Drawing up any “greatest of all time” list is bound to cause controversy. Rolling Stone magazine does not shy away from controversy, either about music or politics. Over the next several months I am going to post about once a week on their top 30 albums of all time.
As the screen capture of the front page of 500 Greatest Albums section of their webpages shows, the list is not a list voted for by the public, but rather by writers, critics, musicians and music industry experts. How different the list would be if it were voted for by the public, or how different that list would be if voted for by e.g. the US public or the Canadian public or the British public, is an interesting question to ponder.
The other thing to ponder of course is whether such lists serve any purpose. Personally I think they do. I remember seeing a list of the top 20 albums of all time in the Sunday Observer newspaper when I was a teenager, about 14 or 15 years of age. Like the Rolling Stone list, it was not a list of the top 20 best selling albums of all time, but rather the top 20 best albums as decided by some rock critics. I was (and still am) a massive Beatles fan. Two of the top 3 albums were Beatles albums, numbers 1 and 3. But two of the top 5 albums were also Bob Dylan albums, numbers 2 and 5. He was an artist I had heard of in the context of having influenced John Lennon and The Beatles, but I had never heard his music. Based on his having 2 albums in the top 5, I bought the two of them, and have been a huge Dylan fan ever since.
So, such lists are, I think, amongst other things a way to discover new music. And, of course, to get a discussion going on whether such and such an album really does deserve to be number 25 or 15 or whatever.