If Iron Maiden's 'The Number Of The Beast' Is The Best British Album Ever, What's The Best American?

Senior Pop Culture Editor
05.30.12 34 Comments

Longboats have been sighted, the evidence of war has begun
Many Nordic fighting men, their swords and shields all gleam in the sun
Call to arms, defend yourselves, get ready to stand and fight for your lives
Judgment day has come around, so be prepared, don’t run, stand your ground

So begins the greatest British album of all-time, Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast, at least according to those who responded to a survey put out by British retailer HMV. Number, which was released in 1982 and was the first album from the group to feature lead singer Bruce Dickinson, finished with an overwhelming 9.18% of the vote. That may not seem like much, but considering the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band got 5.69% and finished third, it’s actually pretty impressive. (Depeche Mode’s Violator was second.)

Now, I really like The Number of the Beast – every track escalates perfectly to that F*CK YEAH moment every metal song needs – but do I think it’s the best British album ever? No. I’d rank The Smiths, Rubber Soul, The White Album, Live at Leeds, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, London Calling, Station to Station…let’s just say I’d rank a lot of albums ahead of Number. But that’s the thing: taste is subjective, blah blah blah. So, I don’t want to talk about that — instead, I’m interested in, if some company did a nationwide poll here in the States to determine the Greatest American Album of All-Time, what would win?

To give you an idea of what people might say, I looked at the Best Albums Ever lists of 14 notable publications (note: not country-specific), and marked down what finished first and where the first American album placed. Only twice did something that was recorded by a “U.S. band” finish at the top.

Also, NME really loves the Stone Roses.

Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 Albums of All-Time
#1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
#2. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

VH1’s Top 100 Albums of All-Time
#1. Revolver by the Beatles
#2. Nevermind by Nirvana

NME‘s 100 Best Albums of All-Time
#1. The Stone Roses by the Stone Roses
#2. Doolittle by Pixies

Virgin All-Time Top 1,000 Albums
#1. Revolver by the Beatles
#6. Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

The Definitive 200 by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers
#1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
#3. Thriller by Michael Jackson

Q’s Top 100 Greatest Music Albums
#1. OK Computer by Radiohead
#3. Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

Mojo‘s 100 Greatest Albums of All-Time
#1. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

Melody Maker’s Top 100 Greatest Music Albums
#1. The Queen is Dead by the Smiths
#3. Nevermind by Nirvana

The Guardian’s 100 Best Albums Ever
#1. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

ABC’s Top 100 Albums
#1. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
#2. Grace by Jeff Buckley

Channel 4’s Top 100 Greatest Music Albums
#1. OK Computer by Radiohead
#3. Nevermind by Nirvana

Sound and Vision’s Top 50 Albums of All-Time
#1. Revolver by the Beatles
#2. Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums Ever
#1. Abbey Road by the Beatles
#2. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

So, yeah, not much country, jazz, or rap, the three most American genres out there. If people were called in the middle of the day and were asked to name what they think is the greatest American album ever, I bet Nevermind would place #1. It may not be their favorite and they might not even believe it (the answer to both is In Utero), but that record is always in people’s minds, and I think most folks would say the first thing that came to them.

What would you answer with?

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