#1 in your discman & heart?
July 30, 2009 2:21 PM   Subscribe

In the spirit of so many past excellent ask.mefi music questions, what is your all time favorite opening album track? I want to make a mixtape of awesome opening songs.
posted by ejoey to Media & Arts (103 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The first track on the Pulp album This Is Hardcore, The Fear, is a wonderfully moody opener, and really sets the tone for the album.
posted by ktrey at 2:25 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Debaser" on Doolittle by the Pixies. Something about the bass line, the melodic guitars, and then the screaming...so good.
posted by cacahuete at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2009

"Little Fury Things" from Dinosaur Jr's You're Living All Over Me is a scorcher.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2009

"Where the Streets Have No Name". Parents bought a Camaro in '87 and let me take it for a drive once. I popped this tape in as I was pulling out of the driveway. Hearing the song for the first time, it was a religious experience.
posted by @troy at 2:30 PM on July 30, 2009

"Come Together" is pretty hard to beat.
posted by Rinku at 2:33 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Advent" on Opeth's Morningrise. I don't think many, if any, bands have ever written a better quiet intro-to-blastbeats-and-distorted-guitars transition and then gone right back to a quiet, contemplative part just to fuck with every band trying to outdo them.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:34 PM on July 30, 2009

All right! My kinda question! Can I pick more than one?
"Concrete Jungle" on Bob Marley's "Catch a Fire"
"Dead and Bloated" on Stone Temple Pilots' "Core"
"Ain't Got You" on Bruce Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love"
Man I could go on all day........
posted by ehoenig77 at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2009

Witch Hunt on Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil comes to mind.
posted by dubitable at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: I was gonna say Debaser too!
posted by ejoey at 2:40 PM on July 30, 2009

"Everything Right is Wrong Again" from TMBG's debut is a great way to start an album and a career, but my fave is "Summer's Cauldron">"Grass" from XTC's Skylarking.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:42 PM on July 30, 2009

"Lazy Calm" from the Cocteau Twins' Victorialand. Perfect to wake up to, or for driving through the Rocky Mountains for the first time (first time I heard it).
posted by rikschell at 2:42 PM on July 30, 2009

I'll be obvious: "Back in the USSR" from the White Album. Rockets!
posted by flawsekno at 2:44 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Audioslave - "Cochise"

It rocks juuuust right.
posted by Turkey Glue at 2:46 PM on July 30, 2009

Faron Young on Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen... it had a huge effect the first time I heard it.
posted by itsjustanalias at 2:51 PM on July 30, 2009

Serve the Servants by Nirvana. Great sound, great riff, great lyrics, great melody.
posted by fire&wings at 2:52 PM on July 30, 2009

"Whole Lotta Love" from the Led Zeppelin II album.
posted by torquemaniac at 2:53 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Fight Test" on the Flaming Lip's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Not their best song, but it is the absolute perfect start to the album.
posted by muddgirl at 2:53 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I tried to pick from these and found it impossible. I apologize.

"Feel" on Big Star's #1 Record
"Welcome to the Working Week" on Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True
"Plainsong" on the Cure's Disintegration
"Stuck Between Stations" on the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America
"Flip Your Wig" on Hüsker Dü's Flip Your Wig
"Just Like Honey" on the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy
"Disorder" on Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures
"The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1" on Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
"I Will Dare" on the Replacements' Let It Be
"The Queen Is Dead" from the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" from Sparks' Kimono My House
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:55 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Also, "Stranglehold" from the Ted Nugent album.
posted by torquemaniac at 2:57 PM on July 30, 2009

"London Calling" from London Calling by the Clash
posted by IanMorr at 2:59 PM on July 30, 2009

Five Years from Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album... Pulls you into the world of the album in nice understated ways before introducing the hysteria and discord.
posted by merocet at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is one of those questions that should be subjective and blah blah personal taste, but yeah, the answer is Debaser.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:04 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Runnin' with the Devil" from Van Halen's first album.
posted by doh ray mii at 3:05 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Boy With The Aubergine Hair – The 88, Minuit
Astradyne – Vienna, Ultravox
I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

New Order were particularly good at getting things going back in the day with:
Age Of Consent – Power, Corruption & Lies
Love Vigilantes – Low Life
Fine Time – Technique

Speaking of Manchester (OK, Prestwich) types, The Fall made a good habit of the second track being the real start apart from with New Big Prinz on I Am Kurious Oranj.

