Year by year, the best-selling albums of the past 50 years

1
Elvis Presley’s 1961 release ‘G.I. Blues’

Elvis Presley's 1961 release 'G.I. Blues'

Ever wondered what the best-selling album was in the UK the year you were born? Want to know which record made the most dough back in ’73? We’ve put together a gallery of just that, starting with Elvis Presley’s 1961 release ‘G.I. Blues’. The soundtrack to his rom-com about an army man longing to run a nightclub peaked at No. 1 on both the UK Albums Chart and the Billboard Pop Albums Chart.

2
1962:

1962:

1962: The soundtrack to West Side Story found its way into the ears of most music lovers in the UK. Stateside, it spent a whopping 54 weeks atop the Billboard Album Chart, becoming the longest running No. 1 album ever. Not too shabby for a musical based on Romeo And Juliet.

3
1963:

1963:

1963: And so The Beatles began their seemingly never-ending UK chart domination with the release of ‘With The Beatles’, which was recorded only a few months after their debut ‘Please Please Me’. This was only the second album in the UK to sell a million copies, after the South Pacific soundtrack.

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4
1964:

1964:

1964: The fab four’s ‘Beatles For Sale’ was a chart topper for 11 weeks and then it hung around the Top 20 for another 35. The band recorded the album in a whirlwind of telly appearances and gigs and the fatigue showed on the cover, where they look rather burnt out.

5
1965:

1965:

1965: Here we find another soundtrack, this time for The Sound Of Music. In ’65, people couldn’t get enough of Julie Andrews, ultimately giving it a two-year run as the best-selling album in the UK. Beginning in June, it spent 70 weeks resting on the top of the chart.

6
1966:

1966: The hills were still alive with the sound of music, as the soundtrack beat ‘Best Of The Beach Boys’ that year for the ultimate No. 1 spot.

7
1967:

1967:

1967: Breaking the reigning victories of The Sound Of Music were The Beatles with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, which spent a total of 27 weeks topping the UK Albums Chart. To this day, it remains one of the world’s best-selling albums of all time, having shipped more than 32 million copies – just about the same number of people to appear on the cover.

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8
1968:

1968:

1968: So The Beatles took claim over ’67, but The Sound Of Music soundtrack came back strong in ’68. This album became the second biggest-selling of the entire decade.

9
1969:

1969: The last Beatles album recorded, ‘Abbey Road’, spent an almost uninterrupted 17 weeks at No. 1 on the chart. The Rolling Stones’ LP ‘Let It Bleed’ temporarily knocked ‘Abbey Road’ down to No. 2, but only for one week. And since 1969, Abbey Road’s zebra crossing has never been empty.

10
1970:

1970:

1970: So Simon And Garfunkel‘s final studio album found success in the UK, lingering on the charts long enough to be the top-selling album in the country in both 1970 and 1971. It spawned some great tunes, like its title track – but it’s a shame Garfunkel looks like he’s about to mug his musical partner on the cover.

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1971:

1971:

1971: Such was the continued success of Simon And Garfunkel‘s ‘Bridge…’, the record also found itself topping the music charts in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the States.

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12
1972:

1972:

1972: One of the dullest-titled compilation albums ever, ’20 Dynamic Hits’ spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. To be fair, with acts like Deep Purple, Cilla Black, Sly And The Family Stone and Santana contributing tunes, it was pretty dynamic – and so very, very ’70s.

13
1973:

1973:

1973: Spending six weeks at the top of the UK Album Chart in 1973, ‘Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player’ (a title said to have been inspired by Groucho Marx), gave Elton his first (and only) No. 1 album in both the UK and America. Nothing could ever really compare to ‘Crocodile Rock’, could it?

14
1974:

1974:

1974: This was the year The Carpenters‘s ‘The Singles: 1969–1973’ (a collection of their greatest hits) reached No.1, becoming one of the top-selling albums of the decade. This one enjoyed 17 atop the ’74 chart (plus reached the top of the UK Pop Albums Chart), and it and eventually achieved 8x Platinum status in the US.

15
1975:

1975:

1975: US soul group The Stylistics (yea, we forgot about them, too) found huge UK success with their 1975 compilation album ‘The Best Of The Stylistics’, which topped the charts for 9 weeks, hitting the top mark three times during the year. The album only reached number 41 in the States, however.

16
1976:

1976:

1976: Here’s where we enter ABBA territory. ’76 was the year their ‘Greatest Hits’ collection took top rankon the UK ALbums Chart. The album cleaned up in practically every corner of the world and stayed on UK charts for 130 weeks, making it the second best-selling album of the ’70s in the UK.

17
1977:

1977:

1977: And so the dancing queens returned with their fourth album ‘Arrival’, which spent 10 weeks at No. 1. Not to be outdone, the Swedish supergroup managed to have three albums in the UK Top 15 at the same time (with ‘Greatest Hits’, ‘The Album’ and ‘Arrival’).

