Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums

By Rolling Stone | Amazon Music

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The stories behind some of the most essential albums of all time, told by the artists who made them and Rolling Stone’s writers and editors. Each episode focuses on one album from the brand-new, updated version of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list, featuring fresh conversations with the people who made the music, classic interview audio and expert commentary. Episodes include the late Tom Petty on his solo classic Wildflowers, Taylor Swift talking about her career-changing 2012 album Red, and Public Enemy breaking down their political masterpiece It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

Listen to songs featured on the podcast and more hits from the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums list here.

Now we’re back with Season Two. Across 10 episodes, you’ll hear Dolly Parton tell the stories behind the songs on her 1971 solo breakthrough Coat of Many Colors; Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr delve into the making of the Beatles’ troubled final album, Let It Be; Britney Spears’ collaborators explain how she made 2007’s Blackout in the eye of a paparazzi hurricane; friends and relatives of Alice Coltrane look back at how she overcame tragedy to create her masterpiece Journey in Satchidananda; Rivers Cuomo and his bandmates reflect on the unlikely birth of Weezer’s Blue Album; and much more.

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums is hosted by Senior Writer Brittany Spanos.


Episode Date
Yusuf/ Cat Stevens' "Tea for the Tillerman"
00:41:04

In the latest episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums, Yusuf reflects on his masterpiece "Tea for the Tillerman," and discusses his decision to re-record it last year. His guitarist Alun Davies and longtime producer Paul Samwell-Smith also appear on the podcast. Later in the episode, Rolling Stone staff writer Angie Martoccio and deputy music editor Simon Vozick-Levinson join host Brittany Spanos to discuss the legacy of Tillerman, which ranked as the 205th best album ever made in the all-new version of the 500 Greatest Albums poll.

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May 31, 2022
Missy Elliott's "Supa Dupa Fly"
00:40:14

In the Nineties, much of the conversation about hip-hop was dominated by the feud between the East and West Coasts. The South was putting out tons of incredible rap records too, but almost nobody was paying any attention to Portsmouth, Virginia. With 1997's "Supa Dupa Fly", Missy Elliott and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley changed that, and gave the world a taste of the future. 

Missy and Timbaland met as teenagers in Virginia and soon found they were musical soulmates. As they explain to  Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield in the episode, that friendship translated into some of the most lasting and adventurous music to come out of the Nineties. Both were content working as behind-the-scenes players, but once Missy was coaxed into making a solo album, the pair created "Supa Dupa Fly" in an incredible two weeks. Missy’s voice and delivery were one of a kind, whether she was singing, rapping, or just yelling, “Beep beep!" In this week's episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums, both explain the stories behind the songs, including how Tim created the incredible Southern soul space-funk beat for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)".

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May 24, 2022
Phil Spector's "A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector", ft. Darlene Love
00:43:10

In this special holiday episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, our new podcast on Amazon Music, we delve into 1963's "A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector", an album that changed the way we look at holiday music. In 2019, Rolling Stone named it the best Christmas album of all time.

A labor of love that pulled together all the top girl groups, including the Crystals and the Ronettes, the album was initially an ill-fated flop, dropping the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (or so the legend goes). After being reissued in 1972 the record found its place in both the holiday and rock & roll canons, and inspired everyone from the Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen to take a crack at Christmas standards. There was darkness under that festive tree, however, as the infamous perfectionist Spector directed artists on the record with an iron fist and later took his obsession with guns to a far darker place when he killed actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Spector was unable to talk with Rolling Stone's News Editor Brenna Ehrlich for this episode (as he is serving time for second-degree murder), but she did chat with Darlene Love of the Blossoms about the fame of "Christmas Baby Please Come Home," La La Brooks of the Crystals about conditions in the studio, and Brian Wilson about how Spector inspired the Beach Boys. She also checked in with Spector fan, journalist Greil Marcus, to talk about the album's enduring fame. Later in the episode, host Brittany Spanos discusses the history, allure, and occasional ridiculousness of holiday music with Rolling Stone staffers Rob Sheffield and Jon Dolan, as well as comedian, Desus & Mero writer-producer, and podcast host Josh Gondelman.

