10 of the biggest debut albums in rock history
Ask anyone and they’ll agree that first impressions are key. When you’re a musician, it’s even more important.
Knocking it out of the park with your first record is usually a sure-fire way to make sure that your career kicks off in the best way possible.
From catchy singles to radio airplay, lots of factors go into making a killer debut, but nothing is more important than packing your record full of tunes that your fans can’t get enough of.
With Sheffield indie-rock outfit Arctic Monkeys set to make their long-awaited Australian return next year with a series of massive headline dates, we’ve decided to take a look back at a handful of big-name artists who kicked off their career with a massive record.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
If you weren’t listening to music back in 2006, it could be hard to realise just how massive the Arctic Monkeys were.
Having released their debut EP back in early 2005, rock’n’rollers soon released a pair of number one singles – ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ – and the stage was well and truly set for them to make history.
In January of 2006, the group released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and cemented their place in musical history.
Packed with stunning tracks, an intriguing title, and an eye-catching front cover, the record quickly become the fastest selling debut album in British music history, selling over 360,000 copies in just one week alone.
Before long, the Arctic Monkeys had managed to become one of the biggest rock groups on the planet, managing to prove to everyone that rock was far from dead. And that the Internet was bound to become the new way for marketing emerging artists.
The Arctic Monkeys were the wave of the future, and music fans couldn’t get enough.
Watch the clip for ‘I Bet you Look Good on the Dancefloor below’:
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
There’s a famous story about how when Guns N’ Roses were still playing Hollywood rock venues in the mid-’80s, they attracted a number of major label executives.
One executive – so determined to sign the band himself – arrived early and told the other executives that the band were awful live, allowing him to swoop in and attempt to sign them himself.
Whether or not this story is true or just a legend, it gives an example of the hype and anticipation that Guns N’ Roses had back in their early days.
Soon after they signed with a major label, the band released Appetite For Destruction in 1987. While the record sold moderately at first, it wasn’t until a year later that the record began to climb the charts.
Before long, tracks like ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ were rock radio staples, and Appetite For Destruction would go on to become one of the biggest debut records ever released.
Watch the clip for ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ below:
The Strokes – Is This It
On ‘Star Treatment’, the opening track of the Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Alex Turner laments that he “just wanted to be one of The Strokes”. Take a single look at The Strokes’ Is This It and you can understand why.
Released back in 2001 following a year of constant touring and songwriting, Is This It kicked off the garage-rock revival and suddenly made it cool for kids to play the guitar again.
Fitted with fuzzy riffs, powerful choruses, and the impressive skills of frontman Julian Casablancas, The Strokes’ Is This It was a revelation for rock fans everywhere.
Thanks to its controversial front cover, huge singles like ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Hard To Explain’, and the band’s relatable approach to their craft, there’s a reason that the New York music scene can be looked at in terms of ‘before The Strokes’ and ‘after The Strokes’.
Watch The Strokes’ clip for ‘Hard To Explain’ below:
The Killers – Hot Fuss
As a general rule, if your debut single is ‘Mr. Brightside’, then you’re probably going to be off to a good start.
Released in 2004, Hot Fuss was the first record released by The Killers, and was responsible or turning the group into one of the biggest bands of the ’00s.
Bolstered by the success of singles such as ‘Somebody Told Me’, ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, and the massively-popular ‘Mr. Brightside’, Hot Fuss has managed to sell over seven million copies worldwide, and is often cited as one of the greatest records of all time.
Not bad for a record that’s still technically a teenager!
Watch the clip for ‘Mr Brightside’ below:
Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville
Back in 1991, Liz Phair was known to a select few as the musician behind the legendary Girly Sound demo tapes. Fast-forward a couple of years and Liz Phair had signed to Matador and was preparing the release of her debut record, Exile In Guyville.
Rumoured to be a song-by-song reply to The Rolling Stones’ album Exile On Main St. the album was a critical success and helped kick off Liz Phair’s career as a hugely successful musician.
