The 25 best Classic Rock debut albums

5 April 2024, 09:00

Some of the best Classic Rock debut albums: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Black Sabbath Meat Loaf, Eagles and The Doors.
Some of the best Classic Rock debut albums: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Black Sabbath Meat Loaf, Eagles and The Doors. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo

Which Classic Rock bands burst onto the scene with the perfect debut LP? Here's a selection of the most acclaimed and most influential first albums.

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Here's a selection of excellent debut albums are the timeless musical landmarks that have helped shape the rock's rich history. You can hear the foundations being laid for progressive rock, heavy metal, punk, new wave, grunge and countless other genres across these records; each album encapsulates its era's spirit, influencing future generations and cementing these bands as enduring rock legends.

Relive some of your favourite LPs, or use this as a guide to discovering some great music!

Here are our Top 25 best Classic Rock Debut Albums in chronological order...

  1. The Doors - The Doors: release date 4th January 1967

    Dark and mystical, frontman Jim Morrison was an immediate superstar when the Los Angeles band issued their debut at the start of rock's most psychedelic year. Together with keyboard player Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore, this is an outstandingly confident first outing, kicking off with the progressive Break On Through (To The Other Side) and climaxing with the epic raga of The End.

    The Doors debut album cover (1967)
    The Doors debut album cover (1967). Picture: Alamy
  2. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced? Release date 12th May 1967

    Jimi Hendrix moved to London in 1966 where his new manager, former Animals man Chas Chandler, set him up with a band: drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. Their debut showcases the slick blues riffs the Hendrix had mastered over the years, adding a layer of contemporary psychedelia on the title track and songs like Foxy Lady and 3rd Stone From The Sun. Modern rock music starts here.

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced cover
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced cover. Picture: Alamy
  3. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin: release date 31st March 1969 (UK)

    Emerging from Britain's busy blue scene of the 1960s, Led Zeppelin were intended on being a continuation of the respected band The Yardbirds, but by taking those classic riffs and cranking them up as far as they went, the new band created the heavy rock template for the 70s and beyond. Opening with the peerless opener Good Times Bad Times, the songs range from the breathless (Communication Breakdown) to the epic (Dazed And Confused).

    Led Zeppelin debut record album cover
    Led Zeppelin debut record album cover. Picture: Alamy
  4. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath: release date 13th February 1970

    As pop became rock in the late 1960s, many bands began to experiment with new sounds, influenced mainly by the technology that allowed everything to get loud. This was an inauspicious debut that received lukewarm reviews but the public sent it into the Top 10 and the record's influence would only grow over the decade when the title track became the template for a new genre: heavy metal.

    Black Sabbath debut album front cover
    Black Sabbath debut album front cover. Picture: Alamy
  5. Eagles - Eagles: release date 1st June 1972

    Opening with the perfect first track, Take It Easy, it was no surprise that this 1972 debut was the springboard to superstardom for Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. Their biggest hit would come with 1977's Hotel California, but the perfect template was set here.

    Eagles, Eagles album cover
    Eagles, Eagles album cover. Picture: Alamy
  6. Roxy Music - Roxy Music: release date 16th June 1972

    Bowie may have been the solo artist that ruled the roost in the early 70s, but the band of the moment was Roxy. No other act had more of an influence on the next generation; their debut album is art school posturing bolted on to no-nonsense 50s rock 'n' roll, with a smattering of avant garde noise and a cover that belongs on the front of a fashion magazine.

    Roxy Music debut album cover
    Roxy Music debut album cover. Picture: Alamy
  7. Aerosmith - Aerosmith: release date 5th January 1973

    Steven Tyler wrote the bulk of this accomplished debut which gave the world the classic hit Dream On. If the Stones were going off the boil as the 70s progressed, Aerosmith were ready to step in with the perfect bar-room boogie. Future bands like Guns N'Roses were listening in their bedrooms, taking note.