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May 17, 2022
Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road"
00:38:44

In the newest episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums, we dive into Lucinda Williams' 1998 masterpiece "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," an album that helped define modern roots music and got Williams' long-overdue recognition as one of America's greatest songwriters. The album took six years, three producers, and some label drama to make, but Williams' perfectionism resulted in an arguably perfect album. 

Williams joins Rolling Stone Country's Joseph Hudak to tell the stories behind songs like "Drunken Angel", and title track "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" that affected Williams' father so much he apologized to Williams when he first heard it. Producers Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy in addition to Waxahatchee help flesh out the story. Later in the episode, Rolling Stone staffers Claire Shaffer and Jon Freeman join host Brittany Spanos to discuss the album's legacy.

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May 10, 2022
Public Enemy’s "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
00:38:50

In the first episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, we tackle one of hip-hop’s most important albums: Public Enemy’s 1988 political-rap masterpiece "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back", which landed at Number 15 on the magazine’s all-new 500 Greatest Albums list. In this episode, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D and producer Hank Shocklee tell the story behind the album and break down the sample-layering tricks behind its furious, groundbreaking sound. Rolling Stone’s writers and editors take a fresh look at the political and sonic radicalism of rap's first and greatest concept album and why it still matters so much.

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May 03, 2022
Kanye West's "Yeezus"
00:28:23

In 2013, Kanye West released Yeezus, his sixth studio album. It sounded like nothing the rapper had ever produced. Fans recoiled at the album’s experimental sound. Critics began to wonder if Ye, who seemed to be at the height of his career, might finally be losing his touch. But, then, something strange happened. Over time, the world Kanye constructed on Yeezus — full of guttural and chaotic emotion, combined with so much noise — started to feel and sound like the world around us. Kanye’s collaborators on the album, from indie electronic musicians like Arca and Hudson Mohawke to icons like Daft Punk and Rick Rubin, helped him construct a blueprint for where popular music was heading.

In this episode of our Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, collaborators on Yeezus (including producer Hudson Mohawke), and New York Times critic and Kanye expert Jon Caramanica join RS Senior Editor Jeff Ihaza to tell the story of how Kanye West took a sledgehammer to the norms of rap and pop culture to create one of the most fiercely innovative and prescient records of all time.

Listen to Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums on Amazon Music: amazon.com/RS500.

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Apr 19, 2022
Parliament-Funkadelic's "Mothership Connection"
00:40:51

At the beginning of 1975, Gerald Ford was president, the United States and Soviet Union were approaching a détente in the space race, and a barber-turned-singer with a wild imagination named George Clinton was redefining the possibilities of funk music with his bands, Parliament and Funkadelic. That year, their iconic album Mothership Connection played off one of Clinton's fantasies, sending Black people to space. Clinton felt it was up to him to paint a new tableau of Afrofuturism. Many of the songs on the album were instant dance-floor anthems — and part of funk's biggest crossover moment to date. In this episode, Clinton and many of his collaborators on Mothership Connection, including bass icon Bootsy Collins and trombonist-arranger Fred Wesley, look back on the drugs, diapers, and free-form camaraderie that fueled this psychedelic masterpiece.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Apr 12, 2022
David Bowie's "Station To Station"
00:28:45

In 1975, David Bowie moved to Los Angeles and reinvented himself. As rock's greatest chameleon, he had already achieved success as Ziggy Stardust. But this new character would be his darkest yet: the gaunt, theatrical, slick-haired Thin White Duke. And as the Duke, he created the art-rock odyssey Station to Station. It was a record made on no sleep, a dash of black magic, and an avalanche of cocaine. Bowie rarely did press at the time, but he gave a front-row seat to teenage journalist Cameron Crowe, who captured the definitive Bowie interview of the era for Rolling Stone.

The latest episode of our Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums unpacks the story of Station to Station. RS Associate Editor Angie Martoccio delves into the making of the album, with Cameron Crowe offering a glimpse at what the Thin White Duke was like in the flesh. Co-producer Harry Maslin, guitarists Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar, and pianist Roy Bittan share memories of the sessions, while Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes describes what it was like to have Bowie as a roommate at the time.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Apr 05, 2022
Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville"
00:32:51

Back in 1993, a young songwriter named Liz Phair came out of nowhere to drop one of the Nineties’ defining albums: Exile in Guyville. Phair came from the Chicago indie rock scene, but she had a new story to tell: the secret life of an ordinary twentysomething woman, grappling with love and sex and insecurity. The album didn’t get any mainstream airplay, but it changed the stakes for indie rock, musically, culturally, and emotionally.

