Every Rock Album That Reached #1 In The UK Charts
Since the 1970s rock music has had a place in the UK charts, but going up against the likes of pop and hip-hop – and the myriad other genres that have emerged over the decades – it’s had to fight to gain supremacy. Still, 40 bands have managed to steal the top spot over the years, and we took the time to see exactly who made it there, and to give kudos to the first record by each to do so.
II - February 1970
III - November 1970
IV - December 1971
Houses Of The Holy - April 1973
Physical Graffiti - March 1975
The Song Remains The Same - November 1976
In Through The Out Door - September 1979
Though their debut did not top the charts, rock greats Led Zeppelin hit it squarely with their second release and a whopping six more times, making them the reigning champions with the most number ones of any rock artist. Arguably the band’s heaviest album, II helped lay the groundwork for the hard rock genre itself, showcasing the peerless guitar work of the mighty Jimmy Page and opening the floodgates for what would follow.
Paranoid - October 1970
13 - June 2013
Wielding the auspicious honour of being the first heavy metal band to ever hit the top spot in the UK, Sabbath established their capacity for great songwriting that connected with the masses. A virtual greatest hits, every track on Paranoid is a classic cut – particularly the title track, War Pigs, Iron Man and Fairies Wear Boots. Paranoid is an album drenched in darkness with Tony Iommi’s signature fuzzed-up riffs and the inimitable sound of Ozzy Osbourne at his best.
Fireball - September 1971
Machine Head - April 1972
British rockers Deep Purple were five albums deep into their career the first time they topped the charts with the mighty Fireball. Their second full-length with vocalist Ian Gillan was perhaps not the best-produced work they ever released, but it showed a lot of growth beyond the confines of 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock, even flirting a little with progressive rock while staying true to their core sound.
The Sex Pistols
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols - November 1977
Raising a middle finger to the establishment, The Sex Pistols stole the top spot in 1977 with their spit-stained debut, making it clear that there was a whole generation sick of what was foisted upon them by the mainstream. Jammed with classic cuts such as Pretty Vacant, God Save The Queen and of course Anarchy In The UK, it’s pure punk nirvana and the raw energy of it has endured over the decades.
Back In Black - August 1980
Iron Man 2 - April 2010
The second best-selling album of all time spent some time atop the charts upon release in 1980, making it very clear that AC/DC were here to stay. Having tragically lost original frontman Bon Scott and drafting in Geordie Brian Johnson as his replacement, it was very much make-or-break for the Australian unit, but their fan base exploded, sucked in by the likes of You Shook Me All Night Long, Shoot To Thrill and of course the second to none title track.
No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith - June 1981
In landing their only UK number one album, Motörhead joined the very exclusive club of those who did so with a live rather than studio album. Recorded on the Short, Sharp Pain In The Neck tour in 1981 – which did not actually make a stop in Hammersmith – it’s a virtual greatest hits collection that kicks off with Ace Of Spades and includes the likes of Bomber and Overkill, hitting all the right spots in fine, noisy fashion.
The Number Of The Beast - April 1982
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son - April 1988
Fear Of The Dark - May 1992
The Final Frontier - August 2010
The Book Of Souls - September 2015
Scoring an impressive five number ones, Iron Maiden’s first coincided with the recording debut of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, establishing them as one of the premier heavy metal bands on the planet. Controversial upon release due to its religious content, it remains a masterclass in darkly involving anthemic metal, helping cement the status of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Plus it spawned the hit single Run To The Hills, which remains a live highlight.
Hysteria - August 1987
Adrenalize - April 1992
It’s only fitting that arguably the best album released by a British rock band sit atop the charts in their home country, which is exactly what occurred when Hysteria hit number one in 1987. Created during a tumultuous period in the band’s career, its huge production - courtesy of the legendary Robert John “Mutt” Lange - and endlessly infectious melodies led to a walloping seven hit singles, more than half of the total tracklist, which is no mean feat.
