Top Selling Rock Albums Of All Time

artist: Misc date: 11/18/2011 category: wtf?
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Album sales aren't everything, but when opinions over records are divided, the stats can count for something. Here, we round up the top ten best-selling rock albums ever made. It's important to note that this isn't the top albums ever sold, and in some cases there was more than one album that sold a certain number of records - for example, Nirvana got 8th place for selling 30 million copies of "Nevermind" but other artists made it to 30 million too. In this case, we bundled them all together for a joint place, so take a look at the notes where possible for clarity. Rather than pick a video for one song from the album, we tried to find a documentary so you could learn more about how the record was made. They tend to be split into several parts, so when you finish watching one you can click through to the next part when YouTube links to them at the end. We couldn't find one for "Led Zeppelin IV", dammit, but the rest are intact. There's one controversial placement at number 6, but we think she earned her place. If you disagree, make sure you sell more records than her before starting a war in the comments. So sit back, and keep your weekend free to learn what it takes to make one of the best selling rock albums of all time.

01. AC/DC "Back In Black" (1980) 49 million copies

Another example of a major band losing their lead singer, this time Bon Scott to alcohol poisoning, but marching on and coming out with their best work ever. They recorded in the Bahamas, but tropical storms wreaked havoc on their equipment and electricity supply, which went on to inspire the "Hell's Bells" lyrics ("I'm rolling thunder, pourin' rain. I'm comin' on like a hurricane. My lightning's flashing across the sky. You're only young but you're gonna die"). Although it was their best selling record ever, it didn't actually chart as high in the US as their next album, having reached number 4 as opposed to the following number 1.

02. Pink Floyd "The Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973) 45 million copies

Pink Floyd could have collapsed after the departure of lead composer and singer Syd Barrett, but his declining mental state helped inspire the songs behind what became their biggest album ever. It is one of the defining British recordings, laced with the sound of Abbey Road studios, and used some seriously cutting edge techniques such as - shock - multitrack recording. Analogue synths became very, very cool with this album, and stayed in the charts longer than any other in history at 741 weeks. It remains a masterpiece.

03. Meat Loaf "Bat Out Of Hell" (1977) 43 million copies

This album could yet go up a few ranks in this chart, because it was still selling 200,000 copies last year. Wow. It wasn't always this way - almost everyone at Epic Records hated it, and critics weren't convinced. But it remains timeless in the sense that it doesn't fit into any other trend, and could be released at any point in history and still sound valid. But you could easily forget all that when you see Meat Loaf star in "Fight Club" with big fake boobs.

04. Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" (1977) 40 million copies

They say the best songs come from emotional strife, but this is only amplified when band members end up divorcing each other. Vocalist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie divorced, and would only stop arguing when writing music - but if that wasn't enough, the other vocalists Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had their own fiery on/off relationship. Had enough? Well, drummer Mick Fleetwood also found the mother of his two children cheating on him with his best friend. The result was their biggest album ever.

05. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV" (1971) 37 million copies

This was the first Zeppelin album not to have a title, so fans simply attributed the former Roman numeral naming convention instead. Jimmy Page specifically wanted no title, and instead had each band member choose a symbol to include on the sleeve, despite a press agent insisting this would be akin to "career suicide". Page may as well have told him to f--k right off, because it proved to be all about the music - and what music it was.

06. Alanis Morissette "Jagged Little Pill" (1995) 33 million copies

There was some debate over here at UG towers over whether we should include a relatively mainstream artist in this rock list. But what the hell does mainstream mean on a list of top selling albums anyway? But it's rock, she writes her own songs, and sold more copies than "Sgt. Peppers" for goodness sake. Credit where it's due, eh? It became the best selling album of the 90s despite dividing the opinion of critics, and won a Grammy for Album Of The Year at the age of 21 - the youngest to ever receive the award. Props.

07. The Beatles "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967) 32 million copies

Arguably the best Beatles album, though let's not open that can of worms. It was their eighth studio album, and over the 129 days of recording they worked with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick and invented many recording techniques which are still widely used today. But this album became more than just the music, and became a flag for the 60s generation to wave forever.

08. Nirvana "Nevermind" (1991) 30 million copies

It was the album that told the world to forget about contrived star-spangled glam rock and look to the angst of youth for truly passionate songwriting. Kurt Cobain apparently said he hated the polished production style, but it was a means to take his charged garage style to the masses, and sparked countless sub-genres of independent music, both good and bad. Major labels started buying up indie labels, where they even defined the "indie" genre to market their alternative credentials. Other artists who sold 30 million and deserve this place as much as Nirvana are Pink Floyd with "The Wall", Bruce Springsteen with "Born In The U.S.A." and Dire Straits with "Brothers In Arms".

09. Guns N' Roses "Appetite For Destruction" 28 million copies

Who could have predicted that the happy-go-lucky rockers in this video would go on to implode in a hail of drugs and despair? Hmm, probably everyone. This album sent the band to stratospheric levels of fame, and almost defined the glam rock life of rock n' roll excess. The songs were about the debauchery of the LA rock scene, run ins with the law, female company and heroin. Well why not, it was the 80s. Equally deserving of this place is Bon Jovi who also sold 28 million copies of his album "Slippery When Wet".

10. Santana "Supernatural" (1999) 27 million copies

The number of collaborations here put off some critics, who argued that the album ultimately felt directionless and without a consistant voice. That said, they couldn't argue that it wasn't some of the best world music ever, and who's to argue with the buyers who lapped it up by the millions?
There's nothing to argue with here, since it's all based on stats, but we'd love you to discuss what you've learnt from the documentaries in the comments. Did anything surprise you?
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