Top Selling Rock Albums Of All Time

We dug up stats and 'making of' documentaries for our most authoritative 'Top 10' chart yet. Sit back and learn how to make a classic of your own.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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".

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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?

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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?

178 comments sorted by best / new / date

    conor-figgy
    crackerface wrote: it's funny how nothing from this century is in there : )
    It's actually not funny what so ever; the longer an album has been out the more sales it can rack up. Nomnomnom logic...
    Vinzafy
    crackerface wrote: it's funny how nothing from this century is in there : )
    If illegal downloads counted as record sales, the whole list would be from the last decade.
    Section 5
    Equally deserving of this place is Bon Jovi who also sold 28 million copies of his album "Slippery When Wet".
    It annoys me so much when people think that Bon Jovi is a person. I mean he is, but the band is simply named after him!
    Tarsplitter
    Equally deserving of this place is Bon Jovi who also sold 28 million copies of his album "Slippery When Wet".
    Seriously, UG?
    shwilly
    Addzam wrote: They claimed "Money" to be written in 7/8... meh
    Explain to me then how it isn't? The solo is 4/4, but then they switch back to 7/8 Please explain your "meh"...
    mh1986
    Iamtdawg wrote: Okay clarification time Metallica is metal not rock Nirvanna is grunge not rock This article is the ten best selling ROCK albums.
    And just to further clarify Metal and Grunge would sub genres with what genre? Starts with an R and rhymes with lock.
    smittyanthrax
    catherineblake wrote: uhm....metallica anyone?? the black album?? master of puppets??
    Masters of puppets no but the black album i expected to see also.
    westley23j
    Iamtdawg wrote: Okay clarification time Metallica is metal not rock Nirvanna is grunge not rock This article is the ten best selling ROCK albums.
    Clarification time....this guy doesnt know what he is talking about.
    MonsterOfRock
    DSotM will outsell BiB in a few years. I think it was the highest selling album of 2003, some 30 years later. Proving that people still are highly interested in that album and if anyone reading this comment hasn't heard it in its entirety, they ought to do it RIGHT NOW. Whats with all the commotion about the time sig in 'Money'? As awesome as it is, its the most unfitting song on DSotM, IMO.
    avon69
    Eifler121 wrote: I'm pretty sure Ten outsold Nevermind.
    Ten's $10 million to Nevermind's $30 million? i think not.
    BenAffleck
    Alanis is a great songwriter. Fact. Deal with it. Tell me it's opinion, I don't give a ****. Fact. Factity fact fact.
    tntero
    crackerface wrote: it's funny how nothing from this century is in there : )
    lol its actually quite easy to understand that, an album from the 70's has had way more time to add up sales than any album from the 00's, although the world is changing and lots of people dont buy albums anymore, so even in 20 years, i dont believe that an album will achieve as many sales as back in black did...
    bonjidonk
    Why is Metallica's Black Album not on there? It might have something to do with the fact that 22 million is less than 28 million. If you want that album on there, go and buy 10 million copies of it!
    goochmaster15
    ALANIS MORRISETTE IS GOD... No really, she played as God in Dogma and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back.
    crackerface
    it's funny how nothing from this century is in there : )
    tonyclure
    Because these albums have been (and still do) outsell any other albums produced. Do you see the trend in new music today? "Let's put out ANOTHER crap album with no regard to quality or sensible creativity. These albums spoke to the generations they were created for and STILL speak to the generations to come. This is why they are referred to as The Classics--they will NEVER die. As we've seen-bands like Metallica just need to die already-they've been beating THAT dead horse for years now and just need to be laid to rest. If ANYONE gets mad because of that statement- you just need to get a life and get over it already.
    blackbird51
    If you disagree, make sure you sell more records than her before starting a war in the comments.
    You heard it right folks. You cannot have an opinion on the matter unless you sell 30 million records, sorry. Seriously UG writers are so damn ignorant.
    BigMikeBDD
    The Eagles greatest hits sold 42 Million. And according to other online sources, Santana's Supernatural sold 27 million, not 49.
    Ramale
    The Eagles were left out because I assume they are only counting studio albums rather than greatest hits compilations, Agree with you about Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen though. All UG needed to do was pick some albums from a list thats already been made and they still managed to screw up
    Villearreal92
    Looked at the legit list of best selling albums, noticed it was only counting rock/"metal" artists, saw they left out The Eagles, Dire Straits, and Bruce Springsteen... Credibility Lost. They also only counted one album per artist, otherwise, The Wall would be above Nevermind. Also, Supernatural only sold like...27 million...so...yeah
    raoooos
    Not entirely sure why they mentioned multi-tracking as being 'innovative' under Dark Side of the Moon (1973) when The Beatles had been using it for 6-7 years. Why not mention it under Sgt. Peppers?
    thejester
    BigMikeBDD wrote: The list seemed decent til I ran across Alanis Morrisette....then it lost all credibility.
    because the numbers are wrong? or you dont like her and that makes you get a poopy face?
    Reddaz
    truiteleague wrote on 11/18/2011 - 10:52 am / quote | Addzam wrote: They claimed "Money" to be written in 7/8... meh Money was in 7/4!!!
    I'm pretty sure if Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters ar saying its in 7/8, then its in 7/8!
