100 Greatest Albums of All Time
From ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ to ‘The Doors’ make it to the ROLLING STONE list
Introduction By Elton John
Great albums ought to be short ”“ the shorter the better. If I see a CD with 17 tracks, I groan. Great albums are the ones you always go back to, like Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. It’s a perfect record, and I return to it time and time again. Exile on Main Street is the finest rock & roll album ever made (even though it’s 18 tracks). Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak is as sexy as a Marvin Gaye album. I still play it, and it cracks me up every time. Singles are great, and I love pop music. But the album changed music for the better. My first album was Dusty Springfield’s Dusty. Such an astonishing voice. Later, when Bernie Taupin and I shared an apartment, the biggest joy we had was buying a new album and looking at the sleeve while we played it. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On changed the face of black music forever. With an album like that, you’d play the first side, get up and take a breather, then put on the other side. There was something magical about that. One day I bought four big JBL speakers and put them in a big room at my house and put on Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. I smoked a joint and honestly thought
I saw God. In the Sixties and Seventies, you could buy 12 albums a week that were all classics. I remember buying my first copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was 1967 and I was 20. I biked to a village called Hatch End in northwest London. The album had one of the first gatefold sleeves, and I had to cycle back with one hand because I didn’t want to ruin the cover. It was like someone had invented something new. Revolver is when the Beatles really became a band and George started writing songs like “Taxman.” It came out at a time when I was playing with a band called Bluesology in the South of France. That summer, 1966, was all about Revolver. It’s very
hard to judge my own stuff. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a bloody good double album, but I thought Blue Moves was more sophisticated. The Band’s second album changed the way I wrote songs. You can hear it in my writing on Tumbleweed Connection. Laura Nyro’s Eli & the Thirteenth Confession and New York Tendaberry changed songwriting for me. She didn’t just do verse-chorus songs ”“ she went off on tangents, and it all made perfect sense. Chet Baker Sings is one of the most heartbreaking albums of all time. I send that to people all the time and say, “You don’t have to be a great singer to move people. You can affect people by the emotion in your voice.” Bob Dylan’s
Nashville Skyline and Modern Times sound like they were recorded in the 1940s or 1950s, but they sound like silk. Those were the templates for me when I made The Union. Thank God people are still making albums. I’ve never downloaded a song in my life, and I don’t want to. I remember playing Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP in a car driving to a show, and I listened to the whole thing ”“ I was in a trance because his energy is so amazing. Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible is astonishing. The energy just jumps off the CD. The album is going to survive. Look at Adele’s 21. People love it and are moved by it. They put it on and it changes the way they feel about life and makes them happy or sad. It’s a great album. And it’s not too long.