Oh and, Everyone's at It – It's Not Me, It's You, Lily Allen.

That's a lorra, lorra favourites...
posted by i_cola at 3:05 PM on July 30, 2009

(So basically, no, the answer isn't Debaser.)
posted by i_cola at 3:06 PM on July 30, 2009

The overture to "2112"!

Also, and I really don't mean to be an ass, but why is this not chatfilter?
posted by jbickers at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2009

Lose Control, on Ash's 1977.
Sound effect of a TIE Fighter flying past, then blistering guitar intro. Awesome.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:17 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

seconding London Calling
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:27 PM on July 30, 2009

"Teen Age Riot" from Daydream Nation is the first one that came to mind. Kim Gordon's whispering is just so inviting.
posted by besonders at 3:29 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd have to say Freak Scene from Dinosaur Jr's Bug. Impossible not twist that volume knob up all the way. Although Seven Nation Army from the White Stripes kicks off Elephant in fine style too.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 3:29 PM on July 30, 2009

Call me old fashioned but the first thing I thought of was "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from Nirvana's Nevermind.
posted by Bonzai at 3:30 PM on July 30, 2009

It's really long, but so rockin' and so intense: "Pass the Hatchet, I think I'm Goodkind" by Yo La Tengo from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
posted by hellogoodbye at 3:32 PM on July 30, 2009

"Mambo de la Luna" from Tropical Brainstorm by Kirsty MacColl. Sets the mood for the rest of the album perfectly, and is a bright, evocative track in its own right.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:12 PM on July 30, 2009

"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" from Arcade Fire's Funeral

"The Man Comes Around" from Johnny Cash's American IV
posted by dogwalker at 4:29 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Intro from Bad Brains I against I .
Up the Beach from Jane's Addictions Nothings Shocking.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:34 PM on July 30, 2009

'Anvil of Crom' from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack.
"Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!" *Boom*boom*Boom*boom*
posted by fings at 4:41 PM on July 30, 2009

"Pull Me Under" from Dream Theater's album, Images and Words
"One of These Days" from Pink Floyd's album, Meddle
posted by parilous at 4:43 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Taxman from Revolver.

You know if John and Paul let it go first that that meant George did real good.
posted by droplet at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The King of Carrot Flowers on Neutral Milk Hotel's Aeroplane Over the Sea
Like a Rolling Stone on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited
Brown Sugar on the Stone's Sticky Fingers
Dramamine on Modest Mouse's This is a Long Drive...
And most importantly,

Shine on You Crazy Diamond on Floyd's With You Were Here

Great question.
posted by eytanb at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2009

Gimme Shelter (from Let it Bleed) comes to mind.

Getting in Tune from Who's Next is also an excellent choice, for those of us who first bought the album on vinyl, with a Side 1 and Side 2. I always started with Side 2 first. The song is about playing and singing in a relaxed tone, to warm up for the remainder of the album, which of course kicks ass. Then, at the end of Side 1, the album says its goodbyes with "The Song is Over".

CDs destroyed that.
posted by yclipse at 4:54 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Bowie's "Five Years".
posted by equalpants at 4:56 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Blur: Girls & Boys, off Parklife
posted by rottytooth at 4:56 PM on July 30, 2009

John Barth did the same thing in his inaugural book, The Floating Opera. Chapter 1 is entitled "Tuning My Piano" and essentially involved free-wheeling writing so that he could find his groove. And he did.
posted by yclipse at 4:58 PM on July 30, 2009

It's out of place on this list, but "The Birth and Death of the Day", from Explosions in the Sky's All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (2006). When that tremolo comes in shrieking… whoa.

