(Colin & Ricki collaborated cybernetically on this post: Colin is in plain text, Ricki’s in italics.)
Sadly, we recently lost the talented musician and producer Ric Ocasek. The Cars debut record could perhaps be the most fully realized debut record of all time. Think about that. Off the top of my head here is an incomplete list of the greatest debut records ever recorded. The criteria for this list follows one simple rule:
If you only had the debut record, you would fully understand the artist. That knocks out 99.9% of records. For example, you can’t only own Meet the Beatles and claim to appreciate The Beatles. A great debut record, no doubt, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. But if you heard The Cars, you would never need another Cars record to fully appreciate the band. Let’s go to my list. Please let me know who I am missing as I am sure there are plenty.
The Cars - I used to play this record over the phone to girls I was too scared to talk to in 7th grade. Later when Watershed was working on The More It Hurts with Tim Patalan, we took a break from recording feeling pretty good about ourselves and ended up at a house party in Detroit. Someone put on The Cars and we all just kinda slumped at the same time. That record was flawless. We still had a wide river to cross. (I totally agree with Colin on this one. As he said, flawless record. For an in-depth account of my Troubled History with The Cars founder, check out Growing Old With Rock & Roll / Fighting With Ric Ocasek sometime.)
Van Halen - Boom. Have you seen the cover? Have you heard “Eruption”? What is this?
Tracy Chapman - “Fast Car” only gets better and the rest of the record is just as good.
Guns N’ Roses / Appetite for Destruction - Though the video for “November Rain” is the only GNR you need to watch.
Weezer / The Blue Record - Produced by Ric Ocasek. Pinkerton is my personal favorite but all other 15 Weezer records are just them trying to rip off their debut. You hear this, you get the gist.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - It’s got “American Girl.” Oh, and Jimmy Iovine can get bent for bad-mouthing Stan Lynch on later records. Sounds like a fake-ass producer looking for a scapegoat. Jimmy couldn’t get the right drum sounds with Bruce Springsteen, either? Stan seemed to play pretty well on this record. Once again see: “American Girl.” (Ricki: I’m gonna throw in my two cents on this one. Back in 1976 when I went HUGE for the Year Zero aspect of punk-rock and literally gave away all my old acoustic records from the 1960’s & 70’s, that first Heartbreakers record was mind-blowing. Yeah, The Clash were great and The Sex Pistols had a coupla cool singles, but Tom Petty and the guys were just so AMERICAN, ya know? I couldn’t really picture Sid Vicious sittin’ around a swimming pool quaffing beers & smoking joints, but I could CERTAINLY see Stan Lynch indulging in those activities whilst simultaneously trying to scam pert, pretty young American Girls. “The Wild One Forever,” “Anything That’s Rock & Roll,” “American Girl;” all classics. And “Mystery Man“ is definitely one of the Top Ten Rolling Stones Songs That The Rolling Stones Forgot To Write EVER.)
MeatLoaf / Bat Out of Hell - The first and only Meat record you need to own. Jim Steinman is from another planet.
Ramones - Made some better records but if you hear this, you pretty much know Ramones.
Here Is Little Richard - Same as Ramones.
The Killers / Hot Fuss.
Anyway, I’m at work serving coffee so chime in with who is missing.
R.I.P. Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr.
Ricki’s addendum to Great Debut Records List:
The New York Dolls. Possibly - In My Humble Opinion - THE GREATEST DEBUT ALBUM in the history of rock & roll, but I’m not going through my entire record collection to verify that. If I think of any better, I’ll get back to you.
The Whiles / Colors Of The Year. Joe Peppercorn has certainly had great moments on later records (who else in Columbus could have written “Interregnum Thrones/Sink Beneath Your Smile”?) but never as consistently genius a record as this debut.
The MC5 / Kick Out The Jams. What more needs to be said? “Kick out the jams, motherfucker!”
Ian Hunter / self-titled 1976 release. I’m not really sure this one should count, since Hunter already had 6 or 7 Mott The Hoople records behind him when he released this solo debut, but GODDAMN, what a great Declaration of Independence.
The Modern Lovers / self-titled (I HATE the term “eponymous,” and it’s hard to spell.) Recorded as demos in 1972 or so, not released until 1976. Classic. (For more check out Growing Old With Rock & Roll / The Modern Lovers.)