We all know AC/DC’s anthemic single ‘Highway to Hell’, but did you know it took 40 years for the legendary band to get a top 10 hit?

While some artists like Chuck Berry and The Kinks found chart success almost overnight, many waited years if not decades for a hit. And some legendary acts like P-Funk and Velvet Underground NEVER had a top-10 song in the US or UK.

Visualising the birth of top hits from the greatest artists
Life and Times of the Greatest Artists visualises the careers of the 100 greatest artists according to Rolling Stone Magazine, and shows how long each artist took to score their first top 10 single in the US or UK.

What does the study show?

The longest wait
James Brown had to wait 12 years, AC/DC had to wait 40 years – even Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, had to wait 7. The average wait for a hit was 6 years.

See the 10 artists with the longest wait for a hit below:

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 15.56.39

1. AC/DC – 40 years with “Highway To Hell” in 2013

2. Public Enemy – 25 years with “Harder Than You Think” in 2007

3. Grateful Dead – 22 years with “Touch Of Grey” in 1987

4. Nine Inch Nails – 17 years with “The Hand That Feeds” in 2005

5. Curtis Mayfield – 16 years with “Freddie’s Dead” in 1972

6. Bruce Springsteen – 16 years with “Hungry Heart” in 1980

7. Johnny Cash – 15 years with “A Boy Named Sue” in 1969

8. Bob Marley – 13 years with “No Woman, No Cry” in 1975

9. Ray Charles – 12 years with “What’d I Say” in 1959

10. Jay Z – 12 years with “Hard Knock Life” in 1998

No-Hit Wonders
The visualisation also shows the 9 artists that never ever had a hit, despite having careers that lasted decades:

No Hit Wonders

Among these:
Howlin’ Wolf
Bo Diddley
Parliament-Funkadelic
Velvet Underground

Additional data
Filters can be used to explore how these artists’ careers overlapped/intersected and to answer the following questions;
Which artist had the longest and shortest career?
Who had a comeback?
Which decade produced the most “great artists”?
Artists belonging to which genre of music had the longest wait for a hit?

Overnight success or decades of effort?
The piece would make a cool story for anyone that’s been plugging away for a while without a hit, as it challenges the preconception that the greats achieved chart success straight away, or that their musical vision were somehow fully formed from the start.

Explore the full interactive chart here – don’t blame us if you find you’ve lost minutes or hours of your time playing around with it