…but another vote for Age of Consent.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:05 PM on July 30, 2009

The Hungry Wolf from X's Under the Big Black Sun.
posted by chez shoes at 5:09 PM on July 30, 2009

Crop Circles on the Powertrip album by Monster Magnet.
posted by krisak at 5:17 PM on July 30, 2009

I definitely agree with King of Carrot Flowers or Debaser. These might also merit your attention:
Big Exit from PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.
Stolen Car from Beth Orton's Central Reservation.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:21 PM on July 30, 2009

I hate to admit it, but Insane Clown Posse in their later years had some amusing openers. The Wraith album, in particular.

I didn't say good, I said amusing.
posted by krisak at 5:31 PM on July 30, 2009

Weezer, "Tired of Sex," off of Pinkerton.
posted by sun-el at 5:53 PM on July 30, 2009

The theme song from Hawaii 5-0.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2009

"Only shallow" from Loveless (my bloody valentine)
"Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels)" from Funeral (arcade fire)

(good call on big exit!)
posted by lester the unlikely at 6:03 PM on July 30, 2009

"Beyond Belief" from Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom.
posted by cabingirl at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2009

Great opening tracks; not necessarily the best song on the album, but the songs that start the album and let you know you're in for a ride:

"International Feel" from Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, a True Star
"Khalliouni Khalliouni" from 1, 2, 3 Soleils by Rachid Taha, Khaled and Faudel
posted by bink at 6:22 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Everything In Its Right Place" from Radiohead's Kid A
posted by Chick Pea at 6:24 PM on July 30, 2009

The two that immediately spring to mind (and they're both soft/loud twofers, whatever that says about me) are:

"To All The Girls" -> "Shake Your Rump" (Beastie Boys/Paul's Boutique)
"Hush" -> "Joining A Fan Club" (Jellyfish/Spilt Milk)

(On preview: Yesyesyesyes "International Feel!")
posted by mintcake! at 6:28 PM on July 30, 2009

"To Sheila" by the Smashing Pumpkins (Adore)
"Sodajerk" by Bufffalo Tom (Big Red Letter Day)
"The Act We Act" by Sugar (Copper Blue)
"I'm Sorry" by the Hothouse Flowers (People) - perfect for a sunny day
"Son of Mustang Ford" by Swervedriver (I cheated, it's the first track on the 12")
"We Care a Lot" by Faith No More (We Care a Lot)

Another vote for "Just Like Honey" by the Jesus and Mary Chain. I was driving at 5 AM one morning earlier this year with the windows open in a warm spring when this came on the radio, a perfect moment.

In fact, pretty much everything that punchdrunkhistory mentioned. This list is awesome.
posted by arcticseal at 6:30 PM on July 30, 2009

My favorite: He Lays in the Reins by Iron and Wine/Calexico (In The Reins EP)

Other contenders:
Stuck Between Stations by The Hold Steady (Boys and Girls In America)
Satan is My Motor by Cake (Prolonging the Magic)
Sax Rohmer #1 by The Mountain Goats (Heretic Pride)
Mass Romantic by the New Pornographers (Mass Romantic)
Sleeping Lessons by the Shins (Wincing the Night Away)
Twee by Tullycraft (Beat Surf Fun)
Tutelary Genius by Universal Hall Pass (Mercury)

Also seconding Fight Test.

(Sorry about the long list. Feel free to just use that first one.)
posted by NoraReed at 6:31 PM on July 30, 2009

Wait actually no. London Calling. No question.
posted by NoraReed at 6:37 PM on July 30, 2009

Speechless from Bane - Give Blood
posted by teishu at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2009

"Gateway Song" by Super Furry Animals. It's even better because it's about being a first track.

