THE READERS' TOP 100

The Readers' Top 100 edited by Robert Hilburn, Times pop music critic

From the first onslaught of ballots in Calendar's quest to learn its readers' choices for the best pop albums ever, the question was not whether a Beatles album would finish No. 1 among the 1,563 ballots we received--but which Beatles album would finish No. 1.

Besides the winner, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the 1967 collection that regularly tops critics' all-time album polls, five other Beatles albums finished among the Top 100 under a scoring system that gave 10 points for every first-place mention, nine for second and so forth. (If ballots failed to rank the albums, each album on the list was given one point.)

Altogether, the six Beatles albums amassed a spectacular 6,327 points. That's more than three times as many as tallied by runners-up the Rolling Stones (1,765 points) and U2 (1,651).

*

1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the Beatles (1967) 1,954

2. "White Album," the Beatles (1968) 1,292

3. "Abbey Road," the Beatles (1969) 1,273

4. "The Joshua Tree," U2 (1987) 1,118

5. "Rubber Soul," the Beatles (1965) 918

6. "Nevermind," Nirvana (1991) 890

7. "Who's Next," the Who (1971) 847

8. "The Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd (1973) 840

9. "Pet Sounds," the Beach Boys (1966) 826

10. "Revolver," the Beatles (1966) 791

11. "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye (1971) 673

12. "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen (1975) 666

13. "London Calling," the Clash (1980) 661

14. "Exile on Main Street," the Rolling Stones (1972) 657

15. "Let It Bleed," the Rolling Stones (1969) 630

16. "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars," David Bowie (1972) 622

17. "Highway 61 Revisited," Bob Dylan (1965) 575

18. "Are You Experienced?," Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967) 556

19. "Blood on the Tracks," Bob Dylan (1975) 541

20. "Songs in the Key of Life," Stevie Wonder (1976) 538

21. "Tapestry," Carole King (1971) 512

22. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," Elton John (1973) 506

23. "The Doors," the Doors (1967) 459

24. "Led Zeppelin IV," Led Zeppelin (1971) 435

25. "Blonde on Blonde," Bob Dylan (1966) 410

26. "Hotel California," the Eagles (1976) 407

27. "Rumours," Fleetwood Mac (1977) 404

28. "Electric Ladyland," Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968) 390

29. "Achtung Baby," U2 (1991) 387

30. "Court and Spark," Joni Mitchell (1974) 386

31. "Never Mind the Bollocks . . .," the Sex Pistols (1977) 367

32. "The Wall," Pink Floyd (1979) 339

33. "Legend," Bob Marley (1984) 313

34. "Innervisions," Stevie Wonder (1973) 305

35. "Purple Rain," Prince (1984) 288

36. "Layla," Derek & the Dominos (1970) 284

37. "Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982) 282

38. "OK Computer," Radiohead (1997) 280

39. "Sticky Fingers," the Rolling Stones (1971) 272

40. "Graceland," Paul Simon (1986) 264

41. "Physical Graffiti," Led Zeppelin (1975) 250

42. "Los Angeles," X (1980) 244

43. "Moondance," Van Morrison (1970) 232

44. "Velvet Underground & Nico," the Velvet Underground (1967) 223

45. "Blue," Joni Mitchell (1971) 217

46. "Appetite for Destruction," Guns N' Roses (1987) 210

47. "Straight Outta Compton," N.W.A. (1989) 204

48. "Tommy," the Who (1969) 202

49. "Quadrophenia" the Who (1973) 201

50. "Automatic for the People," R.E.M. (1992) 200

51. "Aja," Steely Dan (1977) 192

52. "At the Fillmore East," Allman Brothers Band (1971) 182

53. "Sign 'o' the Times," Prince (1987) 178

54. "Astral Weeks," Van Morrison (1968) 172

55. "Ten," Pearl Jam (1992) 166

56. "Darkness on the Edge of Town," Bruce Springsteen (1978) 159

57. "Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen (1984) 157

58. "Crosby, Stills & Nash," Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) 156

59. "Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975," the Eagles (1976) 155

60. "War," U2 (1983) 146

61. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon & Garfunkel (1970) 142

62. "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," the Smashing Pumpkins (1995) 138

63. "1999," Prince (1982) 131

64. "This Year's Model," Elvis Costello (1978) 125

65. "A Night at the Opera," Queen (1975) 121

66. "Beggar's Banquet," the Rolling Stones (1968) 119

67. "Harvest," Neil Young (1972) 116

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," Public Enemy (1988) 116

"Low," David Bowie (1977) 116

70. "After the Gold Rush," Neil Young (1970) 112

71. "Axis: Bold as Love," Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968) 104

