Top 20 Debut Albums of all time



Every so often, an album or a track from an album comes on and you think "That was a cracking album, not only that to create something so magnificent as a debut is quite an extraordinary burst of creative energy". Well, at least I sometimes think that. In some cases, this astonishing debut represents the creative high of the band/artist in question, in others it's merely a springboard on to greater things. I'll let you be the judge of whether some of these examples represent a peak or otherwise in the relevant artists career. Interestingly, for me at least, this phenomenon is rarely if ever come across in Western Art Music (classical music to you and I). Rather, what we see are the different phases of a composer's career (early, middle, late being a traditional, if obvious split) with the more mature works almost always being the ones that garner the most respect. You don't see many Opus 1 Number 1 works being performed in concert halls around the world.

I've had a nosy around the past 50+ years of popular music and assembled a list of 20 albums that I consider to be the best debut albums of all time. I'l try and give some reasons, other than gut feeling or "I was there" as to why they are in the list. Oh yes, in case you're wondering I've done them alphabetically so I don't have to make any judgments overall. An act of gross cowardice I'm sure you'll agree.

Arcade Fire – Funeral It's hard to believe this was released in late 2004/early 2005 as it still just seems like yesterday. Possibly not the best reason for getting a record deal "Hey, several members of the band have just lost close family members - how about we record an album describing how we feel about that?" The result, remarkably, was not a depressing dirge but a celebratory life-affirming homage cutting across cultural and musical styles. Wake Up is probably the most famous track on the album, but my personal favourite is Rebellion (Lies). An authoritative no to death, there is an element of raging against the dying of the light here.

Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not About a year later, the sound of young Sheffield. There is a sense of a more aggressive Wedding Present about this, definitely a return to straightforward hard garage rock. The opening of this track in particular sets the scene pretty well - young, hard and uncompromising. The iconic album cover is an important statement too. The look on that guys' face, definitely a Saturday Night Sunday Morning vibe going on. Here's the most famous track for you.

Thomas Frost

Superb album. Got really into this in my college years. They were a success initially due to MySpace. Who remembers that?

B 52’s – The B 52’s The outrageous B-52's burst on to the indie post-punk scene in 1978 and for a young Dundonian this splash of colour into the otherwise 50 shades of brown that was my life was most welcome. The opening of this track in particular never failed to get us up dancing like loons at the Student Union discos, much to the general chagrin of the pompous asses standing around trying to be cool and tapping their toes to Frankie Miller or Boney M (check the charts out, you'll see I'm right). Here's the long, rambling version of Rock Lobster for you.

The Beatles – Please Please Me I would be shot on sight by various BTM colleagues if I did not include something by the mop-tops. For me, this IS The Beatles. All young, vibrant, bursting with energy, charm, cheek and confidence. Short, sharp and to the point. I love the sound of the songs on this album and if I had to choose a favourite album it would be this. Heresy, right here right now. For most people, this is just the shape of things to come, but a remarkable debut all the same. Here's the title track for you.

Thomas Frost

Great album. Really undervalued album I feel.

The Clash – The Clash Spin forward to 1977 and we're back with the (almost) adult me realising that there was life after prog rock. Punk itself pretty much passed Dundee by, so it was 1977 before things really started to kick off. In Scotland you could (still can) go to University at 17 with a handful of decent highers and that's exactly what one of my pals did. Thus we could all legitimately get into the Student Union, the only place open after about 9:30 pm, to see bands and listen to our favourite tunes played by the only punk DJ in Dundee. The Clash featured prominently in this disco (seems an odd word for what actually went on, lots of pogoing and charging about with no apparent aim in mind, much like my education at that point). Complete Control for you. This album was not bettered by the band.

Elvis Costello – My Aim is True Around the same time, this gangling young man was touring with a mis-matched bunch of Stiff artists including Nick Lowe, Reckless Eric, Ian Dury and Larry Wall. Some of whom would go on to great things. Some of these tracks had been released as single - I still have Less Than Zero on coloured vinyl somewhere - but the whole lot together on one album is a work of genius. This track has particular resonance for me since, around 1995/6 it was regularly sung by my two daughters in the car, to the words "Alistair", to try and get my son to sleep (he was one of those babies that didn't travel well).

The Cure – 3 Imaginary Boys Continuing the post-punk theme, IMHO The Cure have never bettered this album. So many great tracks to choose from, including a cover version of a Jimi Hendrix classic. Not on the album, but the brilliant Killing an Arab, based on a book by Albert Camus (the footballing philosopher as you all know him) got me into reading proper fiction as well, so what's not to like? This track sums up life for so many people around then, with Thatcherism just around the corner.

Echo and the Bunnymen – Crocodiles Back to Liverpool for (by his own reckoning) the finest songwriter to emerge from the city. This was a time of big hair, big coats and shabby chic before it became chic (Oxfam was the most popular shop in town by a country mile). Won't you come on down to my rescue. Great opening jangly guitar, the trademark chord shuffle, great tunes and terrific drumming by the late, great Pete de Freitas. Here's the outstanding track from an outstanding album. They would actually go on to bigger and better things.