NME’s Top 500 Albums of All Time

by George_East on October 25, 2013

NME coverAs regular readers know we are partial to a list here at Allthatsleft.    They are always great fodder for debate, particularly if you are with your mates down the pub and it is accompanied by a few beers.

Last summer saw the publication of Sight & Sound magazine’s ten yearly, top 10 films of all time list, which is as close to a definitive list as it is possible to get given that it is compiled from the votes of pretty much all of the world’s top film critics and directors.    The fact that it is only published once every 10 years gives it even more kudos.

This week saw the NME publish its top 500 albums of all time.  The voting for this is not on the same scale as the Sight & Sound film list – but the NME did compile it by approaching music critics who have written for that publication since the 1960s, rather than just surveying the current young whippersnappers who write for it now.    The NME does not publish such lists with any specific regularity and has previously stuck to a top 100 rather than a top 500.   I still have the 1985 Top 100 list preserved at home (it was a list which introduced me to a bunch of albums which I bought as a result) –Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? topped that list.     Whereas its top 100 list in 2003 had The Stone Roses’ generation defining eponymous debut in the number 1 slot.

The list throws up some curious rankings – Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at number 21, for example (placing it above the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (26), What’s Going On (25), The Stones’ Exile On Main Street (24) and The Clash’s London Calling (39) to name just four), or ranking Green Day’s adolescent Dookie (75) above Suede’s debut (78), Springsteen’s Born To Run  and The Band by The Band (83).

The list has a bit of a late 1980s to mid-1990s bias, some of which I am not sure has aged quite as well as the list suggests.    There are also a few too many albums from the last 2 or 3 years, which I think may reflect instant enthusiasm rather than having proved themselves yet to be lasting classics.     It is also interesting that many of the key albums by the bands who emerged in the punk explosion are rather lower down the list than one normally sees, as are some of the perennial 1960s best album list candidates:   Pet Sounds which often tops such lists languishes at No 26, Love’s Forever Changes at No 37, Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde at No 62, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks at 68 and The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday way down at No 291 (insultingly placing it 22 places below The Horrors’ Skying).

But overall the top 500 list is an interesting one and you should check it out (unfortunately it is not free on-line yet, so you’ll have to buy this week’s magazine).  I own 364 of them.

The top 20 looks like this:

  1. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (1986)
  2. The Beatles, Revolver (1966)
  3. David Bowie, Hunky Dory (1971)
  4. The Strokes, Is This It? (2001)
  5. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967);
  6. Pulp, Different Class (1995);
  7. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (1989);
  8. Pixies, Doolittle (1989);
  9. The Beatles, The Beatles (AKA The White Album) (1968);
  10. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994)
  11. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991);
  12. Patti Smith, Horses (1975);
  13. Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004);
  14. David Bowie, Low (1977);
  15. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (2011);
  16. Joy Division, Closer (1980);
  17. Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988);
  18. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991);
  19. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006);
  20. Radiohead, OK Computer (1997).

 

For what it is worth these are George East’s Top 20 Albums of all time as of today (these things tend to be a little fluid for me,  at least outside of the top four), together with the place of the album in the NME list.  Three of my top 20 appear in the NME top 20 and two are not in the NME top 500:

 

  1. The Clash, London Calling (1979) (39);
  2. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead (1986) (1);
  3. Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps (1979) (not in NME list);
  4. Joy Division, Closer (1980) (16);
  5. David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972) (23);
  6. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980) (118);
  7. Nick Drake, Bryter Later (1970) (140);
  8. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) (30);
  9. Neil Young, After The Gold Rush (1970) (56);
  10. Pixies, Surfer Rosa (1988) (58);
  11. Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks (1975) (36);
  12. Gang of Four, Entertainment! (1979) (159);
  13. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008) (not in NME list);
  14. Echo and The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain (1984) (276);
  15. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Boatman’s Call (1997) (257);
  16. Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988) (17);
  17. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (2001) (77);
  18. Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel  (1974) (317);
  19. Mercury Rev, Deserter’s Songs (1998) (152);
  20. Eric B & Rakim, Paid In Full (1987) (185).

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie_South October 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I’m always surprised that the White Album so frequently gets rated so highly compared to other Beatles’ albums. There’s great stuff on it, but it suffers the fate of most double albums (London Calling excepted) of being a bit flabby and would have benefitted from editing down to a single album, in my humble opinion.

Abbey Road, Sergeant Pepper and Rubber Soul are all better albums than the White Album, as probably is Help!

And whilst Magical Mystery Tour doesn’t hold up well as an “album” of work, it’s a better listen than the White Album.

I’ll now duck for cover as Ray takes aim…

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George_East October 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I couldn’t agree more – it is an absolute mess of an album, though with great stuff on it. I’d add A Hard Day’s Night to the Beatles’ albums that are better than it!
Having said that I don’t think Abbey Road is really a great album either – more a great first side. You can’t argue with the genius of Revolver though.
You going to provide us with your Top 20 for our delectation?

