Even longtime Pink Floyd fans might be surprised to see how grim U.S. sales were for the band in their early days, especially considering that The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall went on to become two of the best-selling albums of all time in America. But prior to the massive success of Dark Side, the psychedelica/space rock outfit didn't fare well on the U.S. charts.
While their classic debut, the Syd Barrett-helmed Piper at the Gates of Dawn, enjoyed adoration from fellow musicians and a cult following, it debuted at No. 196 in December 1967 and peaked at No. 131 in January 1968.
Their next release, A Saucerful of Secrets, didn't chart on the Billboard 200 at all. Their third album, More -- the soundtrack to a 1969 film about heroin addiction in Ibiza -- failed to initially hit the Billboard 200 as well. However, More eventually did chart on the Billboard 200 -- but only after Dark Side's massive success.
Floyd's next four albums -- Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle and Obscured by Clouds -- started creeping to higher peaks on the Billboard 200. Atom Heart Mother peaked at 55 in 1970, and Obscured hit No. 46 in August of 1972, about a half-year before Dark Side's triumph.
By the time Dark Side came out, Barrett's whimsy had been excised from Floyd and their propensity for extended instrumental jams had been (temporarily) reigned in. The result was an album as sonically adventurous as it was accessible -- an album that appealed equally to mainstream rock fans and progressive-minded outsiders. While Dark Side debuted at No. 95 on the Billboard 200 in March 1973, it reached No. 1 less than two months later. It would go on to sell more than 20 million copies in the U.S.
Pink Floyd continued to enjoy high-charting albums as they continued to roll out classics. Wish You Were Here debuted at No. 12 and went to No. 1 in its second week, Animals peaked at No. 3 and The Wall went to No. 1 in 1980, being certified at 10-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
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When Roger Waters bid goodbye to Floyd with 1983's The Final Cut, classic rock was becoming passé and that album peaked at No. 6. Although the Waters-less follow-up efforts, 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994's The Division Bell, were met with critical dismissal, both fared better than Final Cut. Reason peaked at No. 3 and Division Bell became Pink Floyd's first album to debut at No. 1 in the U.S.
Fast-forward 20 years. Pink Floyd releases The Endless River, a mostly instrumental affair billed as their final album. Although Taylor Swift's juggernaut 1989 and Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways outsell it for the week ending Nov. 16, 2014, Endless River debuts at No. 3 on the chart and moves nearly 170,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Music -- a hugely impressive feat for any act in 2014.
As a point of historical comparison, the Monkees had the No. 1 album in America when Piper at the Gates of Dawn entered the chart at No. 196 on Dec. 2, 1967. And while the Monkees certainly enjoy plenty of nostalgia for their singles, it's safe to say that particular Monkees album -- Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. -- has long faded from the public's memory. But 47 years later, as Pink Floyd's finale reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200, Piper is recognized as a classic, Dark Side is one of four albums to be certified at 20-times platinum, and the band's catalog is essential listening for any rock fan.