Uncut’s 100 best debut albums

From Elvis to Eminem, Arctic Monkeys to Zeppelin… we give you the greatest debuts

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61 LEONARD COHEN
The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1968)
Cohen here displayed a literacy that surpassed even Dylan, although he was convinced he couldn’t sing. Technically he was right, but his voice was steeped in a rich off-key gloom which perfectly suited the songs’ existential romanticism.
Best track: “Suzanne”
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60 RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS
Blank Generation (1977)
Having already passed through some notable staples of the NY underground – The Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers – Hell’s literate disaffection finally found expression in the innovative, jagged guitar-lines of the late, great Robert Quine. Anti-anthem “Blank Generation” had already reached the Pistols, re-shredding it as “Pretty Vacant”.
Best track: “Love Comes In Spurts”
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59 U2
Boy (1980)
U2 may have been archetypal post-punkers, all dark atmospheres and echo, but The Edge’s ringing guitars and Bono’s soaring, anthemic vocals meant that experimentation would be no barrier to success.
Best track: “An Cat Dubh”
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58 TIM HARDIN
Tim Hardin 1 (1966)
Hardin was on a self-destructive path of smack addiction and womanising when he cut this debut. A veteran of the Greenwich Village folk scene, the strings gave Hardin’s melodic ballads baroque beauty. But the lyrics, heavy on sexual deceit and guilt, suggested the inner darkness that would leave him dead from heroin, aged 39.
Best track: “Reason To Believe”
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57 PIXIES
Come On Pilgrim (1987)
Here, The Pixies rediscovered the primal energies of rock after 10 years of pop and poodle hair. Tracks like the frantic, half-drowned “Caribou” were a raging blueprint for Nirvana and Radiohead.
Best track: “Caribou”
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56 BOB DYLAN
Bob Dylan (1962)
By the time these September 1961 recordings were released, Dylan had already outstripped them, hitting a songwriting stride the two originals here barely hint at. But this stark, haunted record remains a powerful opening statement.
Best track: “In My Time Of Dyin’”
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55 IAN DURY
New Boots & Panties!! (1977)
Turned down by every major label, Dury was a 35-year-old pub-rock veteran by the time he was rescued by Stiff. Funny, cruel and bawdy, his debut showered old-fashioned music-hall wordplay with punk phlegm and cockney cheek.
Best track: “My Old Man”
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54 RANDY NEWMAN
Randy Newman (1968)
The least confessional of LA songwriters, Newman’s debut eschewed all things Laurel Canyon for a sardonic roll through Tin Pan Alley and the rootsy R’n’B of his N’Awlins childhood. Co-produced by Van Dyke Parks, Newman’s sagas of death, cruelty and obesity were sweetened by lush orchestration.
Best track: “Davy The Fat Boy”
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53 DE LA SOUL
3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
The Sgt Pepper of hip hop – a genre-defying mix of sampled folk and pop tunes, its vernacular full of in-jokes and Sesame Street surrealism.
Best track: Eye Know
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52 ABC
The Lexicon Of Love (1982)
Sheffield’s subversive contribution to New Romantic, this was a Pop Art chart-topper. The missing link between Bryan Ferry and Jarvis Cocker, Martin Fry charted a succession of doomed romances over impeccably arranged plastic funk and synthetic soul. The bejewelled quartet of hit singles remain mini-masterpieces, but the arch lyricism and Trevor Horn’s glistening production sustain interest throughout.
Best track: “Date Stamp”

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