Best "Rock/Pop" Debut Album?

I've been thinking about this for a while and recently rifled through my catalogue to look at some contenders. The criteria I used for selecting the best debut album is based on both impact to the genre and overall musical quality. For example some of the great Rock/Pop bands of the last 45 years didn't exactly come out of the gate swinging grand slams. For example, as great as the Beatles, Stones and even The Who were or are, they're first offering was largely based on covers of American blues and doesn't represent them hitting full stride. Same full stride scenario could also be said for great bands such as Zeppelin, Tull, Aerosmith, Talking Heads, Prince, CSN&Y etc.

Without further ado here is my list:

1. Yes - "Fragile" (Unbelievable debut album. Ushered in a classical sensibility to Rock music that hadn't been tapped into as deeply prior to their arrival on the scene. The muscianship and composition on Fragile is stunning. I put this album as number 1 on my list because of the incredible muscianship and maturity of this first offering)
2. Steely Dan - "Can't Buy A Thrill" (Damn near a flawless debut album. The Dan's influence was huge and made it difficult for critics to even figure how to categorize their style of music)
3. Chicago "Chicago Transit Authority" (Wham they came out of left field and combined horns, percussions and hot guitar licks the likes of which the music scene hadn't witnessed before. Right out of the gate their debut album sounded like it was a veteran work of art)
4. Nirvana - "Nirvana" (What can you say about this debut? It was a solid musical offering with a huge impact on music. Their debut was an invitation to the Grim Reaper for Old School and Hair Spray rock bands. It's influence is still being felt to this day)
5. The Doors - "The Doors" (Unbelievably good debut album. Light My Fire is one of the best Rock songs of all time IMHO. Right out of the gate The Doors brought a style and sound all their own)
The Eagles came out swinging. Their debut LP contained three hit singles (Take It Easy, Witchy Woman and Peaceful Easy Feeling). They went on to shape the 70s California sound.
Guns N Roses - Appetite for Destruction
Yes - "Fragile" is their 4th album..Their 1st album,"Yes" sucked big time.Led Zeppelin's 1st is still my favorite among their many great lp's,blew me away when I 1st heard it.Heavy stuff..Doors 1st a masterpiece.Jimi Hendrix 1st was great as well.Also Traffic,Pink Floyd,Santana,Eagles,Love and Emerson Lake and Palmer.JD
Boston - "Boston"
Van Halen - "Van Halen" (even though it had some covers)

The Chicago, Doors and Nirvana albums mentioned were all very strong.

There are many, many more. This will be a fun thread.

Yes' "Fragile" was their fourth release. The first four albums in order of release were: "Yes" (1969), "Time and a Word" (1970), "The Yes Album" (1971"), "Fragile" (1971).
Led Zeppelin
Mr. Tambourine Man
Are You Experienced
In the Court of the Crimson King
Alone Together
Peter, Paul, and Mary
Pickin' Up the Pieces
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Six Wives of Henry VIII
Rickie Lee Jones.... Her debut is still one of my favorite records ever.

Sex Pistols.... "Never Mind the Bollocks", what else can you say here?

Bob Dylan.... "Free Wheelin", not technically his "first", but his first release that had anything behind it (Columbia reportedly assigned $402 to "Bob Dylan" and Dylan himself has said "he didn't want to reveal too much")... Kinda changed things a little huh?

Elvis Costello.... "My aim is true", a classic.

The Byrds... "Mr tambourine man", Changed a lot of stuff in the popular music circles back in '65.
Wow I messed up on the Fragile Yes... I always thought it was their first. Oh well.

Interestingly Digital Dream Door released their list of Top 100 Debut Albums. Here's their top 10.

1. Jimi Hendrix - "Are You Experienced?"
2. Led Zeppelin - "Led Zeppelin"
3. The Doors - "The Doors"
4. Pearl Jam - "Ten"
5. Guns & Roses - "Appetite For Destruction"
6. Elvis Costello - "My Aim Is True"
7. Byrds - "Mr. Tambourine Man"
8. The Velvet Underground - "The Velvet Underground"
9. Van Halen - "Van Halen"
10 Run-D.M.C. - "Run-D.M.C.
Heart: Dreamboat Annie
Talking Heads '77.

I was a college freshman in NYC when this came out. Changed everything for me musically and completely plugged me into the downtown music scene. Still sounds fresh.
maybe not "best" but ones I like a lot.

patti smith group - horses
r.e.m. - murmur (1st lp)
kevin ayers - joy of a toy
velvet underground - the velvet underground and nico
The Band, Music from Big Pink
Guy Clark, Old No. 1
Allman Brothers Band, self-titled
Eric Clapton, self-titled
Gram Parsons, G.P.
Black Sabbath, self-titled
Alanis Morissette..."Jagged Little Pill"...also a one hit [album] wonder, in that category
I thought the Counting Crows "August and everything after" was a great debut with fairly good sonics.
The Clash - "The Clash"
Elliott Smith - self-titled was impactful with great music. That album influenced bands for years to come (to this day even).
That was the first album that came to my mind when I read your post.
elliott stevens-new masters.....crosby, stills and nash, and mmet the beatles , just to name a few of hundreds.
Jimi Hendrix-- Are You Experienced, and a nose behind, The Doors.....greatness still
"New Masters" was the second album, not the first, by Cat Stevens. It was preceded by "Matthew and Son".