    Aerosmith's 1973 debut album
    Aerosmith's 1973 debut album. Picture: Press
  8. Bruce Springsteen - Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.: release date 5th January 1973

    Opening with the impeccable Blinded By The Light (later covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band), Springsteen's debut album garnered critical acclaim and set him on course to be one of the biggest stars of the next ten years. David Bowie was so impressed, he covered It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City for both the Diamond Dogs and Young Americans albums, but neither take was released for years.

    Bruce Springsteen - Greetings from Asbury Park NJ cover
    Bruce Springsteen - Greetings from Asbury Park NJ cover. Picture: Alamy
  9. Queen - Queen: release date 13th July 1973

    After toiling away on the college circuit for a few years under different aliases, Queen came into focus when frontman Freddie Mercury joined in the summer of 1970. By the time they'd acquired a record deal and gone into the studio, the quartet had a set of boisterous rock numbers that tipped a hat to Led Zeppelin's blend of heavy guitar and mysticism, while hinting at something bigger to come... Big tunes include Keep Yourself Alive and Liar.

    Queen's debut album cover - 1973
    Queen's debut album cover - 1973. Picture: Press
  10. Lynyrd Skynyrd - (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd): release date 13th August 1973

    The Skynyrd story may be touched by the tragic 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister Cassie and three others, but the music endures, particularly on this much-loved debut. Boasting some effortless Southern rock and produced by the prolific Al Kooper, the LP includes Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, Tuesday's Gone and the immortal hit Free Bird.

    Lynyrd Skynyrd - (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd) album cover
    Lynyrd Skynyrd - (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd) album cover. Picture: Press
  11. Patti Smith - Horses: release date 10th November 1975

    The debut album from the High Priestess of Punk was a huge influence on countless bands with its blend of poetic lyrics and basic garage rock. The cover of Them's Gloria is a fine way to open a recording career.

    Patti Smith - Horses album cover
    Patti Smith - Horses album cover. Picture: Alamy
  12. Ramones - Ramones: release date 23rd April 1976

    Despite being looped in with the New York punk scene, Da Brudders Ramone knew how to rock hard and the barrage of tunes on their debut - 14 songs in just under half an hour - is a powerful statement of intent. From the opening track Blitzkreig Bop, you're in for a hell of a ride.

    Ramones' debut album cover
    Ramones' debut album cover. Picture: Alamy
  13. Boston - Boston: release date 25th August 1976

    At the peak of the US Bicentennial summer came this slick debut that was perfect for endless rotation on FM radio. Any album that opens with More Than A Feeling deserves your attention and tracks like Long Time and Peace Of Mind are enduring rock classics. The fastest-selling debut album in the US at that point.

    Boston's debut album from 1976.
    Boston's debut album from 1976. Picture: Alamy
  14. Blondie - Blondie: release date December 1976

    While the Ramones remodelled garage rock for the punk audience, fellow New Yorkers Blondie added sass, melody and the most memorable frontwoman of the era in Debbie Harry. Their debut sets out their attitude perfectly on tracks like X Offender, Rip Her To Shreds and In The Flesh.

    Blondie's debut album
    Blondie's debut album. Picture: Alamy
  15. Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (aka Blue Car): release date 25th February 1977

    After leaving Genesis in the summer of 1975, the world was waiting to see what Peter Gabriel's debut solo album would have in store. As the frontman of the progressive rock titans, his theatrical approach to performance had resulted in song suites (like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) and increasingly elaborate stage costumes. The first of his self-titled albums (code named Car or Blue Car after the striking Hipgnosis-designed cover art) was a leaner, more disciplined affair: armed with a world-class band that included King Crimson's Robert Fripp on guitar, the record opened with the evergreen Solsbury Hill and came to a climax with the underrated Here Comes The Flood.

    Peter Gabriel's self-titled debut solo album, 1977
    Peter Gabriel's self-titled debut solo album, 1977. Picture: Alamy
  16. The Clash - The Clash: release date 8th April 1977

    Putting aside the tabloid frenzy and moral panic of punk, The Clash demonstrated that it was possible to make a solid, classic rock record using the format. Their debut includes the rabble rousing White Riot and Career Opportunities and shows off the musicians' musical dexterity on their cover of Junior Murvin's Police And Thieves.

