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Alternative Rock’s 50 Greatest Debut Singles

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s an opportunity that the artists in this gallery didn’t waste. We’re exploring the 50 greatest debut singles in alt. rock.

Some of these singles launched incredible albums. Others marked the beginning of remarkable careers. A select few even started an entire genre of music.

There are acts in this gallery that never again delivered sounds as interesting as those found on their debut singles. Were the Damned ever again as potent as “New Rose?” Did Living Colour come up with another riff as memorable as the one that fuels “Cult of Personality”? Was Lily Allen’s “Smile” beginner’s luck more than an indication of future brilliance?

Then there are debut singles, great as they are, that only hinted at the remarkable music which would come from these artists in subsequent years and decades. “Creep” couldn’t possibly prognosticate how Radiohead would transform rock and, arguably, the music industry. “Radio Free Europe” wasn’t able to present all the shifts and meanderings to come in R.E.M.’s captivating career. And as epic as “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” is, it didn’t point to all that would explode out of Arcade Fire.

Regardless of what happened afterward, today we’re focusing solely on the debut single – the introduction, the reveal, those first two or three or… nine minutes (we’re looking at you, Bauhaus) in which new artists announced themselves for the first time. Let’s take a second glance at these first impressions.

Next: 10 Bands That Possibly Peaked on Their Debuts

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