Both were released in 1967.
Led Zepplin did OK! :^)
Crosby, Stills & Nash- self titled
Filled with timeless classics and great vocals

Rush-self titled
Saturday night, front seat, cruising, headbanging, ROCK start to finish

Eddie Money-self titled
A great start for him- full of well written catchy tunes with a tight band.
david bowie,ziggy stardust
blind faith,there one and only
Elvis Costello-My Aim is True.
you are that case, i will ad procol harum's version
you are that case, i will ad procol harum's version
Guess u knew this was coming:
"Nicely out of Tune"-Lindisfarne
I have to say "Are You Experienced" is a great call. I knew there were many that were not in the front of my brain.
"The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" was Bowie's 5th album.
When I think back to hearing Purple Haze for the first time (wasn't it the first cut on side 1?)I can still bring that feeling back, sitting in my room with the black light, posters, and ear bleed spl levels. Didn't need any doobies to get me there. Very powerful experience. oops, I almost forgot: and my mothering screaming her head off to shut the off. She didn't use those words, but can you identify?
Right out of the gate?

Gotta include Dire Straits debut album. . .completely different sound for the time and Mark Knopfler has managed to stay relevant.

Huge "YES" vote for Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True". The vinyl re-issue speaks truth to power on the quality of the record and musicianship (something less than appreciated during the era when the angry young man was new on the scene). Lot's of staying power musically as well.

From the obscure file, Lowell George's (he of Little Feat) "Thanks, I'll Eat it Here" is a musical pleasure and sonic wonder. Warner Bros. seemed to care about quality long after others stopped.
I agree with TVAD - BOSTON has my vote.
Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" seemed a good launch to his formidable career.
The major errors here (Yes and Bowie) in selecting "first" albums really shows a LOT of the A-goners are hifi buffs rather than music fans. Sorry, but the truth hurts.
All good picks but think you can't forget 'Arc Angels' by The Arc Angels. It was slow burn at first but it's one of my top 10.
Forget debut albums. What abouty debut songs that changed the world.... ;)

"Maybellene", Chuck Berry
"Terraplane Blues", Robert Johnson
"Cry, cry, cry", Johnny Cash
"That's alright", Elvis Presley

Lot's of laughs

I got here late so most of these have been mentioned.
1. Counting Crows -- August and Everything After
2. Chicago Transit Authority -- Chicago Transit Authority
3. Crosby Stills and Nash -- Crosby Stills and Nash
4. Led Zeppelin -- Led Zeppelin
5. Nirvana -- Nevermind
These are not only great debut albums but IMO each one represents the best album these groups put out. I would expect some arguments, especially the Zeppelin but I'll stand by my opinion.
Debut song?

The Knack - "My Sharona"

It may not be in the same league as the songs Cmo mentioned, but for me it's at the top of the list. I can't recall another debut song that was as infectious as "My Sharona".
Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" seemed a good launch to his formidable career.
Markphd (Answers)

Bzzz! Thanks for playing.

"Born to Run" was Springsteen's third release. The first three in order were: "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." (January 1973), "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" (September 1973), and "Born to Run" (August 1975).
goin out on a limb here and stretching the genre but Damaged by Black Flag was pretty amazing
Can't rank em', but remember catching a good buzz offa these:
1st Cars
The Damned
1st Budgie
Juniors Eyes
1st King Crimson
1st Kollektiv
Capt. Beefheart/Safe as Milk
Scorpions/Lonesome Crow
1st Blue Oyster Cult
Great suggestions - I agree w/ most. Audiofeil, etc. lists were home runs - plus Boston, Costello, CSN, Dire Straits, Santana, Dan Fogelberg, Hornsby & the Range, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Neil Young, etc. (although technically some were solo debuts).
Nevermind is Nirvana's second album. Their first is Bleach.
How could I forget?
Van Morrison - "Astral Weeks". That has to be my favorite debut album ever. A unique magic to that one!

A few other gold medal winners:
U2 - "Boy"
The Pixies - "Surfer Rosa"
The Smiths - "The Smiths"
I narrowed my list to my top 5 that perhaps had the most impact in my muscial tastes:

Dire Straits
Pat Metheny - Bright Size Life
The Police - Outlandos d'Amour
Pearl Jam - 10
Chris Whitley - Living with the Law
Aerosmith-Aerosmith (featuring Dream On)

Lynyrd Skynyrd- Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd

and Tvad beat me to it,
Van Halen- Van Halen
What fun. Yes indeed to "Astral Weeks". Marvellous after all these years - it still thrills me.

