As a music fan, I get irritated by those “best albums of all time” lists that magazines produce. I think that they’re actually trying to be provocative to try and sell more magazines. But “best” is a subjective term, so I suppose I can’t get too upset. More annoying however, are lists of “most influential albums of all time”. This is a topic that I think you can approach somewhat more logically and get an informed set of choices. However, the lists produced by magazines are generally weak, because the records chosen are far too modern. The Ramones were influenced by The Stooges, who were influenced by The Rolling Stones, who were influenced by Howlin’ Wolf. So why include The Ramones? I made my own list by trying to find “oldest common denominator” albums. I came up with the following Top Ten, in order of release:
- Lead Belly – Rock Island Line (1951)
- Bill Haley & his Comets – Rock Around the Clock (1955)
- Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
- Jerry Lee Lewis – Jerry Lee Lewis (1957)
- The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets (1957)
- Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957)
- Muddy Waters – The Best of Muddy Waters (1957)
- Chuck Berry – Is on Top (1959)
- Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)
- Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ Wolf (AKA The Rockin’ Chair Album) (1962)
I’d tell you the detailed scientific process I used to come up with these, but unfortunately I don’t have room to show you my working out. If you look at the track listings on Allmusic, or even better Wikipedia (!), you should see where I’m coming from.
Most of these aren’t “rock”, at least not in the sense that we think of it today, but I think they are the albums that have had the most influence on today’s rock music. It is a bit of a cheat though. The Robert Johnson and Lead Belly records are made up of songs that predated the 12” LP, but were repackaged onto that format. But it’s important to remember that the vinyl album was introduced in 1948: long after the era of the classic Delta Blues singers, who were incredibly influential. Perhaps someone should make a list of the most influential 78 rpms of all time. However, that someone would have to be more knowledgeable than myself.