Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Famous Firsts

Track 193 | Even rock stars have to start somewhere.

Like our first kiss, we all seem to remember the first album we bought with our own money — certainly musicians and music people do. Mine was Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police, which I bought with birthday money at the big Woolworth’s store in Pembroke, Ont. with Christmas money in January 1981. I was seven years old. I had first heard it a few months earlier at my uncle’s house in Peterborough when we gathered for my grandfather’s funeral. One of my cousins was listening to it on the living room stereo with her boyfriend. I listened from the bottom of the stairs, out of sight.

I already had a couple of records — Elton John’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, which I liberated from my brother; School’s Out by Alice Cooper, which was a gift from my dad after a work trip to Toronto; and Turnstiles by Billy Joel, which actually was my first album, a gift from Santa in my stocking in 1978. I still have all of them. Apart from a life-long fondness for The Police, Alice and Elton, I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from these early influences. Turnstiles is the only Joel album I own, and I never listen to it. I only keep it because of its significance to me.

Anyway, I was wondering about the first-ever albums or singles purchased by far more notable recording artists than myself.

Ace Frehley | I Want To Hold Your Hand

The KISS lead guitarist claims that The Beatles’ hit, released in the States on Boxing Day 1963, was his first purchase. The first three days it was available, New Yorkers purchased 10,000 copies of the single every hour. Perhaps 13 year-old Paul Frehley was one of them.

Justin Hawkins | Shaddap You Face

As lead singer of The Darkness, Hawkins is known for his soaring operatic voice and hilarious lyrics. So, maybe it shouldn’t be a shock that the first record he ever bought was the 1980 novelty single by Joe Dolce. It was pretty popular with me as well, I’ll admit. Hawkins turned six years old a few days after it finished a three-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.

Barney Greenway | Paranoid

The Napalm Death vocalist was still just Mark Greenway when he bought the 1970 Black Sabbath masterpiece — which he says he got at a shopping centre near The Bartons Arms in Birmingham, where the band used to hang out. This would have been a few years after the album was released, of course, because Greenway was only a year old when Paranoid dropped. It clearly influenced him.

Mike Dubue | The Razors Edge

Hilotrons founder, singer-songwriter, producer and recording engineer Mike Dubue of Ottawa says the first album he bought with his own money was AC/DC’s 12th studio effort — 1990’s The Razors Edge. Presuming he bought the album when it came out, he would have been 12. He wasn’t alone: The record went multi-platinum thanks to hit singles Thunderstruck and Moneytalks. It’s a record Dubue still blasts, in retaliation to the youth pastor who “abusively brainwashed me to consider how evil it was and made me throw it out.”

Victoria Legrand | In Utero

Paris-born Beach House lead vocalist-keyboardist-songwriter Victoria Legrand was living with her family in Philadelphia when she was a teenager. It was just as she was about to enter high school that Kurt Cobain died. She was heavily into the music and fashion of the time when the 12 year old bought Nirvana”s final studio album.

Marky Ramone | The Who Sings My Generation

Surviving Ramones drummer Mark Ramone (born Mark Bell) says the first album he got was the U.S. version of The Who’s 1965 debut My Generation, which came out in 1966 in the States — under the title The Who Sings My Generation. The drummer was obviously drawn to Keith Moon, whose style he unsuccessfully tried to copy. The young Ramone would have been 14 when the record appeared.

Miguel Plante | Dans Mon Corps

The Ottawa multi-instrumentalist — who goes by the musical handle Dad Sports — says he was probably 10 years old when he bought a CD of the third album by Québécois pop rock group Les Trois Accords, which came out in the fall of 2009. He no longer has that CD, but does have a nice vinyl copy.

Kevin Parker | Batman Forever

Of all the Batman soundtracks the man behind Tame Impala could have chosen, he picked a pretty good one. Parker would have been nine years old when it came out in 1995 — purchased with his mom at a mall CD store. Granted, there was a lot of hype surrounding the first Batman soundtrack by Prince — but this one had Flaming Lips on it! That explains a lot.

Alex Lifeson | Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)

Rush’s guitarist remembers buying The Rolling Stones’ first compilation album, which came out at the end of March 1966. He would have been 13. He co-founded Rush just two years later. The first single young Aleksandar Živojinović purchased came a few years earlier — a copy of the 1960 country march Sink The Bismarck by Johnny Horton. (Fun fact: The Blues Brothers filmed a live cover of the Horton song for their movie — it was part of their gig at the country bar — but the sequence was cut for time.)

Talk | Up!