    The Clash's 1977 debut album
    The Clash's 1977 debut album. Picture: Press
  17. Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77: release date 16th September 1977

    Pure art rock from the New York band comprising David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison. The opening song Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town gives you an idea of what to expect and the classic Psycho Killer gives each member a moment in the spotlight. The band would go on to be one of the most creative outfits of the 80s.

    The cover of Talking Heads '77
    The cover of Talking Heads '77. Picture: Alamy
  18. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell: release date 21st October 1977

    Masterminded by producer Jim Steinman, the actor and singer's debut album has spent the equivalent of a decade on the UK charts for a reason. From the bombastic track to the doo wop pastiche of You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, this record belongs in every household.

    The debut album by Meat Loaf. Bat Out Of Hell.
    The debut album by Meat Loaf. Bat Out Of Hell. Picture: Alamy
  19. Van Halen - Van Halen: release date 10th February 1978

    Based around star guitarist Eddie Van Halen, his brother Alex on drums and charismatic vocalist David Lee Roth, this debut is packed with technical prowess and includes Runnin' With The Devil, Ain't Talkin' Bout Love and a bold cover of The Kinks' You Really Got Me.

    Van Halen's self-titled debut album
    Van Halen's self-titled debut album. Picture: Alamy
  20. The Cars - The Cars: release date 6th June 1978

    Produced by Queen man Roy Thomas Baker, The Cars' debut was the perfect showcase for Ric Ocasek's songwriting. Emerging from the 70s tradition of Power Pop, the band found themselves aligned with the New Wave thanks to the nervy and tight arrangements of songs like My Best Friend's Girl, Moving In Stereo and Just What I Needed.

    The Cars' 1978 debut album
    The Cars' 1978 debut album. Picture: Press
  21. The Police - Outlandos d'Amour: release date 3rd November 1978

    Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland were lumped in with the punk/new wave upstarts, but there was much more going on as their debut demonstrates. Melding ska rhythms, rock riffs and provocative lyrics, it's no wonder that The Police quickly became one of the biggest bands in the world. Big tunes include So Lonely, Roxanne and Can't Stand Losing You.

    The Police Outlandos D'amour album cover
    The Police Outlandos D'amour album cover. Picture: Alamy
  22. Pretenders - Pretenders: release date 27th December 1979

    Chrissie Hyne had spent a number of years on the periphery of the punk scene, but as the genre began to fragment and expand, the time was right for her to find stardom with her own group. Classic originals (Kid, Brass In Pocket) rub shoulders with a brilliant cover of The Kinks' Stop Your Sobbing. It's a shame that the deaths of original members Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott a few years later would halt the development of this line-up; it's fascinating to speculate where they would have gone next.

    Pretenders   -  Pretenders album cover
    Pretenders - Pretenders album cover. Picture: Alamy
  23. Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden: release date: release date 14th April 1980

    If rock was enjoying a comfortable phase in the late 70s, Britain had the answer to making the genre essential again. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal may have been an ungainly label, but it encompassed the bands who took the DIT aesthetic of punk and applied it to grassroots rock. Maiden were one of the pioneers and their debut, with original vocalist Paul Di'Anno, set the tone across tracks like Running Free, Sanctuary and some distinctive cover art.

    Iron Maiden's self-titled 1980 debut album
    Iron Maiden's self-titled 1980 debut album. Picture: Alamy
  24. Guns N'Roses - Appetite For Destruction: release date 21st July 1987

    In 1987, the world of American rock was leaning towards poodle-haired Americans in lycra, over the top stage shows and unrepentant sexism. Along came GN'R, who brought a piece of gritty LA realism, a helping of punk edge and a streetwise attitude to the genre. The best moments are Paradise City, Sweet Child O'Mine, Mr Brownstone, Nightrain well, the whole lot, basically.

    Guns N'Roses - the alternate cover for Appetite For Destruction
    Guns N'Roses - the alternate cover for Appetite For Destruction. Picture: Press