18
1978:

1978:

1978: There was a temporary break in the ABBA era with the Bee Gees-heavy ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack, which spent 18 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the UK. Whether people bought it for the music or for John Travolta’s striking good looks on the cover, it did rather well at, ahem, stayin’ alive on the charts.

19
1979:

1979:

1979: The last album of the ’70s to earn the coveted top spot went to Blondie’s 1979 release ‘Parallel Lines’. Even though Debbie Harry’s musical career is still going strong, it’s safe to say that this was the prime of her career – ‘Heart Of Glass’ was the ultimate Blondie tune.

20
1980:

1980:

1980: Just because it was a new decade didn’t mean ABBA were old news. ‘Super Trouper’ debuted at No. One and continued to sit in the Top 40 for 17 consecutive weeks. All together now: “Super-trouper lights are gonna find meeee…

21
1981:

1981:

1981: Bye disco, hello face paint and new era glam. Adam Ants re-emerged with ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’. The following year, it won ‘Best British Album’ at the Brit Awards, and it’s been included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Allow us to get you started with this. (Feel free to dance like a fool).

22
1982:

1982:

1982:This was the year dominated by Babs. ‘Love Songs’ was certified platinum in the UK, and if became the first ever compilation album to sell more the 10 million copies. As much as we loved watching a bunch of cats perfoming ‘Memory’, Mr. Streisand made it the song we truly know and love.

23
1983:

1983:

1983: What’s there to say about this one that hasn’t already been said? Michael Jackson made music history when he released ‘Thriller’ (which was certified 11× Platinum in the UK). The guest appearances (Eddie Van Halen, Paul McCartney and Vincent Price), the ‘Thriller’ vid, ‘Billie Jean’ – an embarrassment of riches.

24
1984:

1984:

1984: Before he decided to lend his face to that awfully annoying crisps advert, Lionel Ritchie was makin’ sweet, sweet music. His second record ‘Can’t Slow Down’ sold more than 50 million copies worldwide by 1986, and every single released from it was a Top 10 hit. Hell, ‘All Night Long (All Night)’ alone would’ve been enough to secure this guy’s top spot.

25
1985:

1985:

1985: So Dire Straits saw success in ’85 with their fifth studio album ‘Brothers In Arms’, which spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and became the fifth best-selling album in UK chart history. It also picked up the ‘Best British Album’ prize at the 1987 Brit Awards.

26
1986:

1986:

1986: This is the only time we see Madonna at the top of a year’s UK Albums Chart (which looks unlikely for her to change at this stage in her career). But ‘True Blue’ was an international success that year, reaching the top of the charts in most countries.

27
1987:

1987:

1987: Stateside, this was the first record to see five of its singles peak at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 consecutively. ‘Bad’ was also the ninth best-selling album in UK history, with 3.5 million copies sold.

28
1988:

1988:

1988: At the age of 20, Kylie Minogue released her debut album ‘Kylie’ – which was unfortunately accompanied by that awful hair-filled hat photo. But hey, it was the ’80s, so we’ll forgive her. This record debuted on the UK Albums Chart at No. 2 but eventually moved up to the top spot, earning a 6x Platinum certification in the UK (after selling 1.8 million copies).

29
1989:

1989:

1989: Ms. Minogue managed to re-appear the following year in Jason Donovan‘s debut album ‘Ten Good Reasons’ (she sang on ‘Especially For You’). After debuting at No. 2, it soon moved up a spot and stayed there for three weeks. Donovan was the first Australian male to ever see both a single and a chart achieve No. 1 simultaneously.

30
1990:

1990: Kudos, Phil Collins. Your album ‘…But Seriously’ peaked at No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the States.

31
1991:

1991:

1991: In another repeat offender, Simply Red‘s fourth studio album ‘Stars’ saw No. 1 in both ’91 and ’92 – which was well-deserved, since they ended up touring the world for about that same amount of time.

32
1992:

1992:

1992: Simply Red‘s ‘Stars’ also became a No. 1 album in Germany, where it received a 5x Platinum certification.

33
1993:

1993:

1993: Also achieving No. 1 status that year in America and Australia, Meat Loaf‘s finest collection of songs packaged up as ‘Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell’ featured the song, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ – which became a top-selling single in 28 different countries (and became the most successful single in the UK that year).

34
1994:

1994:

1994: New Jersey’s finest Bon Jovi released a compilation album of hits (including the ever-so-classic ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’) called ‘Cross Road’, which received 8× Platinum certification for selling approximately 8 million copies across Europe.

