7 classic albums that didn’t reach #1 in the charts

There is a strong argument for the 70s being music’s greatest decade, with countless classic albums from Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and many more.

However, not every classic album achieved immediate success. While the likes of Never Mind The B******s, Imagine, Rumours and A Night at the Opera all hit #1 in the UK, some masterpieces missed out…


Ziggy Stardust

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie

Peak position: #5

David Bowie’s classic glam rock opera only peaked at #5 in the chart, which is remarkable considering how influential an album it turned out to be.

In fact, we could fill this post with Bowie albums. Station to Station, Low and Heroes all missed out on the top spot, charting at #5, #2 and #3 respectively. Only Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs made it to #1.

Hotel California

Hotel California – The Eagles

Peak position: #2

Hotel California is one of the biggest selling albums of all time, shifting over 32 million copies worldwide.

It had a slow start in the UK, though, charting at #5 in its first week before yo-yoing up and down the top 20. It eventually rose up to #2 but met another behemoth at the top: Abba’s Arrival. It spent 5 weeks in 2nd place before dropping once again.

Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

Peak position: #2

Countless chart-topping artists have cited Songs in the Key of Life as a major influence. Elton John called it “the best album ever made”, as did Prince and George Michael. Michael Jackson, meanwhile, named it his favourite Stevie Wonder album.

Yet despite its undeniable influence on pop music, Songs in the Key of Life only peaked at #2 in the UK charts. It was held off the top spot by Soul Motion, a compilation album, and Bert Weedon’s 22 Golden Guitar Greats.

The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Peak position: #2

With over 45 million copies sold worldwide, The Dark Side of the Moon is the 3rd bestselling album of all time.

Surprise, surprise: it wasn’t #1 in the UK. Despite spending 463 weeks on the UK albums chart, it peaked at #2 in its first week of release. The album that beat such a titanic release? 20 Flash Back Greats of the Sixties. Yep, another compilation!

London Calling

London Calling – The Clash

Peak position: #9

Given how many people claim to have been punks back in the day, you’d be forgiven that everyone in the late 70s had green mohawks and safety pins through their nose.

Punk’s massive influence didn’t translate to chart success though. Although Never Mind The B******s by the Sex Pistol’s topped the chart, pretty much every other classic punk album struggled to even get close to the top spot.

Perhaps the most surprising of all is London Calling, which is widely considered one of the best albums ever recorded (punk or not!). It only charted at #9 upon release, below Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits, The Wall by Pink Floyd and those Swedish slayers of classic albums, Abba.

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Peak position: #17

The Boss is hugely popular in the UK, selling out arenas across the country.

And yet, Born to Run only entered the UK chart at #36, dropped out again, then spent the rest of 1975 hovering around the #50 mark. It didn’t hit its peak position of #17 until 10 years later, presumably off the back of the success of Born in the USA.

Off The Wall

Off The Wall – Michael Jackson

Peak position: #3

Michael Jackson’s breakthrough solo album has spent 225 weeks on the chart but never made it to #1. The closest it came was actually in 2009, when it hit #3 shortly after Jackson’s death.

During its initial release in 1979, the closest it came was #5 behind The Police’s Regatta De Blanc, Blondie’s Eat to the Beat, Status Quo’s Whatever You Want and The Long Run by The Eagles.

Although they missed out on the top spot (in the UK, at least), these classic albums are well worth another listen. You can find them all in our Rewind to the 70s collection, where you’ll also find even more classic albums and movies too – many of which are in our amazing 2 for £3 and 2 for £10 promotions! Just click below to start shopping.