Some bands had their sound perfectly defined right from their first album — AC/DC and The Ramones come to mind — but other acts had to take some time before finding the style that best suited them. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five famous artists whose early recordings sound nothing like the later works that they would achieve commercial success with.
5. Before Phil Collins and Steve Hackett showed up, Genesis were a baroque pop act.
When you think of Genesis, you either think of the intricate prog-rock of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, or the 80s pop of albums like Invisible Touch. But their first album sounded nothing like either of those. Instead, it was a baroque pop album that sounds a bit like The Zombies, or the early recordings of The Bee Gees. This was before Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett joined the band, both of whom would have a big effect on their sound. This album is rather difficult to find, since the band doesn’t own the rights to it. But if you’re willing to seek it out, it’s actually a fine album; just very different from what Genesis was known for.
4. Michael Bolton originally tried to make it as a metal singer.
In this case, it wasn’t just the first album. Before Bolton hit it big singing schmaltzy adult contemporary hits like “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,” he tried in vain to make it as a hard rock/metal vocalist. Several early albums — all released on major labels — failed to make any impact. It wasn’t until he went the balladeer route with 1989’s Soul Provider that people started paying attention. For what it’s worth, you aren’t missing much if you ignore Bolton’s metal days. As you can tell from the clip above, it wasn’t much more than generic 80s hair metal. But hey, at least he tried to be cool before he started singing “Can I Touch You…There.”
3. Alanis Morissette was originally a dance-pop star.
Before Alanis Morissette was giving us her raw emotions, and telling us about her dalliances in movie theaters, she was trying to make it as a dance-pop singer in the mold of say, Gloria Estefan or Paula Abdul. It’s honestly jarring to listen to some of this, mostly for the shock of hearing Alanis’s trademark howl performing such fluffy, inconsequential material. Luckily, Morissette’s dance-pop stage only lasted one album. Her work turned far more personal with 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the most popular albums of the 90s.
2. The Beastie Boys began as hardcore punks.
Before becoming hip-hop legends with License To Ill and Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys made straightforward, blistering punk rock. Their 1982 debut, Polly Wog Stew, featured eight tracks, and was just over 10 minutes long. Even after the Beastie Boys drastically changed their sound, they never totally abandoned their punk roots. Tracks from 1994’s Ill Communication like “Tough Guy,” and “Heart Attack Man” don’t sound radically different from the band’s early work.
1. Tori Amos’s 80s synth-pop beginnings with Y Kant Tori Read
Before Tori Amos became one of the most influential, innovative artists of her time, she was singing fairly generic synth-pop. As the singer of the thankfully short-lived band Y Kant Tori Read, she sang over terribly dated 80s synths and drum machines that sound like pretty much everything else made in that cursed musical decade. Thankfully, Amos would go solo and drastically change her sound with 1992’s Little Earthquakes. Oh, fun fact, the drummer for Y Kant Tori Read was future Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum.