Debut albums – they can make or break your career. First impressions are always important and that is valid in pretty much every sphere of life, including in the tough and highly competitive music industry sector. During the “golden age of rock”, as I like to call the ‘70s and ‘80s, tons of outstanding bands made their first statement with strong and memorable albums, some of which are still relevant and widely-appreciated on a worldwide level. Of course, it takes time to properly assemble a band, create a distinctive sound and style, and choose the perfect way to point your efforts and influences at the right direction, resulting in a powerful, slamming rock wave!
Just like any other classic rock fan out there, I also have my top 10 favorite rock debuts. For one reason or another, these ten albums left quite the impression on me and were the reason why I got into those bands in the first place. These “eye-opening” debuts are as a matter of fact among some of my most beloved albums of all time. From punk rock to progressive rock; from AOR treasures, to supergroup debuts, I am presenting you, [My Rock Mixtape]’s Top 10 Classic Rock Debuts!
1. Def Leppard – On Through the Night (1980)
Hello Def Leppard! It’s absolutely impossible not to fall in love with the rawness, energy and straightforward hard rock spirit that surrounds “On Through the Night”. With that organic rock&roll sound and influences, drawn by bands like The Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy, it was no surprise that this album became a leading force in the new wave of British heavy metal movement. Def Leppard were a couple of British guys with a big dream – to conquer the States and eventually the world. They did manage to fulfill their dream, despite receiving a lot of criticism from local fans and press, for “selling-out” to the American audience. Nevertheless, the dark, unprocessed and rather fresh approach to hard rock, Def Leppard presented in 1980, was exactly what the music scene needed.“Hello America”, “Rock Brigade”, “Wasted”, “Sorrow is a Woman” – all splendid heavy metal rockers that defined the early ’80s. Def Leppard drifted a little from their initial “hard solid” sound and musical direction; however, it was the right thing to do, believe me.
2. Boston – Boston (1976)
The tremendous strength with which Boston’s self-titled debut album smashed into the music world in the mid-70s could easily be justified with the 25 million copies sold worldwide. Not only that, but “Boston” was actually the best-selling debut album of all time before Guns N’ Roses released “Appetite for Destruction” in 1987. There should be a reason for such enormous recognition, right? Well, the album is just that good! The record found the perfect balance between pop and rock by crafting a splendid mixture of gorgeous vocal harmonies, gentle, yet rough guitar riffs, spellbinding melodic hooks and dreamy lyrics, all wrapped up under the influence of the classical music, Tom Scholz – the man behind Boston, grew up listening to. “More Than a Feeling”, “Piece of Mind” and “Rock & Roll Band” are some of the classics appearing on the album, which I don’t see disappearing from the radio stations anytime soon.
3. ASIA – ASIA (1982)
This monstrous debut record by the supergroup Asia was released back in 1982 and proved that there was indeed a reason why those immensely talented and versatile musicians from YES, ELP, King Crimson and The Buggles got together in the first place. “Asia” spawned one of the most distinctive rock tunes of the 80s – “Heat of the Moment” which became their ultimate signature song. That was not the end of it, though – the record is full of catchy hooks and fine melodies, perfectly designed to fit the demands of the commercial radio stations.“Sole Survivor”, “Time Again”, “Only Time Will Tell” – some of the finest moments on “ASIA”, showcasing a marvelous fusion between progressive rock, pop and hard rock.
4. Bad Company – Bad Company (1974)
Bad Company’s glorious 1974 debut achieved much more than critical and commercial success; the self-titled album of the supergroup brought good old-fashioned rock&roll back into the music scene. Filled with catchy straightforward classics, “Bad Company” is the perfect example of album oriented blues rock, showcasing the band’s biggest selling point – their moody but quite soulful signature sound. Loaded with classic rock staples like “Can’t Get Enough”, “Rock Steady” and “Ready for Love”, the record was destined for success. I have always found an immense attachment to “Ready for Love” (original by Mott the Hoople) – Paul Rodgers’ vocals absolutely did it for me. If you want to get into Bad Company, this is the record you should start with. Play it as loud as possible if you want to experience the ageless magic of pure hard solid rock&roll.
5. Cinderella – Night Songs (1986)
I don’t think Cinderella could’ve made a better debut album! Cinderella were everything BUT your ordinary glam rock band. Unfortunately, their image was what often confused people, though their talent goes above and beyond the big hair, tight leather pants and leopard shirts. We also have to consider their secret weapon – Tom Keifer who is one of the most unique voices of rock music and one of my favorite vocalists of all time. “Night Songs” offers an excellent selection of blues-oriented explosive metal riffs of guitarist Jeff LaBar, flavored by the scratchy fierce voice of Tom Keifer, all cloaked under dark, mysterious and quite intriguing character of the record. “Shake Me”, “Nobody’s Fool”, “Night Songs”, “Somebody Save Me” – there’s just no weak song on this debut album; all are among the greatest glam rock tunes ever released!
6. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
One of the most essential rock acts of all time, Van Halen, debuted in 1978 with an enormous self-titled album that is often regarded as the greatest rock&roll debut albums of all time by fans. Despite being heavily criticized by critics back in the day, it didn’t take that long for the album to become an absolute worldwide sensation and set new standards for rock&roll. Eddie Van Halen’s God-like guitar skills erupted on this album and we are more than thankful for that. Revolutionary rockers like “Runnin’ With the Devil”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” and the splendid cover of The Kink’s “You Really Got Me” (which with all due respect is better than the original, in my opinion) defined the rock scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s like no other tunes. Not to mention the electrifying solo “Eruption” which put all the guitarists to shame. There’s no surprise this brilliant rock debut found its way to my heart and became one of my favorite debuts of all time.
7. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
I still remember the first time I heard King Crimson’s “Epitaph” – it was one of the most sensual experiences of my life. I just knew a special relationship between me and the band is about to develop and wasn’t wrong. The fathers of progressive rock – King Crimson, debuted with “In the Court of the Crimson King” in 1969, which many fans and critics consider as the birthplace of progressive rock. Not only that, but the highly experimental, out-of-this-world sound of the album inspired generations of progressive rock acts. Greg Lake’s soul-touching vocals, accompanied by surreal music, mixing all genres, styles and forms you can imagine, conquered me right from the very beginning. In addition to “Epitaph”, “Moonchild” and “The Court of the Crimson King” are among my favorite progressive rock pieces. This, in my book, is probably the most influential debut albums of all time!
8. Ramones – Ramones (1976)
Hey ho, let’s go! The fathers of punk rock, The Ramones debuted in 1976 with one of the most uplifting, enjoyable and spirited rock albums of all time. I always had a soft spot for punk rock and this album was the reason why; there’s just something so charming about The Ramones and their carefree, breezy and laid-back style and approach to music. Coming out of the CBGB stage, The Ramones were the main catalysts for the punk rock, underground movement of the late ‘70s in the USA. Moreover, Ramones went on to become the most important punk rock act, inspiring generations of musicians, such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Classics like “Blitzkrieg Bop”, “Judy is a Punk” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” are synonymous with punk rock! “Ramones” is also one good example of how an album which couldn’t achieve big commercial success, achieved something that goes way beyond that.
9. Giant – Last of the Runaways (1989)
Giant’s outstanding debut album, “Last of the Runaways” deserved so much more than it actually got. Unfortunately, the time wasn’t right for it – by 1989, the heydays of album-oriented rock were long gone. Despite its high production value, melodic quality and outstanding vocals and riffs by Dann Huff, “Last of the Runaways” somehow got lost in the transition period from the ‘80s to the ‘90s.“I’m a Believer”“Innocent Days”, “Can’t Get Close Enough” and “No Way Out” are just a few of the dangerously obsessive rock tornadoes that could be heard on this album. “Last of the Runaways” gives us three of the greatest power ballads ever written – “Love Welcome Home”, “It Takes Two” and of course their most commercially successful song, “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. How Dann and the rest of the guys wrote such powerful and emotionally-charged pieces of art is beyond my understanding. This is a gorgeous rock piece and I can’t recommend it enough!
10. Firehouse – Firehouse (1990)
FireHouse was an absolute glam rock revolution, in the sense that they brought so much more than glitter and gold to the table. The critical and audience appreciation was on point – those four guys weren’t joking around – armed with great talent, for FireHouse the sky was the limit. Their 1989 debut album, “FireHouse” offers a selection of twelve, well-polished pop/metal jewels, which respectfully clogged he radio stations and mesmerized (and still do) the fans with gorgeous riffs and superb vocals. “All She Wrote” “Shake & Tumble”, Rock on the Radio“ and Don’t Treat Me Bad” are just a few of the catchy rockers that turned this debut album into one of my favorite albums of all time! Don’t even get me started on “Love of a Lifetime”, which in my book is one of the greatest power ballads ever written!
+ Honorable Mentions
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The Beatles – Please Please Me (1963)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)
Winger – Winger (1988)
Foreigner – Foreigner (1977)
Thunder – Backstreet Symphony
Bad English – Bad English
DIO – Holy Diver