Rock and roll music has an incredibly rich catalog of artists’ first recordings that not only showcase formidable talent but, sometimes, become career-defining moments. Call it beginner’s luck, call it the result for hard dues paid, here are 10 of the greatest rock debut albums. Stay tuned for more great debuts…
1. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite For Destruction (1987) – The record that sent waves across the rock world in 1987. Axl Rose became a hero, but drugs, egos and attitudes split the band apart. A case where the parts are bigger than the whole, Guns never fired like this again.
2. Ramones, Ramones (1976) – This LP of 2-minute songs became a blueprint for punk rock, proving that rock music could be fun and dumb, yet clever. Gabba gabba hey!
3. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks (1968) – As far from “Brown Eyed Girl” (thank God!) as could be. Morrison’s debut is an inspired amalgam of folk, jazz and rock. Fans of Them must have been stunned to hear “Madame George” and “Beside You.” Sometimes it’s good to be stunned.
4. Cars, The Cars (1978) – An album of almost unbelievable riches: “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” “Bye Bye Love” and “Moving In Stereo” are all found here in what is basically a greatest hits album sans the tag.
5. The Band, Music From Big Pink (1968) – Even though The Band surpassed their phenomenal debut with the self-titled sophomore release, Music From Big Pink flew in the face of virtually everything that was popular at the time. Leave it to four Canadians and Arkansas-born Levon Helm to paint the most convincing aural picture of pioneer America since Stephen Foster.
6. Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969) – Gram Parsons’ talents were too big to stay in The Byrds’ nest for long, so he brought along fellow flyer Chris Hillman for exploration into country-rock and changed the face of rock music forever. Keith Richards knows.
7. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (1969) – Although Led Zeppelin would ascend to miraculous heights with ensuing albums, the debut is laced with gritty rockers (“Communication Breakdown,” “Good Times, Bad Times”), blues-based bashers (“Dazed And Confused,” “You Shook Me”) and the ever-haunting “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.”
8. Boston, Boston (1976) – Sure, AOR radio played this album into the grave, but before that happened I heard it with virgin 9- year-old ears on a friend’s record player. At the time, my favorite band was Aerosmith – and for good reason – but I was quickly seduced by Boston’s twin-guitars and Brad Delp’s amazing voice. I still have my original vinyl copy, too. Question: Who had a better afro than drummer Sib Hashian?
9. Kiss, Kiss (1974) – The record they could never quite follow. Kiss’ debut contains the tunes that still define the foursome 35 years later, including “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Cold Gin,” “Firehouse,” and “Black Diamond.” Kiss without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss is just a polite peck on the cheek.
10. King Crimson, In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) – A startling, unprecedented platter of rock/jazz/avant-garde tunes that still sounds as adventurous and otherworldly as it did upon its release. Check out the recent 40th Anniversary Edition of Court, with new mixes by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson for a stunning sonic journey into the early Crimson cosmos.