An important part of my job is to make up facts and then explain how these facts came to be. It's an indisputable truth that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) does not know how to count.
Then came the almighty UPC code--the mark of the beast--that counted album sales more accurately. Except when they didn't. Independent record stores often didn't have the technology or the interest, for that matter, to care how much anything sold. Store owners intuitively knew the new Naked Raygun album was unlikely to sell millions. Just to prove further that the music industry was bad at math and logic, they like to count sales of double albums as TWO sales--as if any customer had the choice to only buy the first LP of Pink Floyd's The Wall.
I've seen all kinds of sales figures. The worldwide ones are even funnier, since what does that mean? Should we believe the fine merchants in the Southern Hemisphere actually care about whether or not International Music Superstars have their sales counted correctly? (Oops, that package never arrived! Could you send me another one?)
But you read enough websites and you get a general idea of what THE MAN wants you to believe. I've listed these albums by the U.S. sales numbers I've seen somewhere. Much more importantly, I've performed a priceless sociological service by breaking down WHO actually bought these albums. I could be slightly wrong, but I don't think so. After all, this is MY column!The Beatles--The Beatles 1962-1966, 15 Million Albums Sold: A sure sign of the music biz counting an album twice. How else to explain why all the Beatles albums on this list are double albums?
Album sold to: people who were tired of playing 45s; parents who didn't know what else to buy their children but knew the kids liked "the rock n' roll"; and anal retentive record collectors who already owned everything on this "Greatest Hits" collection but needed this to complete their collection.
24) Bee Gees And Various Artists--Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, 15 Million Albums Sold: Another double album. Sold to: people who listened to a lot of AM Radio back in the late 1970s; people who were alive in the late 1970s; people who had gone to the movies in the late 1970s; people who attend weddings; and people who otherwise have difficulty dancing.Guns N' Roses--Appetite For Destruction, 15 Million Albums Sold: The first single album on our list. Sold to: kids who wanted to grow their hair long, kids who wanted the dirty album cover but found out too late; adults who wanted to seem edgy; people who wanted "Sweet Child O' Mine" to be their wedding song; people who missed the New York Dolls; and people who were desperate for something a bit harder than most "nerf-metal."
22) Pink Floyd--Dark Side Of The Moon, 15 Million Albums Sold: Amazing this album doesn't have higher sales considering the fact that it was on the Billboard Charts for 6,347 consecutive weeks. Sold to: people who felt it was their sacred duty to keep this album on the charts; people who bought new, expensive stereos, people who liked to watch The Wizard of Oz; people who liked to self-medicate in a variety of alternative ways; and kids entering junior high school.Santana--Supernatural, 15 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who like albums with lots of guest stars; and people who always felt guilty for not buying any of Santana's previous 37 albums.
20) Bruce Springsteen--Born In The U.S.A., 15 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people born in America; people who love America; people whose jobs were about to be outsourced by corporate America; people who liked Bruce's ass; people who saw other people buying it; people who were tired of all the "smut-rock" piling up before their eyes and wanted an album from a guy who shaved; people who lived in New Jersey; and people who wanted to know a few songs at that four hour concert their cousins were bringing them to.The Beatles--The Beatles 1967-1970, 16 Million Albums Sold: Interesting that the later Beatles sell slightly better than the older Beatles. Sold to: people who prefer the Beatles with facial hair.
18) Garth Brooks--No Fences, 16 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who take offense to poems by Robert Frost; people working for the anti-fencing industry; people who don't own albums by Hank Williams Sr.; people who keep getting him mixed up with that Billy Joel fella; and people who live in the "real America."Eagles--Hotel California, 16 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who owed Irving Azoff a favor; people afraid of having Irving Azoff mad at them; people who turn on classic rock radio and like what they hear; people who own 30 albums; people who thought the addition of Joe Walsh into the band could lead to better things; and people who bought the first volume of Their Greatest Hits and were angry that "Hotel California" wasn't on it.
16) Hootie And The Blowfish--Cracked Rear View, 16 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who own 30 albums; people who play golf; people who thought Eddie Vedder went solo; and people who think the album title is hysterical.Elton John--Greatest Hits, 16 Million Albums Sold: You would think this album would have sold even more, considering Sir Elton did appear on stage with Eminem, which I guess just meant millions of illegal downloads since, y'know, kids these days! Sold to: people who were tired of skipping around their old Elton John albums to find the hits; people who once had Elton John posters on their wall as teenagers; people who initially bought the wrong edition and didn't get "Candle In The Wind" and had to buy it a second time; and people who think they might have a gay family member and wish to show their support by displaying the album on their mantelpiece.
