The First Three Album Rule

The First Three Album Rule


Ever wonder why some bands just crank out great albums one after another and some other good bands can’t make it past the third album or possibly a fourth?   It’s not a rare occurrence.  There does seem to be a pattern here.

What happened to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young after their second album.   They have the self titled lps , one live album, and that was it for their truly great albums.  The band America is the same story.  They had two pretty good albums and downhill fast.  Santana arguably had 3 great albums through the self titled one and then Caravansari which some people hated.  The first three Chicago albums are pretty darn good and then quickly downhill.  Loggins and Messina, three great ones and out.  Robin Trower with three great ones out of the box and then more was less.   Jethro Tull made it through 4 first ones (the Christmas album possibly negates this one)  and then not much.

No mystery here that coming up with new and really great material album after album is not easy to do.  But the numbers three and four are the ones that many bands have a hard time getting past.  The truly great bands ..Pink Floyd , the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, Queen, the Beach Boys, David Bowie, Byrds , Stevie Wonder , Neil Young, Love, The Kinks, Grateful Dead, Creedence, Dylan….they blow right past the first three albums and keep going.

Obviously, much of this is subjective and your favorite album from some groups might be their fifth or sixth.  My idea comes from studying a lot of music and speaking to a lot of musicians and friends who say there’s something definitely going on here.  Not exactly scientific, but what the heck.   Hall and Oates were 3 to 4 and out, Cream 3 to 4 and out only because they broke up, Paul McCartney 3 solo albums and out, Buffalo Springfield three and out, John Prine three and more was less,  Marshall Tucker 3 and no no, same with Flying Burrito Brothers, Spirit, Mountain, Mamas and Papas, Aerosmith, Moby Grape, Jackson Browne, Doobie Bros, BTO, Bad Company, The James Gang,  on and on.

Any additions or comments on this off the cuff article, please let us know.  Thanks for the read.