The 100 Best Debut Albums Of All Time
As voted for by Classic Rock readers and social media followers
Last week we asked you to vote for your choice of the greatest debut album of all time. And you voted in your thousands.
Some of the results aren't surprising. And some of the results are: there's three albums in the Top 10 that — while fully deserving of their classic status — probably wouldn't have appeared so high in the charts had fans of those bands not rallied rallied to place their votes in huge numbers. And we don't mind that at all.
If we ran the same poll next week we're sure we'd get different results, and again if we ran it the week after. We're not claiming it's definitive for a second. But it is a great collection of classic albums, and a vivid reminder of the stunning brilliance with which so many of our favourite bands and artists kick-started their careers.
Thanks to everyone who voted.
100. Roxy Music - Roxy Music
It took two weeks to record, with an odd choice of producer and no record label involved. But it kick-started an iconic career. The album contained all the elements that would make them legendary, reaching No.10 in the UKchart and selling over 100,000 copies. As guitarist Phil Manzanera concludes: “This was just the beginning. The rest is history."
99. Jellyfish - Bellybutton
Given their enduring power pop legacy, it’s hard to believe that Jellyfish only ever made two albums. This, now a remarkable 20 years old, tipped its hat to the British invasion in the shape of Queen and Badfinger. Baby’s Coming Back was a jaunty acoustic-based gem, while She Still Loves Him is possibly the best song Wings never wrote.
98. The Struts - Everybody Wants
Unlike most of their young contemporaries, The Struts are familiar with the lost art of writing a chorus. There are at least six potential hit singles here, which is half-a-dozen more than most other rock bands of their fresh vintage. And they’re smart enough to wrap it up in a slick 21st century production; this is no dusty museum piece or cheap facsimile of other bands’ past glories.
97. Journey - Journey
A progressive, jazz fusion affair rather at odds with their later, more radio-friendly output, Neal Schon and Greg Rolle's first album away from the protective shield of the Santana bosom highlighted the musical prowess of everyone involved, and included some of drummer Aynsley Dunbar's finest work. The perfect album if you're after instrumental acrobatics rather than a Top 40 chorus.
96. The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones
Even as nonentities, the Stones oozed arrogance, pointedly leaving their name off the sleeve of even their first album (the subtext: ‘You’ll soon know who we are.’). Mick and Keef barely squeeze their creative juices on this rag-bag of punchy R&B covers, but the sound and sneer are already in place, and it still managed to take over from With The Beatles at the top of the UK chart.
95. The Band – Music From Big Pink
Hanging out with Bob Dylan paid off: by 1968, The Band had their songwriting chops oiled and tightened, and Capitol Records’ backing for a debut that eschewed the era’s experimentation for rootsy, earthy, folky, harmony-rich songs exemplified by The Weight. "A few years ago, we’d play and people would call it nostalgia,” noted bassist/vocalist Rick Danko. “Lately, they’ve been calling it music again.”
94. Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
The raw, angst-ridden sound of the Belfast streets, the first Stiff Little Fingers album veered from spiky anthems like Suspect Device and White Noise to a remarkably mature take on Bob Marley’s Johnny Was that shone a light on this vibrant quartet’s burgeoning abilities.
93. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Who leaves a song as enduring as American Girl to be the last track on their debut album? Well, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, for one. American Girl might be the album’s best known song, but TP&TH is packed full of rootsy, anthemic numbers such as The Wild One, Forever and Breakdown. Unusually, considering how allAmerican this debut sounds, it was successful on this side of the Atlantic first.
92. Patti Smith – Horses
Ultimately Horses was more call to action than true album, helping to spawn a cultural revolution. “I was speaking to the disenfranchised, to people outside society, people like myself,” Smith says. “I didn’t know these people, but I knew they were out there I think Horses did what I hoped it would do. It spoke to the people who needed to hear it.”
91. Angel – Angel
If Kiss were seen as representing the darker, malevolent side of hard rock, then Angel were their, heavenly counterparts. Dressing all in white (at least when no one was looking), they were melodic, keyboard-driven and had a certain sweet (in both senses of the word) centre. Unfortunately, record label politics scuppered any chance of success the band – who had a spectacular stage show – might have had. This album remains a cult classic.
90. Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists
Blasting outta Blackwood rather than Hollywood, the Manics arrived kicking and screaming into our consciousness with a heady combo of grit and glamour. James Dean Bradfield's coruscating guitar and way with a big tune might have echoed their LA contemporaries, but Richey Edwards' intelligent, often political lyricism was a world away from the vacuousness of their transatlantic brethren.
