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'She's Not There' and other great debut singles

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.”

What else…

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.


3 Σχόλια

Bob Purse
Bob Purse
10 Μαΐ 2022

First, I agree with you on The Box Tops, The Zombies, Elvis, Camper Van Beethoven and Chuck Berry. And I think "Mixed Up Confusion" absolutely belongs on the list. Now I'll go into left field for some esoteric additions, in roughly chronological order.

Les Paul's "New Sound" - Lover

The Weavers - The Hammer Song

Nervous Norvus - Transfusion

Patience and Prudence - Tonight You Belong to Me

Joe and Ann - Gee Baby (I know - you've never heard of it)

Roger Miller - My Pillow

Gene Pitney - Love My Life Away

Van Morrison (as a solo, anyway) - Brown Eyed Girl

Mungo Jerry - In the Summertime

Adam Ant (again, as a solo) - Goody Two Shoes

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Owen O'Donnell
Owen O'Donnell
25 Μαρ 2022

"Do You Believe in Magic?" by the Lovin' Spoonful certainly ranks as a great debut single by a great singles band. I think that something like their first nine singles all landed in the top ten. I miss singles bands.

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"Last Train to Clarksville," the Monkees subversive anti-war single showed the made-for-TV band wasn't just--wait for it--monkeying around. So many great debut singles were one hit wonders (I don't know why "Master Jack" just popped into my head).

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