The 10 #1 Albums of 1976: Alive and Well

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This ad appeared in the Feb. 7, 1976 issue of Record World

Among the stories grabbing the world’s attention in 1976… Dorothy Hamill took the Gold medal for women’s figure skating at the Winter Olympics and inspired young girls to imitate her wedge haircut. Star Wars began filming in Tunisia. The film would premiere 14 months later in a galaxy far, far away.

Apple Computer was formed. The TV series Family Feud debuted on ABC TV. Bruce Jenner won the Gold in the Men’s Decathlon at the Summer Olympics.

1976 was also smack dab in the “sweet spot” of the classic rock era with scores of outstanding albums released. Each week, of course, only one could top the Record World sales chart. You already know from the headline that just 10 albums topped the charts that year. [Fellow chart nerds might note that several of the albums failed to reach #1 on fellow trade magazine, Billboard.]

Here are the number one albums of 1976, presented in reverse order (fewest weeks to most weeks at the top).

Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1 week)

Their first album with newcomers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joining Christine McVie and the co-founders, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie was released on July 11, 1975. The album included the band’s first real American hits: “Over My Head” (#20), “Rhiannon” (#11) and “Say You Love Me” (#11). Bonus points: It took exactly one year, but thanks to the success of “Say You Love Me,” the album finally reached the top on July 10, 1976.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude (1)

The band had been steadily ascending the charts since their 1971 debut. They finally hit the top in 1975 with That’s the Way of the World. Later that year, they released a live double album, Gratitude, that also included several studio tracks. One of those, “Sing a Song,” became a Top 5 crossover hit, propelling the album to #1 on January 31. Bonus points: The album includes a live version of “Shining Star.” The 1975 studio version is the group’s sole #1 pop hit.

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue (1)

The Stones’ ’70s output rivals any other band’s, though this one doesn’t hold up nearly as well as ExileSticky Fingers and others. It featured only one hit, “Fool to Cry” – certainly not one of the band’s best. Bonus points: Black and Blue still managed to continue the Stones’ streak of eight straight #1 studio albums.

Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound (3)

Paul McCartney‘s post-Beatles career continued its serious roll with this March 1976 release. Speed included two more huge hits, “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In,” as the band hit the road for their massive “Wings Over America” tour. Bonus points: The album features lead vocals by each of the band’s members on at least one track.

Chicago – Chicago’s Greatest Hits (4)

In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine how long it took before Columbia Records released a hits collection from one of their steadiest performing acts. But just in time for the 1975 holidays, they did just that. Bonus points: It wasn’t until their next studio album, Chicago X, that the band finally scored their first #1 single.

Bob Dylan – Desire (4)

Three consecutive January releases in a row, three consecutive #1 albums.  And thanks to a pair of popular tracks on rock radio, “Hurricane” and “Mozambique,” Desire spent the entire month of February at the top of the charts. Bonus points: The album was released in between the two legs of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue.

Led Zeppelin – Presence (5)

Ask most Zeppelin fans which of the band’s LPs is their favorite and few will offer this, their seventh studio release. That’s the price you pay when your other albums include Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, and on and on… Bonus points: That cover artwork.

Eagles – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) (6)

Little did we know when this collection was released on February 17, 1976, that it would become the biggest selling album in U.S. history, with over 38 million copies sold. Bonus points: Their Greatest Hits was the first album to earn Platinum status by the RIAA, an award created in ’76.

Related: The top-selling albums in the U.S. of all-time

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (10)

What a way to close out a year! Released on September 28, Wonder’s double album reached #1 on October 23, and stayed there through the end of the year. The LP earned Wonder his third Grammy Award for Album of the Year and two more #1 singles, “I Wish” and “Sir Duke.” Bonus points: He was still just 26-years-old when the album was released.

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive (17)

Whoa! This double-live LP topped the chart for one-third of the entire year. The album, recorded at several concerts in 1975, yielded three huge singles: “Show Me the Way” (#6), “Baby, I Love Your Way” (#12) and “Do You Feel Like We Do” (#10), a rarity of live tracks. Bonus points: As a solo artist, the musician’s previous top-seller was 1975’s Frampton, which topped out at #32.

Best Classic Bands Staff

7 Comments so far

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  1. Chris
    #1 Chris 10 June, 2019, 01:21

    Great year of music….just like all of the seventies!

    Reply this comment
  2. Joebloe
    #2 Joebloe 9 December, 2019, 13:05

    Why isn’t Boston’s first album on this list.

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky 9 December, 2019, 21:25

      Because, despite its huge cumulative sales, it never reached #1.

      Reply this comment
      • Sky
        Sky 13 June, 2021, 18:23

        Wrong. It stayed as the best selling album of all-time for many years.

        Reply this comment
        • Greg Brodsky
          Greg Brodsky 13 June, 2021, 21:11

          Sky… If you’re talking about Boston’s debut album, it never reached #1 on the weekly sales chart. That’s what this story is about.

          Reply this comment
  3. 122intheshade
    #3 122intheshade 18 July, 2021, 00:15

    People forget that “Gangsta’s Paradise” worked its way down the street from Stevie Wonder’s “Playground Paradise”. Sonically, Stevie Wonder’s 70s LPs right up there with the Beatles. You gotta listen many times to hear everything going on.

    Reply this comment
  4. Yazmatazz
    #4 Yazmatazz 18 July, 2021, 10:35

    Had the pleasure of seeing Frampton open for J Geils band twice in the spring/summer of 1975. Then a year later, saw him with 50,000 other adoring fans at Colt Park in Hartford CT. It was as they say, quite the show……

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