30 Best 1970s Debut Singles In Rock Music

30 Best 1970s Debut Singles In Rock Music

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Our 30 Best 1970s Debut Singles In Rock Music looks at the decade of the 1970s. It was a decade that spawned some of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. We had to split up our debut singles series into decades because it would have been impossible just to pick 30 from all of rock history. Even narrowing it down to just 30 per decade makes it still incredibly challenging. What also makes a series like this difficult is that many bands released different debut singles worldwide with different dates and singles. Since we are based in New York, we will stick with the debut singles released in the US.  We spanned the entire decade and mixed it up with a list of different rock genres. So here we go…… We start out with our top 10 and then add the next 20 below that list.

# 10 – Roxanne – The Police

“Roxanne” is a track by The Police, featured on their debut album Outlandos d’Amour, which was released in 1978. The song was recorded in January and February of that year at Surrey Sound Studios, a relatively low-cost studio located in Leatherhead, Surrey, England. Produced by The Police and Nigel Gray, a co-owner of Surrey Sound Studios, the song marked a significant departure from the punk rock sound prevalent at the time, incorporating reggae rock elements that would become a hallmark of The Police’s sound.

The song’s lineup features Sting on bass guitar and lead vocals, Andy Summers on guitar, and Stewart Copeland on drums. “Roxanne” was written by Sting, supposedly inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the band’s seedy hotel in Paris where they stayed during a tour. The song’s narrative centers around a man who falls in love with a prostitute, pleading with her to stop her work. The distinctive opening of the song, where Sting accidentally sits on a piano keyboard and laughs, was kept in the final recording, adding a unique and human touch to the track. Despite its slow start, failing to chart initially, “Roxanne” later became a radio staple and a major hit, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, showcasing The Police’s potential to blend rock with reggae and creating a sound that was entirely their own.

# 9 – Can’t Get Enough – Bad Company

“Can’t Get Enough”  was featured on Bad Company’s debut album Bad Company, which was released in 1974. The recording sessions for the album took place in November 1973 at Headley Grange, Hampshire, England, a location famous for its use by several high-profile rock bands of the era. The album was produced by Bad Company, with assistance from Ron Nevison as the recording engineer, capturing the raw energy and essence of the band’s live sound. The lineup for this track, as well as the rest of the album, includes Paul Rodgers on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Mick Ralphs on lead guitar and backing vocals, Boz Burrell on bass, and Simon Kirke on drums.

“Can’t Get Enough” was penned by guitarist Mick Ralphs, who brought the song with him from his previous band, Mott the Hoople. It quickly became one of Bad Company’s most popular songs, characterized by its driving rhythm, straightforward rock guitar riffs, and Paul Rodgers’ powerful, soulful vocals. Upon its release, “Can’t Get Enough” achieved significant commercial success, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming one of the band’s biggest hits.

# 8 – A Horse with No Name – America

America stands as one of the most loved bands of the 1970s. Their run of hits was short, but they released some of the most heartwarming tracks we have ever heard. “A Horse with No Name” is a song featured on their self-titled debut album, America, released in 1971. The song was recorded at Trident Studios in London in late 1971 and was produced by Ian Samwell, with Jeff Dexter as a co-producer. The band members involved in the creation of the song were Dewey Bunnell, who wrote the song and provided lead vocals and guitar; Gerry Beckley on backing vocals and guitar; and Dan Peek also on backing vocals and guitar. Upon its release, “A Horse with No Name” achieved significant commercial success, reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot in the United States.

# 7 – Is She Really Going Out with Him? – Joe Jackson

This was such a cool-sounding tune when it first came out. Nothing had sounded like this before, which, of course, was symbolic of most of the songs on this list. It’s why these bands and artists broke big. They were pioneers of an utterly brand-new sound.

“Is She Really Going Out with Him?”  by Joe Jackson, was featured on his debut album Look Sharp!, released in 1979. The song was recorded in 1978 at Eden Studios and TW Studios in London. The musicians on this track, apart from Joe Jackson on vocals and piano, include Gary Sanford on guitar, Graham Maby on bass, and Dave Houghton on drums.

# 6 – Just What I Needed – The Cars

Do you remember hearing this one the first time, and thinking, who is this? That pretty much goes for most of the songs on this list. “Just What I Needed” by The Cars was released on their debut album, The Cars, in 1978. The song was recorded between February and May 1978 at AIR Studios in London, under the guidance of producer Roy Thomas Baker. This song, among others from the album, played a pivotal role in defining the new wave genre, blending rock and pop with synthesizer-driven sounds. Upon its release, “Just What I Needed” received critical acclaim and commercial success, becoming one of The Cars’ most recognizable and enduring hits. It reached number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, marking the band’s successful entry into the mainstream music scene.

