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Ask Billboard: Battle Of The Rock Bands, Part 2

Readers continue discussing superstar rock bands, the history of Billboard's Latin charts, and a record streak Madonna logged in the '80s.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

Following up on last week’s question about who’s sold more albums, Def Leppard (the winner) or Poison, how about comparing Guns N’ Roses and Metallica?

G N’ R is the reason I like rock & roll!

Tiago Cardoso
Franca, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hi Tiago,

Happy, again, to analyze sales of rock bands with origins in the ’80s, when the genre produced so many more fun party songs, and gave off more of a rock star vibe, than today.

Maybe in this economy, bands just don’t want to trash hotel rooms and have to pay for the damages.

Utilizing Nielsen SoundScan data, which dates to 1991, Guns N’ Roses have totaled 24,914,000 albums sold in the U.S. 1991’s “Use Your Illusion 2” leads with 5,587,000 units, followed closely by “Use Your Illusion 1,” at 5,502,000.

In that span, Metallica has sold 52,271,000 albums in the U.S., led by 1991’s “Metallica” with sales to date of 15,525,000.

According to the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), whose data encompasses the bands’ entire careers, Metallica leads Guns N’ Roses, 59 to 43.5 million. Among all artists, Metallica ranks 18th, Guns N’ Roses 30th.

It does help Metallica that the band has released more albums. The band has placed 14 titles on the Billboard 200, compared to G N’ R’s eight.

As for why the bands’ totals are so much closer using RIAA data as opposed to SoundScan’s, Guns N’ Roses’ opus “Appetite for Destruction” was released in 1987, four years before the advent of SoundScan information. Since 1991, the set has sold 5,008,000 copies. The RIAA, however, has certified the album with sales of 18 million dating to its release.

How does the RIAA stack up the U.S.’ top-selling rock groups of all-time? The list looks like this:

Rank, Artist, Certified Units (in millions)
1, the Beatles, 170
2, Led Zeppelin, 111.5
3, Eagles, 100
4, Pink Floyd, 74.5
5, AC/DC, 71
6, Aerosmith, 66.5
7, the Rolling Stones, 66
8, Metallica, 59
9, Van Halen, 56.5
10, U2, 51.5
11, Fleetwood Mac, 48.5
12, Journey, 47
13, Guns N’ Roses, 43.5
14, Santana, 43
15, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, 41LA HISTORIA

Dear Gary,

I love “Ask Billboard” and look forward to reading the latest installment every Friday!

I’m very interested in the Billboard Latin charts and was wondering if you could please enlighten me as to their history.

Thank you very much, and have a great week.


Jay Ogletree
Cumming, Georgia

Hi Jay,

For a definitive recap of the origins of Billboard’s Latin charts, I opened the special 100th anniversary commemorative issue dated Nov. 1, 1994 – exactly 100 years to the date after the premiere issue. The first Billboard magazine was “eight pages proud and carried a cover price of 10 cents (90 cents for a full year’s subscription),” wrote Ken Schlager in the retrospective.

The 100th anniversary issue recaps the timelines of numerous Billboard charts, including those for the Latin genre.

Latin Albums first appeared in the issue dated June 29, 1985, consisting of three separate bi-weekly charts: Pop, Tropical/Salsa and Regional Mexican. The chart became an all-format 50-position sales chart, incorporating Nielsen SoundScan data, on July 10, 1993. Today, the chart runs 75 rungs-deep (viewable in full on, and its four component charts – Latin Pop, Regional Mexican, Tropical and Latin Rhythm – each consist of 20 slots.

Latin Songs originated in the Oct. 4, 1986, issue as the “Hot Latin 50” chart. It remains a 50-position tally with the same four sub-formats noted above each hosting their own 40-position radio airplay charts, based on monitored Nielsen BDS data.

Jose Jose earned the first No. 1 Latin Pop album, “Reflexiones”; El Gran Combo inked the first top Tropical/Salsa album, “Innovation”; and, Los Tigres Del Norte topped the first Regional Mexican album chart with “La Jaula De Oro.”

Juan Gabriel logged the first chart-topping Latin song, “Yo No Se Que Me Paso.”


Hi Gary!

I was just reading about Madonna the other day when I came across her bio on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s website.

I found that the site credited her as being the artist with the second-longest string of consecutive top five hits. Is that true? I have previously read on different sites that she actually holds the record, not just second place.

Who has earned the most consecutive top five hits on the Hot 100? Is it Madonna, or Elvis Presley, perhaps?


Hulubas Alexandru Daniel
Suceava, Romania

Hi Hulubas,

Elvis Presley enjoyed many of his hits prior to the Hot 100’s Aug. 4, 1958, launch. Since then, and including all his charted titles (i.e. B-sides), his longest streak of top five entries on the Hot 100 was six, in 1958-59.

In the Hot 100’s 51-year history, Madonna owns the mark for most consecutive top five hits. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, class of 2008, tallied 16 in-a-row between 1984 and 1989.

Here is a rundown of her record streak:

Peak Pos., Title, Peak Year
No. 4, “Lucky Star,” 1984
No. 1 (six weeks), “Like a Virgin,” 1984
No. 2, “Material Girl,” 1985
No. 1 (one week), “Crazy for You,” 1985

No. 5, “Angel,” 1985
No. 5, “Dress You Up,” 1985
No. 1 (one week), “Live to Tell,” 1986
No. 1 (two weeks), “Papa Don’t Preach,” 1986

No. 3, “True Blue,” 1986
No. 1 (one week), “Open Your Heart,”1987
No. 4, “La Isla Bonita,” 1987
No. 1 (one week), “Who’s That Girl,” 1987

No. 2, “Causing a Commotion,” 1987
No. 1 (three weeks), “Like a Prayer,” 1989
No. 2, “Express Yourself,” 1989
No. 2, “Cherish,” 1989

Click here for Billboard’s coverage of this year’s induction ceremony, held Monday (March 15) at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.