These bands didn't get it right on their first album
27 August 2020, 19:12
Sometimes your debut doesn't always demonstrate your potential. Here are the artists who underachieved the first time out.
Some debut albums don’t always showcase the artist that created them. Some debuts are a bit lacklustre and don’t give any hint at how the act will blossom and develop over time. Some debut LPs are just rubbish. Should these albums be on this list?
Radiohead - Pablo Honey (1993)
Yes, it may have Creep on it, but this first outing from Thom Yorke and co is a far cry from the accomplishment of The Bends, light years away from the masterpiece that is OK Computer and in another universe to Kid A. There are some highlights in the classic Anyone Can Play Guitar and the acoustic Thinking About You, but it’s all a bit underwhelming.
Blur - Leisure (1991)
Damon Albarn later claimed that the band’s debut album was “awful”, but is it really that bad? Well, it doesn’t signpost the direction that Blur would take in their peculiarly British take on indie, it’s more of a hangover from the baggy indie boom of the late 80s and early 90s with its shuffling rhythms, particularly on There’s No Other Way. First single She’s So High is very Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, but the great lost track is the dreamy Sing, which is a hint of things to come.
Primal Scream - Sonic Flower Groove (1987)
Three years before the perfect melding of indie rock and dance that was Screamadelica, Bobby Gillespie was straight outta playing drums for The Jesus And Mary Chain, so this debut LP is all jangling 12-string guitar like The Byrds, leather pants and pointy shoes. Classic 1987 indie, in fact… but just like dozens of other bands.
The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys (1979)
Before the hair, before the gloom, before the epic soundscapes, The Cure were another suburban British band trying to make sense of punk. Robert Smith later disowned this record, as the band were plowing through their live set of random songs written over a couple of years and the wacky post-modern artwork and the empty-sounding production had nothing to do with them. It doesn’t even include Boys Don’t Cry for heaven’s sake. The follow-up, Seventeen Seconds, is where The Cure really begin.
The Beatles - Please Please Me (1963)
Revolver, Sgt Pepper, The White Album: the Fab Four’s discography is full of classic LPs… in fact, you could say they defined what a decent pop album should be as early as 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night. But while their debut LP from ’63 is full of great moments - I Saw Her Standing There, the impeccable cover of Twist And Shout and the joyous title track - the rest is a lukewarm mix of their live set, covers and all. The low point comes with Ringo covering Boys, a song by US girl band The Shirelles.
The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones (1964)
Like The Beatles, the Stones’ first LP was a product of plying their trade in clubs, bars and dancehalls around Britain, so contains just one Jagger-Richards composition, two group songs and the rest is covers. Unless you’re super keen on 1960s American R&B, there’s not much to dig your teeth in to today. They got better.
Pulp - It (1983)
We all know that Jarvis Cocker had been plugging away at being a pop star for years, but it’s often a surprise to hear that Pulp’s first LP was released as far back as 1983. This mini-album was a very limited edition on the obscure Red Rhino label in York. It’s inevitably lo-fi, low key and super 80s-indie like a Yorkshire Smiths, but you can hear the spark of genius that would make Jarvis a Britpop superstar.
David Bowie - David Bowie (1967)
Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom and the Thin White Duke were yet to be conjured up when Davy Jones made this album for Deram, which came out on the same day as Sgt Pepper. And it couldn’t be more different: it’s full of character sketches, Mod anthems, children’s folk songs, whimsy and Toytown psychedelia, as Bowie tries to forge his own identity. It’d be another two years until Space Oddity made him a star and a full five until he became the most important man in British rock.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)
It starts with a slap-bass solo and gets seriously funky very quickly, but the Chilis’ first outing has paper-thin 80s production, Anthony Kiedis sounds like a redneck Iggy Pop and there are no hits. It was produced by Andy Gill of post-punk legends Gang Of Four, so it sounds a lot like them. Kiedis recalls in his autobiography: “One day I got a glimpse of Gill’s notebook, and next to the song Police Helicopter, he’d written 'Shit’.” Ouch.