89. Television – Marquee Moon
Television’s knack of deconstructing the past, then rewiring it into something altogether more alien and thrilling, made British punk look primitive by comparison. The guitar interplay between Richard Lloyd andfrontman Tom Verlaine defined the angular sound of the New Yorkers’s broody debut, which peaked with the epic 10-minute title track. NME scribe Nick Kent called it “a 24-carat inspired work of genius”.
88. Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent
When Ted Nugent transformed himself from Amboy Duke into raging bonkers rocker, it was a remarkably successful reinvention. And, boy, did the guitarist/vocalist have the songs to back it up: Just What The Doctor Ordered, Hey Baby, Stranglehold… all hail The Loudman. “I’m writing better songs than ever before,” the Nuge told us in ’76, “I think Stranglehold is the most inventive thing I’ve ever done.” Ted, we responded, you seem to be on the threshold of something really big, really special… “On the threshold of becoming big?!” he barked. “I’m already there, shithead.”
87. Nirvana - Bleach
Before the naked baby swam into view, there was Bleach: a rough-and-ready opening gambit recorded on eight-track in three days for $600 that submerged Kurt Cobain’s melodic flair beneath sparse noise and lyrics whose meaning he apparently “didn’t give a flying fuck about”. It’s still a visceral thrill, even if the only hint of impending world domination is About A Girl.
86. Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In
Young, dumb and… well, you get the picture. Poison might have come from Pittsburgh, but they typified the burgeoning LA hair scene. They’d never better this debut. Throwaway, raucous and dumb, songs like Talk Dirty To Me and Look What The Cat Dragged In proved that Poison were the perfect house band for the all-consuming, day-glo 80s.
85. Girl - Sheer Greed
There was an air of hatred for this lot during the NWOBHM years. Maybe because Jet Records hyped them? Or because vocalist Phil Lewis (who went on to sing for LA Guns) was a cocky git? Whatever, their debut still gave us gems like the swaggering, sleaze-packed Hollywood Teaze.
84. The Allman Brothers Band – The Allman Brother Band
Although it sold poorly when originally released, this album is now seen as marking the birth of southern rock as a genre in its own right. The Florida band’s meld of country, blues and rock gave them a unique perspective; Whipping Post from this record was to become the first of many classics. Duane Allman’s lead guitar was particularly noteworthy.
83. Mother Love Bone - Apple
One of the great grunge albums. Sadly, this was not only MLB’s debut record, but it was also their last. Ranging from spot of glam (This Is Shangri-La) to the gentle piano-led Man Of Golden Words, the band born from the ashes of noiseniks Green River married tunes and ragged riffs while frontman Andrew Wood did his best Freddie Mercury over the top. Who knows what the Seattle band might have achieved had Wood not died from a drugs overdose before its release.
82. U2 – Boy
Before Bono’s messiah complex tightened its grip, U2 were simply a damn good rock band, and Boy is full of their least overplayed classics, from the spiralling Out Of Control to the punky I Will Follow. Already, they’re writing for stadiums.
81. Pretenders - Pretenders
Think Pretenders, think Chrissie Hynde. But the band had a truly magical aura when late guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was part of the fold. This is a delectable debut, full of perfect (but undeniably spiky) pop songs. It only takes a mention of the songs’ names to have them humming around your head: Precious, Stop Your Sobbing, Kid, Brass In Pocket, Lovers Of Today… consummate stuff.
80. Wolfmother - Wolfmother
Whether it was ever a masterpiece is a moot point but it was close enough and a game changer at that. Dimension and the absurd White Unicorn (Moody Blues on dangerous steroids) don’t exactly hold back with the latter’s cheeky Riders On The Storm keyboards rip-off creating a stunning impact. Turns out mainman Andrew Stockdale was a bit of yer actual gonzo visionary. And it has that great Frank Frazetta album cover. Ripper.
79. MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
Punk was ripped from the womb at The MC5’s two-night-stand in Detroit, even if the resulting live album was doomed to micro-sales after Rob Tyner’s battle cry “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” meant major US chains refused point-blank to stock it.
78. New York Dolls - New York Dolls
The album that straddled glam, rock’n’roll and punk, this debut was produced by none other than Todd Rundgren, who said of the record: “I’m not too sure it was possible to capture in the studio what this band were really all about. But maybe we ended up with something different to what you saw on stage yet equally as valid.”