The Stittsville (Ottawa) singer-songwriter won the 2024 Juno for breakthrough artist, but the previous fall he opened on tour for Shania Twain. Talk, born Nicholas Durocher, says the country singer’s fourth album, 2002’s Up!, was the first album he ever bought.

Brandon Flowers | The Cars Greatest Hits

The Killers’ lead vocalist admits the way The Cars were able to bring keyboards and guitars together was a big influence on The Killers. The compilation came out in 1985, when Flowers was just four years old, so it’s probably safe to say he came to it a little later.

Joe Elliott | Every Picture Tells A Story

Def Leppard’s vocalist remembers being a huge fan of Marc Bolan, having his head turned by seeing David Bowie perform Starman on Top of the Pops, and has famously adored Mott The Hoople above all others — ever since he first heard the Bowie-penned All The Young Dudes, he says. But the first album he saved his money to buy was Rod Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story. Elliott would have been 12 at the time.

Taylor Swift | The College Dropout

The sensation was just 12 years old when she and her brother bought their first album — an iTunes download of Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout, from 2004. Little did she know what lay in store.

Dave Mustaine | Changesonebowie

Megadeth’s founder says the 1976 David Bowie compilation was the first album he bought, but not the first album he acquired. Sounds like he may have previously lifted a copy of KISS’s Destroyer, but we won’t count that. Mustaine was 15 when both albums came out.

John Lydon | Song Of The Diddymen & Doddy’s Diddy Party

Long before he was Johnny Rotten, the future Sex Pistols and PiL vocalist bought a copy of an album by Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd and his Diddymen. They released a few singles between 1965 and 1967 — and then a compilation album in 1970 called Song Of The Diddymen & Doddy’s Diddy Party, which is probably the one Lydon bought. He would have been 14.

Thomas Dolby | For The Roses

The Blinded By Science English keyboardist-songwriter-vocalist claims the first record he ever bought was Joni Mitchell’s fifth LP, 1972’s For The Roses — which is sandwiched between her two biggest albums, Blue and Court And Spark. Dolby, born Tom Robertson, would have been 14 when the album came out. He would work with Mitchell years later, and co-produced her 1985 album Dog Eat Dog.

Olivia Rodrigo | Pure Heroine

The pop singer says the first thing she did when she got her first phone was download her first album — Lorde’s 2013 debut Pure Heroine. Around 13 years old a that point, Rodrigo she says the album was incredibly important when she was trying to develop as a songwriter.

Ray Davies | Teen Scene

The main vocalist and songwriter of The Kinks admits he stole the first record of his collection, Ray Charles: In Person. We disqualify that one. The first one he actually, legally paid for was a 1961 guitar compilation of “the big hits” called Teen Scene, performed by a group called The Hunters. The cover shows the four young men, in safari hats, with their guitars pointed like guns at a tiger-skin rug. They cut a little more than a dozen singles, and two LPs. Teen Scene came out when Davies was 17. He entered art school the following year and started playing in bands. By 1964, The Kinks had a record deal.

Jordon Zadorozny | Shakin’ Like A Human Being

The man behind Pembroke, Ontario’s Blinker The Star acknowledges that his musician parents bought him plenty of Elvis Presley, Beatles and Johnny Rivers records when he was a kid — but the first album he got with his saved-up allowance money was Kim Mitchell’s Juno-winning 1986 sophomore album. The record was littered with hits — Patio Lanterns, Easy To Tame, Alana Loves Me, Get Lucky (Boys & Girls) and That’s The Hold. Zadorozny was 13 at the time and probably snagged the record from the the indie shop (Solid Sound) a block away from his folks’ music store.

Slash | Led Zeppelin

The debut album by Led Zeppelin came out when Slash (then Saul Hudson) was still living in the U.K. He would have only been four years old. Slash says he didn’t buy the album until he was 14, so that puts the purchase around 1979 — the same year he decided he wanted to be in a band.

Debbie Harry | Blueberry Hill

The Blondie frontwoman says her mother listened to opera records constantly when she was a kid, but went looking for blues when she was old enough to buy something for herself. In this case, it was a 45 of Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill. The single came out in 1956 when Harry was 11.

Henry Rollins | Grand Funk Live Album 

The former Black Flag lead singer says he inherited lots of his mom’s records, but the first album he went out and bought with his own money was a double-cassette copy of Live Album by Grand Funk. He got the late 1970 album with paper route money, at a drug store when he was 10 or 11.

Paul McCartney | Be-Bop-A-Lula

Macca, then 14, saved up for months to buy Gene Vincent’s 1956 single. The teen idol was only 21. By the time McCartney was that age, he had two No. 1 albums and seven No. 1 songs — including the one Ace Frehley bought.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.