On this episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, Contributing Editor Rob Sheffield tells the full story of the album, with help from Liz Phair herself, who breaks down how she channeled the "disillusionment and fury" of her twenties into an era-defining musical statement. Exile producer Brad Wood also weighs in with his memories of the time period, and Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice discusses how Phair’s “fearlessness” helped free up her own writing.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Mar 29, 2022
Shakira's "Dónde Están los Ladrones?"
00:36:14

With more than 80 million records sold worldwide, Shakira is the best-selling female Latin artist ever. But within her decades-long career, there’s one album that set her up for massive fame and in many ways, predicted it all: 1998’s Donde Estan Los Ladrones?. In this episode, producers and collaborators behind the album open up about working with the Colombian singer with the huge voice, on the cusp of her foray into global fame.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Mar 22, 2022
Weezer's "Self-Titled (The Blue Album)"
00:30:31

In 1989, a teenage Rivers Cuomo moved from suburban Connecticut to Los Angeles to become a superstar hair-metal guitarist – and instead ended up the frontman of Weezer, one of the key bands of the Nineties alt-rock revolution. Cuomo and his bandmates tell the story of the unlikely birth of Weezer, and the making of a classic debut album that's still winning over new generations of fans.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Mar 15, 2022
Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors"
00:24:16

Dolly Parton takes us inside Coat of Many Colors, the 1971 album where she came into her own as a solo artist, as a songwriter, and as a storyteller. Over the album’s 10 tracks — seven of them written solely by Dolly — she explored topics like poverty, class, spirituality, nature, female empowerment, and sexuality. The album marked Dolly’s first significant steps out of the shadow of Porter Wagoner, the rhinestoned country star who gave Dolly her big break by hiring her as the “girl singer” on his TV variety show. Dolly tells us the stories behind the songs, including “Coat of Many Colors,” an account of a childhood that was poor in money but rich in love. Contemporary artists like Brandy Clark and Carly Pearce join to talk about the album’s legacy. It’s an intimate look at a deeply personal statement.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Mar 08, 2022
Alice Coltrane's "Journey in Satchidananda"
00:40:55

Alice Coltrane spent the mid-Sixties in personal and musical bliss, starting a family with John Coltrane and touring the world as the pianist in his band. Then John died suddenly of liver cancer in 1967. Newly widowed at the age of 29 with four children to care for, she plunged into a lengthy period of despair. Sensing her pain, an old friend introduced her to his guru, Swami Satchidananda. With a new clarity — and a harp that John had commissioned for her before his death — she entered the basement studio of her Long Island home and recorded Journey in Satchidananda. Our episode retraces the entire arc of this remarkable 1971 record: We step into the basement where the album was recorded; speak to several musicians who played on it as well as Alice's daughter, Michelle; hear from musicians it influenced — including Flying Lotus, the grandson of Alice's sister; and hear archival interviews with Alice herself, delving into the remarkable story of a woman who crafted something beautiful and enduring in the time of her deepest pain.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Mar 01, 2022
Britney Spears' "Blackout"
00:38:03

In the mid-2000s, few people were more famous than Britney Spears. But as she began to stumble in her personal life, the price of the public’s fascination was more than just a few nasty late-night jokes. Paparazzi swarmed Spears’ home and her family, turning the singer into a tabloid punching bag. But when you’re a platinum-selling pop princess, the show goes on even when you desperately need an intermission. In the midst of madness, Spears began recording an album that would become her defining statement, 2007’s Blackout.

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums revisits the album at a time when Spears’ music — and the raw treatment she received from the public and the press — is being revisited and rethought in a big way. Collaborators and friends, from the A&R rep who was one of Spears’ closest allies to the producers who crafted visceral hits like “Piece of Me,” tell the story of how Spears’ made classic songs in the eye of a hurricane. The result was an album that stood as a middle finger to Spears’ critics and established a dark, danceable sound that influenced pop for years to come.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Feb 22, 2022
The Beatles' "Let It Be"
00:35:27

Let It Be is known as the Beatles’ breakup record: the one where squabbles among John, Paul, George and Ringo began to overtake the music, resulting in their darkest, most divisive set of songs. In our season 2 premiere, Paul and Ringo join best-selling author and Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield to take us step-by-step through the making of the album, from the failed back-to-basics concept to the famous 1969 rooftop gig to the bitter feud over producer Phil Spector’s involvement.