14) Led Zeppelin--Physical Graffiti, 16 Million Albums Sold: At this point, Led Zeppelin were nearly an organized religion. Sold to: people who had joined the Church of Zeppelin; people who bought all the other Zeppelin albums but had this one counted twice since it's a double album; people who wanted it for the neat cardboard cutout cover; people who haven't heard "Kashmir" quite enough; and people who once lived in the building pictured on the cover.Alanis Morissette--Jagged Little Pill, 16 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: Canadians exerting their civic pride; people who think "it's not fair"; people who visited a mall in the mid-1990s; people who watched MTV back when they showed videos; and women who dated some really awful guys.
12) Boston--Boston, 17 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who live in Boston; people who visit Boston; sound tech engineers who once worked with Tom Scholz; teenagers in the 1970s who just customized their vans; people who describe the music they listen to as "good rock"; people who enjoyed this album so much that they didn't buy the next one; people who own 30 CDs; and people who thought the Red Sox would never win a World Series in their lifetime.Whitney Houston And Various Artists--The Bodyguard Soundtrack, 17 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who buy movie soundtracks; people who will never have a personal need for a bodyguard; people who like Kevin Costner; people who like Whitney Houston; and people who do not believe Kenny G is the Anti-Christ brought to this earth to destroy music for everyone.
10) The Beatles--The Beatles, 19 Million Albums Sold: If the Beatles had made all their albums double albums, they might have had more albums on this list, though I am disappointed to not see Live At The Star Club and The Beatles Story anywhere near these sales figures. Sold to: people who hate album artwork; people who think white is a color; people who have always wished for more George Harrison songs on an album; people who dreamed of the day Ringo Starr would write his own song; children who like all the songs about "Piggies," "Rocky Raccoon," "Bungalow Bill," "Blackbird" and "Martha"; and people who think Charles Manson is interesting.Fleetwood Mac--Rumours, 19 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who live in California; people who wish they could live in California; people who fall asleep in their hot tubs; people who think Jackson Browne is too mellow; people who want to "experience" Stevie Nicks; people who like to buy Anniversary Editions and read well-edited liner notes; and people who voted for Bill Clinton.
8) Shania Twain--Come On Over, 20 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who would like country music if it sounded less like country music; people who enjoy albums produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange; people who wish they were in better physical shape; and people who eat Doritos and don't actually care what they look like.Billy Joel--Greatest Hits, Volume 1 And 2, 21 Million Albums Sold: Double album alert. Sold to: people who have spent many nights in bars begging the piano player to play "Piano Man"; people with a high threshold for pain; people who find regular albums annoying because they have too many "boring" songs on them they don't know; people who think the radio could do a better job at satisfying their needs; people who go out to Italian restaurants and torture the staff and fellow patrons; and people who sit in bars and remember some girl from high school and sing "She's Got A Way" way off-key.
6) Garth Brooks--Double Live, 21 Million Albums Sold: Double album alert. Sold to: people who wish country music sounded more like Billy Joel or Kiss; people who bought No Fences and thought they should buy one more "just in case"; people I don't actually know; therefore, people who must be riding down the highway listening to something other than Tim Buckley's Starsailor.AC/DC--Back In Black, 22 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who loved AC/DC with Bon Scott but decided to buy this album anyway; people who were 12 years old when it came out; people who never get tired of "You Shook Me All Night Long"; people who have suffered through soul-destroying cover bands performing "You Shook Me All Night Long" and needed to get their ears cleaned; and people who are still trying to learn the guitar lick in "Back in Black" and still can't master it.
4) Pink Floyd--The Wall, 23 Million Albums Sold: Final double album alert. Sold to: people who went to Junior High or High School back in the late 1970s/ early 1980s; people who like the "We Don't Need No Education" song and have grown up to prove they do, in fact, need that education; people who like to use pharmaceuticals and get "Comfortably Numb"; people who are still trying to follow the storyline and figure out if they actually like the protagonist or not; people who didn't buy The Final Cut; and people who religiously attend Laser Floyd shows at whatever remaining planetariums still exist.Led Zeppelin--IV, 23 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who have older brothers who also owned the album; people who like that "Rock n' Roll" song and think it isn't in enough commercials; people who still think "Stairway To Heaven" is the greatest song ever recorded no matter how many times they've heard it; people who think the drumbeat in "When The Levee Breaks" makes for a great Beastie Boys groove; and people who still consider Led Zeppelin an organized religion.
2) Michael Jackson--Thriller, 29 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who didn't hear enough of this on the radio; people whose relatives bought them copies of the album because they wanted to look "with it"; people who are transfixed by the sound of one hand in glove clapping; people who have made valiant attempts to dance; and people who like pop music and don't give a damn what anyone else thinks.Eagles--Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, 29 Million Albums Sold: Sold to: people who live in suburbia but dream of living in a shack in the middle of the desert; people who are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to hear them sing these songs exactly the same way; people who are annoyed that this album doesn't include "Hotel California"; people who own the same 30 albums as everyone else; people who joined a "record club" back in the day and couldn't find anything else to order for "free"; and people who are afraid of Irving Azoff.