Interviewing Zombies singer Colin Blunstone for Caropop got me thinking about how “She’s Not There” is one of the all-time great debut singles. Released in mid-1964, it’s got a jazzy swing and slinkiness that sets it apart from any British Invasion release of that time.
It’s superior to the debut singles from the Beatles (“Love Me Do”), the Rolling Stones (“Come On”), the Kinks (“Long Tall Sally”), the Animals (“Baby Let Me Take You Home”) and the Hollies (“(Ain’t That) Just Like Me”). I’d also take it over either song you might consider the Who’s debut: “Zoot Suit,” released under the name the High Numbers, or the Kinks-inspired “I Can’t Explain” that introduced the Who.
The Zombies song made a bigger splash than debut singles from other major artists debuting in the early ‘60s as well, such as the Beach Boys (“Surfin’”), Bob Dylan (“Mixed-Up Confusion”), Aretha Franklin (“Today I Sing the Blues”), Stevie Wonder (“I Call It Pretty Music but the Old People Call It the Blues—Part 1”), Marvin Gaye (“Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”) and the Supremes (“Tears of Sorrow” released as the Primettes; “I Want a Guy” was the first under the Supremes name).
It’s hard to hit a homer in the first at-bat.
What are other great debut singles?
Among ‘60s British bands, Procol Harum had a hard time escaping the shadow of its enigmatic, haunting 1967 debut, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
That same year The Pink Floyd unveiled “Arnold Layne,” Syd Barrett’s psychedelic ode to a man who steals women's clothing.
Booker T. and the M.G.’s “Green Onions” (1962) established Stax's house band as major artists in their own right.
In some cases it depends on what you consider a debut. The Byrds were called the Beefeaters on their initial single, “Please Let Me Love You,” but the first one to appear under the Byrds name was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which basically launched folk rock.
Simon & Garfunkel had released several singles as Tom & Jerry and a not-so-popular Simon & Garfunkel folk album, Wednesday Morning, 3AM, before producer Tom Wilson took note of the Byrds’ success and added electric instruments and drums to one of those songs, “The Sound of Silence,” and it became the first Simon & Garfunkel hit single.
Chuck Berry’s Chess Records debut, the unstoppable “Maybelline,” is generally considered his first single, though he’d previously recorded “I Hope These Words Find You Well” for the Ballad label.
Otis Redding had recorded a few barely heard singles before debuting on Stax with the powerhouse ballad "These Arms of Mine."
Likewise, the Jackson 5 released a single, “Big Boy,” on the Gary, Ind.-based Steeltown Records before signing with Motown and bursting out of the gates with the timeless “I Want You Back.”
Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right” is hard to top.
Doors fans would point to “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” which wasn't a hit but did serve as a statement of purpose to kick off the self-titled debut album.
The same goes for “Good Times Bad Times.” Led Zeppelin pointedly wasn’t a singles band.
OK, your turn.