Pink Floyd really are something. Formed in London in 1965 by students Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, the group have gone on to be one of the most famous bands ever. They’ve sold 250 million records worldwide, had 17 UK Top 10 albums (6 at Number 1) and with 5 US Number One albums, are one of the few British bands to truly break the US over a sustained period. But the group has always been about more than chart success, as this exhibition by the V@A Museum in South Kensington demonstrates.
Debut albums, the first to come out, often the benchmark for all others. Here are eight that can’t be forgotten, no matter what came after for their bands.
The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses
From the gradual opening beats of ‘I Wanna be Adored’ that build to join in perfect synchronicity, it’s clear you are listening to something very, very, special. The indie alchemy glides on with favourites such as ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Made of Stone’ making an appearance before ending with guitar-riff classic ‘I am the Resurrection’. The initial brilliance of this exceptional album couldn’t last of course, and things got very messy with a less than enthusiastic response to the band’s second album from the critics and long break before their comeback tour. Still, they achieved more with the 11 songs debuted here than most bands do in a lifetime.
Funeral by Arcade Fire
Think Canadian music and Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams and Barenaked Ladies will come to mind. Luckily our Canadian friends also have a band in a different stratosphere of cool who emerged with the astonishing ‘Funeral’, the morbid title coming from a set of untimely deaths of relatives whilst making the album. Definitely a classic – sombre, evocative, pensive and quite brilliant.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Detruction
Still the biggest selling debut album in the US with 18m copies sold stateside, and even now it remains bursting with attitude. Hell-raising tunes like ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘Paradise City’, ‘Night Train’ and ‘My Michelle’ reflect the chaotic craziness of the life of the LA band growing up in the city, on the road and with old friends. There’s even a traditional ballad ‘November Rain’ to show just much talent Axl, Slash and co had to spare before they imploded.
Grace by Jeff Buckley
US drama and reality TV has done all it could to try and erode the poignant beauty of Hallelujah, but this is an album that rises above. Causing barely a ripple when it was first released in 1994, its true class has lasted to grow, Shawshank Redemption like through the musical ages, outlasting Buckley’s untimely death. If you don’t feel a shiver as opening track Mojo Pin begins, your soul needs resuscitating.
The Doors by The Doors
Still maybe the coolest band ever. Released in early 1967, Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore (and no bass player!) showcased the talent that had made them stand out from their compatriots when performing as the house band at Whiskey A Go Go. With long keyboard solos, mystical lyrics, oedipal spoken word sections and references to getting high, this is an album that had a bit of everything.
The Velvet Underground and Nico by The Velvet Underground
If books shouldn’t get judged by their covers, then seminal albums like this one sure should allowed to be. For an album that explores drug addiction and S&M, that iconic banana, as thought up by everyone’s favourite Andy Warhol, put a cherry on top of an astonishing work of fearless musical art. As if the album could be any more unique, opening track Sunday Morning even uses a celesta as the leading instrument.
Boston by Boston
It’s just as well no one can count how many times we’ve played air guitar to More than a Feeling, but then these guitar-based rockers (from you’ve guessed it, Boston) certainly had magical dimensions right from the start. Selling over 20 million copies worldwide, and with highlights including ‘Peace of Mind’ and ‘Smokin’, it certainly made us wish frontman and all round talent Tom Schulz had given us guitar lessons.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd
This is the album that seemingly defined and redefined the musical psychedelic movement, as Syd Barrett’s kaleidoscopic odyssey stays on the awesome side of creative brilliance. Who knows how Pink Floyd would have ended up if mental disintegration hadn’t forced Barrett to leave, but either way with song titles like ‘Lucifer Sam’, ‘The Gnome’ and ‘The Scacecrow’, he more than left his legacy on this one.