Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Best Debut Albums in Rock History (as posted on Pinterest and inspired in part by Twitter)

Click the image above to see my Pinterest board of the Best Rock Debut Albums
This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held last month in Cleveland and broadcast last night on HBO.

Inductees included Guns 'n Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys. (You may wish to read this piece I wrote about Rock Hall omissions as well as one I'll soon post on the passing of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys.)

Green Day did the honor of inducting Guns 'n Roses, who sounded great on "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Paradise City" in spite of Axl Rose's silly decision to avoid the ceremony; Izzy Stradlin was also not present. In doing so, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong cited GNR's Appetite For Destruction as the best debut album ever.

Although I don't find the proclamation that outrageous, my friend Dave and I instantly started discussing other debuts that might outrank Appetite. Subsequently I noticed the topic being hashed about on Twitter (#GreatestDebutAlbum), led by a Billboard editor named Bill Werde.

This morning I posted several of my Best Rock Debut Album choices on a Pinterest board I created. I recently started using Pinterest to gain some awareness of it--you can see all the boards I've made to date--but I wish there was greater functionality beyond simply, as I understand it so far, pinning photos of things you like (or within a given topic) to an online bulletin board.

For instance, in this category I would have wanted to reorder and possibly rank the album cover images, but I can't. So even the photo above is fictitious. The debut albums that first came to mind are really at the bottom of my board, not the top.

But the Pinterest board now includes 52 of what I consider to be the best first albums in rock history. A full deck, so to speak, compiled with the help of Dave, Twitter and some lists I came across on NME, Rolling Stone and Amazon

For the most part, these represent my tastes, and thus are mostly in a classic and modern rock vein. The Twitter discussion included some wider-ranging nominations; I'm not suggesting these don't have merit but didn't want to include albums I've never really listened to, except in a few cases where I accept Dave's commendations.

Take a look and let me know what you might include, instead of or in addition to my choices.

Like with any sort of list I make, there were a number of mental gray areas. I didn't overlook, but consciously left off, debut albums from favorite artists such as Bruce Springsteen, U2, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Kinks and others because while they each had moments of greatness, the first releases from these acts were considerably lesser than what came later--and in many cases were not breakthrough albums. But though perhaps the same could be said about The Beatles' Please Please Me and The Jam's In The City, I deemed those worthy of inclusion.

While I ignored preceding EPs, I did mandate that only true debut albums be considered, not simply the first album that got an artist noticed. Elton John released an album before the great self-titled one; Green Day had two before Dookie; Jane's Addiction had a small-label, self-titled debut before Nothing's Shocking, etc. Personal favorites such as Smoking Popes and Ash also had albums before the first ones I came to know and love. (I used and Wikipedia as my discography sources.)

In a similar vein, I didn't count solo debuts if the artist was previously in a substantive group. Thus no Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, etc. (plus, some of these legends released lesser solo albums before their first highly acclaimed one). I considered including Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, but this reasoning would seemingly disqualify it.

In considering the greatness of a debut album, it also gets a bit tricky as to whether one should merely weigh the merits of the record against all rock albums or more so consider how strongly it stands within the context of the artist's work.

For example, although The Clash as a group outranks both Van Halen and Guns 'n Roses on my list of all-time favorite artists, and The Clash is a fantastic debut, it's not my favorite Clash album--London Calling is. Yet Van Halen and Appetite for Destruction are clearly my favorite albums by two bands I love. I think they're more accomplished and definitive debuts, though not necessarily better albums than The Clash.

I'd also have a hard time arguing that The Doors isn't filled with stronger music beginning to end than Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, but--and its timing in my life abets this--I think of the latter as a more audacious initial artistic statement. Odd as it sounds, I perceive a difference between "the best albums that happen to be debuts" and the "best debut albums." (I struggle with similar logic in considering Nirvana's Nevermind--not their debut, Bleach was--their sole representation among the 10 Best Albums of All-Time, even though I actually believe In Utero to be greater artistically.)

With all that said, while referencing you to the 52 Best Rock Debut Albums I've pinned on Pinterest, here are:

My 10 Favorite Debut Albums in Rock History

10. Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
9. The Beatles - Please Please Me
8. R.E.M. - Murmur
7. Pearl Jam - Ten
6. The Clash - The Clash
5. Guns 'n Roses - Appetite for Destruction
4. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
3. Van Halen - Van Halen
2. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
1. The Ramones - The Ramones

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The list title contains 'best debut albums' but how many of them do you actually choose to listen to currently? Playability is key to me so never mind the bullocks, these contain tunes that continue to inspire and still enjoy: Boston, Van Halen, The Cars, Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam and of course, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.