# 5 – Feels Like The First Time – Foreigner

“Feels Like the First Time” was one really excellent tune by British-American rock band Foreigner. It was released on their self-titled debut album, Foreigner in 1977. The song was recorded in late 1976 at Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City. The band’s original lineup on this track included Lou Gramm on lead vocals, Mick Jones on guitar and backing vocals, Ian McDonald on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals, Al Greenwood on keyboards, Ed Gagliardi on bass, and Dennis Elliott on drums. This ensemble of top notch musicians crafted a sound that was a powerful blend of rock, pop, and rhythm and blues, distinguishing Foreigner’s debut as a significant release in the rock genre of the late 1970s. Upon its release, “Feels Like the First Time” received widespread acclaim and climbed the charts, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

# 4 – Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

“Sultans of Swing” is a track that not only marked the debut of Dire Straits but also became one of their most enduring and beloved songs. Recorded in February 1978 at Basing Street Studios in London, the song was produced by Muff Winwood, showcasing the band’s distinctive sound characterized by Mark Knopfler’s fluid guitar playing and dexterous fingerpicking style. The song was a part of Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album, Dire Straits, and featured Mark Knopfler on lead vocals and lead guitar, his brother David Knopfler on rhythm guitar, John Illsley on bass, and Pick Withers on drums. The combination of Mark Knopfler’s narrative songwriting and the band’s laid-back rock sound was pivotal in defining the band’s style.

Lyrically, “Sultans of Swing” offers a vivid portrayal of a jazz band performing in a nearly deserted pub in South London, with Knopfler’s keen observational narrative painting a picture of the scene with a novelist’s eye for detail. The song’s protagonist, an unassuming jazz band, finds contentment in their music despite the lack of fame and fortune, embodying the pure joy of musical performance. This theme resonates with the ethos of many musicians who play for the love of music rather than commercial success. The song’s title, a witty nod to the band’s unfashionable style in the punk-dominated late ’70s London music scene, also hints at the irony of Dire Straits’ own meteoric rise to fame.

The song’s intricate guitar work, coupled with its narrative depth, set it apart from much of the popular music of the time. It climbed the charts in both the UK and the US, peaking at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart and number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

# 3 – Take It Easy – The Eagles

“Take It Easy” was issued on the album, Eagles, released in 1972. The song was recorded in early 1972 at Olympic Sound Studios in London and was produced by Glyn Johns, an influential figure known for his work with other major rock acts of the era. The recording features Glenn Frey on lead vocals and guitar, Bernie Leadon on guitar and backing vocals, Randy Meisner on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Don Henley on drums and backing vocals. “Take It Easy” is notable for being one of the band’s first singles, laying down the foundation for their signature sound that masterfully blends rock with elements of country music.

Written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, “Take It Easy” captures the laid-back, carefree ethos of the early 1970s, encouraging listeners to not let the complexities of life weigh them down. Upon its release, “Take It Easy” was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, reaching number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

# 2 – You Really Got Me – Van Halen

Even though this is a cover song, there was no way we were keeping Van Halen off this list. Eddie Van Halen just completely blew everyone away with his phenomenal guitar playing. The sound of this band and their attitude was exactly what rock and roll needed in 1978 as punk and new wave were taking over the airwaves. Van Halen proved that heavy metal or hard rock, or whatever you wanted to call it, was not dead; in many ways, it was beginning a new chapter with Van Halen leading the way.

# 1 – More Than A Feeling – Boston

We close out our 10 Best 1970s Debut Singles In Rock Music list with what we feel may be the greatest debut single of all time, let alone the 1970s. “More Than a Feeling” is the iconic opening track from Boston’s debut album, Boston, released in 1976. The song was recorded over a six-month period between 1975 and 1976 at Foxglove Studios, Capitol Studios, and The Record Plant with Tom Scholz, the band’s founder, serving as the principal producer. Scholz’s background in engineering and his meticulous attention to detail were evident in the song’s polished sound, which was groundbreaking at the time.  Upon its release, “More Than a Feeling” was a commercial success, peaking at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and propelling Boston to become one of the best-selling debut albums of all time.

20 more of the most outstanding debut singles of the 1970s are listed in no particular order.

# 30 – Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band

# 29 – Gimme Three Steps – Lynyrd Skynyrd

# 28 – There Goes Another Love Song – Outlaws

# 27 – I Just Want to Make Love to You – Foghat

# 26 – 10538 Overture – Electric Light Orchestra

# 25 –  Lucky Man – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

# 24 – Doctor, My Eyes – Jackson Browne

# 23 – Hasten Down the Wind – Warren Zevon

# 22 – Hold The Line – Toto

# 21 – That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be – Carly Simon

# 20 – Taxi – Harry Chapin

# 19 – Keep Yourself Alive – Queen

# 18 – Anarchy in the U.K. – The Sex Pistols

# 17 – Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel

# 16 – My Sharona – The Knack

# 15 – Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones

# 14 -Rock Lobster – The B-52’s

# 13 – Ol’ ’55 – Tom Waits

# 12 – Stuck in the Middle with You – Steelers Wheel

# 11 – Breakdown – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

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