77. The Who – My Generation
The Who tried to put it down, feeling that it didn’t capture the visceral smash-and-grab of their shows. But a generation fell for this whip-cracking debut, which tears from cockney-inflected soul like Out In The Street to the proto-punk clatter of the title track with more energy than the Duracell bunny.
76. The Mars Volta - De-loused in the Comatorium
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s heads were exploding with ideas after walking out on At The Drive-In, but few expected their next step would be as mind-blowing as this. In an industry where musicians buckle and compromise all the time, They never stopped doing whatever they wanted to do.
75. Michael Schenker Group – Michael Schenker Group
Everyone thought mad Michael Schenker, the guitar god of UFO, was tossing away his career when he went solo. Wrong. Along came this mighty debut, full of UFO-equalling tracks such as Armed And Ready, Cry For The Nations and Into The Arena.
74. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
“I grew up listening to Kiss and all the other classic hard rock bands of that period,” NIN mainman Trent Reznor admitted. In reality, Pretty Hate Machine was a fascinating mix of classic 80s rock plus touches of industrial sounds. It wasn’t the full-on electronic explosion of later years, but it was far more accessible.
73. Alice In Chains – Facelift
With detuned sabbath-y riffs, and unique dual- harmony vocals from Layne staley and main songwriter, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, alice In Chains were the heaviest of the Seattle grunge bands. While follow-up album Dirt often gets the plaudits, it’s Facelift with its crushing roster including Man In The Box, We Die Young and Bleed The Freak that really made the most impact.
72. Santana - Santana
With Woodstock providing the mother of all springboards, the San Franciscans’ debut ushered a black-and-white world into a groovy West Coast utopia where Tijuana rhythms tumbled with blues licks, and vocals were superfluous to the eloquent voice of Carlos Santana’s guitar.
71. Wrathchild – Stakk Attack!
A teetering platform heel of an album, Stakk Attakk is a low-rent sleaze-fest full of tacky posturing and barking-mad bubbleglam anthems. Misspelling the titles (Law Abuzer, Alrite With The Boyz) only added to the songs’ absurdly infectious charms.
70. The Stooges - The Stooges
With uncharacteristic efficiency, the Stooges blagged $25K from Elektra, roped in John Cale to produce and knocked out their so-raw-it’s-bleeding debut in four days. It’s pretty much their live set – plus extras rush-written to fill the tracklist – and almost as thrilling on seedy standouts like I Wanna Be Your Dog. Needless to say, it tanked.
69. Masters Of Reality – Masters Of Reality
MOR’s debut is one of the pivotal albums of the stoner genre, but “We never thought of ourselves as stoner,” says mainman Chris Goss. “What we were doing was hard rock, but we added in our own twists. You can tell I’m a fan of Yes.” Stand out tracks include The Eyes Of Texas and Domino.
68. The Strokes - Is This It
The Strokes seemed determined to bring back the spirit and sound of post-punk when they landed, but this album is much cleverer than a mere re-hash. The songwriting is top-notch and the playing superb, but it's the no-frills, almost deliberately naive production which brings the package together and gives the record its charm.
67. Jeff Beck Group - Truth
There are those who believe that this was a better album than Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut. Both had a similarly innovative approach to mixing heavy sounds and blues, and a mix of originals and covers. With Rod Stewart giving one of the best vocal performances of his career, this was inspirational. “I knew it inside out,” says Boston leader Tom Scholz.
66. Alter Bridge - One Day Remains
Following Creed’s meltdown in 2004, guitarist Mark Tremonti regrouped his former rhythm section that same year – pointedly swapping out divisive frontman Scott Stapp for gale-force newcomer Myles Kennedy – and something astonishing happened. Where Creed had been lumpen and pious, Alter Bridge were lean and hooky, and planted the hard-rock flag deep into the modern age.
65. Mötley Crue – Too Fast For Love
Self-produced by the group and recorded over just three days, the Too Fast For Love album was made for the miserly sum of $2,500. But despite the budget and the rather scratchy results, the album fizzed along with lascivious aplomb and proved that Crue were a young band way ahead of the game.
64. The Temperance Movement - The Temperance Movement
One of the best rock debuts of recent years, melding sensual blues with funky rock and soulful beats. It's catchy and energetic throughout, the musicianship is solid, gravel-throated frontman Phil Campbell has a voice to die for, and the band really know how to play the blues.
63. Kate Bush – The Kick Inside
One of the unforgettable debuts, this multi-million-seller was from a 19-year-old who’d written most of its songs years earlier. From the opening Moving (introduced by whale song) to the brittle yet euphoric title track, the album revelled in its literary and cinematic influences (most obviously Emily Bronte), while introducing a fresh, candid voice, fearless in expressing lust and eroticism from a female perspective.