This song is a gateway song/Why don't you sing along-long/To the gateway song
Brings us up nicely to the harder stuff/And once you get hooked/You can't get enough, oh yeah

This song is a gateway song/It's a numero uno sing-along
Opens up nicely to the harder stuff/And once you get hooked/You can't get enough, oh yeah
posted by dayintoday at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2009

"No Action", Elvis Costello & the Attractions, from This Year's Model.

This is just an incontestable fact.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:59 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

"The Opera House" from The Olivia Tremor Control's Music From the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Helmet - In the Meantime
Quicksand - Omission
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2009

"No Action", Elvis Costello & the Attractions, from This Year's Model.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

The other EC selections put forth above ("Welcome to the Working Week", "Beyond Belief") are well worth mentioning too, and I'd also put forth "Let Them All Talk" from Punch the Clock.
posted by sesquipedalia at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2009

Here's too many more. All-time favorite opening track is something that changes with the wind...

"The Day the World Turned Day-Glo," X-Ray Spex, Germ Free Adolescents
"Ignite," The Damned, Strawberries
"Hungry Freaks, Daddy," The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out
"Re-make, Re-model," Roxy Music, Roxy Music
"Metal Guru," T. Rex, The Slider
"Tenement Lady," T. Rex, Tanx
posted by Devoidoid at 8:29 PM on July 30, 2009

Another - "Auto Music" from the Moving Windows album by Our Daughter's Wedding.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:01 PM on July 30, 2009

#1 goes to "Wouldn't it be Nice" by the Beach Boys

Some other favorite album openers --

"Needles in the Camel's Eye" - Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets
"Lust for Life" - Iggy Pop's Lust for Life
"War Pigs" - Black Sabbath's Paranoid
"Teen age riot" - Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation
"Care of Cell 44" - The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle
"Roadrunner" - Modern Lovers' Modern Lovers
"Into My Arms" - Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call

and definitely nthing "Just Like Honey"
posted by honestamalia at 9:25 PM on July 30, 2009

I thought this would be easy, then I started looking through my iPod and realized how hard it was. Believe it or not, this list was much longer.

The winner is: Hardcore UFOs - Guided by Voices - Bee Thousand. I love that warble in the initial guitar riff as the tape recorder starts up.

Honorable mentions to:
New Day Rising - Husker Du New Day Rising
Box of Rain - Grateful Dead American Beauty
Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced?
Fake Empire - The National Boxer
Uncle Phranc - Team Dresch Captain My Captain
Schizophrenia - Team Dresch - Sister
Jimi - Butthole Surfers Hairway to Steven (this might even be my first choice)
The Grudge - Tool - Lateralus
Battery - Metallica Master Of Puppets
Sweet Leaf - Black Sabbath Master of Reality (that cough is awesome)
Radio Free Europe - REM Murmur
Astronomy Domine - Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Angel of Death - Slayer Reign In Blood
Loser - Beck Mellow Gold
Losing Touch With My Mind - Spacemen 3 Sound Of Confusion
Hold My Life - Replacements Tim
More Brother Rides - Palace Viva Last Blues

and the correct Flaming Lips opener is Talkin' 'Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues off of Hit To Death In The Future Head

It hurts to leave off Zappa, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Tortoise, Public Enemy, Fugazi, Drive-By Truckers, and Descendents, plus many of the others mentioned above.
posted by chbrooks at 9:34 PM on July 30, 2009

Seconding "Brown Sugar" off the Stones' '71 album Sticky Fingers.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 9:35 PM on July 30, 2009

btw, Schizophrenia is by Sonic Youth. stupid cut & paste ...
posted by chbrooks at 9:46 PM on July 30, 2009

"Slackjawed," The Connells, Ring
"Stone Cold Yesterday," The Connells, One Simple Word
"Needle Hits E," Sugar, Besides (B-sides compilation)
posted by kirkaracha at 9:50 PM on July 30, 2009

