Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A special announcement

Rolling Stone just buggered me up in no uncertain terms. The editors of Rolling Stone magazine have thrown me for a loop and left me in a bit of a pickle.

They've revised the top 500 list.

I suspected they would of course. Top 500 lists are big sellers and collector's issues are a huge market. The original list of 500 albums that I've been working on was originally published in 2003 so I thought 2013 would be a reasonable time for them to come up with an updated 500 albums. What I wasn't anticipating was just how lazy and dishonest the Rolling Stone writers could be.

I was alerted to a new magazine by regular a regular reader (thanks Garry) and immediately rushed out to see what the story was. Sure enough I found a gold rimmed magazine in the racks at my local newsagent advertising itself as Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 greatest albums of all time. I bought it and checked out the list immediately. No 1 was the same, so was number 2 and number 3. In fact the entire top twenty was identical. I found it strange that a new collection of contributors would produce the exact same top twenty list that the first lot did in 2003. Odd. Then I did some more research.

The truth is that Rolling Stone haven't redone their list at all they've just smooshed two lists together. In 2003 they asked 271 contributors to vote for their favourite albums which is how they compiled their original list of the Top 500 Albums of All time.

Then in 2009 they surveyed 100 other notable people to come up with the best albums of 2000-2009 and published a 100 best albums of The Decade list. Now in 2012 they've taken some of the albums from the latest list and dropped them throughout the previous list (although none higher than 118). But instead of simply removing the bottom thirty albums to make way for thirty new ones they've removed albums willy nilly based purely on the whim of the editors. Sometimes they've ditched a best-of compilation which was replicating other albums but they've made some strange choices. How was it that in 2003 Sunflower by The Beach Boys was the 380th best album of all time but now it's nowhere to be found?

This reworking isn't just lazy it's also blatantly dishonest. The official version says it's a combination of two lists- one from 2003 and one from 2009 to make one comprehensive listing. Can anyone tell me then how an album from 2010 and one from 2011 made their way in? Were the people who contributed in 2009 so good they could predict something that was two years off being released? Or is the whole thing basically a total sham?

It seems to me that Rolling Stone Magazine decided to deal with declining sales (who gets music news once a month from a magazine when you get it daily from the internet?) by releasing a quick collector's edition. The editors spent an afternoon dropping thirty albums from the list, adding thirty more based on their own opinions, whipped off a bit of lazy copy and then gave it to an intern to dig out some accompanying photos from the archive.

So where does that leave me?

There are now three different 500 lists kicking around. The original 2003 version which was done for the magazine. A revision that came out not long afterwards for a hardback book which features a few minor changes, and the 2012 reboot which is predominantly the same only with a three dozen alterations to pander to the last ten years and make it look more contemporary (even though the top 100 is still pretty much identical).

I've given this a lot of thought and decided to continue with business as usual. Most of the changes in the recent reboot occurred in numbers 200-500 anyway and I'm passed them now. I've just posted 193 and the next ten albums are identical in both lists. There's no change until I hit 184 when Madonna's Immaculate Collection makes an appearance in the new list where it's leapt up from 278 in the old one.

I will acknowledge changes when I encounter them for the benefit of those that are reading this blog while clutching the new magazine in their hand (and if I can be bothered I might edit some past entries to mention their changed status) but I'm not redoing the entire blog or trying to change ships now.

In a way I'm relieved. I suspected Rolling Stone would totally redo everything and launch a brand new list compiled by new contributors which changed the landscape completely. In the long run their own dishonest laziness has made my life much easier.


  1. What about reviewing the all the albums that were added on, after you've finished the initial list?

  2. I've considered that. I've thought about reviewing the entire 100 albums from 2000-2009 or maybe trying a different list entirely (Maybe something a bit less US focused and a bit more UK centric). I'll see how I feel in a year or so when I'm approaching the end.