Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The Ten Greatest Debut Albums

Picks include Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten,’ the Killers’ ‘Hot Fuss’ and ‘The Doors’

pearl jam

Paul Bergen/Redferns

The Rolling Stone editors recently selected their list of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time. Like any list, it sparked some controversy. Many readers felt that Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam's first discs were ranked too low, and the absence of King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King angered many readers. We figured the best way to respond was to allow the readers to create their own list. The response was overwhelming. Click through to see the results. 


Courtesy Epic Records

3. Boston, ‘Boston’

When guitarist Tom Scholz began recording the first Boston album in his Massachusetts basement in 1975, he couldn't possibly have imagined what was about to happen to his life. The rock critical establishment dismissed his homemade creation as an "American synthesis of Led Zeppelin and Yes," but rock fans absolutely loved it. The album has gone platinum 17 times over, and singles "More Than a Feeling" and "Peace of Mind" have been playing steadily on rock radio for the past 35 years. Follow-up albums failed to connect in quite the same way and the critics never came around, but Boston retains a huge following and can still draw crowds, even after the tragic suicide of Brad Delp in 2007. 

led zeppelin

Courtesy Atlantic Records

2. Led Zeppelin, ‘Led Zeppelin’

Led Zeppelin had a lot of hype to live up to with their 1969 debut album. They were collectively known as the best session players in England, and Atlantic Records relentlessly promoted the album in the press. This was the era of the supergroup, and many were skeptical about whether or not Led Zeppelin was the real deal. All doubts were erased once fans heard the actual music. "Dazed and Confused," "Good Times Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown" were unlike anything else on the charts at the time. The Jeff Beck Group were good, but Led Zeppelin were operating on a higher level. Many critics hated this album, and others claimed they used traditional songs without proper credit, but that's an argument for another time and place. 

guns n roses pearl jam

Courtesy Geffen Records; Courtesy Epic Records

1. (tie) Pearl Jam, ‘Ten’; Guns N Roses, ‘Appetite for Destruction’

This poll had a huge response, and it ended in a perfect tie. That makes a lot of sense. It's impossible to pick between Ten and Appetite for Destruction. The two discs arrived only four years apart, but it seems like two radically different eras. Guns N' Roses made every hair metal group of the time seem like a bunch of pathetic whiners, while Pearl Jam's Ten stood out in a huge field of amazing alternative rock albums. Both groups boast amazingly unique singers and killer guitar duos. Both albums are flawless from start to finish, lacking even a single sub-par track. Both albums put a huge spotlight on people that weren't quite ready for that degree of fame and adulation.

The pressure quickly tore Guns N' Roses apart and drove some to drugs and madness, while Pearl Jam managed to survive by moving far away from the spotlight. They didn't try to top it by booking stadium tours, releasing two albums on the same day and filming crazily ambitious videos. Pearl Jam basically did the exact opposite of everything Guns N' Roses did, and that's why they're still around and Guns N' Roses are a pathetic shell of their former glorious selves. It's impossible to top a record as huge as Appetite for Destruction or Ten. Pearl Jam were smart enough not to try.