The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



500 greatest albums of all time

Sarah Vabulas | Monday, December 8, 2003

Rolling Stone Magazine released a special collector’s issue for the week of Dec. 11 where they picked the 500 greatest albums of all time. This ultimate rock & roll record library was determined by a five-star electorate of experts and true fans: the singers, label executives, artist managers, historians and critics, among others. These albums represent the finest in popular music, selected by the best in the business.Rolling Stone’s top 500 project began six months ago, when the editors of RS polled a blue ribbon body of rock & roll stars and authorities, asking them to pick their top 50 albums, in order of preference.The 273 voters spanned every decade and genre of popular music, from the 1950s to the present, including Beck, U2 guitarist the Edge, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore of the Doors, Fats Domino, Jackson Browne, Art Garfunkel, Flea and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Britney Spears, Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Missy Elliott and folk patriarch Pete Seegar.Voters were free to be true to the own loves and music selections, while choosing not only albums that they considered the best, but those that meant the most to them in their personal lives as well as professional lives. More than 2,400 albums were nominated. Ballots were counted using a weighted point system developed by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young under the supervision of Rolling Stone editors.Because an album made the RS 500 list does not necessarily mean that it reflects the sales of the album or even chart positions. The best selling album of all time – Eagles: Their Greatest Hits, 1971-1975, at 80 million copies sold, did not place in the poll, while both Hotel California (No. 37, 16 million) and The Eagles (No. 374, 1.9 Million) did. The top album, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band, ranks fiftieth on the list of best-selling albums, at 11.7 million.Some of the greatest single artists – from Fats Domino and the Four Tops to Dion and Donna Summer – are absent; the voters did not reach a consensus on any of the hit compilations of their work on the market. Also, many important performers are recognized by the RS 500 as part of crucial multi-artist collections: the Carter Family on Anthology of American Folk Music; the Bee Gees on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever; the Righteous Brothers on the Phil Spector collection Back to Mono.The final tally is a celebration of the most exciting and vital albums ever recorded, from the shellac 78s made by bluesman Robert Johnson in a San Antonio, Texas, hotel room – finally compiled on an LP nearly 30 years after his death – to the catalytic hip-hop artistry of Eminem and the garage-rock futurism of the White Stripes. Alone, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Bruce Springsteen account for nearly ten percent of the RS 500 – a tribute not only to their epochal records but to their explosive growth and pioneer spirit as artists. Yet each of these 500 records, in some way, has been crucial to the history of rock & roll: honoring its past, igniting the present, determining the future.The RS 500 is also a continuing testament to the way popular music touches and moves us. These records changed not only rock & roll but the people who live for it. The RS 500 is conclusive proof that rock & roll will never die – because the music here is so full of life.