"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 presented were compiled based on votes from selected rock musicians, critics, and industry figures, and predominantly feature British and American music from the 1960s and 1970s. From 2007 onwards, the magazine published similarly titled lists in other countries around the world.

In 2012, Rolling Stone published a revised edition of the list drawing on the original and a later survey of albums in the 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.

Contents[edit | edit source]


  • 1 Background
  • 2 List statistics
  • 3 Reception
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Background[edit][edit | edit source]

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:

  • Pat Blashill
  • Anthony DeCurtis
  • Ben Edmonds
  • Gavin Edwards
  • Jenny Eliscu
  • David Fricke
  • Mark Kemp
  • Greg Kot
  • Joe Levy
  • Parke Puterbaugh
  • Austin Scaggs
  • Karen Schoemer
  • Bud Scoppa
  • Rob Sheffield
  • David Thigpen
  • Barry Walters

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][edit | edit source]

Artists with the most albums[4]
  • 11 Bob Dylan (ten solo albums and an additional album as Bob Dylan and The Band; two in the top 10)[4]
  • 10 The Beatles (four in the top 10 including the #1 spot; an additional four from their solo careers make the list beyond the 10 as a group)[4]
  • 10 The Rolling Stones (one in the top 10)[4]
  • 8 Bruce Springsteen[4]
  • 8 Eric Clapton (two solo albums, three with Cream, one with Derek and the Dominoes, one with The Yardbirds and one with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers)[4]
  • 7 Neil Young (five solo albums and an additional album with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and another with Buffalo Springfield)[4]
  • 7 The Who[4]
  • 6 Lou Reed (two solo albums, four with The Velvet Underground)[4]
  • 5 David Bowie[4]
  • 5 Elton John[4]
  • 5 Paul Simon (two solo albums, three with Simon and Garfunkel)[4]
  • 5 U2[4]
  • 5 Bob Marley and the Wailers[4]
  • 5 Led Zeppelin[4]
  • 5 Radiohead[4]
  • 4 Grateful Dead[4]
  • 4 Pink Floyd[4]
  • 4 Prince[4]
  • 4 Sly and the Family Stone[4]
  • 4 Stevie Wonder[4]
  • 4 Talking Heads[4]
  • 4 The Byrds[4]
  • 4 The Police[4]
  • 4 The Smiths[4]

Reception[edit][edit | edit source]

Writing in USA Today newspaper, Edna Gundersen described the list as predictable and "weighted toward testosterone-fueled vintage rock".[3] The Rolling Stone 500 has also been criticised for being male-dominated, outmoded and almost entirely Anglo-American in focus.[5][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 (ISBN 1-56980-276-9) in 2004. This featured a number of generally younger critics arguing against the high evaluation of various "great" albums, some of which had been included in the list, including DeRogatis taking on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been Rolling Stone's top choice.

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