Fab four in the top five 30 years on

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The Independent Online
ALMOST 30 years after they split up, the Beatles' dominance of the pop world has never been greater, according to the most comprehensive survey of musical tastes ever undertaken. The band has taken four of the top five slots in in the poll of polls, the Top One Thousand Albums Of All Time.

Revolver is voted the best album ever, followed by Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album with Abbey Road at number five. Only Nevermind, by the grunge band Nirvana at four, disturbs domination by the mop tops.

The survey, to be published on Tuesday, is based on almost 200,000 votes, making it the largest such poll ever conducted. The compilers also took into account every similar survey of the past three years in both Britain and America to create a "poll of polls" and produce what they describe as "the definitive millennium list".

The poll shows the enduring power of the Sixties and early Seventies, now apparently regarded by fans of all ages as the golden age of pop. A separate list of the 50 greatest artists of all time, compiled by totalling the votes from the album poll, includes no less than 30 acts which first tasted success in the 1960s or earlier and only 11 artists whose careers post-date the 1976 punk explosion.

"The most amazing thing is not only the way the Beatles have dominated just as they did the charts in the 1960s but the way they are number one with all age groups," said Colin Larkin, the book's editor-in-chief who has spent three years compiling the database on which the list is based.

"We invited people to submit their top 20 albums and were getting lists from 12-year-olds which put Revolver above Oasis and Radiohead, which was extraordinary. Almost every entry from a teenager had at least one Beatles album on it."

The all-time top ten list is completed by The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Automatic For The People by R.E.M. and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon with What's The Story (Morning Glory) by Oasis and Radiohead's The Bends at nine and ten.

The Beatles also secured the most individual entries in the Top 1,000 with 14 albums followed by Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis (13 each) and Bob Dylan (12).

Advocates of girl power will be disappointed that just five of the top one hundred albums are by female artists. Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill, one of the biggest selling albums of the nineties, leads the way at 35, followed by Joni Mitchell's Blue (53), Hounds of Love by Kate Bush (59), Patti Smith's Horses (88) and Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos (98).

Allan Jones, the former editor of Melody Maker and now editor of the monthly Uncut, attributes the Beatles' dominance among the MTV generation less to parental influence and more to the reverence paid to the sixties by contemporary Britpop bands. "There is no doubt that the Beatles were the most influential band ever but the way they have been lionised by people like Noel Gallagher has refocussed attention on them. What's The Story... by Oasis was the best Beatles album since Let It Be and the influence was so obvious and the debt so huge that has clearly contributed to their resurgence," he said.

The Sixties contribute 226 albums to the list led by the Beatles and Bob Dylan, although statistically the most popular decade is the Seventies when 315 of the top 1,000 albums were made. However, the decade's popularity is due almost entirely to the early Seventies with artists such as Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin - all of whom began recording in the Sixties - proving to be the most enduring. The appeal of punk, which was meant to consign such bands to "the dustbin of history", has proved to be far more fleeting.

The Eighties contributes 223 albums, with U2 and the Smiths displaying the greatest staying power while from the current decade 172 albums charted with Blur, Prodigy and Portishead the closest rivals to Oasis and Radiohead among contemporary acts.

Despite the influence of black music on virtually all styles of rock and pop, the lists are also predominantly white. Only eight of the top fifty artists are black - Jimi Hendrix (14), Miles Davis (16), Marvin Gaye (23), Prince (27), Michael Jackson (28), Stevie Wonder (34), Bob Marley (35) and John Coltrane (46). The only soul albums to make the top 100 albums are Marvin Gaye's What's Going On followed by Michael Jackson's Thriller and Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life. The highest placed rap album is Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (131).

High sales do not automatically translate into critical success and artists such as Celine Dion and Cliff Richard appear nowhere in the list.

On the other hand, the cultish English singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who committed suicide in 1974 and sold no records at all during his lifetime, is listed among the top 50 artists at number 49. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, which never charted, is voted the 15th greatest album of all time and Forever Changes by Love, which after 30 years still hasn't reached one million sales, makes number 40 in the list.

The Top One Thousand Albums Of All Time is published by Virgin Publishing at pounds 16.99 on Tuesday.