35
1995:

1995:

1995: Remember those two TV actors from Soldier Soldier who unexpectedly made it big when they covered ‘Unchained Melody’ and people went a bit nutso for it? Robson And Jerome‘s self-titled debut album featured that hit – earning the record a Christmas No. 1 album spot.

36
1996:

1996:

1996: Alanis Morissette proved that pissed off female-empowering rock still had a place in music. ‘Jagged Little Pill’ might have debuted at No. 46 in the UK, but it made its way to No. 1 and stayed on the chart for 145 weeks. Receiving a 10X Platinum certification and selling more 3 million copies in the UK, Alanis cemented her place in ’90s music history.

37
1997:

1997:

1997: Surprisingly, this is the only Oasis record to achieve end-of-the-year No. 1 status on the UK Albums Chart. Back when Liam and Noel didn’t hate each other (as much as they do now), they released ‘Be Here Now’ . By the end of ’97, the record had sold eight million copies worldwide. Unfortunately, Noel seemed to disagree with the world, calling their album “fucking shit”.

38
1998:

1998:

1998: It was a rocky start for The Corrs‘ second studio album, as the first three singles released from ‘Talk On Corners’ didn’t even break the Top 40, but it ended up peaking at No. 1. By June 1999, it had sold nearly 3 million copies in the UK, becoming the 19th best-selling album of all time here.

39
1999:

1999:

1999: Featuring the monstrously cheesy girl-power hit ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’, Shania Twain‘s album ‘Come On Over’ has become the world’s best-selling country album and best-selling studio album by a female worldwide, having sold more than 40 million copies across the globe.

40
2000:

2000:

2000: More than 30 years after The Beatles had last topped the UK Albums Chart, they were back on top with ‘1’, a compilation album of most of their biggest smash singles. Within just five weeks of its release, ‘1’ became the best-selling album of the year, becoming the fastest-selling album in history. It’s since gone on to sell over 32 million copies worldwide.

41
2001:

2001:

2001: So what if this album featured ‘Thank You’, one of the most annoying songs ever? At the time, that song, and the rest of Dido‘s ‘No Angel’, were beautiful enough to inspire all of the UK to buy the record. Today, it’s the UK’s second best-selling album of the noughties, behind James Blunt’s ‘Back To Bedlam’ (yes, really).

42
2002:

2002:

2002: It took five tries, but a flying solo Robbie Williams finally topped the charts with ‘Escapology’ after selling over one million units. After being certified 6× Platinum in the UK, the record became the 60th Best Selling album in the UK.

43
2003:

2003:

2003: Following the success of her debut album, Dido‘s second effort ‘Life For Rent’ saw a similar response. With five million units sold in just two weeks, this became the fastest-selling album by a female artist. It eventually earned a 7x Platinum certification and has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, becoming the seventh highest-selling record of the noughties.

44
2004:

2004:

2004: This was the year Scissor Sisters came into the world with their debut self-titled album. It was sparkly and over-the-top – and the UK loved it. It’s gone on to achieve 7x Platinum certification, and has been listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – get started with this bad boy if you’ve yet to give it a spin.

45
2005:

2005:

2005: Right, so today he’s become a bit of a joke. But in 2005, the UK couldn’t get enough of ‘You’re Beautiful’ (that is, until we heard it about 500 times and saw way too much of James Blunt in the video). But ‘Back To Bedlam’ sold nearly 2.5 million albums that year – and earned the ‘Worst Album Award’ at the 2006 NME Awards.

46
2006:

2006:

2006: Here we have ‘Eyes Open’ by Snow Patrol – home of the overplayed, overused tune ‘Chasing Cars’ (thank you, Grey’s Anatomy). It sold around 2 million units in the UK and received a 6x Platinum certification, becoming the winner of 2006 album sales.

47
2007:

2007:

2007: There’s been a recent surge in sales of Amy Winehouse‘s ‘Back To Black’ since her untimely passing. But in 2007, it placed her on our radar, selling more than 43,000 copies in its first week of release. Today, it remains the best-selling album of the 21st century in the UK.

48
2008:

2008:

2008: So NME didn’t particularly care for this record, giving it a 4/10, but apparently the rest of the UK disagreed. Duffy‘s ‘Rockferry’ wormed its way into the top-selling spot in the UK that year, plus it was the fourth best-selling album worldwide.

49
2009:

2009:

2009: Her plan to collaborate with Kings Of Leon might be a touch ambitious, but the Scottish warbler can certainly shift units. In 2009 Susan Boyle‘s ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ skyrocketed to No. 1, becoming the fastest-selling debut album ever in the UK, selling 411,820 copies.

50
2010:

2010:

2010: And that takes us to last year’s No. 1, Take That‘s ‘Progress’, which debuted at No. 1 and became the fastest-selling album of the century and the second fastest-selling album of all-time (selling over one million copies in 24 days).

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