When a magazine with sixty years of grisly and glittering history behind it decides to mark its new era with a definitive list of the best 500 albums ever made, just what does ‘definitive’ mean? It means emailing a vast array of alumni from across the NME generations, from the sixties swingers through the hip young gunslingers of the 70s right up to today’s troupe of rock’n’roll toreadors, and begging/bullying them to submit lists of their favourite fifty albums of all time. Some joined in, others were too busy/famous now, but we managed to gather together around 80 voters to submit lists, at which point the serious number-crunching began. From those dozens of lists, each Number 1 was allotted fifty points, forty-nine points for Number 2 and so on until our teams of list-flinging work experience students began having numerical nightmares and spreadsheet breakdowns, waking up in heaps of lists screaming ”MARQUEE MOON THIRTY SEVEN POINTS!”
Just when they thought they’d finished and could nurse their bloodied typing fingers, we asked them to add in an identical scoring system for NME’s Top 50 albums of the year for every year there’s been one. Then began the equally mammoth task of letting our gnashing pack of writers loose on dozens of their favourite albums each, re-evaluating furiously in pithy one-liners for the lower-end titles or lengthy paeans to rock’n’roll’s greatest achievements at the top of the list. And christ, we like a good gush: there’s little more enjoyable, I found, than finally getting a chance to tell the world why ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ shits on virtually all of popular culture, from 35,000 feet.
A skim through to stop ‘masterpiece’ being every fifth word and to take out ABBA’s ‘Gold’ (no comps allowed, um, except a couple), the result is the list sprawling over forty-odd pages of this week’s magazine, the most dazzling, daring and – yes – definitive smorgasbord of musical bravery, imagination and endeavour in rock’n’roll history. Angelic monkeys, neon bananas, Berlin breakthroughs, Ecstasy anthems, rap riot-starters, psychedelic town bands and wild and varied genius as far as the eye can see; all musical magnificence is here from the latest legends-in-the-making to the most seminal rock monoliths. Let the pub rows commence…