New Jersey - October 1988
Keep The Faith - November 1992
Cross Road - October 1994
These Days - July 1995
Crush - June 2000
1986’s Slippery When Wet may have been the record that saw Bon Jovi break out in a big way but it was its successor, 1988’s New Jersey, which was the first of five UK number ones for the band. Big on riffs and bigger on choruses, it was the perfect distillation of the quintet’s sound, comprised of wall to wall anthems – many of which remained live staples for many years.
Metallica - August 1991
Load - June 1996
Death Magnetic - September 2008
The only one of thrash’s fabled Big Four to lay claim to the top of the UK charts, Metallica first did so with their raging self-titled album before going on to repeat the feat two more times. The record that has since become known as The Black Album turned away from the epic arrangements of 1988’s …And Justice For All in favour of straight ahead burly riffing, and also featured their first power ballad, adding another string to their already formidable bow.
Guns N' Roses
Use Your Illusion II - September 1991
Releasing two albums on the same day means only one can actually top the charts, and in Guns N’ Roses’ case their only record to do so remains Use Your Illusion II. Helped by the massive hit single You Could Be Mine, which featured on the Terminator 2 soundtrack, it was arguably a slightly more serious and ambitious collection than Use Your Illusion I, and was packed with tracks that would become a huge part of their live sets.
Pure Cult: For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, And Sinners - November 1993
The Cult’s only sojourn atop the UK chart came with 1993’s greatest hits collection. While the band have admitted to having low expectations prior to release, it went double-platinum in the UK, compiling the likes of Sweet Soul Sister, Rain and of course the immortal She Sells Sanctuary in one place and drawing the interest of those who had never bought an actual Cult album.
In Utero - September 1993
MTV Unplugged In New York - November 1994
Creators of one of very few live albums to top the chart, Nirvana’s first number one came with their final studio effort. A dark, often disturbing and wilfully weird affair, it is also ruthlessly catchy, wielding as many perfect melodies as moments of pure sonic ugliness, and it stands as a fitting swan song to Kurt Cobain’s all-too short career.
Music For The Jilted Generation - July 1994
The Fat Of The Land - July 1997
Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned - August 2004
Invaders Must Die - March 2009
The Day Is My Enemy - April 2015
No Tourists - November 2018
Having spent six stints at the top of the charts over the course of 25 years, The Prodigy seem almost incapable of not nabbing the number one spot whenever they drop an album. Bringing a punk rock attitude to electronic music made them true pioneers and genre-breakers, something that has remained true across the course of their career, and first established with 1994’s stomping Music For The Jilted Generation.
Version 2.0 - May 1998
Having scored a top ten album - and top five single with Stupid Girl - with their debut full-length, Garbage’s second effort saw the quartet led by Shirley Manson ascend to the top of the chart. A more streamlined, cohesive and catchy effort than its predecessor, Version 2.0 was exactly what the title suggested; a more refined and overall better version of the band that first emerged in 1995.
Hello Nasty - July 1998
Beastie Boys hit the top ten twice before landing their sole UK number one with album number five. Though lacking the rock and punk deviations that helped make previous album Ill Communication so compelling, Hello Nasty retained all the attitude of that record and those that preceded it; mixing up old-school and contemporary hip-hop and electro styles to create a sly collection designed to get bodies moving.
Manic Street Preachers
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - September 1998
Going gold in its first week of release, Manic Street Preachers’ fifth full-length easily reigned over the top 40. Less hard rock than its predecessors, featuring a broader range of instrumentation and the first album to solely feature lyrics penned by bassist Nicky Wire, these changes did nothing to hurt their appeal and marked a pivotal moment in the band’s substantial career.
Performance And Cocktails - March 1999
Just Enough Education To Perform - April 2001
Wales’ other sons to top the charts, Stereophonics have racked up two number ones to date, having been a very big deal at the turn of the century. Performance And Cocktails, their first, received a lot of comparisons to Oasis around the time of release but it is the definitive Stereophonics record, featuring five massive hit singles.
Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water - January 2001
If nothing else, Limp Bizkit should get credit for creating the most ludicrously titled record to sit atop the UK charts. The first nu-metal record to receive that honour, it’s a bigger, beefier and both more anthemic and diverse collection than 1999’s Significant Other. It yielded a number one single in the form of Rollin’, making them one of very few metal bands able to make such a claim.