    Equally deserving of this place is Bon Jovi who also sold 28 million copies of his album "Slippery When Wet".
    Pretty sure Bon Jovi is the full name of the band, not the singer!
    BigMikeBDD
    Tomo J O wrote: This article needs more Springsteen!
    The world needs less Springsteen.
    Maiden95
    Some "facts" should be clarified before they make it on here UG. ...And yes **** heads, Money is in 7/4. I have no idea why there is a flame war about Money's time signatures when it is a thread about the highest selling rock records ever.
    Root Beer
    Did some research: Supernatural sold about 27 million. Where the **** did they get 49 million? Hell, it doesn't even make the LIST. Also, if this were a fair world, Dark Side would be #1 imo.
    Dazalator88
    Finally a top ten where opinion doesn't come in to it!!!!! What are the trolls going to do today? Perhaps daylight shall embrace their faces for the first time in months. lol.
    slaveskinJACKET
    If you disagree, make sure you sell more records than her before starting a war in the comments.
    I realize this is supposed to be a joke, but it's a stupid and annoying one. Also, if you can't appreciate Alanis Morrisette or respect her spot on the list, you should probably find yourself a shorter horse.
    Iommianity
    jcoops39 wrote: Are people seriously going to get p**sy over what time signiature Money was written in? Do you recite a 7/8 beat in your head when you play..? Who gives a f**k? Top tune.
    lol, this is a guitar forum. To be honest, you sound more pissy than anyone else. This is the PERFECT place to have this discussion. And yeah, if I'm playing a tricky rhythm, it helps immensely to count out the beats. Not there's anything tricky about Money.
    mckenna64
    super collasal wrote: I was under the impression that Dark side was the best selling album of all time.
    nope 3rd behind AC/DC, Michael Jacksons Thriller has the number 1 spot with something ridiculous like 110 million sales. I think the Santana 49 million is off, it is more like 27-30 million albums.
    fittler
    bartdevil_metal wrote: Another inaccurate article from UG. The REAL top 10: 1. ACDC -Back in Black 2. Santana -Supernatural 3. Pink Floyd -Dark Side of the Moon 4. Meat Loaf -Bat Out of Hell 5. Fleetwood Mac -Rumours 6. Led Zeppelin - IV 7. Alanis Morissette -Jagged Little Pill 8. The Beatles -Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 9. The Beatles -1 10. Bruce Springsteen -Born in the USA Seriously UG, the quality of your articles just sucks.
    If you're gonna put that beatles compliation on the list then you may as well put The Eagles Greatest hits on the list at number 1. The quality of your post is worse than the article.
    JB95
    "If you disagree, make sure you sell more records than her before starting a war in the comments." wtf ug...
    JimmyP91
    For those of you arguing time signature, how it's written plays an important role as well. As someone who is taking music theory and composition in university, I've lost plenty of marks on assignments because I said a piece was in 4/4 even though it was in 2/2 or something along that line. They sound the same and the accents are relatively similar (2/2 is S-W, 4/4 is S-W-M-W) but on paper one will look a lot cleaner and will be easier to read. Money works a lot better in 7/4 but you can make it 7/8 if you really want too since you'd just be splitting every measure in 2. It just be harder to read and you'll be accenting more notes. As for the article itself, some of these numbers seem wrong
    mafuhungy
    conor-figgy wrote: crackerface wrote: it's funny how nothing from this century is in there : ) It's actually not funny what so ever; the longer an album has been out the more sales it can rack up. Nomnomnom logic...
    nomnomnom internet. dont be a ****tard sales plateau and go downhill quite quickly. Do you honestly see any album from this century selling up to 50,000,000 in 10 years?? probably not love.
    Ramale
    The Black Album has "only" sold 22 million copies whats everyone moaning about?
    jcoops39
    Are people seriously going to get p**sy over what time signiature Money was written in? Do you recite a 7/8 beat in your head when you play..? Who gives a f**k? Top tune.
    Crimson Ghost
    Supernatural sold 27 worldwide, not 49. Even if it was right, you bunched up artists with the same sales together, so why wouldn't you put ACDC and Santana together? Oh, it's so there could be a picture of Slash at the end...
    prelude222
    catherineblake wrote: uhm....metallica anyone?? the black album?? master of puppets??
    Once again, Metallica fans astonished that Master of Puppets isnt included on a Best Of list. First of all, it was Best Rock albums, not metal. Second, open your eyes people, the music world does not start and end with Metallica.
    Iamtdawg
    Atl least UG didn't label this "ten best rock albums of all time" "theres one contoversial artist at NUMBER 6 but we belive she earned her place" Um.. I think they mean 7 UG gets smarter but still fails
    edgeyyz
    shwilly wrote: Addzam wrote: They claimed "Money" to be written in 7/8... mehExplain to me then how it isn't? The solo is 4/4, but then they switch back to 7/8 Please explain your "meh"...
    It's in 7/4
    Root Beer
    Paramecium302 wrote: Root Beer wrote: tume wrote: i have none of above What a sad, sorry life you must lead. Oh yes, can you imagine? There are only about 30 albums in the world - there's no way he has his mind open to other forms of music that delve deeper than four chords. No WAY!
    Lol, you call Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt Pepper, and Led Zeppelin IV "four chord rock"? I can guarantee you whatever crazy shit you listen to is in some way influenced by at LEAST one of these albums. These are some of the greatest albums ever made. Just because they're popular doesn't mean they're not worth digging into. Don't get sucked into the whole "POPULAR = SHIT DERP I'M A REBEL DERP DERP" thing. THAT'S being closed-minded. I encourage that you to pick up Dark Side and hear what an album is SUPPOSED to sound like.