Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

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Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" magazine cover

"The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" is a 2003 special issue of American magazine Rolling Stone and a related book published in 2005.[1] The lists were compiled based on votes from selected rock musicians, critics, and industry figures. The lists predominantly feature American and British music from the 1960s and the 1970s, topped by the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with a top 10 that featured four entries from the Beatles (Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 10), two from Bob Dylan (No. 4 and 9), and one each from the Beach Boys (No. 2), Marvin Gaye (No. 6), the Rolling Stones (No. 7) and the Clash (No. 8).

In 2012, Rolling Stone published a revised edition of the list drawing on the original and a later survey of albums up until the early 2000s.[2] It was made available in "bookazine" format on newsstands in the US from April 27 to July 25. The new list contained 38 albums not present in the previous one, 16 of them released after 2003.


The first version of the list, published as a magazine in November 2003, was based on the votes of 273 rock musicians, critics, and industry figures, each of whom submitted a weighted list of 50 albums. The accounting firm Ernst & Young devised a point system to weigh votes for 1,600 submitted titles. The list includes a few compilations, and "greatest hits" collections.[3]

The following authors contributed to the citations made of each album:

An amended list was released in book form in 2005, with an introduction written by Steven Van Zandt. As the editor's foreword explains, some compilation albums were removed, and Robert Johnson's The Complete Recordings was substituted for both of his King of the Delta Blues Singers volumes, making room for a total of eight new entries on the list. The Complete Recordings would be reinstated to the list in the 2012 edition.

List statistics[edit]

Number of albums from each decade[edit]

Decade Number of albums Percentage
1950s 10 2.0%
1960s 105 21.0%
1970s 186 37.2%
1980s 84 16.8%
1990s 73 14.6%
2000s 40 8.0%
2010s 2 0.4%

Artists with the most albums[edit]

11 albums

  • Bob Dylan (one credited to Bob Dylan and the Band; two in the top 10 at the No. 9 and No. 4 spots)

10 albums

8 albums

7 albums

6 albums

5 albums

4 albums

3 albums


Writing in USA Today newspaper, Edna Gundersen described the list as predictable and "weighted toward testosterone-fueled vintage rock". The Rolling Stone 500 has also been criticised for being male-dominated, outmoded and almost entirely Anglo-American in focus.[4][5] Jonny Sharp, a contributor to NME's own 500 greatest albums list, described the Rolling Stone list as a "soulless, canon-centric [list] of the same tired old titles," noting: "looking at their 500, when the only album in their top 10 less than 40 years old is London Calling, I think I prefer the NME's less critically-correct approach."[6]

Following the publicity surrounding the list, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics in 2004. The book featured a number of critics arguing against the high evaluation of various "great" albums, many of which had been included in the list.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Levy, Joe; Van Zandt, Steven, eds. (2006) [2005]. Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814.
    Related news articles:
  2. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  3. ^ "It's Certainly a Thrill: Sgt. Pepper Is Best Album", USA Today, November 17, 2003.
  4. ^ Biron, Dean. 2011. Towards a Popular Music Criticism of Replenishment. Popular Music & Society, 34/5: 661–682.
  5. ^ Schmutz, Vaughan. 2005. Retrospective Critical Consecration in Popular Music: Rolling Stone's Greatest Albums of All Time. American Behavioral Scientist, 48/11: 1510–1523.
  6. ^ Sharp, Johnny (October 24, 2013). "Mission Impossible: My 'NME 500 Greatest Albums' Voting Hell". The Quietus. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  7. ^ (ISBN 1-56980-276-9)

External links[edit]