Last week, Adele made Billboard chart history by selling an astounding 3.38 million copies of her 25 LP (at the dizzying rate of 335 copies per minute). But 25 years ago this week, the king of the charts was country music’s own Garth Brooks, whose second album No Fences earned the Oklahoma native the first of his many multi-platinum sales certifications on November 30th, 1990. Brooks would ultimately dominate the so-called Class of ’89, a diverse group of artists whose top-selling debut records would signal a sea change in country music: Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt and Mary Chapin Carpenter and Clint Black.
As the Nashville Scene reported last year, country-music insiders were incredulous when Jimmy Bowen — who was then-head of Brooks’ label, Capitol Nashville — predicted No Fences would eventually sell one million copies. By 2006, the album had sold more than 17 million copies in the U.S. alone. At the end of the Nineties, it was the fourth best-selling album of the decade in all genres.
Released in August, No Fences was sitting at the top of the country albums chart by October, having unseated fellow Class of ’89 alum Black, whose debut Killin’ Time had already done what No Fences would ultimately do by placing four consecutive singles at the top of the country chart. Two of Brooks’ chart-toppers from No Fences (“Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls”) would, of course, go on to become modern country-music classics, the latter thanks in part to its theme of domestic abuse, vividly brought to life in an epic music video so controversial it would face an airplay ban at CMT and TNN.
By April of 1991, No Fences was already certified for sales of three million. Just two years later, the disc hit the 10 million mark. The LP remains Garth Brooks’ best-selling album to date and was also a hit overseas, reaching Number One on the UK chart and earning him his first gold record in Great Britain. The country superstar currently holds the Number Two spot on Billboard‘s list of acts with the most weeks logged at the top spot on the multi-genre Billboard 200, with his impressive 52 weeks still a distant second to the Beatles’ 132 weeks at Number One.
Unfortunately, a silver anniversary reissue of No Fences which would have included a reboot of the massive hit, “Friends in Low Places,” featuring guest vocals by George Strait, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line, hit a snag with a dispute over record royalties.
No Fences was previously reissued in 1998 as part of The Limited Series box set, which packaged the singer’s first six albums, adding a bonus track to each. One of the new recordings was his cover of a Bob Dylan-penned tune featured in the film Hope Floats, which was released that same year. “To Make You Feel My Love” was also performed on the same soundtrack by Brooks’ future wife, Trisha Yearwood. It has since been covered by several other artists, including Billy Joel and Kelly Clarkson. And in 2008, the song was included on 19, the debut album from Adele.
Brooks has live dates scheduled through mid-2016, including a recently-announced run at the new Las Vegas Arena from July 2nd to 4th. This marks a return to Sin City for Brooks, who previously enjoyed a multi-year residency at the Wynn Las Vegas.