Free All Angels - April 2001
It was third time’s a charm for Ash when Free All Angels topped the charts in April 2001. Crackling with youthful exuberance and positively jammed with sunny melodies from start to finish, there’s no denying that this is the perfect blend of pop and punk. And with the drop dead classic single Burn Baby Burn in the mix, there was no way they were going to miss.
Break The Cycle - August 2001
Fred Durst can rightfully claim some of the credit/blame for Staind surprisingly scoring a number one with third album Break The Cycle. The live acoustic version of breakout track Outside - featuring Fred - in heavy rotation on Kerrang! TV and other channels drastically grew the quartet’s profile, and those looking to wallow in post-grunge misery were given plenty to roll around in when the album dropped in the summer of 2001.
Iowa - September 2001
We Are Not Your Kind - August 2019
The first album to top the charts that featured blastbeats, Slipknot easily lay claim to the title of the heaviest record to ever reach number one. As ugly as music gets, Iowa is a masterclass in sonic violence and potent vitriol. Their intent is neatly summed up in the title of People = Shit, unsettling the mainstream, and doing so a second time when they stole the top spot again in the summer of 2019.
Silver Side Up - March 2002
Having conquered the States and their native Canada, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Nickelback did likewise upon our shores, with Silver Side Up taking its turn to sit at the top of the heap in the UK. A combination of post-grunge and hard rock with a lot of melody in the mix, it’s not exactly challenging listening, and the video for How You Remind Me found itself in constant rotation on all the rock channels.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
By The Way - June 2002
Live In Hyde Park - August 2004
Stadium Arcadium - May 2006
I’m With You - September 2011
With four number one albums under their collective belt, the Chilis first hit the top spot with 2002’s By The Way, the eagerly awaited follow up to the massive Californication. Stepping further away from the rock-funk fusion of their earlier releases, their eighth full-length is a more radio-rock oriented collection thanks to the direction taken by guitarist John Frusciante, and stands as a landmark in their impressive career.
One By One - October 2002
Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace - Sep 2007
Wasting Light - April 2011
Concrete And Gold - September 2017
Another band to score four number ones with their first occurring in 2002, Foo Fighters have made regular appearances at the top of the charts over the last two decades. Preceded by the crunchy hit single All My Life, they made it clear that they were in the mood to rock, and rock they did in a very polished, accomplished fashion that still stands as one of the highlights of their catalogue.
Meteora - March 2003
Minutes To Midnight - May 2007
Living Things - July 2012
Linkin Park have topped the charts three times; massive first album Hybrid Theory failed to claim that title but second album Meteora landed with a vengeance. While on later releases they would evolve dramatically, on Meteora they stuck with the formula that had worked so well for them to that point, in the process delivering killer cuts such as Somewhere I Belong, Faint and Numb.
Elephant - April 2003
Icky Thump - July 2007
Already a phenomenon, it was fourth album Elephant that saw White Stripes’ profile rise along with album sales, dominating the charts in 2003. Taking a back to basics approach and using no modern equipment at any point in the recording process, there is an inarguably classic feel to the whole thing, shot through with old-school hooks and crackling with energy. Plus it opens with Seven Nation Army, one of the defining tracks of the noughties.
Fallen - June 2003
Nu-metal reigned supreme one more time when Evanescence stole the top spot in 2003. A combination of chunky, down-tuned riffing and Amy Lee’s hauntingly huge vocals, the gothic ambiance struck a nerve with the masses – helped in no small part by titanic single Bring Me To Life, which topped the UK singles chart.
Permission To Land - August 2003
It seemed like the whole nation was going crazy for The Darkness in the summer of 2003, something that was reflected in their debut album reaching the top of the charts. A love letter to the bombastic excess and huge melodies of ’80s glam rock, Permission To Land is pure fun from start to finish, boasting at least half a dozen choruses that lodge irrevocably in the brain after just one exposure.