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Charlie East-West October 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

My top 20:
1. Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
2. David Bowie, Heroes
3. Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
4. The Blue Nile, Hats
5. The Clash, London Calling
6. U2, Achtung Baby
7. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
8. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
9. Father John Misty, Fear Fun
10. The Proclaimers, Sunshine on Leith
11. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead
12. The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper
13. The Who, Who’s Next
14. Sufjan Stevens, Come on feel the Illinoise
15. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
16, Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
17, Carole King, Tapestry
18, Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story
19, Guns N’Roses, Appetite for Destruction
20, Elvis Presley, That’s the Way it Is

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Jackie_South October 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Mine (at the moment, almost certain to change after a week or so):

1. Patti Smith, Horses
2. The Clash, London Calling
3. The Beatles, Revolver
4. Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed
5. White Stripes, Elephant
6. The Beatles, Abbey Road
7. Blur, Blur
8. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground and Nico
9. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
10. Steve Earle, Copperhead Road
11. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
12. David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
13. Pixies, Doolittle
14. Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel
15. Blondie, Parallel Lines
16. Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps
17. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
18. Nirvana, Nevermind
19. Public Image Limited, Metal Box
20. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

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Ray_North October 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

After much anguish here is my essentially white Dad rock list.

1. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
2. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
3. The Clash – London Calling
4. The Beatles – The White Album
5. The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
6. Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed
7. Stone Roses – Stone Roses
8. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
9. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That Is What I’m Not
10. Velvet Underground And Nico – Banana
11. Echo And The Bunnymen – Crocodiles
12. Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps
13. The Libertines – Up The Bracket
14. Radiohead – Pablo Honey
15. The Jam – Setting Sons
16. Soft Cell – Non Stop Exotic Cabaret
17. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
18. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
19. The Wedding Present – George best
20. The Undertones – The Undertones

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Charlie East-West October 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Staggeringly, Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On misses every list…

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George_East October 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I agree, including the NME top 20 (it was at No 25). Astonishing album – I reckon there’s an outside chance it would make Bobby’s top 20. Only one way to find out though….

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Bobby_West October 26, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Ok, I couldn’t resist. I’ve tried to do this list as ‘hands on heart’ what are really my all time favourite albums at the moment. A couple of pointers to favourite albums of this year…

I think the list would look different if I was allowed compilations. Also, I think the artist list would look a lot different if it was favourite songs…

And absolutely no doubt about What’s Going On. Truly brilliant.

1. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
2. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
3. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
4. Radiohead, Pablo Honey
5. Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel The Illinoise
6. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged
7. The Low Anthem, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
8. Lou Reed, New York
9. Suede, Suede
10. Radiohead, OK Computer
11. London Grammar, If You Wait
12. Antony and the Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now
13. REM, Automatic for the People
14. King Creosote and John Hopkins, Diamond Mine
15. Pixies, Doolittle
16. The Lemonheads, It’s A Shame About Ray
17. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings from Ashbury Park
18. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
19. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
20. Noah and the Whale, The First Days of Spring

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Charlie East-West October 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Bobby – that King Creosote / Hopkins album is wonderful.
Good call on Vampire Weekend.

Thank you for Marvin Gaye. I feel better about my own oversight.

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Bobby_West October 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm

The Vampire Weekend album may not survive the test of time (nor London Grammar) but they are easily the 2 albums I’m playing the most at the moment…

Diamond Mind is just beautiful…

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Ray_North October 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Yes, agree about London Grammar, lovely.

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Bobby_West October 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm

PS How the fucking hell did the Fleet Foxes not make the NME list when The Coral safely made it in at 178…

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George_East October 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yeah – I was totally baffled by that too – I checked 3 times, as I assumed I’d missed it. Bizarre.

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Bobby_West October 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm

How can there be space for the Coral and not FF. The sound of Robin Pecknold clearing his throat in the morning has more justification to be on the list…

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George_East October 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm

BREAKING BREAKING – The definitive Allthatsleft Top 20 Albums of all time can now be announced (well 22 with equal scores):

1. The Clash, London Calling (1979)
2. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead (1986)
3. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008)
4. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (1989)
5. Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
6. The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed (1969)
7. Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks (1975)
8. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
9. Radiohead, Pablo Honey (1992)
10. Velvet Underground, Velvet Underground & Nico (AKA in Ray’s head Banana)
11. Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel The Illinoise (2005)
12. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not (2006)
13= Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run (1975)
13= Patti Smith, Horses (1975)
15= Neil Young, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
15 = David Bowie, Heroes (1977)
15= Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On (1971)
18= The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet (1968)
18= The Beatles, Revolver (1966)
20=Joy Division, Closer (1980)
20= The Beatles, The Beatles (AKA The White Album) (1968)
20= Blue Nile, Hats (1989)

Cracking stuff. Stick that NME. This list is plainly superior to yours.

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Mrs East October 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

While appreciating that these are all amazing albums, there is definitely a low showing for female artists (with the honourable exception of Jackie’s list!).

My music taste is universally regarded as risible so I appreciate that this is unlikely to drive you to buy the albums on my list, but in the interests of getting more women into the debate my top 20 is:

1. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis
2. The Clash – London Calling
3. Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
4. Noisettes – Wild Young Heart
5. Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot
6. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella & Louis
7. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset – The Bairns
8. Blur – Park life
9. Etta James – At Last
10. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not
11. Marilyn Monroe – Let’s make love
12. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
13. Elastica – Elastica
14. Imelda May – Mayhem
15. Wham – Make it Big
16. The Streets – A grand don’t come for free
17. Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth
18. Wu Tang Clan – Enter the Wu Tang
19. Nirvana – Never mind
20. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call

I’ll keep my fingers that Dagenham Trash and Ms A log in soon with some more credible musical choices to add to the debate…

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Jackie_South October 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Some great stuff here, Mrs East. First Aid Kit a particularly good call, I think, although I deliberately didn’t go for anything too recent to ensure adequate perspective. Parklife was almost in my cut.

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Charlie East-West October 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

Mrs East wins the award for genre diversity.

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