New episodes of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums release every Tuesday, only on Amazon Music.

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Feb 15, 2022
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums: Introducing Season 2
00:02:15

The stories behind some of the most essential albums of all time, told by the artists who made them. Each episode focuses on one album from Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list and features fresh conversations with the people behind the music, as well as classic interview audio and expert commentary from Rolling Stone’s writers and editors. Season 2 takes you inside a new slate of classics: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr break down what people got wrong about Let it Be, Dolly Parton tells the full story of her career-changing personal statement Coat of Many Colors, and collaborators, friends and admirers break down albums by Kanye West, Britney Spears, Alice Coltrane and more.

Season 2 will launch new episodes starting on November 16th, exclusively on Amazon Music and Wondery+. 

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Nov 19, 2021
Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"
00:42:10

What's Going On was R&B's first concept album, a suite of seamlessly connected songs tackling everything from police brutality to heroin addiction, inner-city poverty, and the dire state of the environment. When Marvin Gaye first proposed the project, inspired by a song brought to him by Four Tops member Obie Benson, Gordy told him it was career suicide. But when the title track came out, it was an instant smash, and Gordy immediately asked for more. Gaye channeled everything that was weighing on his mind, Terrell's tragic death from a brain tumor, his brother Frankie's harrowing experiences in Vietnam, the struggles of the civil-rights movement, all into a sobering yet healing treatise on troubled times.

In the season one finale of the Amazon Original podcast, "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums", we take an in-depth look at What's Going On, which took the top spot on Rolling Stone's newly updated 500 Greatest Albums list. In the episode you'll hear archival interviews with Marvin Gaye, where he delves into his evolving mindset at the time. You'll also hear reflections on the record from Marvin's collaborator and confidant Smokey Robinson; esteemed singer Aaron Neville, Gaye's contemporary and longtime admirer; his biographer David Ritz; and even his beloved sister Zeola Gaye. Later in the episode, host Brittany Spanos leads a roundtable discussion on the history and still-vital legacy of What's Going On featuring legendary music journalist Nelson George, who interviewed Gaye during his lifetime; singer Devon Gilfillian, who recently covered What's Going On in full on his own new album; and director Spike Lee, who wove the songs of What's Going On throughout Da Five Bloods, his acclaimed 2020 film about a group of black veterans returning to Vietnam in the present day.

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Nov 17, 2021
The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds"
00:54:29

In early 1966, the Beach Boys arrived at Los Angeles’ Western Studios to hear what Brian Wilson had been up to. The touring version of the band – Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine and Dennis Wilson – had been on the road in Japan, singing surf hits like “Fun, Fun Fun” and “I Get Around.” Wilson, after suffering a mental breakdown on a plane the year before, stayed home, opting to work on instrumental tracks with studio musicians.

What the band heard stunned them. Using instruments like harpsichord, harmonica, strings, and even sleigh bells, Wilson had written a spiritual album that captured heartbreak, insecurity, pain and sadness of entering adulthood. According to legend, the Beach Boys did not like "Pet Sounds", and its commercial failure led Brian Wilson to lose confidence in himself and descend further into mental illness. As the band explained to Rolling Stone in this week's episode of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time podcast, the truth is more a little more complicated.

While "Pet Sounds" didn’t sell, it inspired generations of musicians, beginning with the Beatles, who, according to George Martin, said ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ “never would have happened” without "Pet Sounds". The album was voted number two on Rolling Stone's rebooted 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, the spot it held in 2003.

Rolling Stone’s Jason Fine narrates the episode, which includes archival interviews with Brian Wilson, members of Wrecking Crew and more, as well as new interviews with several Beach Boys, plus members of Brian Wilson’s touring band, who brought the music of Pet Sounds to life on stage for the first time in 2000.

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Nov 17, 2021
Daddy Yankee's "Barrio Fino"
00:41:30

In the mid-2000s, Daddy Yankee was a married father of three living in the Villa Kennedy public housing projects in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But he was about to change the world with an album that did perhaps more than any other to turn reggaeton -  an underground urban movement out of Puerto Rico, drawing on influences like Jamaican dancehall, Panamanian reggae en español and hip hop - into a global force that produces hit after hit and fuels the careers of superstars like Bad Bunny and Ozuna.  

