After months of dominance by country, R&B and kids’ music, rock ruled the charts this spring. In successive May weeks, albums by Godsmack, Tool and the Red Hot Chili Peppers debuted at Number One, and releases from Pearl Jam and Taking Back Sunday hit Number Two. But the genre’s resurgence wasn’t limited to the Top Ten: In the same period, vets Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Neil Young each scored a Top Fifteen debut, and newcomers like Wolfmother and Jack White‘s new band, the Raconteurs, cracked the Top Twenty-five.
“We’re seeing a lot of rock sales because there’s a lot of great rock records out,” says Peter Standish, senior vice president of Warner Bros. Records, home of the Chili Peppers. “It’s really driven by the quality of the releases – you know, build it and they will come.” Industry insiders expected the string of blockbuster releases to produce big numbers, but some were surprised at just how big they were. Tool’s 10,000 Days sold 563,000 copies in its first week of release; the Chili Peppers moved 442,000 copies of double album Stadium Arcadium, and Pearl Jam sold 279,000. “The Chili Peppers were bigger than we thought, and we didn’t see Tool being that big – it was gigantic,” says Russ Eisenman, chief marketing officer for Tower Records, the chain that accounts for about ten percent of all U.S. music sales.
Eisenman expects upcoming releases from Tom DeLonge’s new group, Angels and Airwaves (May 23rd), AFI (June 6th) and a possible new My Chemical Romance record to extend the trend and perhaps even encourage labels to promote more rock acts. “It’s been two years since we’ve seen a really big rock push like this,” he says. “As you see more of these numbers, you’ll see more rock releases pop up for the fourth quarter.”
And that’s great news for bands like the hard-rocking Australian trio Wolfmother, whose debut hit Number Twenty-two after a strong push from Interscope. “The most exciting times are when rock has a lot of bands, creative energy and competitiveness in songwriting and musicianship,” says frontman Andrew Stockdale. “I think that’s happening now.”
This story is from the June 15th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.