Music Mercredi: Rolling Stone's Greatest 500 Albums

It’s Music Mercredi (that’s Wednesday) around here, folks, a brand-new feature that means one thing for the next 50 weeks or so: riding shotgun as I go through the thankless task of surveying Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest 500 albums of all time. Up for it? Great.

Why would I do such a thing to myself? Good question. The thing is, I’m a music critic among many other things, and there’s a record store’s worth of albums that I’ve never heard. Like a lot of you out there, I’m quick to tell people that, musically, I listen to everything. But my “everything” is the same “everything” as the average eclectic music lover my age: Nine Inch Nails, Jill Scott, TV on the Radio, Led Zeppelin and M.I.A., for example. (Another dip into my iTunes: Treacherous Three, Black Sabbath, Sade, The Sundays and Goldie.) Okay, fine.

Have I ever ever played anything by Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, The Band, Grateful Dead or Weezer? Nope. Haven’t lost any sleep over it, either. But I am a music critic. And according to Rolling Stone in this November 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m missing out, because they’ve created some of the best music ever made. Long story short: I’m listening to 10 albums a week, and talking about the highs and lows every Wednesday till 2011. Let’s start this week with the Top 10 Greatest Albums of All Time:

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles

  2. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys

  3. Revolver, The Beatles

  4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan

  5. Rubber Soul, The Beatles

  6. What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye

  7. Exile on Main St., The Rolling Stones

  8. London Calling, The Clash

  9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan

  10. The Beatles (“The White Album”), The Beatles

Well. Rolling Stone sticking Sgt. Pepper at the top of their list is absolutely no surprise, and I can’t even say it’s undeserved or that I don’t like the album. My favorite songs in the whole Top 10 belonged to The Beatles (“Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Dear Prudence,” “Within You Without You,” “If I Needed Someone,” “Eleanor Rigby”), Marvin Gaye (“Inner City Blues [Makes Me Wanna Holler]”), Bob Dylan (“From a Buick 6,” “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” “Highway 61 Revisited”), the Stones (“I Just Want to See His Face”) and The Beach Boys (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”).

The Clash’s London Calling, on the other hand, I hated. Remember those music clubs where you’d buy six albums for a penny and be forced to buy one for full price per year? I got suckered once, and used it to get a bunch of so-called classic albums that I played once and hated. London Calling was one of them. I didn’t like it then (15 years ago?), and I don’t like it now. I love The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”—the one M.I.A. jacked for “Paper Planes”—but with London Calling, I guess you had to be there. I might not like Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” or Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without a Pause” as much either if I hadn’t lived through the summer of 1988.

Also, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is overrated. And, if only one black artist could crack the Top 10, I might’ve voted for Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Lifeinstead.