Elvis and Dire Straits top list of the sounds that should have been silent

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The Independent Online
THEY ARE among the greatest icons of 40 years of rock and pop music, and tomorrow Dire Straits, Elvis Presley and Lou Reed will be celebrated in a definitive list of top albums.

Unfortunately, there is a snag. They figure in a list of the worst and most overrated albums of all time.

A survey of 200,000 people to discover history's top 1,000 albums found, not surprisingly, that The Beatles took four of the first five places.

The greater surprise was to be found in two offshoots of the survey - the worst and most overrated albums. Elvis Presley's live album, Having Fun With Elvis On Stage, and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music featured in the worst album section, won by rock'n'roller turned political leader of the Raving Monster Loony Party, Screaming Lord Sutch.

Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms, which is likely to feature in the collections of most over-35s, and equally likely not to have been played for years, has the unenviable distinction of being voted most overrated album. Another staple of the baby-boomers' collection, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, is runner- up.

In the main survey, to be published as a book by Virgin, Revolver, which was released in 1966, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The White Album (1968) and Abbey Road (1969) take first, second, third and fifth places respectively. The Beatles also top a separate list of the Top 50 Artists Of All Time, followed by Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd.

The poll also reveals that the 1970s, now considered as back in vogue for fashion and music, is rock's golden age, with almost a third of all albums coming from that decade.

The value of such surveys was questioned yesterday by the country's leading academic expert on rock and pop music. Simon Frith, professor of English studies at Strathclyde University and chairman of the Mercury Music Prize, said: "Like the pop sales charts, the thousand best albums list becomes more meaningless as you descend into its depths."

Professor Frith said that if you go into the street, stop people at random and ask them to name their top 20 albums of all time, this is what you will find: "Most people will get to seven or eight and then say they have to go home to look at their record collections.

"The younger person will list records they've bought most recently. The older will pick a record they neither own nor expect to listen to ever again. The sample will always include a small number of rock connoisseurs, who will have a list in their pockets, which will include a record by Captain Beefheart or Nick Drake.

"Everyone over 29 will name a Beatles album, but it will be chosen at random."

Professor Frith added that in the survey, rock is split from pop, so that acts such as The Who and The Kinks are pushed down into the hundreds, while The Beatles remain too complicatedly a pop and rock group to be pigeonholed.

Music's Hall of Fame and Shame

Top 10 Albums

1. Revolver - The Beatles

2. Sgt Pepper - The Beatles

3. The White Album - The Beatles

4. Nevermind - Nirvana

5. Abbey Road - The Beatles

6. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

7. Automatic for the People - R.E.M

8. The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

9. What's the Story (Morning Glory) - Oasis

10. The Bends - Radiohead

Top 10 Artists

1. The Beatles

2. Bob Dylan

3. Pink Floyd

4. Oasis

5. David Bowie

6. R.E.M

7. U2

8. Radiohead

9. Rolling Stones

10. Nirvana

Top 5 Soul/R&B Albums

1. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

2. Thriller - Michael Jackson

3. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder

4. Otis Blue - Otis Redding

5. Bad - Michael Jackson

Top 5 Indie/Punk Albums

1. What's the Story (Morning Glory) - Oasis

2. The Bends - Radiohead

3. Never Mind the Bollocks - The Sex Pistols

4. The Stone Roses - Stone Roses

5. OK Computer - Radiohead

Top 5 Most Overrated

1. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

2. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

3. Hotel California - Eagles

4. Bat out of Hell - Meat Loaf

5. Bridge over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel

Top 5 Worst Albums

1. Lord Sutch and His Heavy Friends - Screaming Lord Sutch

2. Metal Machine Music - Lou Reed

3. Having Fun with Elvis on Stage - Elvis Presley

4. The Transformed Man - William Shatner

5. Initiation - Todd Rundgren