Thanks to singles such as ‘Never Said’ and ‘Fuck And Run’, Liz Phair soon became one of the most iconic musicians of the era, with Exile In Guyville often being cited as not only an important record in the world of feminism. It’s also been cited as the inspiration for countless other female musicians to enter the world of music.
Watch the clip for ‘Never Said’ below:
Oasis – Definitely Maybe
Twelve years before Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was the fastest-selling album in the UK. That honour belonged to Oasis’ Definitely Maybe.
One of the most prominent releases in the Britpop genre at the time, Definitely Maybe was a refreshing introduction to the Manchester lads, serving as a satisfying to the sweaty grunge that was on show across the pond.
With ‘Supersonic’ serving as the record’s first single, the group were off to an amazing start, with tracks like ‘Shakermaker’ and ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ on the way.
While (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and Be Here Now might overshadow Oasis’ debut for various reasons, Definitely Maybe is the point where it all began, introducing the world to a phenomenal band for the very first time.
Watch Oasis’ clip for ‘Supersonic’ below:
Ramones – Ramones
It’s not very often that an album manages to popularise a genre, influence countless bands, and become one of the most acclaimed record of all-time. But then again, there weren’t very many bands like the Ramones.
Veterans of the New York City rock scene, the group’s loud, fast, and frenetic approach to music saw them popularise the genre of punk, with their name quickly becoming synonymous with the genre.
Before long, bands all around the world were listening to the Ramones’ debut and adding their own spin on this amazing record.
Without tracks like ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, and ‘Havana Affair’, we wouldn’t have bands like The Clash, the Sex Pistols, and the Buzzcocks.
Say what you will about the Ramones and their musical proficiency, but you can’t deny the world of music wouldn’t be the same without them.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Before Oasis were representing Manchester on the global scale, it was The Stone Roses who were flying the flag for their city.
A prominent force in the ‘Madchester’ scene, the group had spent about six years on the music scene, paying their dues and honing their sound before the release of their self-titled debut.
Released in 1989, The Stone Roses saw the group well and truly cement their status as one of the biggest groups in the country.
With a grand total of seven singles being released from the album, it’s gone on to be considered one of the best albums of all time.
Featuring tracks like ‘I Am The Resurrection’, ‘She Bangs The Drums’, and ‘Waterfall’, it also features one of the best album openers ever; ‘I Wanna Be Adored’.
Watch the clip for ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ below:
PJ Harvey – Dry
Having kicked off her career as a member of Automatic Dlamini back in 1988, PJ Harvey wasn’t exactly sure how long her career was going to last.
So, when she had the opportunity to record her debut album in 1991, she laid down the tracks as if it was going to be her last.
What resulted from this was Dry, one of the most celebrated English albums of the early ’90s, and the public’s introduction to PJ Harvey.
Featuring an alternative rock sound with elements of blues, punk, and spoken-word poetry, the record was a phenomenon, and saw Harvey quickly become a role model for young musicians everywhere.
If ever you wonder about Dry’s status as a successful debut, just think, without it, we’d never have received astonishing records like To Bring You My Love, Let England Shake, and Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea.
Watch the clip for ‘Dress’ below:
Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
Having formed in 1991 thanks to a shared fondness for heavy tunes, rocking out, and fighting the powers that be, Rage Against The Machine channelled this talent and frustration into an amazing self-titled debut in 1992.
Since its release, nothing has come close to the power and fury contained with the songs on Rage Against The Machine.
From the balls-to-the-wall ferocity of ‘Killing In The Name’, or the political message of tracks like ‘Freedom’, Rage Against The Machine proved that they were not going to take injustice lying down and would fight back with everything at their disposal.
To this day, it stands up as one of the most mesmerising and mind-blowing debuts of all time.
Arctic Monkeys Australian Tour 2019
Saturday, February 23rd
RAC Arena, Perth, WA
Tuesday, February 26th
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Friday, March 1st
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, NSW
Sunday, March 3rd
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane, QLD
Telstra Thanks® pre-sale
Pre-sale start: Tuesday, October 30th from 10am local time
Pre-sale ends: Thursday, November 1st, 10am local time