Definitely 2112 but also Children of the Sun by Billy Thorpe. 'specialy through headphones!
posted by Redhush at 9:52 PM on July 30, 2009

Patti Smith Gloria ('jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine..')
Janet Jackson Control (ok, skip ahead to 3:20 for the song to start here)
Curtis Mayfield (Don't worry) If there's a hell below, we're all going to go (modern as ever..)

gimme indie rock
Throwing Muses Bright Yellow Gun
Smog Bathysphere
Pavement We Dance
Helium Pat's Trick
Yo La Tengo Everyday (prob my favorite YLT song)
Low Monkey
Fugazi Waiting Room (classic classic classic)
Palace Music aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy Stablemate

Jesus Lizard Boilermaker
The Birthday Party Sonny's Burning (always a good start to a mix, this)
The (mighty) FALL Lay of the Land (i don't know what's up with this video, but OK)

HOLE - VIOLET is def my favorite of all time, though.
posted by citron at 10:04 PM on July 30, 2009

Blondie- Hanging on The Telephone
London Calling, definitely.
Roxy Music- Love is the Drug
posted by oneirodynia at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2009

Seconding "Plainsong", The Cure, Disintegration
"Feiticeira" Deftones, White Pony
"Prologue/Twilight" ELO, Time (definitely in the top five for albums about time travel)
"Mishima/Opening" Philip Glass, Mishima
"Living in the Plastic Age" Buggles, Age of Plastic
posted by lizjohn at 10:42 PM on July 30, 2009

Vicarious - Tool - 10,000 Days
Let Me Drown - Soundgarden - Superunknown (it keeps building and building; and lots of showy riffs)
Underwhelmed - Sloan - Smeared (here's a cute live version )
AC/DC - Hell's Bells (an oldie but a goodie)
Behind the Lines - Genesis - Duke
Sunnyside of the Street - Pogues - Hell's Ditch
Black Friday - Steely Dan - Katy Lied
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:52 PM on July 30, 2009

Forgot one:
Motel 666 by the incomparable New Duncan Imperials - from way back in 1990's Hanky Panky Parley Voo!
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:13 PM on July 30, 2009

Where They Do Not Know My Name, Horses in the Mines, Bad Livers
The opening lick is one of the most electrifying things I've ever heard a banjo do.
posted by smartyboots at 12:17 AM on July 31, 2009

Matthew Good (Band) - Giant

K-I-C-K-A-S-S. Says so itself.
posted by casarkos at 12:35 AM on July 31, 2009

84th comment and no one has said Thunder Road?!
posted by Roman Graves at 2:26 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Thunder Road," Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. Unquestionably.

I had typed out a list of about a dozen honorable mentions, at least a few of which have been mentioned by others here, but then I looked over the list I had typed and realized that even though they were each excellent in their own right, still none of them came close to "Thunder Road."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:55 AM on July 31, 2009

(And I didn't see Roman Graves's comment before posting because it took me half an hour to go through my collection, find the honorable mentions, then ultimately decide not to post them.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:57 AM on July 31, 2009

Seconding "The Queen Is Dead" and "Disorder"

I'll add:
"Sunday Morning" from The Velvet Underground and Nico album
"Vicious" from Transformer by Lou Reed
posted by wherever, whatever at 3:44 AM on July 31, 2009

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N Roses was such a delightful ball-tearer. Opening track on a debut album. That opening riff is just mental, and every time I hear the song I'm reminded just what a great opening track it is. Why it hasn't been mentioned yet is beyond me.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:50 AM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Godless by the Dandy Warhols from their album "Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia". I like it so much I got it tattooed on my arm.
posted by hnnrs at 4:48 AM on July 31, 2009

Aqualung- Jethro Tull. Best opener evah!
posted by Gungho at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2009

