These Are The Best Selling Classic Rock Albums Of All Time

Nowadays, if a big name of the music industry sells one or two million albums, the achievement is celebrated as an important milestone of their career. But how come multi-platinum records appeared every month during the rock era of the 60s, 70s, and 80s? It seems that those massive releases have set unbreakable records in the U.S… so let’s take a look at the unbelievable figures of classic rock’s best selling albums in America! Don’t miss #4 for a surprise.

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#22. Steve Miller Band, Greatest Hits 1974-78

Tying with the following album, this Greatest Hits collection of Steve Miller’s Band sold a stunning amount of 13 million copies in the U.S. I bet you’re at least a bit surprised, aren’t you? Most people don’t tend to think about Steve Miller when asked about the most successful bands of the 20th Century.

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But back in the day, a solid compilation could be a gigantic hit in the record stores if released at the right moment, with the band’s best or most popular songs. In fact, nine of the songs that were selected for this album belonged to the group’s two previous LPs, which had been their successful ones.

#21. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Live 1975-85

That’s right, a well-thought selection of a band’s best output can sometimes end up being one of the groups most symbolic and celebrated releases (the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ amazing Greatest Hits album from 2003 comes to mind).

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This is also the case for this triple-CD dive into Bruce Springsteen’s most fabled live shows from 1975 to 1985. “The Boss” was riding high on the buzz of Born in the U.S.A., so these live renditions of his most powerful tunes sold like lemonade during a warm summer day.

#20. Simon And Garfunkel, Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits

Springsteen’s live album, in fact, sold a little bit more than 4 million copies. That’s already an impressive figure, but I bet you’re wondering why it’s certified 13x times platinum. Well, that’s because it’s a triple album! If it had been a double-CD, the sales would be multiplied by two for the official certification.

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It makes sense since multi-disc albums are more expensive. At number 20, and tying with the following record, we have Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, with 14 million copies sold in the country since its release in 1972.

#19. Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell

Simon and Garfunkel’s has got to be, objectively, one of the best Greatest Hits ever. Who doesn’t love Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mrs. Robinson, or The Boxer? I swear almost every American has a beautiful memory tied to one of their songs!

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The first traditional studio album from the list, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell defied all expectations to become one of history’s most surprising wins. Some of its viral singles like Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad brought a lot of unprecedented attention to the artist, who would later release two sequels.

#18. The Beatles, 1962-1966

The flamboyant Bat Out Of Hell would eventually sell 43 million copied worldwide. Yes, you read that right! Guess a compilation isn’t the only infallible formula, huh? Again with a compilation, the appearance of this one is not much of a surprise.

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The Beatles were already a sensation in Britain when they managed to land their first number-one single in America, with the furor caused by I Wanna Hold Your Hand. The Fab-Four would then land album after album and song after song at the top of the charts with admirable effortlessness.

#17. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon

Tied with the 1962-1966 compilation of The Beatles, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon sold 15 million copies in the country too. Floyd released some of rock’s most daring and acclaimed conceptual albums during their golden era (Animals, Wish You Were Here, The Wall…).

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Dark Side is obviously one of them, but it’s also packed with some of the band’s most-played songs: Money, Time, The Great Gig In The Sky… those are on any rock fan’s playlist, and you’ll also hear them from time to time on the radio, and maybe that explains the album’s notable selling power.

#16. Journey, Greatest Hits

There’s no denying that The Dark Side Of The Moon has an iconic cover also… can a legendary cover art make or break a record? That’s a whole other topic, but keep sliding on and you’ll notice that more easily recognizable designs appear here.

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Moving from the 70s to the 80s, we have one of America’s most cherished bands, Journey. It also sold 15 million, but this selection of the band’s greatest tunes holds an impressive record. Except for Bob Marley’s Legend, it’s the compilation that spent the most amount of weeks on the Billboard 200 (554 weeks). Amazing, right?

#15. Bruce Springsteen, Born In The U.S.A.

This one was a no brainer. Even people who can’t name more than two Bruce Springsteen songs know something about this album or recognize the cover. Indeed, that’s definitely one of rock and roll’s most iconic images!

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Though Born In The U.S.A. was a 15x platinum success with seven hit singles that carved itself a special place in American culture, its cover caused some controversy at the time of its release (1984). Believe it or not, some thought that Bruce was peeing at the flag as a sign of disrespect!

#14. Metallica, Metallica

Metallica is usually credited with the honor of inventing trash, a fast, unstoppable variation of metal. Their trademark style is perhaps best shown on Master Of Puppets, one of the band’s legendary records that everyone remembers.

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But their mainstream explosion came in 1991 with “The Black Album”, which showcased a slower, more progressive style. Hits like Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman became worldwide phenomenons and the album would eventually sell more than 16 million copies in the U.S.

#13. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

Many Led Zeppelin fans tend to argue over which is the best out of their fantastic four self-titled albums. I’d go with Led Zeppelin 1 and 4, but this worn-out discussion eclipses their other notable releases.

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Yes, Zeppelin is more than Stairway To Heaven or Black Dog! Physical Graffiti, for instance, includes memorable songs like Kashmir and The Rover. Zeppelin’s sixth release continued their winning streak, earning a 16x platinum certification!

#12. Elton John, Greatest Hits

It was the best selling album of 1975 in the U.S.A. It stayed for almost three months at number one. Only ten tracks were needed to sell almost 17 million copies. That’s Elton John for you, fellas, simply a one of a kind legend!

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Elton had the charisma, but he also had the songwriting required (plus Bernie Taupin’s unforgettable lyrics). No one could resist a compilation that included Your Song, Rocket Man, Saturday Night’s Alright for Dancing, and Crocodile Rock, and rightfully so!

