7 Aussie artists who’ve never had a number one album

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Paul Kelly got his first number one album this week. There's hope for us all.

Life Is Fine is Paul Kelly’s first number one album.

As little sense as that makes, it’s true.

The legendary artist is as big a drawcard as just about any other Australian act, with a fanbase that ranges from toddlers to pensioners, and songwriting that appeals to music lovers of all dispositions. Everyone loves Paul Kelly. So, it seems completely mad that it has taken so long for him to hit number one.

But sometimes that just happens. Chart position is not, and never has been, an indication of the quality of an artist's output. Paul Kelly is no better this week as a number one seller than he was last week.

Artists can miss out on topping the charts for any number of reasons. It could be a matter of timing; a new Ed Sheeran or Adele album will render any other artist’s attempt at hitting the top spot totally futile.

It could be poor promotion, or just that fans aren’t necessarily buying this particular artist’s album all at the same time. Chart standings come thanks to a single week’s sales, so it takes some coordination to get any artist to the top spot (why do you think every band has a pre-order these days?).

What I found more astounding when digging further, was just how lowly some of Kelly’s albums charted upon release. Every household should have a copy of his (now outdated but still amazing) Greatest Hits album Songs From The South. Before this week it was his highest charting album to date, spending four weeks at number two, unable to beat out Savage Garden or Hanson.

But look at his other records and some of them didn’t even come close. Ways & Means peaked at number 13 in 2004. Words And Music only managed to hit number 17. And the excellent Deeper Water didn't get past number 40!

 

Plenty more fine artists have never tasted the top spot of the charts. Hell, it wasn’t until he passed away that David Bowie scored a number one in the US. 

Here are a few great Aussie artists who are hugely popular, but have not yet tasted the glory of a number one album. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are plenty of amazing artists who have never topped the charts, but these are a few of the most notable ones I came across. 

Grinspoon

The re-release of Grinspoon’s seminal debut album Guide To Better Living reached eighth spot in the ARIA charts when it came out earlier this year. That’s higher than it ever got when it was released (it peaked at number 11 in 1997).

Grinners got oh-so-close to the top spot back in 2002 when they released New Detention. It peaked at number two, behind the unstoppably monstrous The Eminem Show album, which was in the middle of a six-consecutive week stint in the top spot.

Of course, as Phil Jamieson told us last week, we can’t be sure that there’ll ever actually be another Grinspoon record. So maybe the top spot will always elude them. If they do put out another record, let this be incentive to all you Grinspoon fans to get behind them.

Yothu Yindi

In its 23rd week on the ARIA charts, Yothu Yindi’s Tribal Voice reached number four, with only Lionel Richie, ZZ Top and Michael Crawford – all of whom had compilation albums – ahead of it.

This was the highest the band would ever get on the charts, driven by the monumental success of their singles ‘Treaty’ and ‘Djäpana (Sunset Dreaming)’. It did stay on the charts for almost a whole year though, sit somewhere in the top 50 for 45 weeks. 

Sarah Blasko

There’s no justice in the world when Sarah Blasko hasn’t had a number one album.

Now I don’t want to be insensitive, but it’s kinda bad timing when you release one of your biggest albums just two weeks after Michael Jackson, the guy who is literally referred to as the King of Pop, dies.

If you recall, people were buying Michael Jackson records by the truckload after his passing. This meant that, in the week Sarah Blasko’s As Day Follows Night came out, the top five on the ARIA Charts was made up of two old MJ compilations, Thriller, a record from talent show winner Mark Vincent and Blasko’s album.

Sarah Blasko is probably too nice to say this, but she was bloody robbed. 

Spiderbait

They’ve had two massive number ones. Firstly, they were the first Aussie band to ever top the triple j Hottest 100. Secondly, they spent three whole weeks at number one on the singles charts (inarguably a far tougher challenge for a rock band) with their version of ‘Black Betty’.

But they’ve never had a number one album. The brilliant Ivy & the Big Apples came in at number three upon its release in 1996, beaten out by Barnsey and Toni Childs, who both rocketed to the top with Greatest Hits collections. So Spiderbait can at least lay claim to having the number one all-new original album.

Regurgitator

Honestly, the thought of a band as subversive and anarchic – both musically and politically – as Regurgitator topping the charts is pretty wild. But it should have happened. And it almost did, three times.

Funnily enough, Unit is their third highest charting album ever. It reached number four, which is very good, but not as high as …Art, which hit number two in 1999 (damn you Shania Twain) and their debut Tu Plang, which landed in third spot upon release in 1996.

Unit spent way more time in the charts than the rest of their albums though, lingering around for a ridiculous 68 weeks.

Jebediah

After a very strong showing with their awesome debut album Slightly Odway, Jebediah lined up for a shot at the ultimate chart glory with their second album Of Someday Shambles. Sadly, a little Brissy duo called Savage Garden had other ideas and kept them from number one.

But, it must be said, Jebediah did stunningly well, beating out brand new records from Mariah Carey, Foo Fighters and The Whitlams, all released in the same week. 

Wolfmother

Wolfmother have twice pulled up at number three on the ARIA charts, for both their 2005 eponymous debut and 2009’s Cosmic Egg. That first record stuck around in the charts for ages – 78 weeks in fact – but never managed to snag top billing. You can blame Bernard Fanning and Robbie Williams for that.

Given that Wolfmother’s latest album Victorious, released early last year, peaked at number 17, the trend isn’t going the right way for Andrew Stockdale and his band.

But, things change. Just ask Paul Kelly. 

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