A weekly feature in which our writers and photographers share their favourite tracks on a theme.Today, they pick their personal greatest debut singles of all time….
Creative Controle – ‘Bloodrush’ (chosen by Shane Galvin)
I guess I should begin by stating I have a declaration of interest. I managed Creative Controle and Messiah J and The Expert for nine years, my brother is The Expert and I shared a flat with Messiah J. But that’s not important. What is, is that ten years to the very week that ‘Bloodrush’ by Creative Controle was released, it still sounds as fresh and exciting as it did then. In the summer of 1999, I went in to a recording studio with my brother’s band, just to offer some advice, while they recorded a four-track demo. It came out raw and unpolished, but it was captivating. Any pre-conceptions about the idea of an Irish Hip-Hop group were instantly blown away. These three young Dubliners were making the most thrilling music I had heard in years. I wasn’t the only one who thought this.
Quite quickly, with the exchange of three demo tapes, Volta Beats offered to release a single and high-profile gigs came their way. In the spring of 2001, they recorded two tracks for the single – the explosive ‘Bloodrush’ and the magnificently sinister, ‘The Dose’, with its screaming babies and foreboding detuned piano. The requirements of a great debut single are an exhilarating tune, a sound different to its contemporaries, and a feeling that there are even better things to follow. ‘Bloodrush’ has all of these things and more – the intricate rhymes of Messiah J, thunderous beats from The Expert and stupefying scratches courtesy of DJ Mayhem.
Having been involved with the single, there were certain moments related to it which I shall never forget – hearing Steve Lamacq introduce it on BBC Radio 1, seeing the finished product for the first time and the absurdness of Marc Almond introducing the video on television. Messiah J and the Expert have gone on to make better records but ‘Bloodrush’ has a unique quality – a brilliant naivety, a sense of wonder and a bucketload of charm. It’s a record that allowed Irish music to be about more than a bloke with an acoustic guitar or four guys playing loud instrumental guitar music. I may be biased but I think it’s one of the greatest Irish debut singles of all time.
Electribe 101 – ‘Talking With Myself’ (chosen by Ciarán Gaynor)
When Billie Ray Martin put an advert in the NME which said “soul rebel seeks genius”, she stumbled across the blokes with whom she would form Electribe 101. Their debut single ‘Talking With Myself’, a birrova Balearic classic, was originally released in 1988, but didn’t become a proper hit until February 1990 (the equally good ‘Tell Me When The Fever Ended’ went to number 32 the previous autumn). Electribe 101 fell out with each other during the recording of their second album, and Billie went on to chart glory with 1995’s ‘Your Loving Arms’ single. I still listen to ‘Talking With Myself’ regularly as it never fails to warm the proverbial cockles.
The Misfits – ‘Cool/Cough’ (chosen by Patrick Fennelly)
Its 1977, the acid from the sixties is wearing off and bell bottoms have been replaced by drain pipe jeans and leather. The flower power has withered and died and been replaced by angsty, angry youth more eager to express themselves through a more violent and frantic form of music than the blissed out coolness of the previous decade. A plethora of bands emerge, but none quite as strange, or unique as the Misfits. Picture four men, decked head to toe in leather, faces painted like skulls and with their hair all gelled down in front of their face in a single ‘devil lock’. Their first single, ‘Cough/Cool’ married lo-fi guitars with Glenn Danzig’s unmistakable crooning vocals. It was the perfect marriage, made in hell.
The Sugar Hill Gang – ‘Rappers Delight’ (chosen by Alan Moore)
Picture the scene. Its the late 70’s, Hip-Hop/ Graffiti culture is mainly an underground occurrence. DJ Kool Hercs discovery of ‘the breaks’ has sparked the dawn of sampling culture. A musical revolution is born. The Sugar Hill Gang explode onto the scene with this ‘new’ music, bringing it to the masses. The lyrics “I said a hip hop, a hippie, to the hippie, to the hip hip hop…” are some of the most recognisable around and brought the song into many of worlds charts top tens. This debut track and for many it was a debut genre, remains a classic and not to be left out of any turntablists record collection. Indeed a rappers delight.
