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Quick, what was the only No. 1 album by Jimi Hendrix? How about the first No. 1 by Billy Joel? Jackson Browne? Pat Benatar? Pearl Jam? Lady Gaga?
In all cases, the answer isn’t obvious—it’s not the album you know best, the one with the most hits on it. It’s the album after that classic that goes to No. 1. And there’s no better example than AC/DC, the Australian-by-way-of-Scotland hard rock band that’s sold more than 20 million copies of Back in Black. But it was their next album (can you name it?) that topped the Billboard album chart.
Chris Molanphy has coined a term for this weird chart phenomenon: He calls it The AC/DC Rule. Just as less-good movie sequels open better at the box office than classic first installments, follow-up albums often chart higher than their slow-growing but hit-packed predecessors. Some of the rock and pop legends who fell prey to this chart phenomenon might surprise you…might just leave you shook all night long.
Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.