Lisztomania by Phoenix (off of the album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix")
15 Step by Radiohead (off the album "In Rainbows")
posted by chalbe at 6:20 AM on July 31, 2009

Elvis Costello's My Aim is True strats with Welcome to the Working Week. It's is a little over a minute long and is the perfect condensation of everything that's great about that man, that album and that genre.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:51 AM on July 31, 2009

posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:51 AM on July 31, 2009

"Grace, too." on Live Between Us by The Tragically Hip.
posted by chugg at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2009

I have a hard time picking favorites. Good thing OP limited us to opening tracks.

Beastie Boys - Rhymin' & Stealin'
Bush - Everything Zen
The Caesars - Sort It Out
The Crystal Method - Trip Like I Do
The Dandy Warhols - Godless
Days Of The New - Shelf In The Room
Deep Purple - Highway Star [either from Machine Head or Made In Japan (Live)]
Depeche Mode - Barrel Of A Gun
The Doors - Roadhouse Blues
The Eagles - Hotel California
Eric Clapton - Sweet Home Chicago
Foo Fighters - All My Life
Garbage - Shut Your Mouth
Green Day - Nice Guys Finish Last & American Idiot
Jane's Addiction - True Nature
Janis Joplin - Move Over
Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Joe Cocker - Feelin' Alright
John Mellencamp - Authority Song
John Prine - Illegal Smile
Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around
Led Zeppelin - Black Dog & Custard Pie [also You Shook Me (Live, BBC)]
Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins - Poor Boy Blues
Melissa Etheridge - I'm The Only One
Metallica - Enter Sandman
Moby - Honey
Nickelback - Little Friend & Never Again
Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole
Ozzy Osbourne - Mr. Tinkertrain
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil & Gimme Shelter
Soundgarden - Rusty Cage
Stephen Stills - Love The One You're With
Stone Temple Pilots - Down
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Refugee, Wildflowers & Learning To Fly
The Vines - Highly Evolved
The Wallflowers - Letters From The Wasteland
ZZ Top - Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago
posted by maggieb at 1:01 PM on July 31, 2009

Two tracks came to mind when pondering where all the hiphop fits in- both were produced by Dan the Automator

Kool Keith opens Dr. Octagonecologyst with the awesome '3000', then four years later, Del the Funkee Homosapien opens Deltron 3030 with the title track '3030'. Sure, there are brief intro tracks leading in, but both songs kick their albums off perfectly.
posted by Never Better at 4:14 PM on July 31, 2009

Late to the party and a ton of great suggestions here ("London Calling" being my top choice), but here's a few more I haven't seen mentioned yet or that I really want to second:

David Bowie, "Station to Station" (from Station to Station)
The Jam, "All Mod Cons" (from All Mod Cons)
The Stone Roses, "I Wanna Be Adored" (from The Stone Roses)
Tom Waits, "Singapore" (from Rain Dogs)
REM, "Radio Free Europe" (from Murmur)
The Sex Pistols, "Holidays in the Sun" (from Never Mind the Bollocks...)
posted by scody at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2009

The New Pornographers, "Twin Cinema" (from Twin Cinema)

Jellyfish, "Hush->Joining A Fanclub" (from Spilt Milk)

Squeeze, "In Quintessence" (from East Side Story)

Utopia, "Overture: Mountaintop And Sunrise/Communion With The Sun" (from RA)

XTC, "Wake Up" (from The Big Express)
posted by markjamesmurphy at 8:36 PM on July 31, 2009

I'll second the votes for Velvet Underground & Nico's "Sunday Morning" and Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers, part I." I'll also add Charles Mingus, "Track A — Solo Dancer" – Stop! Look! and Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!" from Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.
posted by safran at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2009

Roxy Music, "Street Life" on "Stranded."
posted by Rash at 1:00 PM on August 1, 2009