Last Days of 1984 – ‘River’s Edge’ (chosen by Darragh McCausland)
While it’s great (and tempting) with a feature like this to fish for all-time classics (I was thinking of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hey Porter’), sometimes it’s worth reflecting on the greatness right under our own noses. So I’m going to go with this beautiful future Irish indie classic (when we look back at this fertile period of DIY brilliance) from a new band who hopefully punch at this weight as they continue. The initial hook of ‘River’s Edge’ is the liquid catchiness of a Balaeric rush built to thrill just about anyone. Yet what keeps you coming back is a sophisticated sense of loss and yearning – a tried and tested formula, that may sound pure New Order, but hey what’s wrong with that?
Garbage – ‘Vow’ (Chosen by Lisa Hughes)
“I can’t use what I can’t abuse” – with this ad-libbed mantra began a brief but unforgettable alternative music scene infatuation with Garbage, or more specifically, with flame-haired frontwoman Shirley Manson. Yep, kids of today, that chick from the Sarah Connor
Chronicles was once the subject of many a suggestive interview in mid-90s bible Select, as well as being the owner of the dirtiest laugh in rock and, lest we forget, one of the ballsiest, sexiest singers of the decade. Spitting out lines like “you crucified me but I’m back in your bed” Shirley & Co perfected the post-grunge ethos most clearly in the irreverent ‘Vow’, a song which is essentially self-destruction in 4 polished minutes. Unapologetic in its take-no-prisoners approach, what better introduction to the edgy, often murky but always exhilarating Garbage is there than this? And the video is a glorious slice of mid-90s nostalgia on a plate. Dig in.
Magazine – ‘Shot By Both Sides’ (chosen by Dara Higgins)
Magazine’s debut single in 1978 should have been huge. With a riff so perfect, they used it twice (it reappeared on ‘Lipstick’, by Howard Devoto’s alma mater The Buzzcocks), and lyrics that seemed to disdain the ailing punk scene, all was set to make Magazine the avant garde of post-punk-new-wave-art-rock. Under different circumstances they could have matched the career trajectory of Talking Heads, but that was not to be. Promoting the song on Top of the Pops, Devoto’s chalky pallor was less alien than it was alienating. His demeanour was an eerie contempt for his surroundings, for his audience. With a sneer of derision when McGeoch launches into the guitar solo, it’s as if he’s so prescient that he’s begun to be bored by his own haughty deconstruction. Perhaps he was too ahead of time, perhaps he felt it was all beneath him, perhaps he was simply terrified. If it was art, it was perfect, but it was commercial suicide; the following week the song went down the charts, almost unheard of after a TOTP appearance, and the commercial success they deserved never materialised. The inevitable critical backlash occurred and despite releasing one of the era’s greatest records in The Correct Use of Soap, it was all over by 1981. The main players in the group kept popping up in some of the eighties more seminal acts, but after a couple of equally ill-starred projects, Devoto, once described as the most important man alive, packed in music completely.
Oasis – ‘Supersonic’ (chosen by Daniel Harrison)
They never quite recovered after the overblown cocaine folly of Be Here Now, but for a good three years (94-96) Oasis were nigh-on-untouchable: a thrilling, visceral and – importantly – populist rock band whose influence permeated popular culture. The irresistible swagger of ‘Supersonic’ was where it all began; a cocksure, streetwise statement-of-intent that conveyed the unmistakable sense of a moment being seized. The combination of Liam Gallagher’s distinctive, sneering vocals with the song’s rugged, rough-and-ready groove had the music press scrambling for superlatives (a few months later they released ‘Live Forever’ and all bets were off). However, its the little touches that truly seal ‘Supersonic”s greatness: that slow pick scrape that gives way to Liam’s vocal; the perfectly-judged backing vocals; the way Noel teases out the guitar riff over the song’s closing bars…it’s four-and-a-half minutes of sheer perfection.
The question of the band’s influence can be a thorny one, but it’s telling that a lot of the criticisms levelled at the band – even at the peak of their popularity – seemed to express a very thinly-veiled class snobbery. Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke called them ‘pernicious’ and ‘dangerous’ as well as claiming they ‘made stupidity hip’, at about the same time his band were releasing their hilariously overwrought ‘social commentary’ record A Weekend In The City. Oasis had no such pretensions – what you hear on ‘Supersonic’ and their other early singles is the kind of authentic, instinctive and natural sound that Okereke could never replicate. On the other hand, while acts like The Enemy, Kasabian or Glasvegas may take after Oasis’ bluster and self-confidence, they’ll never in a million years match the sheer alchemy of ‘Supersonic’.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ (chosen by Phil Udell)
“You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham.” Say no more.