72. "My Aim Is True," Elvis Costello (1977) 103

"Plastic Ono Band," John Lennon (1970) 103

74. "Kind of Blue," Miles Davis (1959) 100

75. "Let It Be," the Beatles (1970) 99

76. "Hunky Dory," David Bowie (1972) 96

77. "Vs.," Pearl Jam (1993) 94

78. "Paul's Boutique," Beastie Boys (1989) 91

"The Broadway Album," Barbra Streisand (1985) 91

80. "Odelay," Beck (1996) 90

81. "So," Peter Gabriel (1986) 89

82. "Some Girls," the Rolling Stones (1978) 87

83. "Sun Sessions," Elvis Presley (1955*) 85

84. "The Downward Spiral," Nine Inch Nails (1994) 84

"Greatest Hits," Sly & the Family Stone (1970) 84

86. "Exile in Guyville," Liz Phair (1994) 72

"Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack (1977) 72

"Doolittle," the Pixies (1989) 72

89. "Brothers in Arms," Dire Straits (1985) 70

90. "Superfly," Curtis Mayfield (1972) 68

91. "Rain Dogs," Tom Waits (1985) 65

"Talking Book," Stevie Wonder (1972) 65

93. "Time Out of Mind," Bob Dylan (1997) 62

94. "Disraeli Gears," Cream (1968) 61

95. "Abraxas," Santana (1970) 59

96. "Greatest Hits," Al Green (1975) 54

97. "Live," Bob Marley (1976) 51

"Pretenders," Pretenders (1980) 51

99. "Horses," Patti Smith Group (1975) 50

"Synchronicity," the Police (1983) 50

* "Sun Sessions" was recorded in 1954 and 1955, though not formally released in the U.S. as an album until 1976.

LAND OF THE TRUE BELIEVERS: All Bob

One fan looks at the Bob Dylan collection:

1. "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965)

2. "Blonde on Blonde" (1966)

3. "Bringing It All Back Home" (1965)

4. "Blood on the Tracks" (1975)

5. "Time Out of Mind" (1997)

6. "Slow Train Coming" (1979)

7. "The Basement Tapes" (1975)

8. "Infidels" (1983)

9. "Desire" (1976)

10. "Oh Mercy" (1989)

-Greg Brann, Las Vegas

LAND OF THE TRUE BELIEVERS: All Bruce

And another looks at the Bruce Springsteen collection:

1. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" (1978)

2. "Born to Run" (1975)

3. "Born in the U.S.A." (1984)

4. "Lucky Town" (1992)

5. "Tunnel of Love" (1987)

6. "Nebraska" (1982)

7. "The River" (1980)

8. "Human Touch" (1992)

9. "Live 1975-1985" (1986)

10. "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" (1973).

-Mitch Engel, Los Angeles

LAND OF THE TRUE BELIEVERS: All Barbra

Compiled from the 22 readers' lists that consisted only of Streisand albums. (None of these ballots--or any other single-artist ballot--was counted in the master list.)

1. "The Broadway Album" (1985)

2. "Higher Ground" (1997)

3. "Guilty" (1980)

4. "The Concert" (1994) 108

5. "Yentl" (1983) 94

6. "Greatest Hits, Vol. 2" 77

7. "Stoney End" (1971) 55

8. "People" (1964) 47

"A Star Is Born" (1976) 47

10. "Lazy Afternoon" (1975) 33

Each Decade's Top 10 Albums

Here are the top 10 albums by decade, drawn from the readers' Top 100.

*

1950s

1. "Kind of Blue," Miles Davis (1959)

2. "Sun Sessions," Elvis Presley (1956)

*

1960s

1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the Beatles (1967)

2. "White Album," the Beatles (1968)

3. "Abbey Road," the Beatles (1969)

4. "Rubber Soul," the Beatles (1965)

5. "Pet Sounds," the Beach Boys (1966)

6. "Revolver," the Beatles (1966)

7. "Let It Bleed," the Rolling Stones (1969)

8. "Highway 61 Revisited," Bob Dylan (1965)

9. "Are You Experienced?," Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

10. "The Doors," the Doors (1967)

*

1970s

1. "Who's Next," the Who (1971)

2. "The Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd (1973)

3. "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye (1971)

4. "Born to Run" Bruce Springsteen (1975)

5. "Exile on Main Street," the Rolling Stones (1972)

6. "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars," David Bowie (1972)

7. "Blood on the Tracks," Bob Dylan (1975)

8. "Songs in the Key of Life," Stevie Wonder (1976)

9. "Tapestry," Carole King (1971)

10. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," Elton John (1973)

*

1980s

1. "The Joshua Tree,' U2 (1987)

2. "London Calling," the Clash (1980)

3. "Purple Rain," Prince (1984)

4. "Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982)

5. "Graceland," Paul Simon (1986)

6. "Los Angeles," X (1980)

7. "Appetite for Destruction," Guns N' Roses (1987)

8. "Straight Outta Compton," N.W.A (1989)

9. "Sign 'o' the Times," Prince (1987)

10. "Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen (1984)

*

1990s

1. "Nevermind," Nirvana (1991)

2. "Achtung Baby," U2 (1991)

3. "OK Computer," Radiohead (1997)

4. "Automatic for the People," R.E.M. (1992)

5. "Ten," Pearl Jam (1992)

6. "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," Smashing Pumpkins (1995)

7. "Vs.," Pearl Jam (1993)

8. "Odelay," Beck (1996)

9. "The Downward Spiral," Nine Inch Nails (1994)

10. "Exile in Guyville," Liz Phair (1994)

*

(Note: Bob Marley's "Legend" was released posthumously in the '80s as a retrospective, but consisted primarily of '70s material. It did not receive enough points to rank in the '70s Top 10. Elvis Presley's "Sun Sessions" was also released as a '70s retrospective, but consisted entirely of '50s recordings.)

