The Mix: 50 Failed First Impressions Bob Dylan released his first album 50 years ago on March 19 — to almost zero acclaim. In this edition of The Mix, WNPR's Anthony Fantano chooses 50 songs from albums that belied future greatness.

The Mix: 50 Failed First Impressions

Bob Dylan's Bob Dylan came out on March 19, 1962. Few cared. Columbia Records hide caption

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Columbia Records

Bob Dylan's Bob Dylan came out on March 19, 1962. Few cared.

Columbia Records

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Debut albums are strange beasts. Some rocket artists to a lofty level of stardom that never seems to wane, making a permanent mark on the world of music. Others manage to attain a devoted cult status, but take years, maybe even decades, to do so. Even more go overshadowed by material the artist will eventually release. And there's just no calculating the countless number of debut LPs and EPs that get swept under the rug every year.

Even though some artists just get it right the first time around, this mix is devoted to the ignored and under-appreciated debut. Monday marked 50th anniversary of one such release: Bob Dylan's self-titled album. Yes, it holds an admirable spot in Dylan's discography today, but real success wouldn't come for the New York-via-Minnesota folksinger until the release of albums such as the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

Other artists on this mix share similar trajectories, and maybe there's a reason for that. Dylan needed time to grow and develop his most definitive ideas. Like him, Wu-Tang Clan's the GZA, Flying Lotus, M. Ward, and Queen are examples of what time and tweaking can do for an artist's sound.

An almost complete musical overhaul was necessary for some of the artists on this mix, though. Wilco's most popular albums are pretty dark in comparison to the rowdy and accessible power pop sounds that littered the band's first album. And even though the Bee Gees' zenith was in the world of disco, art pop and rock is where the group's forgotten roots sit.

Whether it's the sound of an extremely young Conor Oberst fronting Commander Venus, or New Order rising from the ashes of Joy Division, each track on this mix — one each from 50 albums that didn't hint at the success that would come later — looks to uncover overlooked gems and prove a hit doesn't always come the first time around. So here's to humble beginnings, eventual success, and, most of all, development.

50 Failed First Impressions

  • At the Drive-In, Acrobatic Tenement
  • Andrew Bird, Music of Hair
  • Bee Gees, The Bee Gees Sing And Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs
  • Boards Of Canada, Twoism
  • Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
  • Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • Commander Venus, Do You Feel at Home
  • David Bowie, David Bowie
  • Depeche Mode, Speak & Spell
  • Dinosaur Jr., Dinosaur
  • Eurythmics, In the Garden
  • Explosions In the Sky, How Strange, Innocence
  • Flying Lotus, 1983
  • Gang Starr, No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • GZA, Words From the Genius
  • Herbie Hancock, Takin' Off
  • Hüsker Dü, Land Speed Record
  • John Coltrane, Coltrane
  • Joni Mitchell, Song To A Seagull
  • Judas Priest, Rocka Rolla
  • Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 1
  • Lou Reed, Lou Reed
  • Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • M. Ward, Duet for Guitars No. 2
  • Modest Mouse, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
  • My Bloody Valentine, Isn't Anything
  • The National, The National
  • Neil Young, Neil Young
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, On Avery Island
  • New Order, Movement
  • Nirvana , Bleach
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Otis Redding, Pain in My Heart
  • Prince, For You
  • Public Enemy, Yo! Bum Rush the Show
  • Queen, Queen
  • The Roots, Organix
  • Rush, Rush
  • Sigur Ros, Von
  • Simon & Garfunkel, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
  • Slayer, Show No Mercy
  • Slint, Tweez
  • Sonic Youth, Sonic Youth
  • Squarepusher, Feed Me Weird Things
  • Sufjan Stevens, A Sun Came
  • The United States Of America, The United States Of America
  • The White Stripes, The White Stripes
  • Wilco, A.M.
  • Yes, Yes