62. The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
The first British punk album, it set the tone for what was to follow with the band. The cover said it all, the foursome having been hit with cream pies. That was the label’s idea, says guitarist Brian James. “They thought it was a jolly wheeze to surprise us with a few cream cakes, little knowing we’d enjoy the experience.”
60. Motorhead – Motorhead
You could say that this wasn’t Motörhead’s debut – they actually recorded On Parole in 1975, but it wasn’t released until four years later so strictly speaking it doesn’t count! So Motörhead was their first release. In April 77, Lemmy and co. had all but given up. They asked Chiswick to record their farewell show. Instead the label offered the band studio time to do a single. However, the trio recorded enough tracks to make the album that saved their career.
61. Gillan – Mr Universe
A record no record label would initially touch, Mr. Universe is better than several of the albums Deep Purple recorded after his departure from the band. It's aggressive, it's a whole bundle of fun, and in Vengeance, Roller and Message in a Bottle it finds the singer in stunning voice.
59. Free – Tons Of Sobs
Forget the damning statistics – Tons Of Sobs never charted in Britain and limped to 197 in the US a year later – and consider instead the astonishing ones: that Free’s debut was recorded in under week by four British musicians still in their teens. The blues/rock ratio tipped on later albums, but the precocious swagger of I’m A Mover and The Hunter is Free at their most honest.
58. ZZ Top – ZZ Top's First Album
The Li’l Ol’ Band From Texas made their entrance with this unpretentious yet effective mix of blues and southern rock. Despite the fact that the band’s roots were buried deep within American traditions, the trio managed to sound like nobody else. Billy Gibbons already had a reputation as a formidable guitarist, and his work here is astounding. (Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree and Brown Sugar (a Gibbons original, not a Rolling Stones cover) show the fuzz-charged boogie direction in which the band were heading.
57. Steely Dan - Can't Buy A Thrill
Clever, informed, musicianly, diverse and featuring some sparkling highlights, this is sophisticated early-70s rock at its best. Although later albums leaned increasingly into jazz territory, this one brings together quality rock songs like Kings and Change Of The Guard, the irresistible, Latin-tinged Do It Again, the lilting Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me) and the driving classic Reelin’ In The Years that includes what is reputedly one of Jimmy Page’s fave guitar solos, by session ace Elliott Randall.
56. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu
The second debut album for the band… well, for Crosby, Stills & Nash. Joined by Neil Young, they spent 800 hours in the studio, according to Stephen Stills. However, with the exception of the Joni Mitchell cover Woodstock, all the songs were recorded separately by the four. Jerry Garcia and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian were also involved, each guesting on one track.
55. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood
Jackson Browne offered three days in his home studio, and it was all Texan guitarist SRV needed to record the debut that saved 80s blues. On the best moments, like Pride And Joy, his calling cards are already in place: killer songwriting fused with technique and emotive feel.
54. Killing Joke - Killing Joke
"It has it all. All of the songs on that first album are brilliant," says Faith No More's Billy Gould. "I think it’s one of the top 10 influential albums of all time. It has groove, it’s heavy. I grew up in LA and used to work in South Central, so Parliament and a lot of funk music was there. I was a delivery boy, so I heard it a lot in my car. I was into punk music, so I’d see bands like the Germs and Black Flag. So these were two worlds I couldn’t reconcile, but songs like Change made me see how they could fit together."
53. Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Presley’s hip-bucking, feather-ruffling TV appearances helped advance orders of 362,000 (giving RCA their biggest ever album even before release, and prompting other majors to get into bed with rock’n’roll). Tracks like the classic Blue Suede Shoes represented the genre’s first assault on popular culture. Revolutionary.
52. Uriah Heep – Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble
Slated by most critics when it was first released, now it stands as a monument to one the UK’s finest bands. Guitarist Mick Box recalls: “We were still finding our feet when this record came out, but it does have some of our trademark sounds: the organ approach by Ken Hensley and David Byron’s soaring vocals. It was a special moment.”
51. Oasis – Definitely Maybe
Before they became bloated and delusional, Oasis were briefly Britain’s most thrilling band, with classics like Supersonic, Cigarettes & Alcohol and the brilliant Live Forever fusing Liam’s reptile sneer to Noel’s light-fingered talent for hooks. The ratio of arrogance/ability soon tipped the scales, but on this debut, the Gallaghers nailed down the equation.
