Uncut’s 100 best debut albums

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

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51 MOBY GRAPE
Moby Grape (1967)
Centred around former Jefferson Airplane drummer Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence, the quintet combined garage-punk energy with glistening harmonies. Cut in three weeks for $11,000, their debut was as febrile as anything by the Springfield, but bad marketing and run-ins with the law (dope busts and alleged consorting with minors) hobbled them.
Best track: “Omaha”
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50 THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
Psychocandy (1985)
Creation’s original battling bros, Jim and William Reid mapped out their One Big Idea on this ear-bleeding debut. But what an idea: classic, Spector-ish pop melodies drowned by hurricanes of feedback and shuddering distortion (see p112).
Best track: “Just Like Honey”
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49 TALKING HEADS
77 (1977)
Although they shared CBGBs stages with the Ramones, these art-school grads couldn’t have been further from NY punk, creating a neurotic bubble-funk from a love of the Velvets, Jonathan Richman, Al Green and disco.
Best track: “Pulled Up”
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48 THE PRETENDERS
Pretenders (1980)
Forever the bridesmaid of the London punk scene, by the end of the ’70s Ohio-born ex-NME scribe Chrissie Hynde felt as if rock’n’roll had passed her by completely. Until she met three desperados from Hereford and made the first great rock debut of the 1980s.
Best track: “Kid”

Chrissie Hynde lets Uncut in on the inspiration behind the motley rock gang’s debut album: her Ohio childhood, running with bikers, and the scourge of Space Invaders. Words: Simon Goddard

“I’d been in England five years and thought I was too old to be in a band, but I finally met the right guys – James Honeyman-Scott (guitar), Pete Farndon (bass) and Martin Chambers (drums). They were these rural thugs from Hereford. Really, they were like the guys in Straw Dogs. That was the beauty of The Pretenders. We had this image of being a nice pop band, but really we were pretty hardcore. We liked melodic pop music, but we liked to get fucked. It was never a problem making that first album. It was dead easy, in fact. It was only later on that it did become a problem, with Pete and Jimmy. But then it always does when people start getting addicted to smack.

“That first album’s a pretty cohesive piece. I think the songs rely on each other; I don’t have a favourite. A lot of it was written in my room in Tufnell Park. I was in this weird girls’ rooming house. The landlord wouldn’t allow guys back there and it was freezing cold, but that’s where things like ‘Up The Neck’ and ‘Tattooed Love Boys’ were born.

“Other things, like ‘The Phone Call’; that came from me hanging out with a bunch of bikers. There were a lot of threats and someone I knew got killed and it was all fucked up. The whole scene was fucked up, so it was meant to be a death threat that someone gets through the mail, which is why it’s spoken.

“The instrumental, ‘Space Invader’, came about because the rest of the band were insanely in love with those arcade machines. Not me. I loved pinball. We all loved pinball, but then suddenly every pinball machine disappeared, replaced by fucking Space Invaders. I boycotted them, but the others were obsessed and had them all over the studio. That’s all you ever heard, those fucking Space Invaders the whole time!

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“I didn’t really want ‘Brass In Pocket’ to come out as a single. I’d never liked it that much and, frankly, I was a little embarrassed about it, even if it did go to No 1. I felt that people in my scene were laughing at me, because it just wasn’t my favourite. The stuff that really represented me and how I felt was never really heard on the radio. Like ‘Precious’. That was written about times I spent back home in Ohio.

“I guess that’s what gave an interesting flavour to the band, that a lot of it came from the gutter view of Ohio and the mid-western industrial suburban malaise. But I knew ‘Precious’ would never be played on the radio because of the ‘fuck off!’ line. Someone told me it’s the best use of ‘fuck off!’ in rock’n’roll. But it’s backfired for me, because these days when I tell someone to fuck off, they look at each other and say, ‘Wow! She said it!’ I mean, how am I supposed to tell somebody to fuck off now?

“When the album finally came out, it went to No 1 and everyone said it was hyped up the charts. Yeah, that was the big scandal! I don’t know who hyped it in, but if someone did then I’m grateful. But I didn’t care if it was No 1 or not. Really, I was just glad to be playing guitar in a band and not waitressing. Obviously you want to make records because making records is a gas and you want to sell enough so you can stay alive. But I’ve never had that ‘We want to be the biggest’ mentality. It’s always better to have not as much success as you want than to have excess success.”

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