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James Taylor, Tony Bennett and Tom Petty: Longest Streaks Before A No. 1 Album

by Ryan Book   Jun 24, 2015 18:08 PM EDT

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James Taylor is a legend. The dude's been around for nearly 50 years. He's seen fire and he's seen rain. But there was one thing that the songwriter never saw during his lengthy career in music: A no. 1 record. That finally changed this week when Before This World, his first album of original material in more than 13 years, peaked at the top of the Billboard 200. That got us at Music Times wondering...what performer took the longest to get their first no. 1 album? We ranked the Top 5, from "least" years to most:

05) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers...38 years

Tom Petty has covered all the bases as a member of the rock 'n' roll community...having begun his career as a simple, earnest rocker and continuing for 40 years until he was a wise, elder statesman and one of the keepers of the gates for the current generation of axeman. It's a joke...the performer has hardly altered his approach to the genre at all, yet people finally appreciated his role within the rock community enough to make 2014's Hypnotic Eye his first no. 1 album despite it not featuring any smash singles. The closest he had come before that was 2010's Mojo (which placed no. 2) and before that was Damn The Torpedoes, which peaked at no. 2 during 1979 on the back of hits such as "Refugee," "Don't Do Me Like That," "Here Comes My Girl" and "Even The Losers." So how did that album as well Full Moon Fever ("Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream" among others), both brimming with hits, fail to come in no. 1? We may never know.

04) Neil Diamond...42 Years

Neil Diamond comes from a similar situation as Petty...plenty of albums with successful sales numbers...just no albums with successful enough numbers to peak at no. 1 on the Billboard 200. He finally got over that hump during 2007, when Home Before Dark debuted at the top of the charts, his first album in 27 to do so. Diamond, like so many of the performers on this list, have been far from struggling even if they haven't topped the charts. Although Diamond is far from the record for the longest career without a no. 1, he does hold the mark for a similar feat: the most albums in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 without a no. 1. Diamond managed to land 14 albums in the Top 10 without topping the charts (Taylor is no. 2 on this record as well). At the time Home Before Dark was released, Diamond was also the oldest person in history to grab a no. 1 album, although that record has since been broken by Bob Dylan and Tony Bennett, respectively.

03) Black Sabbath...43 years

Black Sabbath's woes on the Billboard 200 were echoed in its former battle to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those on the inside saw heavy metal as strictly a niche genre...and the numbers seemed to agree. After all, the band had never topped the Billboard 200, so how far reaching was its sound, really? That argument is, of course, ridiculous and the band decided to end it (after being inducted, of course). None of its most iconic albums—Paranoid and Master of Reality among others—helped create an entire subsection of rock music, yet they never got to the top spot on the Billboard charts. The group finally decided to put an end to the streak during 2013 with its appropriately titled 13, topping the Billboard 200 far after disciples such as Metallica and Slipknot managed the feat.

02) James Taylor...45 years

"Ah, bummer!" James Taylor is surely noting as he celebrates the success of his Before This World. "If only I had waited longer to release this album, then maybe I wouldn't be stuck in second-place for this hardly desirable record!" Okay...we doubt it. He's probably stoked to get that weight off of his shoulders, and considering that he took 13 years to release this batch of original songs, we're not sure he would be in the mood to do it again. He's never had a "down period" in terms of sales numbers, as nearly every one of his original releases has debuted in the Top 10 over the last 45 years...it's simply the lack of output that may have kept him at this spot. One thing that he's done that neither Petty nor Sabbath can lay claim to is write a no. 1 song as well ("You've Got A Friend"). Diamond and our next entry have both landed at no. 1 three times.

01) Tony Bennett...54 years

Nope, we don't think that Taylor wanted to wait nearly another decade to reach for the record. What's interesting is that although Bennett took longer than anyone to get to no. 1, he's also got more no. 1 albums to his name than any of them. He first set the mark during 2011 with Duets II, a compilation that benefitted from collaborations from Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood and a host of other all-star vocalists. He wouldn't wait too long to go for his second no. 1, teaming with Gaga for the album Cheek to Cheek during 2014, which helped him set the record for the oldest person to accomplish a no. 1 record...for the second time.

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