The 11 #1 Albums of 1969: Look Back

by
Share This:

As a decade came to a close, its final year had many headlines that continue to resonate. U.S. astronauts walked on the moon. The original Woodstock festival defined a generation. The Miracle Mets improbably won the World Series.

1969 was also a year of significant music achievements. That year, three albums accounted for 33 of the year’s weekly chart toppers. Two were by the same band but neither LP was the year’s longest at #1. And just eight others held the #1 spot on the Record World album chart during the year.

Here’s a recap of 1969’s chart topping albums; listings are in reverse order, saving the longest-running titles for the end.

Johnny Cash – At San Quentin (1)

The album, recorded at the correctional facility in California on February 24, 1969, was released just months later, on June 4. It yielded a surprising hit, the Shel Silverstein-penned “A Boy Named Sue,” which became Cash‘s only Top 10 pop single at #2. At San Quentin reached #1 on August 30 and went on to earn a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. One member of the live audience was an inmate named Merle Haggard.

Iron Butterfly – Ball (1)

The hard rock band’s third studio album followed the breakthrough success of the previous year’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and though neither of Ball‘s singles were particularly successful on the pop charts, the band’s momentum led the way to a week at the top on March 22.

Romeo & Juliet (Original Soundtrack) (1)

The Zeffirelli film and its soundtrack, composed and conducted by Nino Rota, were both released in October 1968. The film, targeted to teen audiences, was a big success and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. So why did the album not reach #1 until August 1969? Henry Mancini recorded an instrumental of the “Love Theme” and the song became a surprise hit that June.

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears (2)

The real surprise here is that the December 1968 release topped the sales chart for only two weeks in early spring, since it yielded no less than three huge singles, each of which hit #2: “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel” and “And When I Die.” (And, depending on how old you are, it seemed that every household owned a copy of the LP.) After BS&T’s debut earlier that year, band members Al Kooper, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss departed. The key replacement, singer David Clayton-Thomas, put his stamp on the revised sound, resulting in a Grammy for Album of the Year.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (3)

In terms of quantity and quality, the American band just dominated the year on the charts, releasing three outstanding albums, Bayou CountryGreen River, and Willy and the Poor Boys. It’s hard to imagine we’ll see such artistry in one year again. The middle title, released on August 3, yielded a pair of #2 hits, “Bad Moon Rising” and the title cut, as well as such favorites as “Lodi,” “Commotion” and “The Night Time is the Right Time.” CCR‘s album topped the chart for three consecutive weeks in October.

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline (3)

The photo on its iconic cover was shot by Elliott Landy in early 1969 in… Woodstock, NY. The album, released on April 9, is one of the essential components of Dylan‘s upcoming Bootleg Series Vol. 15, which revisits Dylan’s sessions in Nashville, from 1967 to 1969, focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash. Thanks in part to the pop success of “Lay Lady Lay,” Nashville Skyline reached the top on May 31, remaining there for two additional weeks. (The LP stalled at #3 on Billboard; it would take a few more years – 1974’s Planet Waves – before he topped that chart.)

“This just might be the first pop masterpiece…” from a June 4, 1969 ad in Record World

Related: In 1974, no less than 25 albums hit #1

  • Sign up for the Best Classic Bands Newsletter




The Who – Tommy (3)

Let’s make sure we understand this correctly… A rock opera? About a deaf, dumb and blind boy? Well, the signs were there via 1967’s mini-opera, “A Quick One, While He’s Away.” But a two-record set? How absurd it all seems. And then, just like that, The Who vaulted to the short list of serious rock bands thanks to the mind of Pete Townshend and this stupendous endeavor.

Related: It wasn’t just about the #1s; 1969 in rock music

Blind Faith – Blind Faith (5)

Supergroup and super album, with such classic rock favorites as “Presence of the Lord,” “Sea of Joy,” “Had to Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home,” among its six tracks.

They were so young. When the British quartet’s only album was released in August ’69, Steve Winwood was just 21 years-old, Eric Clapton was 24, Ric Grech was 22 and Ginger Baker, the old man, just turning 30. It was an immediate hit, beginning a five-week stretch at the top on September 6.

The Beatles – Abbey Road (9)

The Beatles’ studio masterpiece was released in the U.S. on October 1. On November 1 it topped the album chart, where it remained for the rest of 1969… a total of nine weeks. (It held the #1 spot for 11 weeks on Billboard; it was displaced at the top of Record World‘s chart at the start of 1970 by Led Zeppelin IIAbbey Road subsequently returned to the top of RW for several more weeks.) It was certified 12x Platinum in 2001 by the R.I.A.A. for the U.S. The number sold is likely substantially higher and the new 50th anniversary editions will boost it even further.

The Beatles – The Beatles (aka The White Album) (11)

Well, now… 1969 not only ended with a Beatles‘ sales run, the year also started that way. The White Album, released on November 22, 1968, started the year off with 11 straight weeks at the top. That meant that of the year’s 52 weeks, no less than 20 of them had the Fab Four at #1. We love you Beatles, oh yes we do…

Hair (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (13)

A couple of insane facts: The musical spawned a boatload of hit singles: the Fifth Dimension’s cover of “Aquarius” (coupled with “Let the Sunshine In”), a #1 smash which went on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, the Cowsills’ “Hair” (#1), Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshine” (#3) and Three Dog Night’s “Easy to Be Hard” (#4). Since they were covers, these hit versions were not on the cast album, yet the radio success helped the album  earn 13 non-consecutive weeks at #1 during the spring and summer. (How many purchasers thought they were buying the familiar pop versions?) Incredibly, as of September 2019, no Broadway cast album has reached the top of the sales chart, a span of more than 50 years.

Related: The top radio hits of 1969

  • Sign up for the Best Classic Bands Newsletter




Best Classic Bands Staff

The BCB team brings you the latest Breaking News, Contests, On This Day rock history stories, Classic Videos, retro-Charts and more.
Best Classic Bands Staff
Share This:

1 Comment so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. steve b
    #1 steve b 30 September, 2019, 22:48

    Tommy is the most overated album in the history of rock.

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.