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10 Great Debut Albums

Significant firsts by classic rock artists


Many classic rock bands released two or more albums before breaking through in a big way. A shorter list of bands went from zero to classic rock star with their first release. Here are some of the best first albums by classic rock artists.

'Are You Experienced' - Jimi Hendrix Experience

Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix Experience
Sony Legacy / Experience Hendrix

Release date: August 23, 1967 (US) / May 12, 1967 (UK)

Chart Peak: #5 (US) / #2 (UK)

Certified 4x Platinum (US)

Key Tracks: "Purple Haze" / "Hey Joe" / "Foxy Lady" / "Are You Experienced"

It took Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell -- aka The Jimi Hendrix Experience -- six months to record their debut album. First released in the UK, a substantially different US edition was put together following the success of the band's apppearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Are You Experienced is in the National Recording registry of the Library of Congress, and is #15 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  

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Boston - Boston
Sony / Epic

Release date: August 20, 1976 (US) / December 3, 1976 (UK)

Chart Peak: #3 (US) / #11 (UK)

Certified 17x Platinum (US) / Gold (UK)

Key Tracks: "More Than A Feeling" / "Rock And Roll Band" / "Peace Of Mind" / "Foreplay"

Boston's self-titled debut album is #2 on the list of best-selling debut albums of all time (behind Appetite For Destruction by Guns N' Roses.) Boston went Gold within two months of its release, and reached Platinum after three months. Tom Scholz wrote all of the songs and recorded most of the instrumentation, in his home studio.  

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'Can't Buy A Thrill' - Steely Dan

Can't Buy A Thrill - Steely Dan
Geffen Records / MCA

Release date: October 1972

Chart Peak: #17 (US) / #38 (UK)

Certified Platinum (US)

Key Tracks: "Do It Again" / "Reelin' In The Years" / "Dirty Work"

Although Steely Dan's first two singles were commercial failures, their first album was an immediate hit. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had been performing together since 1967, but it wasn't until 1972 that they hit on their successful formula of utilizing a rotating ensemble of backing musicians. Those two failed singles did not appear on Can't Buy A Thrill or on any subsequent album.  

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'The Doors'

The Doors - The Doors
Rhino / Elektra

Release date: January 4, 1967 

Chart Peak: #2 (US) / #43 (UK)

Certified 5x Platinum (US)

Key Tracks: "Light My Fire" / "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" / "The End"

The Doors recorded their self-titled debut album in just seven days.  Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, in a 2008 interview, recalled the recording sesions for The Doors. "As we started recording, the more we played the more we sensed how well we blended together and how well the music blended with Jim’s poetry. We really had the feeling that we had something very special, something that only happens once." Britain's NME magazine puts the album at #25 on its greatest albums list, Rolling Stone puts it at #43 on their top 500.

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Eagles - Eagles
Elektra Records

Release date: June 17, 1972

Chart Peak: #22 (US)

Certified Platinum (US) / Silver (UK)

Key Tracks: "Take It Easy" / "Witchy Woman" / "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

Ironically enough, Eagles -- a country rock band from California -- recorded their breakthrough debut album in England. Band members shared lead vocal duties and most of the songwriting credit, the notable exceptions being songs written or co-written by Jackson Browne ("Take It Easy" and "Nightingale") and Jack Tempchin ("Peaceful Easy Feeling".)

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'England's Newest Hitmakers' - Rolling Stones

England's Newest Hitmakers - Rolling Stones
ABKCO Music and Records

Release date: May 30, 1964 (US) / April 16, 1964 (UK)

Chart Peak: #11 (US) / #1 (UK)

Certified Gold (US)

Key Tracks: "Not Fade Away" / "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)" / "I Just Want To Make Love To You"

Although most of the songs on Rolling Stones' debut album England's Newest Hitmakers (released in the UK as The Rolling Stones) were R&B covers, the Mick Jagger-Keith Richards songwriting duo delivered the highest charting single from the album, "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)." Phil Spector and Gene Pitney contributed instrumental and songwriting assitance on the album.  

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'Led Zeppelin'

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Atlantic Records

Release date: January 12, 1969

Chart Peak: #10 (US) / #6 (UK)

Certified 8x Platinum (US) / 2x Platinum (UK)

Key Tracks: "Good Times Bad Times" / "Dazed And Confused" / "Communication Breakdown"

Initially, Led Zeppelin was a commercial success, but not well received by critics. Rolling Stone, which published a scathing review, later ranked it #29 on its 500 greatest albums list. The album was produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (who also paid for the studio time, since Led Zeppelin hadn't yet landed a record deal) and it was recorded in just 36 hours of studio time. The album release coincided with the band's first US tour, and created a perfect storm of hard rock/heavy metal at the peak of the counterculture revolution.  

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'Music From Big Pink' - The Band

Music From Big Pink - The Band
Capitol Records

Release date: July 1, 1968

Chart Peak: #30 (US)

Certified Gold (US)

Key Tracks: "The Weight" / "Chest Fever" / "This Wheel's On Fire"

The Band's considerable influence began with their debut album, which contained what became their best known track, "The Weight" and three songs written or co-written by Bob Dylan, for whom The Band was opening on the road. "Chest Fever" was the band's opening song at Woodstock. Eric Clapton has cited The Band's early work as being the catalyst for his leaving Cream to pursue the more rootsy sound of Delaney and Bonnie. George Harrison credited The Band as a major influence on his work in the late '60s and early '70s.

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'Please Please Me' - The Beatles

Please Please Me - The Beatles
Capitol / EMI

Release date: March 22, 1963 (UK) / July 21, 1987 (US)

Chart Peak: #1 (UK)

Certified Platinum (US)

Key Tracks: "Please Please Me" / "Love Me Do" / "I Saw Her Standing There / "P.S. I Love You"

The UK release of The Beatles' first album was the beginning of Beatlemania. Within a few weeks of its release, it charted at #1 and stayed there for 30 weeks, when it was replaced by the band's second album, With The Beatles. Please Please Me was recorded in just one session at London's EMI Studios (later renamed Abbey Road Studios.) The album ranks at #39 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list.  

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'(pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd)' - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Geffen Records

Release date: August 13, 1973

Chart Peak: #27 (US)

Certified 2x Platinum (US) / Silver (UK)

Key Tracks: "Free Bird" / "Gimme Three Steps" / "Simple Man" / "Tuesday's Gone"

Lynyrd Skynyrd no doubt knew that their unusual name could be problematic, so they addressed it head-on with the title of their debut album, (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd). The album immediately established the band's distinctive sound and sylistic diversity (from hard rockers like "Gimme Three Steps" to soft ballads like "Tuesday's Gone." The band was able to quickly build on the album's success by virtue of opening for The Who on their 1973 US tour.

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