It’s the mark of a classic album if over the years it continues to sell, especially so if it spends a significant portion of its existence in the upper reaches of the chart.
The Top 100 will always have a portion of legacy releases dating back decades that are still being streamed or sold in significant quantities. Any artist would hope to release a set of songs that will resonate with generations, and the lengthy stays of ABBA Gold (first released 1992), Queen’s Greatest Hits (1981) and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Legend (1984) are testament to that. Legend and Gold have each accrued over 1000 weeks in the Top 100, and Queen’s compilation will probably hit that milestone at some point in the next twelve months.
Likewise with genuinely iconic releases that sold in huge numbers, and in some cases, far outweighed the sales of the rest of an artist’s catalogue, with prime examples being Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (first released 1977) that continues to mostly dwarf the 17 other studio albums the band have released, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon (first released in 1973) which fares somewhat better than The Final Cut or Meddle.
Bat Out Of Hell falls in this category – a defining album that set out Meat Loaf’s stall so perfectly, and spoke to generations of fans outside of genre, that every album he released after that would struggle to attain even a fraction of its sales.
There are also the iconic albums that continue to live on despite the key figures involved no longer being around. This applies not only to Queen and Bob Marley, but also to Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, which has clocked up 457 weeks in the Top 100, although there was only one other official studio album so her discography is sadly quite brief. There’s also Nirvana’s Nevermind (375 weeks), as well as compilations such as Michael Jackson’s Number Ones (531 weeks) and Whitney Houston’s Ultimate Collection (386 weeks).
A lot of longevity can also be put down to reissues and the upswing in vinyl where people who’d been raised on the format, then binned their records in favour of CD, and have now been wooed back by classics such as Rumours being readily available again. It’s also quite an eye-opener in some respects, as in the Top 20 of albums that have spent the most weeks in the Top 100, there is no sign of, say, massive sellers by The Beatles or Adele.
And then there’s the releases that were very time-specific and of a moment such as film soundtracks. Classic albums in their own right but no one is perhaps rushing to stream or own them again, or they just slid off the radar slightly. Join us as we look at some of the less obvious albums that seemingly never went away from the Top 40, until they did.
Original Soundtrack - South Pacific (1958) 315 weeks
Well, this is simply cheating, as there wasn’t even a full Top 40 in 1958. South Pacific first entered the Official Albums Chart Top 5, which at that point were ALL soundtracks to The King And I, Pal Joey, Oklahoma and at Number 1 was The Duke Wore Jeans, which was a soundtrack to a film starring then-huge Tommy Steele. The Rodgers & Hammerstein-penned numbers such as There Is Nothing Like A Dame and Some Enchanted Evening helped South Pacific spend 115 weeks at Number 1 between November 1958 and September 1961, often taking it in turns with Elvis and The Black & White Minstrels (which we won't go into here).
Original Soundtrack - West Side Story (1962) 175 weeks
A similar (West Side) story here as for much of its chart life, there was still only a Top 20. This film soundtrack with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim spent 13 non-consecutive weeks at Number 1. No wonder people were desperate for The Beatles to finally turn up. In fact, it was because the ‘pop’ album wasn’t really much of thing in the early sixties as many acts like Elvis and Cliff Richard never really focused on albums as an artform as such, so that probably explains why soundtracks ruled the roost back then. Of course, West Side Story has just been remade and its soundtrack doesn’t have the grip on the chart that the original did, but has been doing considerable business on the compilations list.
Original Soundtrack - The Sound of Music (1965) 374 weeks
This was the third time a cast recording of The Sound Of Music had charted, with the original London theatre cast reaching Number 3 in 1961, which was also duking it out at the same time as a Broadway cast recording that made Number 4. The film, though, starring Julie Andrews as a nun-turned-governess-children-raiser into swishing around on hills set against the background of Nazis, spent 70 non-consecutive weeks at Number 1 between 1965 and 1968, by which time the album chart had expanded to a Top 40, and then it was a case of so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.
Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970) 279 weeks
Selling tens of millions of copies worldwide, it felt like, for a while at least, that there wasn’t a household that didn’t own a copy of this fifth and final album by Art & Paul. The duo had steadily racked up the hits across the second half of the sixties, with their only previous Number 1 album being Bookends in 1968. Not universally critically acclaimed at the time, its title track was the duo’s only Number 1 single in the UK, but the album and song hoovered up Grammy Awards the following year.
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells (1973) 183 weeks
The first album on Virgin that helped launch the label, Mike Oldfield’s mostly-solo epic piece where he played every instrument, was, again, very much of its time – a sort-of prog affair that outsold the rest of the genre and crossed over to the general public. Many buyers were taken by the textures of the 49-minute long piece and it showed off their hi-fi’s, indeed it was often used as a test album alongside Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon to show off new stereos, a bit like nature docs being the ideal vehicle to demonstrate the definition of new TVs. It managed to become an album that sold by the truckload at the time and broke up a three-month tenure at Number 2 by gaining one solitary week at the top. The landmark release was used in The Exorcist and extracts were played as part of the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympics.
So, there you have it. The beauty of these lists are that they’ll continually be updated, and with Bat Out Of Hell returning to the Official Albums Chart – it pops its head in occasionally around the lower reaches every now and again – should see it appeal to a new generation and its overall tally continue to grow. Let’s look at how things currently stand in the all-time lists.
The albums that spent the longest in the Official Albums Chart Top 40
|TITLE||ARTIST||WEEKS IN TOP 40|
|1||GOLD - GREATEST HITS||ABBA||394|
|2||THE SOUND OF MUSIC||ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK||346|
|3||SOUTH PACIFIC||ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK||315|
|6||LEGEND||BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS||279|
|7||BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER||SIMON & GARFUNKEL||279|
|8||BAT OUT OF HELL||MEAT LOAF||249|
|11||CURTAIN CALL - THE HITS||EMINEM||227|
|12||GREATEST HITS||SIMON & GARFUNKEL||222|
|13||THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON||PINK FLOYD||215|
|14||TIME FLIES - 1994-2009||OASIS||207|
|15||WHAT'S THE STORY MORNING GLORY||OASIS||190|
|16||TUBULAR BELLS||MIKE OLDFIELD||183|
|18||DUA LIPA||DUA LIPA||179|
|19||WEST SIDE STORY||ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK||175|
Numbers as of 28/01/2022
©2022 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.
The albums that spent the longest in the Official Albums Chart Top 100
WEEKS IN TOP 100
|1||GOLD - GREATEST HITS||ABBA||1029|
|2||LEGEND||BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS||1013|
|5||THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON||PINK FLOYD||544|
|6||NUMBER ONES||MICHAEL JACKSON||531|
|7||WHAT'S THE STORY MORNING GLORY||OASIS||524|
|8||BAT OUT OF HELL||MEAT LOAF||522|
|9||CURTAIN CALL - THE HITS||EMINEM||497|
|10||BACK TO BLACK||AMY WINEHOUSE||457|
|12||GREATEST HITS||FOO FIGHTERS||440|
|13||TIME FLIES - 1994-2009||OASIS||437|
|17||THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION||WHITNEY HOUSTON||386|
|19||WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM…||ARCTIC MONKEYS||375|
|20||THE SOUND OF MUSIC||ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK||374|
Numbers as of 28/01/2022
©2022 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.