It wasn't until we were discussing its release this week that Rocks Off realized we're basically the same age as Led Zeppelin's debut album. Recorded in October 1968 and released the following January, Led Zeppelin is 42 years old.
It suffers from some of the same ailments as all of us who reach that age: It's a little stiff in spots, the lines that were so awesome when you first heard them may sound a little stale - though we'll stand by our assertion that "In the days of my youth/ I was told what it means to be a man" may be one of the best opening lines of all time - and frankly, "Dazed and Confused" got old the 50th time we heard it blaring from a dorm during freshman year midterms.
But in spite of all that, only a crazy person (or Rolling Stone back in '69) would deny the album's greatness. As a first album alone, it ranks among the best of all time, which means it's an easy pick for the greatest self-titled debut albums in rock and roll.
...See, that's what "eponymous" means.
It wasn't just the first album for Iggy Pop and the gang, but the birth of punk rock itself. After all, the Stooges were accused of being unable to play their instruments almost a decade before those spotty English blokes.
Punk wasn't the only thing that came to rescue us from disco in the late '70s. The same year Star Wars came out, America was also introduced to a leonine, roundhouse-kicking front man and its new guitar god. The first side -- "Running with the Devil," "Eruption," "You Really Got Me," "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," and "I'm the One" -- may be one of the most satisfying of all time.
How can an album that cost $600 and clocks in at just under 30 minutes be considered one of the greatest debuts of all time? When it includes staccato masterpieces like "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Beat on the Brat" and made Johnny, Dee Dee, Joey, and Tommy...well, not household names exactly, but who else could bring PJ Soles, Clint Howard and Dick Miller together peacefully?
Without the Allman Brothers, you wouldn't have the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Drive-By Truckers, and a healthy portion of what passes for Southern rock. And for those of you snottily thinking this is a bad thing, feel free to go back to your Dropkick Murphys albums.
It took a lot of balls (and ovaries, lest we forget Maureen Tucker and Nico herself) to drop an album full of references to heroin use and death on the cusp of the Summer of Love. The Velvets' first album opened the door for all that is best in rock music, even as everyone else was about to sing about wearing flowers in their hair.
It wasn't just the inspiration for London Calling, it was the first rock album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and unleashed the King upon an unsuspecting (and unready) land. America -- and American television -- would never be the same.
Look, we're as sick of "More Than a Feeling" and "Peace of Mind" as anybody, but this sonofabitch has sold 17 million copies. Like it or not, that's influential. And hopefully including it will assuage any angry Massachusettans upset about our earlier Dropkick Murphys comment.
Led Zeppelin (1969)
Sense a trend? Great bands tend to come into being in opposition to prevailing musical trends: the Clash and Ramones were a response to '70s bloat, the Stooges and Zeppelin a loud repudiation of the peace-and-love generation, while Morrissey, Johnny Marr and the gang offered a morose alternative to the bouncy New Wave of the early Reagan/Thatcher years.
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In all fairness, we didn't get this stateside until '79, but most of us were still listening to Billy Joel and Anne Murray anyway. Aside from the album's political content, the Clash were also laying the groundwork for appearances on the T-shirts of John Cusack movie characters dating from 1986 to 2006.