Classics ousted in music for millennium

Click to follow
The most "ambitious music survey ever undertaken", as it is modestly described, reaches a climax on Saturday night when Channel 4 broadcasts the same programme twice in one evening, an honour previously awarded only to state funerals and royal weddings.

Channel 4 and HMV have compiled Music of the Millennium: the top 100 albums of all time. Proving that a sense of history still eludes most of mankind, 36,000 voters rated Van Morrison, the Stone Roses and Oasis above Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner. Not one classical composer made it into the top 100, let alone the top 20.

Launched last September, the survey attempts to determine the musical preferences of the British public. Voters were asked to nominate three pieces from any musical style.

Although the identity of the number one album is being kept under wraps, The Independent can reveal that the top 20 line up is dominated by bands from the past 30 years, including nine albums from the Eighties and Nineties. This includes two by Radiohead, Oasis's first two albums and Nirvana's Nevermind.

Unsurprisingly, the Beatles make the biggest impact on the top 20 with four albums: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, The White Album and Abbey Road. And Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks feature alongside David Bowie's glittery androgynous creation Ziggy Stardust.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, U2's The Joshua Tree, The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, the Stone Roses' eponymously titled debut album, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On complete the line up.

A spokesman for Channel 4 said: "There are some very obvious omissions ... it is easy to conclude that much of the nation no longer wants to listen to symphonic music."

Puccini, who wrote emotion-charged operas such as Tosca and Madama Butterfly, scraped two votes, while Mozart received 18, just pipped by Beethoven who scored 20. Wagner, whose Ring cycle has inspired devotion for more than 100 years, only managed a disappointing 12. But Elgar, composer of "Pomp and Circumstance", was ahead in the classical popularity stakes with a barely respectable 32 votes, a far cry from the 500 needed to get into the top 20. Around 95 per cent of votes cast came from the 19- to 45-year-old age range.

If the survey proves anything it is that popularity is determined by contemporary nostalgia; Salieri wiped the floor with Mozart in the public approval stakes of his day.

But let's not forget the words of the Scottish poet, Andrew Lang: "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post - for support rather than illumination".