Many good albums noted here already ... great debut albums often occur when established musicians form a new group - thus Blind Faith, Led Zep; rather than when they start their career - Bowie's first record showed only teasing glimpses of the superstar to come.

"Music From Big Pink" - The Band. How can we forget this one? Accomplished musicians created a new style and cut a timeless and influential album.

"High Voltage" - AC/DC. A 4-on-the-floor groove as basic as it gets, lifted out of the ordinary by Angus's incedinary solos - fun for Dick and Jane. It wasn't a long way to the top from here for these guys - well, maybe for Bon.

"Inner Mounting Flame" - Mahavishnu. This debut album brought a revolution in sound, and a stream of copy-cats. Maybe not quite as good as "Birds of Fire" to follow, but this record paved the way for rock fans to appreciate jazz fusion.

THE BEATLES – ‘With the Beatles’ (Meet the Beatles in the US) – perhaps I’m dating myself a bit, but the impact of this LP on the entire world was, and is, unprecedented in the world of popular music. Is it their best work? Hardly (in my opinion Rubber Soul better defines the beginning of their true brilliance), but what a debut!

THE BYRDS – ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’

THE DOORS – ‘The Doors’

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – ‘Are You Experienced’ – I remember when this first hit the record stores, looking at the cover and thinking anyone that looks like this has got to be good. I was only 15 at the time and to say I was blown away when I got to hear it the first time at my best friend’s house is an understatement. That same year I got to see him live on the first US tour.

THE WHO – ‘My Generation’ – while it is true that The Who didn’t really start becoming popular until ‘Tommy’ came out I thought they were great from the very beginning and loved their music. Then again I was very much into the music scene, particularly the so called British Invasion. Also saw The Who’s first US tour. They opened for Herman’s Hermits!

CREAM – ‘Fresh Cream’ – although ‘Disraeli Gears’ and ‘Wheels of Fire’ are my favorites, ‘Fresh Cream’ was a brilliant debut of what became known as the world’s first super group.

JEFF BECK – ‘Truth’ – arguably the greatest rock guitarist, if not the most successful

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ – technically this is their second LP, the first being ‘Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,’ but the original singer and drummer were replaced by Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden. With ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ Jefferson Airplane really did take off becoming one of the most successful San Francisco bands of the late 60’s.

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD – hard to forget these guys! Third LP ‘Retrospective’ covers all their great songs and was one of my favorite LPs in 1969

CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY – first and only release as CTA



IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY – a masterpiece from David and Linda Laflamme whose original group was short lived, but never the less a classic from the late 60’s. They are still performing today.

LED ZEPPELIN – not only a great debut, but to many their best overall

ELTON JOHN – I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this one. A fabulous debut!

GEORGE HARRISON – ‘All Things Must Pass’ – in my opinion the best post Beatles solo effort - in all likelihood because he was overshadowed by John and Paul’s brilliance his own song writing talents didn’t come out until after the Beatles broke up.

KING CRIMSON – ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’

EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER – I’m surprised this LP has never been remastered. No one ever surpassed Keith Emerson’s abilities with the all analog Moog synthesizer. An amazing performer to watch.

YES – I’m going to have to disagree with Jdlepera’s assertion that this LP ‘sucked big time.’ This has always been one of my favorite Yes LP’s and I feel it is a tremendous debut. Their earliest work is in my opinion their best and I’m in complete agreement about ‘Fragile’ in the history of popular music. I always thought their music went downhill from there on, but still enjoyed them.


THE EAGLES - ‘Eagles’ – a good debut for one of the 70’s best hybrid rock bands (country, bluegrass, rock). Their second LP ‘Desperado’ remains one of my favorites.

STEELY DAN – ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ – outstanding first effort of one of the most exceptionally musical bands. A lot of the above listed LPs don’t get a lot of play in my house anymore, but I never tire of these guys. Some of the best recordings of this era. I think they used to mix down on Magnapans.

RICKY LEE JONES – great music and a great recording.

BRAND X – ‘Unorthodox Behavior’

Well, that gets me through the 70’s and I’m sure I’ve missed some, but it’s late and my brain needs a rest.

Keane - Hopes and Fears - A Stunning debut IMHO (if you've not heard this CD, buy it now!)

Cyndi Lauper - She's so Unusual - 80's icon - Hugely Successful debut

Fat Parrot - Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Debut is not her debut album; prior to this release, Alanis was singing bubblegum tunes like Tiffany....

Another funny thread thsst shows when it comes to music Audiophilles never let the facts get in the way of an opiion.
Hilarious.....Born To Run, Fragile,Ziggy Stardust,Nirvana....
Jethro Tull - "This Was"
Silver Apples - "Silver Apples"

Dan Fogelberg - "Home Free"
"Astral Weeks" was Van Morrison's second album released in 1968.

The first, "Blowin' Your Mind" was released in 1967.