Rewinding the Charts: In 1974, Bob Dylan Scored His First No. 1 Album
Then 32, Dylan briefly left Columbia for Asylum – then came back, after reuniting with The Band and topping the Billboard 200.
BOB DYLAN'S PLANET WAVES BECAME his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 at a time of great change – and enormous publicity – for the singer-songwriter. After more than a decade with Columbia Records, Dylan departed in 1973 for Asylum Records. Though his work with the former label had been successful (including eight top 10 albums), a chart-topper still eluded him.
For Planet Waves, Dylan, then 32, reteamed with The Band – his former backing group, which had become a major star in its own right by 1973 (clocking three top 10s on the Billboard 200). Further stirring attention was the announcement that a tour would follow: Dylan's first proper trek since 1966. The 40-city tour launched on Jan. 3, 1974, and Planet Waves' release followed on Jan. 17. The publicity generated by Dylan's reunion with The Band and his return to the stage helped propel the album to a then-lofty debut at No. 19 on the Billboard 200. It hit No. 1 in its second week (Feb. 16, 1974) – the biggest jump to the top for an album in more than six years.
A more intimate record than Dylan's previous hard-edged work with The Band, Planet Waves remained at No. 1 for a month, then fell off the chart after just 21 weeks – Dylan's then-shortest chart run with a studio album since 1964. Allegedly displeased with the sales of Planet Waves and Asylum's promotion of it, Dylan re-signed with Columbia in 1974. He has been there ever since and collected four more No. 1s.
On Feb. 3, Dylan released his latest album, the Frank Sinatra covers collection Shadows in the Night, which bowed atop Billboard's Top Rock Albums chart.
A version of this article first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of Billboard magazine.