It isn't just hit songs that suffer from low self-esteem, albums also can be hit with the affliction. Since The Bodyguard soundtrack hung at #1 for the length of many lifetimes, just as West Side Story did decades before that, some wonderful albums suffered at their hands and were never given their fair shot at #1. Also, most of the albums on this list were from the age before Soundscan, when record people reported the numbers they felt like reporting and folks tallied it up like they were Jann Wenner himself fixing yet another Rolling Stone poll.
Well, this is what we got. An entire list of famous albums that never made it to #1.
25) Ringo -- Ringo: I expected less than stellar results from Ringo the 4th and Rotogravure, but Ringo? When you name an album after yourself, its rise and fall is directly linked to your own self-esteem. Ringo already suffered at the hands of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, two boy geniuses who never wrote a song a better don't-pass-me-by type song as "Don't Pass Me By," but here even with George and John's help, he still wasn't seen as a legitimate #1.
24) Bob Dylan -- John Wesley Harding: Bob Dylan's late 1967 comeback LP was actually his highest charting album to date. Highway 61 Revisited made it to #3. Planet Waves would be his first #1 album! Thirteen years to score a #1 album? Obviously, his label should've dropped him and signed more acts who could've had hits right away! Let Bob sing for Arhoolie Reocrds!
23) Hammer -- Too Legit To Quit: Maybe it was the name change away from M.C. Hammer. People ended up buying Moody Blues albums or something and never made it over to the letter H. But this slight drop from total dominance was a sign of end times for this Solid Gold dancer.
22) Billy Joel -- The Stranger: Even with "Movin' Out," "Just The Way You Are," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," "Only the Good Die Young" and "She's Always A Woman," Billy was still held off from having an actual #1 album. What stopped him? Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and that Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Joel's next album, 52nd Street, would make it to #1.
21) The Steve Miller Band -- The Joker / Book of Dreams: Everyone on Earth has heard "The Joker" and Book of Dreams is the one with "Jet Airliner" and "Jungle Love," in case you forgot. Maybe when I "bought" Book of Dreams from the RCA Music Club as one of my introductory 'six for a penny' choices it didn't count as a full sale?
20) Joni Mitchell -- Court and Spark / Miles of Aisles: Considering that Court and Spark is considered Joni's point of convergence, where her folk agreed to pop terms and before she got too abstract and weird, it's pretty puzzling that this and her double live album, Miles of Aisles, would be the best she could hope for at #2. Why do the masses hate artists?
18) Nine Inch Nails -- The Downward Spiral: It was the age of the alternative and no one personified this shift in consciousness more than Trent Reznor, who made the kind of music that just a few years earlier would've been shuttled to the culty part of the record store. To his credit, he made a big noise and did it, like Frank Sinatra and Sid Vicious, his way. Maybe more so. Since he was the guy at the controls. What a great era for My-Life's-In-The-Toilet rock!
17) Pearl Jam -- Ten: Another shocker, considering this was one of those CDs you could find in the collections of people who only owned 35 CDs and if those people weren't a bellweather for success, who were? Grandmothers who bought Thriller for their grandchildren?
16) R.E.M. -- Automatic For The People: R.E.M.? That band that signed to Warner Brothers for more than $100 million? And I thought only the New York Yankees signed people over the hill for past production? Wow!
14) George Michael -- Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1: There is such a thing as Too Famous. It depends how it's done. All artists are potentially one bad Billy Squier video away from having their careers crushed by the whims of the public imagination. Michael having come across as a sex symbol -- gee, wonder how that happened? -- decided it was time to brood. Had the album been released a year or two later, it would've looked like he was cashing in on the alterna-mope crowd. Here, he stood alone.
13) Poison -- Open Up and Say… Ahh!: Granted, I might have liked this album more if it had been called, "Open Up and Say…Aaaay!," since I'm more of a Fonzie guy. But it sure did well for the Enigma Records label who also had T.S.O.L. turn metal in hopes of having a success like this. Never would've guessed that a Loggins and Messina song would become a Top 10 hit again, but then I'm no Lyndsey Parker with my heart, hands and mind on the pulsebeat of America's youth.
12) The Who -- Quadrophenia / Who Are You: This is actually better than it looks. Quad was a double album, so the people had to part with more of the money to get it. Who Are You came out in 1978, when if you think about it, new bands should've been breaking over the airwaves. Having the Who charting in 1978 would be like having Rosemary "Extra value is what you get when you buy Coronet" Clooney topping the charts in 1965!
11) Guns N' Roses -- Use Your Illusion I: Despite having "Don't Cry," "Live and Let Die" and "November Rain," Use Your Illusion I got stuck behind Use Your Illusion II, which had "Civil War," "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "You Could Be Mine" and "Don't Cry (alternate lyrics)." Interesting, no? Kids, when pressed to choose between the two albums, chose #2, perhaps thinking it would be the "less commercial" one? Or maybe #2 was the one closest to the register.
10) Led Zeppelin -- IV: I guess not everyone went out and bought this when it first came out. Information took longer to get around in those days. Even magazines got around to reviewing things when they got around to them, instead of racing to be first and then moving on to the next big thing a week later. This album is with us for eternity. Or until "Rock and Roll" is no longer considered a surefire way of selling cars.
9) Star Wars Soundtrack: Star Wars was such an over-the-top movie smash that people even went out and bought a double album of instrumental music with its name on it! If Jazz artists had any commercial sense, they'd name their albums after successful films. Best Miles Davis album? Why Footloose, of course!
8) Alice Cooper -- School's Out: He released School's Out in June 1972, so maybe by the time the kids knew about it and saved up their allowance it was closer to September and therefore not as topical. Or maybe they grew suspicious upon seeing a song called "Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets" and decided to wait until their friends bought the album before making their own purchase. Or maybe home taping was killing music!
6) James Brown -- Live at The Apollo: No #1 albums for James Brown. You pay the price as an innovator. Better to do everything second or third, watered down and worse.
5) The Doors -- The Doors: Only their third album, Waiting For The Sun, made it to #1. The rest of their albums, including several hundred 'Greatest Hits' collections, all fared worse. If it was during the 1960s, you could probably blame it on the Beatles. What didn't they hog?
4) Aretha Franklin -- I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You: This was a far better showing than her years at Columbia Records. Not sure why Columbia didn't want to have massive success, but they left it to Atlantic Records to reap the rewards of all that talent. Not everyone's looking for a tax write-off!
3) Peter Gabriel -- So, Us: Peter Gabriel finally stopped naming each album after himself and he still couldn't land a #1 album. Had he released these albums solely as video albums, he might have had a better shot, though I do question the wisdom of watching a video album while you drive. It's proven difficult, in my experience.
2) Marvin Gaye -- Let's Get It On: Surely, it was 'Focus On Family' or some other dopey, joyless cult that shamed its members into not buying this work of sexual liberation and, therefore, denying Let's Get It On its rightful place at the top of the pop charts. What's Going On actually did worse! It came in at #6.
1) Green Day -- Dookie: At the time I wondered why Green Day were the most loved punks in the U.S.A. It wasn't like there weren't bands like them on every corner of America. Or at least in most populous cities. But sometimes it's about having the right song at the right time and getting the seal of approval from MTV, who showed their videos thirty-seven times a day, didn't hurt either.