Absolution - September 2003
Black Holes And Revelations - July 2006
The Resistance - September 2009
The Second Law - October 2012
Drones - June 2015
Simulation Theory - November 2018
Threatening to rival Zeppelin’s tally, Muse have topped the charts every three years since 2003, first doing so with the stunning Absolution. Though largely sticking to the formula of their first two albums, it is a far more polished and accomplished affair, introducing elements of orchestral and symphonic rock that would become integral aspects of their sound moving forward.
American Idiot - September 2004
21st Century Breakdown - May 2009
Revolution Radio - October 2016
The first US punk band to top the British charts, Green Day have since racked up two more number ones, but it was the seminal American Idiot that first won them that honour. An ambitious, politically charged concept album that included two nine-minute tracks in its 57-minute run time, it became an instant classic that redefined the boundaries of what punk would be, and set an exceedingly high standard to live up to.
Brand New Eyes - October 2009
Paramore - April 2013
Paramore surprised the mainstream when they stole their first number one with third album Brand New Eyes with relatively little support outside of the dedicated rock press. A far more mature collection, it was every bit as melodic as their earlier output but also far more stylistically varied, with vocalist Hayley Williams also digging deeper and laying herself vulnerably bare in the lyrics.
Opposites - February 2013
Ellipsis - July 2016
Biffy Clyro’s frequently bonkers early releases were never going to be a threat to the pop masses, but by the time Opposites came about they had evolved into a much more radio-friendly unit, leading to their first number one. Released as both two-disc, 20-track and single disc 14-track versions, it is indeed an album of opposites with a great deal of variety that only saw them expanding their sonic capacities and brilliant songwriting.
Hail To The King - September 2013
While upon hearing Hail To The King some agued that Metallica’s Black Album had topped the charts a second time, Avenged Sevenfold’s beefy opus definitely hit the mark with UK rock fans. Less complicated and more accessible than their previous releases, the band were clearly targeted on getting heads banging to thick grooves and muscular beats, serving up a collection of solid anthems that slew the competition.
You Me At Six
Cavalier Youth - Feb 2014
Having increased their profile with each subsequent release, it was with their fourth album You Me At Six would finally claim the top spot. Largely sticking with the formula that centred around arena-sized choruses that had served them well to that point, there were not a lot of surprises but plenty of singalong moments.
Royal Blood - August 2014
How Did We Get So Dark - June 2017
In the very elite clique of British rock bands who hit number one with their debut albums, Royal Blood delivered a guitar-free beast of a record in the summer of 2014. A pummelling collection, it almost boggles the mind that such a racket could be kicked up by just two members, but drummer Ben Thatcher and vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr serve up walloping, cocksure riffs and stomping grooves over and over again.
All Time Low
Future Hearts - April 2015
Having broken into the top ten with 2012’s Don’t Panic, All Time Low one-upped themselves and topped the charts with its 2015 successor. With a slick sheen that is the perfect accompaniment to their hugely infectious melodies, it’s a slightly more ambitious record which sees them throw in some acoustic balladry and dance elements, helping to cement their place as one of the world’s premiere pop-rock acts.
California - July 2016
Pop-punk sailed to the top of the charts when blink-182 grabbed their first UK number one with their seventh full-length. Their first release following the firing of Tom DeLonge and the addition of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba to the band’s ranks, the unit teamed up with uberproducer John Feldmann (The Used, All Time Low) and delivered a varied collection of old-school, high octane punkers and deeper cuts that hit the spot nicely.
Queens Of The Stone Age
Villains - September 2017
It took nearly two decades and seven albums for Queens Of The Stone Age to reach the top of the UK charts, but they landed hard with Villains. Recruiting Amy Winehouse/Bruno Mars producer Mark Ronson could be viewed as a ploy toward greater commerciality, but the swaggering signature QOTSA sound is as intact and vital as on any of the record’s predecessors, demonstrating that Josh Homme is a man who knows exactly what he’s doing.
Bring Me The Horizon
amo - February 2019
After coming excruciatingly close to nabbing the top spot with 2015’s That’s The Spirit, Sheffield’s finest finally made it there with sixth album amo. The controversial change in musical direction - taking them into ever more polished and pop-oriented territory than their earlier more metallic releases - may have served to divide their fan base but it did nothing to hurt their sales, making them a lot of new fans along the way.
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