#11. Eagles, Hotel California

The Eagles are a rare phenomenon. It’s pretty common to come across Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin or Pink Floyd fans, but Eagles fans? Not so much. However, they have two of the best selling albums in history!

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Their most prosperous studio album, Hotel California, took the charts by storm in 1976. Though it was listed number 37 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time ranking, it lost the album of the year Grammy. Don’t miss #6 if you want to know which album took the prize!

#10. The Beatles, 1967-1970

The release of their “Red” Greatest Hits, which displayed The Beatles’ early songs, proved to be an amazing commercial decision. Thus, why not try the same formula again? Unsurprisingly enough, the Blue edition became even a larger phenomenon.

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The cover shows Ringo, Paul, George, and John looking downwards to the camera from over the stairwell, similarly to the Please Please Me photo. However, their long hair clearly shows the fans that this collection contains songs from the Sgt. Pepper and White Album era.

#9. Boston, Boston

Released in 1973, that Beatles album sold more than 17 million copies in America, and it contained legendary songs like Come Together, Revolution, A Day In The Life, All You Need Is Love, and many others. For another Beatles record, don’t miss #7!

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At #9, also with 17 million copies sold approximately, we have Boston’s most celebrated LP. Tom Scholz famously recorded these songs in his basement, and almost every one of them ended up being huge radio hits, like More Than a Feeling and Peace Of Mind.

#8. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite For Destruction

If you’ve been paying attention to this list, the choice of considering this album eligible for the “classic rock” category might seem questionable. Our criterion is that it was released before 1990 (it came out in 1987, to be precise), hence its awesome hits are usually played on classic rock radio stations.

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Guns N’ Roses was definitely a controversial band at the time; Axl Rose and the rest of the group seemed to be inevitably attracted to scandals and brawls. It’s clear that they excelled at transmitting this raw, reckless energy and danger into the songs that would constitute one of the most legendary debuts ever.

#7. The Beatles, The Beatles

Indeed, Appetite For Destruction reportedly sold 30 million copies worldwide and at least 18 million in the U.S.! At number seven we have another Beatles album, but this one is no greatest hits. The sprawling, double, self-titled album (which is known everywhere as The White Album) actually sold less than Sgt Pepper (released in 1967, a year before this one).

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But, as we’ve explained before, the sales of a double-LP are multiplied by 2 in order to obtain the certification number. The songs of The White Album were mainly written during The Beatles’ fabled stay in India for a transcendental meditation course.

#6. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

What’s curious about The White Album is that almost every Beatles fan has its own personal favorite: from iconic songs like While My Guitar Gently Weeps or Blackbird, to deep cuts like Happiness is a Warm Gun, that record is full of gratifying surprises.

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But now it’s time to talk about Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Remember when we said that The Eagles’ Hotel California had lost the Grammy for album of the year? Well, this is the outstanding record that won the battle! We can’t argue with the decision though: Rumours sold more than 20 million copies in the U.S., thanks to unforgettable hits like The Chain and Dreams.

#5. AC/DC, Back In Black

Kicking off the top 5, we have AC/DC’s most celebrated album. Yes, the Australian hard-rock titans released other remarkable albums (High Voltage, Highway To Hell), but this one was probably rock’s most mindblowing comeback.

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Released in 1980 just 5 months after Bon Scott (the band’s first lead singer) had unfortunately passed away, Brian Johnson efficiently replaced Bon and silenced the criticism with unforgettable performances. Back In Black would sell almost 23 million copies in the U.S. alone. Amazing!

#4. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II

Well, no one can argue the fact that AC/DC had several memorable anthems under their sleeve to achieve their epic comeback: even AC/DC haters can’t help but move their feet to the rhythm of Hells Bells, the title track, or You Shook Me All Night Long when one of these appears on the radio!

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At a tie with #3 and #2, Billy Joel’s ultimate Greatest Hits collection sold 23 million units. Well, it actually sold a little bit less than 12 million, but it’s a double-LP. Perfect timing was crucial for this compilation’s success: it was released two years after Joel had put out An Innocent Man, his most acclaimed studio album.

#3. Led Zeppelin, Untitled

Also called “Zeppelin IV“, the band’s fourth LP not only continued their fabulous streak but it also was the group’s most ambitious musical output to date. That’s right, the tracks are just as iconic as the mysterious painting of the cover (the band rejected the label’s request of sticking with the traditional idea of a picture of the musicians and the band’s name).

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From the bluesy epic of When The Levee Breaks to worldwide anthems like Black Dog, Rock and Roll, and Zeppelin’s signature classic, Stairway to Heaven, this album has no filler. With almost 24 million copies sold in the country, Plant and company have the best selling single-disc rock record of all time. What an accomplishment!

#2. Pink Floyd, The Wall

Zeppelin might have the most popular single-disc rock album of all time… but Pink Floyd has the most successful double-LP (if we don’t count the compilation of the following slide). A fatherless boy who faces an overprotective mother, authoritative schoolteachers and the psychological hazards of fame as he becomes Pink, the rockstar.

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The alluring storyline of what’s perhaps the most spectacular conceptual album in history is only one of the several layers of the narrative. That’s right, Roger Water’s grandiose idea can be viewed as a harsh criticism towards the educational system, or as a semi-autobiographic account as well.

#1. Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

The music on The Wall is also exceptional, with classics like Comfortably Numb, Mother, Hey You, Another Brick In The Wall pt 2, and Run Like Hell. But the best selling rock album in history is this Eagles compilation, which gathers the band’s best tracks of the 71-75 period.

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Not only did this single-disc greatest hits selection sell more than 35 million copies in the U.S., it recently surpassed Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the best selling record of all genres! It had been surpassed by Thriller after the pop idol’s death in 2009, but the Eagles regained the top spot in 2018. This compilation is definitely unstoppable!

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