Garden of Earthly Delights - XTC

It's sort of like an opening track to life.
posted by droplet at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2009

has no one mentioned Gotta Be Startin' Somethin'? Hello! Michael Jackson!
posted by JaiMahodara at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2009

wow, I can't believe I forgot "I Will Follow" and "Gloria" by U2 (from Boy and October).
posted by scody at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2009

Okay, a couple good mentions from upthread:

Astronomy Domine - Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Awww, hell yeah. Names of constellations announced through scratchy megaphone. Get-up-and-go guitar stumming. Morse code. And finally, the Voice. "Lime and limpid green, a second scene, a fight between the blue you once knew.... floating down the sound resounds around the icy waters underground...." What a perfect beginning to Syd Barret's masterpiece. Right away, you know what you're in for -- space exploration, adrenalized energy, emotional rollercoaster ride. Perfect beginning to a perfect album. And of course, the seamless lead-in to spyhunter-tastic Lucifer Sam is just the icing on the cake.

Gimme Shelter (from Let it Bleed) comes to mind.

This one gets extra points for being both an amazing opening track and also for having one of the best openings of any song ever. I can only imagine the time they must have spent on this, because it is flawless. You start with the guitar -- the perfect opening line -- spare, minimal, just the right transition between silence and song. Then we get a little more -- some more guitar, a little percussion, the "whoooo" vocals. Some groovy blues jamming, during which the bass kicks in.... and we're almost ready. Some more jamming, and we get piano -- the perfect hint of bluesy/country soul. And then, right when we're getting comfortable -- we get that BIG SOUND, the one we were waiting for, the one The Stones are always good for. We rocket into the main part of the song, and it's almost like you didn't notice that it started. It's like you've been listening to it all your life. We get Mick's searing vocals and the gospel/soul backup singers -- we feel the heat, we feel the torment, we feel the rage just beneath the surface, this is musical TNT and we are IN IT.

But...... ultimately...... I have to give this one to Brian Eno for Burning Airlines Give You So Much More. The perfect set-up for an album about international espionage, it reads like an old hand ticking through his list of spy contacts and wondering what they're up to. We've got Regina (the narrator's erstwhile girlfriend), a fellow spy who's unexpectedly flown the coop to pursue of her latest mission. You can see her flying above (with a Newsweek on her knee), dozing off and thinking about him, but more importantly, her mission. And we've got the music, which sounds straightforward enough, until you notice that it is delightfully, extravagantly weird! Circling guitar riffs, hissing cymbals, and is that a clave I hear? The whole thing comes off as catchy, mysterious, and vaguely foreign. Brilliant song, brilliant album. Sometimes you wish you could step into the world it creates, just to see what it's all about.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:21 AM on August 2, 2009

Astronomy Domine - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Eh? No, no -- the original pales into insignificance when compared to their live version, which coincidentally is also the first track of Ummagumma.
posted by Rash at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, as a longtime bootleg collector -- at last count, I have over 230 Floyd boots -- I'm tempted to agree with you. But if we're going to choose between Ummagumma and Piper for best album opener, I'm gonna have to go with Piper. Yes, the version of Astronomy Domine on Ummagumma is more adventurous and technically impressive, but the Ummagumma live album is just that -- a live concert album. It does not, to my mind, represent a conceptual whole like Piper does.

I think the "best album opener" award has to take into account what kind of album the track is opening. Astronomy on Piper is the first step in a grand psychedelic journey into Syd Barrett's mind and Swingin' London, circa 1967. It is not a concept album, but like many other great psychedelic works of the era -- such as The End's Introspection and The Zombies Odyssey and Oracle -- it seems to gel effortlessly into a coherent whole. It is both a document of its time and an atlas for a land that only exists within the boundaries of the album.

The Ummagumma live album is an amazing album, and (sadly) the only official live release from one of the best eras of one of the best bands that ever played. But essentially, that's all it is -- a very good live album.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2009

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