Top Selling Albums of 1968: Here’s To You!

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Making headlines in 1968… Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In made its debut as a weekly series on NBC, spawning dozens of catchphrases like “Sock it to me” and “Here come da judge.”

The films 2001: A Space OdysseyPlanet of the Apes and The Night of the Living Dead opened in theaters. The musical Hair premiered on Broadway.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.

The Summer Olympics were held in Mexico City… in October. U.S. track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute at their medal ceremony.

Recordings made by some of the most enduring classic rock artists dominated the list of 1968’s top-selling albums in the U.S. The chart, compiled by the former music industry trade magazine, Record World, features several all-time classics among the year’s Top 18 sellers, with multiple titles by Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Simon & Garfunkel. (Why the magazine limited it to the unusual number of 18 is a mystery.)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience had an astounding three albums on the list. The power trio’s 1967 debut, Are You Experienced (#8) continued to sell thanks to 1968’s one-two punch of Axis: Bold as Love (#14) and Electric Ladyland (#18). The latter included the cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Hendrix’s only single to reach the Top 20 in the U.S.

If Steppenwolf‘s self-titled debut album – #16 for the year – had given us nothing more than “Born to Be Wild,” a #2 pop hit, it would still be a classic. For more, see our Album Rewind of the LP’s “heavy metal thunder.”

The Rascals earned six Top singles in a little over two years. Their Time Peace hits compilation collects all but one: “People Got to Be Free” was released that summer and became the group’s third – and final – #1 chart hit. The album reached #1 and was the year’s 12th biggest seller.

Cream‘s Wheels of Fire, released in August ’68, was a double LP set that allowed the band to showcase their virtuosity, especially on its second disc of four live tracks that had been recorded at Winterland and the Fillmore West in San Francisco. It was the first double album – still something of a novelty at the time – to be certified platinum for sales of one million copies, helping it become #11 for the year.

The third studio album from the DoorsWaiting For the Sun, became the band’s first #1 album and #10 for 1968, thanks largely to the #1 pop smash, “Hello, I Love You.”

Related: 1968 in rock music

Janis Joplin‘s final album with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills, includes her brilliant vocal on “Piece of My Heart,” a #12 pop hit in 1968, and one of three covers on the album (“Summertime,” “Ball and Chain”). Cheap Thrills, with the iconic artwork from Robert Crumb, was the year’s #9 biggest seller.

The Monkees‘ fourth studio album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., was also their fourth straight to reach #1.  The LP, #7 overall for 1968, had the foursome playing many of the instruments themselves and included one big hit, “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass delivered many of memorable instrumental hits throughout the decade. Ironically, it was when he chose to sing Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You,” that Alpert scored his sole #1 pop single. It fueled a top-selling album, Beat of the Brass, good enough to be #6 for the year.

At #5, Cream’s 1967 Disraeli Gears, found the threesome melding blues-rock with psychedelia to create one of the monumental rock albums of the late 1960s, and rocketed them to superstar stature, thanks to their biggest U.S. hit, “Sunshine of Your Love,” a #5 pop single.

Related: Looking back at 1968’s top radio hits

Released in 1967, The Beatles‘ Magical Mystery Tour sold so well in 1968 that it was the year’s #2 biggest. (The White Album, released in Nov. ’68, didn’t earn enough sales in the calendar year to make it on this list.) MMT may as well have been considered a greatest hits collection, with its boatload of huge chart hits, “Penny Lane,” “All You Need is Love” and “Hello, Goodbye,” among them.

And holding positions #3 and #1? None other than Simon & Garfunkel. Their twin ’68 releases – the soundtrack to the Mike Nichols coming-of-age romantic comedy/drama, The Graduate, and studio album, Bookends – were released just six weeks’ apart and were often 1 and 2 atop the Record World sales chart during the spring. Both albums included the #1 smash hit, “Mrs. Robinson.”

Related: 1968—The year in 50 classic rock albums

18. Electric Ladyland – Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise)

17. Honey – Bobby Goldsboro (United Artists)

16. Steppenwolf (ABC/Dunhill)

15. Look Around – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (A&M)

14. Axis: Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise)

13. Feliciano! – Jose Feliciano (RCA)

12. Time Peace/Greatest Hits – The Rascals (Atlantic)

11. Wheels of Fire – Cream (Atco)

10. Waiting For the Sun – The Doors (Elektra)

9. Cheap Thrills – Big Brother & the Holding Company (Columbia)

8. Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise)

7. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. – The Monkees (Colgems)

6. Beat of the Brass – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (A&M)

5. Disraeli Gears – Cream (Atco)

4. Blooming Hits – Paul Mauriat (Philips)

3. Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia)

2. Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles (Capitol)

1. The Graduate (Orig. Sountrack) (Columbia)

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. Ado
    #1 Ado 2 June, 2018, 18:06

    Kennedy was asessinated in 1963…

    Reply this comment
  2. Escapee
    #2 Escapee 30 April, 2019, 00:37

    Jeff, good one! I’d add Tet, Chicago riots, Nixon erection [sic]. Also, IIRC, RIAA platinum certs began in 1976.

    Reply this comment
  3. Da Mick
    #3 Da Mick 16 October, 2021, 00:17

    I’m still reeling from the records from 67. How did we handle it all?

    Reply this comment
  4. Rock N Roll Rick
    #4 Rock N Roll Rick 25 October, 2022, 00:58

    1967 and 1968 were banner years for Rock N Roll albums They are all Timeless Classics!!! I remember hearing these groups as a 9 year old with my Transistor radio

    Reply this comment
  5. Sixpack201
    #5 Sixpack201 6 November, 2023, 00:32

    The music was out of this world
    But, our country was just as messed up then as it is now
    Social media has destroyed our souls
    Long live classic rock
    Peace Love. Sex & Drugs

    Reply this comment

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