50. Jeff Buckley - Grace
Buckley copycats might mimic the angel voice, but they’re missing the point: the late Californian had eclectic tastes – Zeppelin, Al Di Meola, The Smiths… and his sole album mixed moments of drowsy beauty, So Real, with bombastic rock, Eternal Life, and reworked Middle English hymns, Corpus Christi Carol. “I know I can do better,” said Buckley – but he never got the chance.
49. The Clash - The Clash
The Pistols may have bossed the notoriety stakes, but the Clash outstripped them for pure scope. Fast, furious and sarcastic, their politically-edged songs erupted from the cultural melting pot of their West London manor: White Riot, Hate And War, London’s Burning. Career Opportunities offered bleak prospects for the nation’s youth, while a cover of Junior Murvin’s Police And Thieves let their street-savvy reggae inspirations show.
48. Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Although this wasn’t strictly the first prog rock album, nor the first by a so-called supergroup, in many ways this record came to epitomise both. Overblown, bombastic, arrogant and egomaniacal it might have been, but it includes the elegiac Take A Pebble and Lucky Man as part of its tracklist.
47. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Factory Records boss Tony Wilson famously staked his life savings on the pressing of Joy Division’s debut album, and while it gave negligible payback in 1979, the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis ensured posthumous mythology, with the smoke-blackened romance of Shadowplay and She’s Lost Control trickling down through every band of serious young men that followed. Still bleak, still brilliant.
46. King’s X – Out Of The Silent Planet
“King’s X made music that I was starving for," says former Guns N' Rose guitar virtuoso Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. "I fell in love with them instantly. Out of the Silent Planet, to me, is the first grunge album. They were pioneers of alternative metal. They might not have gotten the fame, but they got the respect of the players. They took the music back and brought it to a deep, artistic place.”
45. Kansas – Kansas
‘Kansas Is Koming’. So ran ads in US magazines as the band prepared this first album. Listening to it, you can hear the start of what was to become pomp rock, but Kansas also had progressive elements. Death Of Mother Nature Suite, anyone?
44. Kiss - Kiss
When the first Kiss album was released on February 18, 1974, the band’s make-up design was not yet perfected – but the music was fully formed. From the start, Kiss wrote anthems. Seven songs from the album would become Kiss standards: Strutter, Cold Gin, Firehouse, Deuce, Nothin’ To Lose, 100,000 Years and Black Diamond. It was not a hit at the time – US chart peak: No.87 – but it stands alongside Aerosmith, Montrose and Van Halen as one of the classic debut albums that built American hard rock in the 1970s.
43. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine
While some early 90s albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind merely whined, rage’s debut positively seethes, with fist-in-the-air anthems like Bullet In The Head and Bombtrack still sounding every bit as combustible as the flaming buddhist monk on the sleeve.
42. Skid Row - Skid Row
Skid Row epitomised the latter stages of hair metal. With a pretty, OTT frontman in Sebastian Bach, they had a man willing to sell his mother for the slightest whiff of fame. And it duly came along with this record. The rest of the band were seasoned players, so songs like 18 And Life and Youth Gone Wild were immediate and anthemic. Given the material, they knew exactly how to treat it. Bach was living it large, and Skid Row quickly became the rock monster he craved.
41. The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus
Melody Maker dismissed them as “rubbish” as early as 1975, which partly explained The Stranglers’ antagonism towards the music weeklies once they hitched a ride with punk two years later. Provocative, menacing and deliciously cynical, this was tough-driving rock with badass bass and keyboards worthy of 60s garage upstarts The Seeds. Peaches was promptly banned for its use of the word ‘clitoris’.
40. Blue Öyster Cult – Blue Öyster Cult
Often dubbed America’s Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult arrived in a blaze of myth and intrigue. While most bands in the metal world had a lumbering broadsword thrust, BÖC had more of a rapier wit about them. Their music and lyrics told of a formidable intelligence, and with songs such as I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep, Cities On Flame With Rock’N’Roll and She’s As Beautiful As A Foot, Blue Öyster Cult took metal in a fresh direction, with a sense of anarchy and surrealism.
39. Black Crowes – Shake Your Moneymaker
"It took a long time because we weren’t used to the studio," says Crowe Chris Robinson. "We weren’t used to things being perfect. But we were thinking, this is how it’s done so this is how we’ll do it. Though when we bought our freedom with that record selling millions of copies in the States, we never made a perfect record again.”
38. Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick
Fusing their Beatlesesque melodies with spiky rock, CT’s debut deals with dark subject matter like mass murder, suicide and pædophilia. The band had also wanted John Lennon to produce. “We asked him,” says Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, “and our then-manager told us that he wasn’t interested. When I worked with John on Double Fantasy I asked him about it. He was like: ‘No one asked me. I would have loved to have done it!’”
37. Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory
Its fusion of razor-edged metal riffing, slick electronic beats, twisting raps, eye-gouging screams and effortless pop sensibility saw it catapult the six nobodies from nowheresville to rock superstardom in a fashion that will probably never be equalled. An absolute dreadnought of a record, to call Hybrid Theory a phenomenon would be to almost undersell it.
36. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
The Jackson Pollockesque sleeve implied a kaleidoscope of ideas, and so it proved on the grooves, with Ian Brown’s vocals whispering ambition, John Squire’s guitar fusing The Byrds, Hendrix and Sly Stone, and Madchester’s funkiest rhythm section lighting a fire under She Bangs The Drums and I Am The Resurrection.
36. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
The Jackson Pollockesque sleeve implied a kaleidoscope of ideas, and so it proved on the grooves, with Ian Brown’s vocals whispering ambition, John Squire’s guitar fusing The Byrds, Hendrix and Sly Stone, and Madchester’s funkiest rhythm section lighting a fire under She Bangs The Drums and I Am The Resurrection.
35. Asia - Asia
When former members of ELP, Yes, Buggles and King Crimson got together, nobody expected such a commercial explosion. But this was one supergroup that worked, with this album topping the US charts and giving us the hit Heat Of The Moment. Why did they call themselves Asia? “Our manager Brian Lane came up with it,” explains John Wetton. “It did meant we got good racking in the shops.”
34. Queen - Queen
A glorious hard rock marathon unlike anything else around at the time, this album started it all. The record was just too powerful, too multi-dimensional and too stunning to sit happily and contentedly in the grooves. The performances were all virtuoso. And those songs… oh, those songs: beginning with the cast-iron Keep Yourself Alive, breathless and languid in the same phrase, then Great King Rat, Son & Daughter, Liar, and finishing with a brief, early instrumental version of Seven Seas Of Rhye. This was the stuff of legend..
33. The Cars - The Cars
With this one album, Boston band The Cars virtually reinvented pop-rock, taking their cue from the new wave and adding their own quirky sense of melodic humour. Heavy airplay for songs like Just What I Needed and My Best Friend’s Girl ensured that The Cars was a hit. The striking model on the cover was Russian-born Natalya Medvedeva.
32. Bad Company - Bad Company
Recording at Headley Grange while Led Zep took ‘time out’ during the recording of Physical Graffiti, the former members of Free, Mott The Hoople and King Crimson truly seized the moment. An album with swagger and style, highlighted by the now classic Can’t Get Enough and the title track, it epitomised quality hard rock of the period.
31. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz
This solo debut marked a new decade and a new era for Ozzy, and above all it was Randy Rhoads’ cutting-edge style that gave the album its vital, contemporary edge. Blizzard Of Ozz (an inspired title) spawned several deathless Ozz classics: the deranged Crazy Train, the occult-dabbling Mr. Crowley and the lawsuit-inducing Suicide Solution. A triumph against all the odds, it remains the Double-O’s greatest solo work.
30. Derek & The Dominoes – Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
A new band but hardly a fresh start, the heartbroken, heroin-addled and fame-weary Eric Clapton entered Miami’s Criteria Studios in August 1970 to record his last indisputably classic album. From the title track’s mournful duel with Duane Allman to Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’s bruised solo, there is blood and beauty on these tracks.
29. Velvet Underground & Nico - Velvet Underground & Nico
Famed for not only its experimental approach, but also the fact that the songs tackled taboo subjects such as drug abuse (Waiting For The Man and Heroin) and sadomasochism (Venus In Furs), TVU&N was also watched over by Andy Warhol, who additionally designed its iconic sleeve. Said Lou Reed of the artist: “He just made it possible for us to be ourselves”.
28. Heart – Dreamboat Annie
Originally released by tiny Canadian label Mushroom, this Zeptinged album introduced the band led by Ann and Nancy Wilson. ”Dreamboat Annie came together when we were in Canada, playing clubs at night, writing songs during the day,” guitarist Nancy said recently. “We’d been turned down twice by every major record label, but we met a cool producer, Mike Flicker, at one of the gigs. He was from a small label who wanted to record us.” Just as well he did. It gave the band three US hit singles – Crazy On You, Magic Man and the title track, while the album made the Top 10.
