Tracking music sales has existed almost as long as albums have been sold.
Billboard began publishing their weekly chart in 1945, expanding it to a list of 200 in 1967. Since then, the Billboard 200 has served as the measuring stick for commercial success in the United States, tracking top-selling LPs on a week-by-week basis.
The formula for hitting No. 1 is equal parts popularity, timing and luck. Obviously, there can only be one top album each week, and the competition for sales has routinely left many notable releases just short of the top of the chart.
Ignoring film soundtracks, albums from Michael Jackson (Thriller), Fleetwood Mac (Rumours), Harry Belafonte (Calypso), Adele (21) and Prince (Purple Rain) hold the distinction of having most weeks at atop the charts. If you were another artist putting out an LP around the same time as these landmark releases, you were more-or-less playing for second place.
Chart placement is essentially a popularity contest. If an album happens to capture the zeitgeist of an era, it may enjoy dizzying heights, only to be forgotten over time. There are also many examples of the opposite: albums working a slow burn, taking a year or more to climb to their Billboard chart peak.
Along the way, some very well-known rock releases have climbed close to the top of the chart, only to be held out of the summit. Here’s a look back at 10 of them.
Why 10 Famous Rock Albums Never Made It to No. 1
Depending on when bands released an LP, they might simply be playing for second place.
See Rock’s Epic Fails: Van Halen