In this episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, Daddy Yankee talks with Nuria Net, journalist and co-founder of podcast studio La Coctelera Music, about that game-changing album, 2004's "Barrio Fino". He breaks down his vision for the album (and for reggaeton itself), going in-depth about the struggles to get the establishment to take reggaeton seriously. Along the way we hear from producers like Echo and Luny Tunes (the massively important hit "Gasolina" was birthed in Luny's mom's house, where she would cook Dominican food for the artists) and from artists like De La Ghetto and Bad Bunny, who talks about first hearing "Barrio Fino" as a 10-year-old kid in Puerto Rico and testifies to the album's influence. 

Later in the episode, Nuria Net, Los Angeles Times music reporter Suzy Exposito, and De La Ghetto join host Brittany Spanos to discuss the album’s impact and legacy.

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Nov 10, 2021
Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"
00:45:11

After rocketing to worldwide fame in the early Nineties as an actress and a member of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill took a big risk with her solo debut, 1998's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill". It made her an even bigger star at age 23, sold millions of copies, and won her five Grammy Awards, which is the most any woman before her had taken home in a single night. But in the years following Miseducation's blockbuster success, Hill all but exited public life. Though she has since returned to touring and has released one-off singles, she has yet to release a proper follow-up to her one solo album. 

In the latest episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, Hill's collaborators and confidants detail the ambitious, personal recording process along with the complicated decades that have followed, including legal disputes with some of those same collaborators. While Hill rarely grants interviews, she also responded to e-mail questions from Rolling Stone for this episode, providing detailed new insights on an album that has become so influential and beloved that it landed at Number 10 on our brand-new poll of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, making it the highest-ranking hip-hop album on the new list.

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Nov 10, 2021
Taylor Swift's "Red"
00:35:15

In this special episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums, we tackle one of the best and most important albums of the past decade: Taylor Swift's 2012 pop masterpiece "Red". Swift joins host Brittany Spanos to discuss why this is her "one true break-up album" and how she was becoming aware of her own mortality just as she was about to release her fourth album. At 22, Swift was already America’s favorite country singer. With "Red", she grew up with a bona fide classic that touched on pop, dubstep, arena-rock and more, and set up the rest of her career (very much including this year's "Folklore"). Later in the episode, Rolling Stone staffers Claire Shaffer, Rob Sheffield and Brian Hiatt join Spanos to discuss the album's legacy.

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Nov 03, 2021
Tom Petty's "Wildflowers"
00:42:04

In this episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest albums, we go inside the emotional story of Tom Petty’s "Wildflowers", a 1994 solo album that the singer, along with many fans, felt was the best work of his entire career. For a variety of reasons, Petty never could stop thinking about "Wildflowers"; in fact, it was on his mind right before he died. Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Steve Ferrone of the Heartbreakers along with Petty’s daughter Adria, wife Dana, and "Wildflowers" Executive Producer George Drakoulias discuss how the album was born over a fraught two year period marked by the breakdown of Petty’s first marriage, and a time of depression and uncertainty that followed. This mental state produced songs like "It’s Good To Be King” and "You Don’t Know How It Feels” that seem light and cheerful on the surface, but are actually expressing deep pain. We also share unheard audio from the Rolling Stone archives of Petty speaking about "Wildflowers" and his hopes for a deluxe edition that didn’t want up coming out until three years after his death. Later in the episode, Rolling Stone staffers David Browne, Angie Martoccio and Andy Greene join Spanos to discuss the album’s legacy.

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Nov 03, 2021
Introducing: Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums
00:02:01

Get ready to explore Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, a new podcast from Amazon Music. Originally released in 2003, the 500 Greatest Albums list is Rolling Stone’s most read and most argued-over article of all time. This year, the magazine completely remade it, with help from voters such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift, U2, and more. In each episode, we’ll dive into the making of one of the albums on the new list: Hear Tom Petty's family and bandmates explain how a deeply painful period in his life resulted in a classic solo album; Swift talk about how Red was a huge risk that changed everything for her; Chuck D on how Public Enemy tried to make the greatest rap album ever with It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and, quite possibly, succeeded.

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Nov 01, 2021