What's the greatest record ever made? It's a tough question, we know, if not one that's downright impossible to answer with any conviction. But hey, it's fun to try. With that in mind, we asked the likes of Jake Bugg, Bernard Sumner, Elton John, Flea and Patti Smith to reveal their choices. You can stream everything by clicking on the embedded Spotify play buttons. Surprisingly, no one said 'Gangnam Style'.
"That is impossible to say, but I think it would be by John Coltrane. I remember hearing him as a child and being totally turned off. I tried again a few years later and I felt a little less repulsed, a little more intrigued, but I still wasn’t ready. I was well into my teens before I got it. More recently I love Sharon Van Etten’s 'Epic' – that’s a big record for me. Her voice is my favourite instrument – she disarms me every time."
"Oh my God, that’s a ridiculous question! I think as far as my own life goes, the record that had the most indelible impact was 'Heartbreak Hotel' because it launched a whole new world for me. It changed so many people’s lives – especially mine. It really was revolutionary beyond belief."
"Well, 'Abbey Road' would have to be up there, although Neil would argue with that, he’d say it was weak rhythmically. 'Led Zeppelin 1' was the most transformative record of my life, but Jeff Beck’s 'Truth' album is up there too. The greatest record made in the last few years is the first Fleet Foxes record, I just love that album…"
"There’s no such thing! But if I had to choose right now I would go for somewhere between Ohio Players’ 'Fire' and 'First Girl I Loved' by The Incredible String Band. If you mashed those up – and we can these days – then an amazing din would ensue!"
"Oh man! What a question… I would say Miles Davis’ 'In A Silent Way'. It’s a jazz record that’s not jazz – it’s a record that’s open to love from anyone. If you love classical, hip-hop, techno, jazz – it’s across the board amazing. But then there’s 'Purple Rain'. And 'Sign O’ The Times'! And 'Off The Wall', damn. What a record…"
“Ah, well, for me it's 'Such Sweet Thunder' by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, 1957. It’s the Shakespeare suite, not the greatest piece of music ever, but Ellington’s visceral physicality is matched with a melodic ingenuity and this incredible sense of architecture. These are miniature, masterful compositions, beautifully played. He wrote pieces for the musicians that played on it, so the music is individually tailored. The record is a distilled example of everything that was good about 20th century American music. But, importantly, don’t get put off by the oom-pah track at the start!”
"'Heartbreak Hotel'. The world literally changed on the spot and that’s a huge, huge thing to happen. But then you have to look at 'Strawberry Fields Forever' – the world changed again!"
“Oh my God, well, I think it's probably 'Bernadette' by The Four Tops. It's just so brilliantly produced, every time I hear it I'm amazed in the same way I was amazed all those years ago. But having said all that I love 'Sgt Pepper' too..."
"Wow – OK! Well, the one that gives me so much pleasure – at least 85% of the thrill it gave me when it first came out – and that is Frank Sinatra’s 'Songs For Swinging Lovers'. There’s a guy in New York who plays Sinatra, and there’s a lot of crappy Sinatra, which he plays too, but when he sings that stuff, it still gets me. It took me years to even hear what Sinatra was doing because I was so gob-smacked by what the orchestra arrangement was doing. That music would go around in my head all day long. That record was responsible for getting me through high school.”
“For me it has to be 'Always On My Mind' – I think it’s Elvis’ greatest moment. It’s like the third act, it has tragedy and pathos and a sense of a moment having passed, of greatness lost, but it’s all here in sorrow and elegy and it seems to tie in with the whole Priscilla thing too. Some people say that the Willie Nelson version is better, but don’t listen to them – it isn’t. This works for me every time. Like with The Exorcist you can take it apart and appreciate the separate elements, but in the end 'Always On My Mind' is perfect. It works every single time and it never, ever, lets me down."
"Fucking hell! The greatest record ever made! That’s such a tough question to ask. I’m going to have to go with something Bowie. I’m torn between 'Heroes' and 'Ziggy Stardust', but then I think of 'Low', and I get really stuck. It all depends on what age me you’re asking. If you’re asking the 12 or the 11-year-old me then I’d say 'Ziggy Stardust'. And the 25-year-old me would probably say 'Ziggy Stardust' as well. But then there’s also the Doors’ first album. And 'LA Woman'. Shit! Now I’m in trouble…"
“It’s probably Nick Drake’s 'Pink Moon'. Done at home, two microphones, gave it into Island on a couple of tapes, wandered out and never spoke to them again. That’s a pretty cool way to go out.”
"The two I go back to a lot are Ray LaMontaigne’s 'Lesson Learned' and John Martyn’s 'Go Down Easy'. They’re the sort of songs I’ll skip to, then get such strong feelings from that I’ll have to go back and listen to the whole album. I love that quiet, intimate sound."
"That is the unanswerable question! There’s simply no way of saying what it is for sure, but I would say it was one of the following, 'Kind Of Blue', Glenn Gould’s 'Goldberg Variations', 'GI' by The Germs or Captain Beefheart’s 'Trout Mask Replica'."
"I’ll go with Robert Johnson’s 'King Of The Delta Blues Singers'. That was his masterpiece and it has that great hotel room sleeve. I always used to think the greatest record ever made was Sly & the Family Stone’s 'Family Affair', but these days it’s Robert Johnson. You can’t beat that."
"What a question! Well, a great Kinks record is 'All Day And All Of The Night' because everything worked. I started off with a Buddy Holly drum fill, that I got told off by the drummer for asking him to play, but the real reason for it is the dynamics were perfect. Outside of that, 'River Deep, Mountain High', to me, is more than a song, it’s a record with vision and madness behind it."