27. Pink Floyd – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn represents the slim argument for Syd Barrett’s genius, but it’s enough: a transcendental debut that reaches for the stars on Interstellar Overdrive, then settles for parochial British humour on Bike. “We couldn’t play at all, so we had to do something stupid and experimental,” recalled Roger Waters in 1992.
26. AC/DC – High Voltage
Barely into their 20s when these fiery anthems were laid down, on their debut AC/DC turned the sound of raucous backwater pub-rock into a huge commercial prospect, thanks largely to big riffs, bigger choruses and a ton of irresistible swagger.
25. Ramones – Ramones
John Peel famously heard this album and completely revamped his show on Radio 1 that night. “I just thought it was one of the most incredible albums I’d ever heard,” he said. Although The Ramones were really more about high-energy rock‘n’roll, this record was seen by many as the birth of punk, and includes Blitzkrieg Bop and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend on its tracklist.
24. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
The first album released by Virgin Records, Oldfield’s ambient rock opus was a quirky start. As producer Tom Newman says: “We gave Richard Branson the album and left it to him to sell. It was destined to be a disaster. Only to sell millions.”
23. The Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
The shock of the new: Jamie Reid’s stark cover art was as uncompromising as the music contained within, which boasted at least two unsinkable punk anthems in Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen. Filth, fury and bye bye Bill Grundy.
22. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounce Leh-nerd Skin-nerd
For many, it’s with this album that true southern rock was born. With the Al Kooper-produced Pronounced…, Skynyrd kicked off their career with a raft of songs destined to become classics, including Free Bird, Simple Man and the brooding Tuesday’s Gone.
21. The Darkness - Permission To Land
Justin Hawkins and co gave early noughties rock a shot of humour on their debut album. But beneath the gags, the gymnastics, the ludicrous catsuits and that extraordinary voice was a classic hard rock album that felt like an entirely natural progression from the past and an entirely sincere tribute to it.
20. Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
This was originally to be titled Metal Up Your Ass, with a gory cover. “The label persuaded us that no record shop would stock it,” says drummer Lars Ulrich, “so we changed it – reluctantly.” Held within are thrash cornerstones Whiplash and Seek & Destroy. Metallica's legend begins here.
19. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow - Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Freed from Deep Purple’s descent into funk, and buoyed by the vast vocal talent of Ronnie Dio, Ritchie Blackmore blazed brightly on this thrilling, epic opening salvo. Man On The Silver Mountain, Catch The Rainbow, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves… Classics all. This debut is all the more remarkable because Blackmore used members of Dio’s pre-Rainbow band, Elf, for the purpose of getting it into the shops. The sidemen were soon jettisoned, of course, but that doesn’t detract from the sheer quality of their performances.
18. Rush – Rush
This album broke the Canadian band in the US when the song Working Man resonated with the blue-collar workers of Cleveland – and jocks at local station WMMS realised the song was long enough for them to take a toilet break. The album inspired Gene Simmons to dub the band ‘Led Zeppelin Jr’. And, listening to the bluesy grooves of Finding My Way and In The Mood, it’s not difficult to see why.
17. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell
What began as a science-fiction update of Peter Pan morphed into West Side Story with a metal heartbeat. Written and conceived by Jim Steinman, sung by Meat Loaf, produced by Todd Rundgren, it’s now sold over 43 million copies worldwide, selling 200,000 copies every year. Rundgren summed it up: “I had to do this album. It’s so out there”.
16. Montrose - Montrose
Sammy Hagar once said of this album: “Everyone involved on the record label side made their mistakes with us, and then Van Halen benefited a few years later.” While Hagar had a point, this remains one of the greatest of all debuts (including classics Rock Candy and Bad Motor Scooter) from an US hard rock act – a blueprint for all the stadium-strutters who followed.
15. Pearl Jam – Ten
The album that commercially truly defined grunge, Ten remains many fans’ favourite Pearl Jam record. bigger, bolder and more focused than their later records, it’s a multi-million seller that brims with conviction and honesty. It’s home to anthems like Alive, Even Flow and Jeremy.
14. Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear
The album that gave meaning to the rebirth of progressive rock. Upon their arrival on the rock scene, many felt that Marillion sounded too close to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. “I think there was always a lot more to them than being another Genesis,” says producer Nick Tauber. And songs on their debut such as He Knows You Know and Garden Party definitely bear this out
13. The Doors – The Doors
Between Break On Through’s bossa nova shuffle, The End’s Oedipal nightmare and rock’s most obtuse single, Light My Fire, The Doors was an unlikely US No.2. “But it was never big enough for Jim,” says Robby Krieger. “He wanted to be The Beatles…”
12. Dio – Holy Diver
After leaving Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio was determined to go his own way. “I wanted to be in charge of my career,” he said. So the singer formed Dio, debuting with this memorable album. Every song was impressive, and guitarist Vivian Campbell was an inspired choice. “I love what he did here,” Dio said at the time. The title track, Stand Up And Shout and Rainbow In The Dark remain true metal classics.
11. Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced?
Hendrix’s debut sounded futuristic, too, but it wasn’t beamed from space. Study the record and you’ll hear the influences that anchor him to the American blues lineage. Hendrix’s genius on his debut was to fuse those dusty blues recordings to his own rampant vision; abusing the format; trampling on the structure; putting notes where a hack bluesman would not; pinballing off at tangents. “Seeing Jimi absolutely, completely destroyed me,” noted Pete Townshend. “He took back black music; he came and stole R&B back… but added a whole new dimension.”
10. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
“I hate the production on this. It’s wrong,” Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris has said on more than one occasion. But the fact remains that the band’s self-titled debut was to become a cornerstone for much that happened in metal during the subsequent few years. And from this debut, Phantom Of The Opera, Running Free, Sanctuary and Iron Maiden still remain on the set lists of nearly all of the Irons’ concert tours.
9. Big Country – The Crossing
Although remembered most for prompting cries of “the guitars sound like bagpipes!”, Big Country’s first album was a stirring blend of windswept bombast and infectious hooks, typified by the chart-bothering oomph of singles Fields Of Fire, In A Big Country and Chance
8. Thunder – Back Street Symphony
After Terraplane failed, most of that band regrouped as Thunder. The result was somewhere between Whitesnake and Def Leppard. “What we’ve done is what we could never do with Terraplane,” said guitarist Luke Morley. Produced (brilliantly, as it happened) by Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor, BST is packed full of Brit rock anthems including Dirty Love, the title track and the epic ballad Love Walked In.
7. King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King
“When it was all finished there was a sort of glow of satisfaction – and relief,” lyricist Pete Sinfield remembers. “There was a feeling of, ‘Gosh, we’ve done something and it sounds really rather good, and we’re quite proud of this bit, and that bit’. By any standards, there are parts of that album that shine out. And I think it has a timelessness to it as well – which I can tell you by the royalty statements even today.”
6. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
For metal fans, this is the holy grail. Yet despite the unquestioned legendary stature of the album, it was done in something of a rush, as Tony Iommi recalls: “We were on our way to Europe to play some shows, and literally stopped off at the studio to do this before catching the ferry. We recorded it in one day.”
5. The Wildhearts – Earth Vs The Wildhearts
Outrageously confident and bursting with dazzling riffs and memorable singalong melodies, The Wildhearts’ debut sounded like all your favourite rock’n’roll bands playing at once. An exuberant snapshot of a band in love with music and life, songs like Greetings From Shitsville and Everlone were fresh and timeless. Z Brit-rock masterpiece.
4. Boston - Boston
Amazingly, Boston was mostly recorded in band mainman Tom Scholz’s basement in Massachusetts. Scholz had originally recorded demos of all the songs, and felt they were strong enough to be put out as they stood. The label disagreed. “The material had to be recorded in a ‘professional’ studio – in exactly the same way!” Scholz recalls. Maybe the label was right – the re-recorded album, Boston, sold almost 20 million copies.
3. Van Halen - Van Halen
Little did Van Halen realise that they were about to turn hard rock upside down. “We knew we had something,” says Michael Anthony. “But mostly we had this incredible guitar player in Eddie Van Halen and the best frontman around in David Lee Roth.” The result was an album that sounded totally different to anyone else, and bristled with attitude.
2. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I
Some musicologists might dismiss these early blues-rock compositions as grand-scale theft, but it’s not so much what Zep played as how they played it: faster, harder and hairier than anyone had dared before. “There just wasn’t anything like it at that time,” John Paul Jones has rightly said. “Jimmy’s production was very innovative. And when Robert roared in, the initial reaction from people was: ‘Where did you find him from?’ His vocal approach was fantastic.” With such timeless rock classics as Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown and Dazed And Confused among its number, Led Zeppelin was the sound of a cultural levee breaking.
1. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
From the roaring opener Welcome To The Jungle, through My Michelle to the closing Rocket Queen, every song is a bona fide classic and a rock'n'roll anthem. A record never bettered by the band themselves, and at 30 years old it still puts most rock bands to shame with its attitude, dexterity and hooks. You know every single word to every single song, even if you didn't realise it.