My 10 favourite opening tracks

What are your favourite album-opening tracks, asks my colleague Lucy Jones today. I couldn't resist compiling my own list. By wracking my brains and browsing my music collection I came up with the following:

1. Accidents Will Happen by Elvis Costello (Armed Forces)
Elvis's introduction - "Oh, I just don't know where to begin..." - which begins just slightly before the music comes in is what makes this a priceless opener.

2. Sign o' the Times by Prince (Sign o' the Times)
It's an astonishing song first of all, but that stark, frosty synthesiser loop and Prince's poignant lyric make a disturbing beginning for his greatest album.

3. Debaser by Pixies (Doolittle)
This track builds brilliantly to the point where Black Francis gleefully storms in with his lyric about "slicing up eyeballs" - an homage to Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. With Tame and Wave of Mutilation to follow, the opening seven minutes of this album are thrilling.

4. Army of Me by Bjork (Post)
Over a sinister industrial beat Bjork delivers an aloof, imperious vocal. It's slightly unrepresentative of what follows but it remains a great first track.

5. Autobahn by Kraftwerk (Autobahn)
It's not just the opening track - at more than 20 minutes, it's the first half of the album. A masterpiece of electronica that remains absorbing and hugely influential.

6. Solid Air by John Martyn (Solid Air)
This is a masterpiece too but it's also significant for its place in Martyn's career. As the opener of his sixth album, it signalled his maturity as an artist and began a run of four stunning albums.

7. The Fear by Pulp (This Is Hardcore)
Not many opening songs summarise the coming album quite so succinctly as this one: "This is the sound of someone losing the plot, making out that they're ok when they're not. You're going to like it but not a lot. And the chorus goes like this..."

8. Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited)
As far as 'the canon' is concerned, this is the greatest song of all time. Greil Marcus has written an entire book about it. The adoration can be a little off-putting but this truly is a great song and that crack on the drum that opens it may well be the best opening note in popular music.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana (Nevermind)
Another one that's easy to take for granted. We've all heard it too much but it's a great first track, especially for the moment - six seconds in - when Dave Grohl enters like a man trying to break his drum kit into tiny pieces.

10. Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind by Yo La Tengo (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass)
I wanted an odd one for number ten and this is it. It takes nerve to open your album with a ten-minute guitar freakout but I think Yo La Tengo succeed with this hypnotic song.

What do you think? Here's a Spotify playlist of all ten.

Spotify playlist: The Auteurs fantasy setlist

Last year I came up with the idea of the Last.fm fantasy setlist. It was swiftly taken up by nobody at all and quickly swept its way nowhere. Undeterred, I'm going to carry on my one-man trend.

The idea of the fantasy setlist is to work out what bands should be playing live, based on the popularity of their songs among users of Last.fm. Here's how I explained the idea at the time:

Here's the idea: you go to the Last.fm page for a band and take the top 20 most played songs for the last six months. Put them in reverse order and you have the ideal setlist, finishing with the band's most popular song. We'll assume two encores with songs 16, 17 and 18 making up the first encore and songs 19 and 20 the second.

I read Luke Haines' Britpop memoir, Bad Vibes, today. It's a very funny book. There will be a full review on 26 Books in due course but in the meantime I thought I'd create a Luke Haines/Auteurs fantasy setlist.

To make the setlist, I combined the top 20 for The Auteurs with the top 20 for Luke Haines' solo material. Here's what Last.fm thinks Luke should play:

Main set: Chinese Bakery/ Married to a Lazy Lover/ Home Again/ New French Girlfriend/ Idiot Brother/ Early Years/ Valet Parking/ Light Aircraft on Fire/ Baader Meinhof/ Housebreaker/ Don't Trust the Stars/ Discomania/ Starstruck/ Unsolved Child Murder/ American Guitars
First encore: How Could I Be Wrong/ Bailed Out/ Junk Shop Clothes
Second encore: Showgirl/ Lenny Valentino

I think that set works pretty well. Each of the first three songs comes from a different album. The set contains New Wave, The Auteurs debut, in its entirety but still finds room for the title track from Haines' Baader Meinhof side project as well as the opening track from his soundtrack to Christie Malry's Own Double Entry. However, there's nothing from the final Auteurs album, How I Learned to Love the Bootboys.

It's got a good ending too: Unsolved Child Murder, my favourite Haines song, leads into American Guitars, an early fan favourite, to close the main set, then there's an all-New Wave first encore and a second encore of what are perhaps Haines' two best-known songs, Showgirl and Lenny Valentino.

Interestingly, Haines' view of his best songs seems quite in tune with the opinion of his fans. Two-thirds of the songs from his 2003 album, Das Kapital: The Songwriting Genius of Luke Haines [Spotify link], are present here.

Here's The Auteurs fantasy setlist on Spotify.