A friend, an older brother or a coworker hands you an album and says: “You gotta hear this. It’s their debut album. I love it!”. You’d heard of the band, and maybe the first single, but you hadn’t listened to the whole album. You take it home and give it a spin.
One of two things usually happen.
Either you hate it and chastise them for having such poor taste in music…
…you love it and immediately search for more of their music.
I recently, and finally, picked up The Tragically Hip’s self titled EP at one of my local record stores. After listening to it a few times and reminiscing with my wife, I started thinking about the significance of a band’s first album. My wife and I would spend countless hours cruising Sault Ste. Marie’s backcountry roads while what we referred to as The Hip’s ‘blue tape’ roared out of the speakers of our van.
A band’s debut album is often the entry point for the ‘super fan’. It can be the start of a lifelong, or career long, love affair. However, it can also be a way for ‘new’ fans (folks that discover the greatness of their music years or even decades after they were recorded) to rediscover their music and appreciate how they got where they are now.
I came of age in the era of music videos. I discovered artists, such as; AC DC, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt and Robert Palmer, through their most successful hits. It wasn’t until years later, and when I started collecting records, that I discovered and fell in love with their back catalogues, including their first albums. I wasn’t exposed to these albums when they were released, but because I’ve progressed from a fan of their hits to a fan of their work, I can truly appreciate where they came from and these albums become equally as important.
Only the super fan can truly appreciate that first album, often after the band has amassed a healthy back catalogue. The super fan either stuck with the band because they connected with the music right from the start or they connected on a later recording that inspired them to take a look back, hoping to learn where that genius came from.
Bands with any longevity usually benefit from more lucrative recording contracts, access to higher quality recording studios, better producers and better engineers. This is often reflected in subsequent albums, but when the super fan listens to that first album they’re aware of where the band is now and can truly appreciate what got them there.
This is why that first album will always become so important when you become a super fan. It’s the birthplace of something great.