc, 'News of the World.' Aside from Brian May's guitar work on the last 30 seconds of the song, 'We Will Rock You' is powered by a steady stomp, stomp, clap and Freddy Mercury's thrilling vocals. Often paired with the disc's next track, 'We Are the Champions,' the song has become a staple in sports arenas everywhere.


Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit


‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’



From ‘Nevermind,’ 1991

With this album-opening track's first line (“Load up on guns and bring your friends”), Nirvana let the music world know that they were ready for battle. Not only did 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' kick off the band's landmark 1991 disc, 'Nevermind,' it launched a musical uprising. Against his own wishes, 'Teen Spirit' helped make Kurt Cobain the voice of a generation.


Guns N' Roses Welcome to the Jungle


‘Welcome to the Jungle’

Guns N’ Roses


From ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ 1987

Guns N' Roses spell out exactly what to expect on their 1987 debut disc, 'Appetite for Destruction,' with its opening cut 'Welcome to the Jungle' — both in the song's title and its music. From Slash's mesmerizing guitar intro to Axl Rose's high-pitched wail, the track prepares listeners for one of the most wild and exhilarating rides ever assembled on one album.


Led Zeppelin Black Dog


‘Black Dog’

Led Zeppelin


From ‘Led Zeppelin IV,’ 1971

Robert Plant proves why he's the 'Golden God' in this lead track off 1971's 'Led Zeppelin IV.' From the opening line (“Hey, hey mama said the way you move / Gon' make you sweat, gon' make you groove”), his falsetto voice and suggestive lyrics ooze sexuality. Add a classic riff written by bassist John Paul Jones and played by guitarist Jimmy Page, and 'Black Dog' is truly electrifying.


Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet


‘Sympathy for the Devil’

The Rolling Stones


From ‘Beggars Banquet,’ 1968

The Rolling Stones courted controversy with this opening number off 1968's 'Beggars Banquet.' Mick Jagger sings from the perspective of Lucifer himself as he recounts several historical atrocities, including the then-recent Kennedy assassinations. Musically, 'Sympathy for the Devil' features the Stones experimenting with samba beats in one of their greatest compositions ever.


The Who Baba O'Riley


‘Baba O’Riley’


From ‘Who’s Next,’ 1971

The Who deliver one of the most powerful songs in rock 'n' roll history with this album-opening track off 1971's 'Who's Next.' One listen to 'Baba O'Riley' demonstrates Pete Townshend's musical genius, Roger Daltrey's incredible pipes, John Entwistle's masterful bass playing and Keith Moon's unbelievable drumming. All told, the track defines the term 'rock anthem.'


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