Every now and then you might wonder what the ten biggest-selling albums of all time might be. As it turns out, it’s not an exact science: while we’re pretty sure a couple of people did buy Michael Jackson’s Thriller, different outlets have different ways of measuring overall album sales, say nothing of the fact that with the advent of downloading and streaming services, the whole thing becomes even more ambiguous. In fact, trying to figure it out through a Google search will give multiple results from different websites. However, through such research, we were able to put together what we believe is a fairly accurate list of the ten current best-selling albums of all time. And they are…
#10. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER SOUNDTRACK – VARIOUS ARTISTS (1977)
The disco era of the late ’70s was pretty much centralized by this two-record soundtrack from the movie, which starred John Travolta. Though dominated by the Bee Gees, the soundtrack also includes tracks by the KC & the Sunshine Band, Tavares, and Kool & the Gang among others. The record was damn near inescapable in 1978 (when it topped the charts for six solid months), which according to most analyses resulted in overexposure that did disco in not much later.
#9. RUMOURS – FLEETWOOD MAC (1977)
Fleetwood Mac began in England as a blues-inspired outfit, but it was the addition of American guitarist/vocalist Lindsay Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks that provided the group with just the perfect mix. This, their second album with that line-up, was a slick and stylish, melancholy but uplifting offering of smooth late ’70s rock which managed to appeal to the masses even in an era dominated by disco.
#8. COME ON OVER – SHANIA TWAIN (1997)
Well before Taylor Swift crossed over from country to pop, this Canadian songstress achieved just that, to incredible success. Her main collaborator at the time was her husband, Robert John “Mutt” Lang, a producer best known for his work with countless popular rock bands, including AC/DC, the Cars, and Def Leppard. The merging of musical backgrounds clearly did its job and created a record with enormously broad appeal.
#7. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – PINK FLOYD (1973)
Younger fans probably think of Pink Floyd’s 1973 release Dark Side of the Moon as being part of “their early stuff,” when in fact it was the band’s eighth full-length studio release. But just about everyone recognizes it as being not only one of rock’s most experimental but also one of the genre’s all-time best. The record also became notorious for simply refusing to vacate the Billboard album chart, where it appeared for nearly two decades (in case you think you read that wrong: no, not “years”… “decades.”)
#6. BAT OUT OF HELL – MEAT LOAF (1977)
Centered around “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” an eight-minute-twenty-either-second mini-rock opera, this debut album by the rock crooner whose real name is Marvin Lee Aday (yes, Meat Loaf is not a band) with songs written by keyboardist Jim Steinman and production by Todd Rundgren was everywhere after it was released (and pretty much still is, if you’ve listened at all to classic rock radio).
#5. THE BODYGUARD SOUNDTRACK – WHITNEY HOUSTON AND OTHERS (1992)
While superstar Whitney Houston’s first movie starring vehicle, The Bodyguard (co-starring Kevin Costner) was itself a commercial success; it almost became just a footnote to its soundtrack, which showcased Houston along with several other artists (including Joe Cocker, the Curtis Singers, and Kenny G). By far the centerpiece of the whole package was Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which topped the US singles chart for fourteen weeks and would end up as one of the biggest-selling singles of all time.
#4. BACK IN BLACK – AC/DC (1980)
Hard-as-f*ck Australian rockers AC/DC were never one to wait around for anyone else’s approval, but with this 1980 release, their initial outing with new lead singer Brian Johnson (who replaced the late Bon Scott), they got it anyway. This album alone proves that the appeal of heavy metal can extend well beyond those guys you knew in high school who wore sleeveless denim jackets and spent all their time smoking in the parking lot.
#3. HOTEL CALIFORNIA – THE EAGLES (1976)
With this 1976 album, the Eagles moved a bit away from their country-rock roots for more a mainstream rock sound. However, it’s the title track (sung by longtime member Don Henley) that gives the album the mystique which was a great part of its appeal: a bizarre tale of a man who finds himself trapped in a place where he’s told he “can never leave” by a group who by their own admission have been “programmed” to make certain of it. A cult? Robots? Both? According to the band themselves, we’ll never find out for sure.
#2. THRILLER – MICHAEL JACKSON (1982)
At 24-years-old Michael Jackson had already been famous for more than half his life when this, his second full-length solo album, not only made him the biggest star in the world but also changed music forever. The collection of R&B, funk, rock, pop, and ballads, which included contributions from Paul McCartney and Eddie Van Halen (among others) became the highest-selling album of all time within just over a year of its original release (it remains the all-time highest-selling album comprised of entirely original material).
#1. THEIR GREATEST HITS (1971-1975) – THE EAGLES (1976)
Wait… these guys again? Well, this one took its time in getting to the top of the list: though a huge commercial success upon its original 1976 release, it wasn’t until 1999 that it became the biggest selling album of all time (only to lose that spot again to Thriller and then get it back). Rock critics never really thought much of the Eagles, but with their continued success, as epitomized by just this one release, the masses have clearly spoken.