What'd They Say

"It's already been written about ad nauseam. There are half a dozen (or more) Beatles album that I am painfully leaving off my Top 10 list, but besides the obvious technical wizardry, the expanding of the popscape, the ingenious lyrical/melodic variety . . . (the reason I chose this one is that) it's simply sheer unadulterated fun to listen to."

--The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Dr. Mauricio Heilbron, Long Beach

*

"I loved this album so much I bought vanity plates for my red Austin-Healy Sprite that said, 'GO CRZY.' "

--Prince's "Purple Rain"

Mary Lehr, Northridge

*

"Expanded the way music is conceived and produced."

--The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Tony Mrgudic, Northridge

*

"When Jimi landed on this planet, he rearranged the way a Fender guitar should sound. Dim the lights and put on 'Hey Joe' and you will see a blue mist take over the room."

--Jim Hendrix Experience's "Are You Experienced?"

Gene Aguilera, Montebello

*

"This album reminds me just how proud I am to be a woman."

--Liz Phair's "Exile in Guysville"

Jennifer Flores, Norwalk

*

"The album all others aspire (and fail) to equal."

--The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Hyam Sosnow, Sherman Oaks

*

"This was the first album I ever bought and that copy still plays pretty well. To me, it still represents the finest blending of superb rock and inspired nonsense ever recorded."

--The Beatles' "White Album"

Cliff Brand, Downey

*

"Saved pop music in the early 1980s; songs and attitude. Michael before he freaked out!"

--Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Edward K. Madrid, Arleta

*

"While I loved the Beatles and the Stones as much as anyone, I had to share them with my dad. But Led Zeppelin was my band. I discovered them on my own and the fact that my dad didn't like them, made me love them even more."

--Led Zeppelin's "Led Zeppelin IV"

Sean Hathwell, Los Angeles

*

"The first time I heard this album was sunrise, driving across the desert to catch a 7 a.m. train bound for Mazatlan. It inspired numerous photo/camping/rock climbing trips to Joshua Tree National Forest."

--U2's "The Joshua Tree"

Mike McDonnell, Thousand Oaks

*

"From the moment I first heard [Grandmaster Flash's] 'The Message' in the summer of 1982, I was hooked on rap, and through the '80s rap was the only music that made a difference. . . . I thought 'The Message' set the standard for reporting from the streets, but everything on 'Straight Outta Compton' took everything well beyond the next level. This was, and is, a scary album to listen to, scary enough for the FBI to call out the dogs."

--N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton"

Thomas White, Los Angeles

*

"Ethereal, majestic . . . a headphone masterpiece."

--Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon"

Wayne Federman, West Hollywood

*

"Kurt Cobain and company's classic will sound great 20 years from now. What a waste."

--Nirvana's "Nevermind"

Marvin W. Houston, Los Angeles

*

"Deserving of its unprecedented hype, especially for its crystal-clear evocation of the working-class mind set. It's alternately optimistic and despairing, but it never rings false. Favorite lyric: "So you're scared and you're thinking / That maybe we ain't that young anymore / Show a little faith, there's magic in the night."

--Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run"

Larry Israelson, North Hollywood

*

"Dylan is the reason rock 'n' roll opened up songwriting, and this is the album that is most responsible."

--Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited"

Alan Wolfson, Carlsbad

*

"I was introduced to the whole album during my modern dance, 9th grade, PE class. [Carole King] was the first non-R&B; artist I paid attention to seriously."

--Carole King's "Tapestry"

Lynette Kelsey, Riverside

*

"Sorry, Beatles, but Brian Wilson did it better (and no, I'm not from the West Coast)."

--The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds"

John Allore, Marina del Rey

*

"Dylan must be represented if only because he spawned a generation of "folk-rockers" . . . poets of the American landscape . . . I bought an E-flat harmonica to play along with 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.' "

--Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde"

Christopher Gould, Long Beach

*

"As you grow older and lose patience with hard rock, it's nice to return to a formative album without cringing. Most of the Clash's albums still carry the passion, raw energy and hip smarts that make me yearn for the days of yore."

--The Clash's "London Calling"

Darroch Greer, Hollywood

*

"The greatest jazz album ever. An album I can't wait to turn my kids onto (when I have children). A true classic."

--Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue"

Jess R. Hernandez, Azusa

*

"Joni Mitchell went from being a girl to now being a woman. She became everyone's therapist throughout the 1970s. She also showed every singer-songwriter how to do it best, but of course, no one ever could. Her secret was to use the instruments as paint to color her lyrics."

--Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark"

Louis Jacinto, Los Angeles.

*

"Not even a year out of high school, a Memphis teen combined country, rhythm & blues, gospel and pop and came up with something altogether new. Without Elvis and these songs, we might not have any rock albums to list."

--Elvis Presley's "Sun Sessions"

Bennett Tramer, Santa Monica

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
62°