“Oh God, that is the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. That is terrible! Oh God, where do you even start? Oh… I’m thinking. Well, I very much liked 'Ascension' by John Coltrane. I could go anywhere with that. But I’m not going to choose that one. It’s probably My Bloody Valentine’s 'Loveless' – because it has everything in it. Which is what I was going to say about Coltrane. The best record ever made has changed a lot during my life! At one point it would have been 'Blonde On Blonde', then it would have been Coltrane’s 'My Favorite Things', then 'Ascension', then 'Electric Ladyland', it needs to be a record that has so many different feels, some visceral emotional experience, great lyrics. Actually, you know what, it’s James Brown’s 'Live At The Apollo'! That’s an incredible experience. A great record should let you lose yourself and engage yourself. You can lose yourself and dance through the whole record. 'Loveless' is like that too. It’s like entering into a new world, like Alice In Wonderland! Actually, today, it’s not James Brown. We’re pushing him aside again. It’s 'Loveless' – I’ll keep that one. Sorry that took so long – it’s such a hard question!"
"Queen is the best. Freddie Mercury is the best. They wrote so many great songs. 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. 'Somebody To Love'. There is such a wealth of pain and experience there. His voice was a thing of beauty. He had so much conviction, commitment and compassion, but he was so provocative. He was fearless, but he had this frill too. Quite a bit of frill. He was masculine and sensitive at the same time. His own personal preferences didn’t inform the music, but his own sense of alienation probably did. They had so many great songs, but I’ve done a great song in one take. How many overdubs did it take to do 'Bohemian Rhapsody'? How focused and intentful was that? What happened to our appreciation of that, never mind our aspiration to do such a thing? Could we appreciate that now that our attention span has been stolen from us? If I could accomplish something that big, that would be amazing. Those cats are a lot larger than me. But I’m coming up on them!"
Oh wow. OK. That's a tough question. Well (pauses for a bit)... I think it's probably Prince, 'Controversy'. I really do think that’s the greatest party record ever made and it’s built on this series of the most amazing chord changes – it's just brilliant. Oh, and 'Erotic City' too! I’m so into Prince, he made such great records and he works whatever mood you’re in, which is pretty unusual.”
"The first album I ever really fell in love with, the first one that properly moved me, was 'The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill'. My dad bought it for him and my mum in Brixton market one day when he was buying me a copy of the Flubber video. But that went straight in the bin as soon as I heard Lauryn’s record. I would play it every single day and read the sleeve notes as I did so and through the lyrics I’d imagine who I’d fall in love with and how my life would pan out. I was so moved by her voice, it honestly still melts me. I think it was so important as it’s not a patchwork record, she delivered a complete piece that has so much of life in it. I was only 10 and I was really into hip-hop, but this record, with all this strange schoolroom feel, felt like it was made just for me, it really moved me. I still listen to it a lot, actually!"
“David Bowie’s 'Low'. I bought it on cassette and the same day I went to a garden centre with my mum. I’d ordered it from the local record shop, and Paul, who was in the band, and is my brother-in-law, had dropped it through the letterbox. It’s like one of those weird days. I walked home from school, there was the cassette and we had a cassette player in the car. I went with her to a garden centre, and I listened to 'Low' while she went and did whatever mums do in garden centres, and I was like utterly, my whole perception of sound was changed. Just how something could sound completely different, like 'Breaking Glass', everything on there in fact, 'Sound And Vision', everything on there, everything I heard was astonishing, really astonishing. When I put it on now the sound, dunk dunk, everything is just fucking genius! There are other albums that I love much more, like viscerally much more, like 'Axis: Bold As Love', or 'Five Leaves Left', albums that I can cry to, but 'Low' was the album that had a huge impact on me, just how I saw sound. No other album has done that to me.”
“I think one of the greatest pieces of songwriting ever is 'Nature Boy', which was written by Eden Ahbez. When Nat 'King' Cole’s brilliant version went to No.1 in 1948 they found him living underneath the Hollywood sign. For an album, I love Harry Nilsson’s 'Pandemonium Shadow Show', from 1967. It was a complete disaster, because no one gave a shit and didn’t really understand it, so this record that RCA was so excited about, that was made at Capitol Studios, just kind of disappeared. It died. Though he became the favourite songwriter of the Beatles and ended up collaborating with Ringo Starr. Great pop music starts there for me.”
“'Bohemian Rhapsody'. If there is such a thing as the greatest record ever made then I think maybe that’s it. I mean, 'Wichita Lineman' is one of my favourite songs ever, and I don’t know why, because I’ve never been a lineman for the county, I don’t even really know what one is, but I still love that tune, it breaks my heart and Neil Young’s pretty fucking amazing and 'Singing in the Rain'’s pretty cool, but 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is a piece of absolute genius. You listen to it and you think, where the fuck did he get that from? Out of his arse? Amazing.”
“If the perfect song exists, I’ve not written it! But the greatest record ever made is incredibly hard to say. I could choose some very obscure thing, I suppose, but, to me, Chuck Berry’s 'Memphis Tennessee', is as close as I’ve heard to being an exquisitely perfect song. For an album, where do you start? I’d have to say, 'The Best Of Muddy Waters', that was a perfect record. It had everything in it you could be looking for. Nobody could have put any more in or take any more out. It’s the greatest, the perfect record...”
"Kenny Roger’s 'Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town'. I mean it! It’s subtle and weird and I love records that are both subtle and weird…"
That’s a continuous debate, really. But right now I’d say it’s Nick Drake’s 'Pink Moon' - the whole album. It sounds so great, there's nothing you could do to it to make it any better.