From Elvis to Eminem, Arctic Monkeys to Zeppelin… we give you the greatest debuts
Presley’s first record back in March 1956 and the recent debut of the Arctic Monkeys, the fastest-selling of all time, bookend 50 years of rock music quite aptly. Despite concerns that rock is ebbing as a cultural force, despite the onset of new formats and downloads, there remains a fascination with the shock of the new in rock, a feeling that it can still deliver historical turning points.
The debuts here fall into various categories. Some represent relatively modest beginnings, with little hint of what their creators will later produce and become. So, Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut album is a world apart from the brilliant carousel of Blonde On Blonde, while The Beatles’ first album is as culturally distant from Sgt Pepper as Gerry & The Pacemakers are from Pink Floyd. Conversely, there are others who have found it difficult to live up to the definitive achievement of their opener. Television’s Marquee Moon, say, or ABC’s The Lexicon Of Love, are such complete successes as to allow no further room for growth. Guns N’ Roses and The Stone Roses, meanwhile, both more or less collapsed under the strain of their early adulation. However, many of the debuts here – such as those by PJ Harvey, Spiritualized, Roxy Music and The Byrds – act as formidable indicators of what their creators would subsequently build and improve upon for the next few years.
Much is made of the ‘difficult’ second album. How much more difficult is the first: becoming what you are… hence this celebration of the debut. Because there’s nothing quite like the first time.
100 ARCADE FIRE
A concept album about suburban surrealism and political cynicism, Funeral was a word-of-mouth success. The Montreal eight-piece comprised a dynamic pocket orchestra, building from dreamlike balladry to immense anthems, with live performances of such intensity their contemporaries were scared witless.
Best track: “Neighbourhood #2 (Laïka)”
Provocative, pan-sexual and blessed with a glam-rock crunch courtesy of guitarist Bernard Butler, Brett Anderson’s neon-lit world of beautiful losers hit a nerve untouched since The Smiths.
Best track: “Pantomime Horse”
98 FOO FIGHTERS
Foo Fighters (1995)
After years of toil in the Nirvana misery mines, Dave Grohl finally exorcised his demons on this goofy, overdriven homage to the vein-bulging power pop of Cheap Trick. It was an instant success, with radio-friendly hits like “This Is A Call”. Stardom beckoned.
Best track: “This Is A Call”