Andre Gardner

Angus Young performs with AC/DC during the Rock Or Bust Tour at the Greensboro Coliseum on August 27, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati/Getty Images)

On this week’s Thursday Top 10 Countdown, we look at the top 10 rock albums on February 1, 1981. Disco had peaked, punk and new wave were going strong, and AC/DC’s biggest album had a surprising chart run.

Back In Black Is Born

In the Spring of 1980, AC/DC were ready to begin work on their seventh album. It would be their first after the death of longtime lead singer Bon Scott. In his place was former Geordie front man Brian Johnson. Poor Brian had very little to time to acclimate himself to the band. They had planned several weeks of rehearsal but, after studio time opened up in the Bahamas, the group shot down to Compass Point Studios to start recording. Their producer was Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who drove the band hard to perfect the album. The result was a true hard rock masterpiece. There’s not a wasted note on that record. Every song is powerful, driving and explosive, and it wasn’t long before it caught on with fans.

#1..But Only In the U.K.

Back In Black was an instant hit for AC/DC. For one, it debuted at #1 on the British charts, their first to do so. Since its release, its become the biggest selling hard rock album of all time. In the U.S., it is certified 25x platinum, or 25 million copies sold. You’d think, with success like that, the album would have parked itself at #1 and stayed there forever, right? In Britain, yes, but over here, Back In Black topped off at #4. After its success, Atlantic Records re-released some of their earlier albums and they, too, were big. In fact, when Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was re-issued, it did better on the chart than Back In Black, peaking at #3!

Who’d have thought AC/DC’s biggest album would have such a surprising chart run? It’s further proof how weirdly interesting the music charts can be. Here is Back In Black, plus 9 other monster albums, on this week’s Thursday Top 10 Countdown from February 1, 1981.

  • 10. Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac

    Yes, this album came out in 1975, and it took over a year to hit #1, so what’s it doing on the 1981 chart? Fleetwood Mac was so huge at this point, that their old albums would frequently re-chart. Their self-titled album is #10 on the countdown.

  • 9. The River - Bruce Springsteen

    By Christmas 1980, Bruce Springsteen’s album “The River” had already sold a million and a half copies, and also gave him his first #1 album. On February 1, 1981, it was holding strong at #9.

  • 8. Hi-Infidelity - REO Speedwagon

    On its way to hitting #1 and staying there for 15 total weeks, selling over 10 million copies, and becoming the biggest selling album of the year, Hi-Infidelity, REO Speedwagon’s ninth album, was #9 on February 1, 1981.

  • 7. Eagles Live - Eagles

    By the end of 1980, The Eagles had pretty much broken up but they owed their label one more album. The solution was to comb their live archives and release what would be their first live album, Eagles Live. Half of the album came from performances from their Hotel California Tour, and the rest were from the disaster that was The Long Run Tour. Eagles Live peaked here at #7, and went onto sell over 7 million copies.

  • 6. Autoamerican - Blondie

    According To Blondie’s Chris Stein, he wanted a very American title for the group’s fifth album. They came up with “Coca-Cola,” but Coke nixed the idea. Instead, it was called Autoamerican and, on February 1, 1981, it peaked at #6.

  • 5. Gaucho - Steely Dan

    Car accidents, erased tapes, a drug overdose. That was just some of the drama that surrounded Steely Dan’s seventh album, Gaucho. Despite all that went on between Becker and Fagen, the album was another hit for them, and on this week’s Thursday Top 10 Countdown, it was #5.

  • 4. Back In Black - AC/DC

    It’s amazing to think that, even though AC/DC’s Back In Black is their biggest album, the biggest selling hard rock album all time, and the top 5 biggest selling album PERIOD of all time, it never hit #1. It peaked right here at #4 on February 1, 1981.

  • 3. Zenyatta Mondatta - The Police

    Recorded very quickly before the band had to embark on a world tour, Zenyatta Mondatta was a monster album for The Police, despite the group not being 100% happy with the result. On MGK’s Thursday Top 10 Countdown this week, it’s #3.

  • 2. Crimes Of Passion - Pat Benatar

    Pat Benatar’s second album, Crimes Of Passion, was a fantastic effort, and established her as a tour de force in classic rock. It peaked here at #2, and stayed there for five weeks!

  • 1. Double Fantasy - John Lennon

    At the top of the charts this week if the fifth studio album by one of the biggest rock stars in the world. The album was a bittersweet success, after he was brutally murdered in December, 1980. It went on to win the 1981 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year. In its 7th of 8 weeks at #1 on February 1, 1981 is Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

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