Famously recorded by Nirvana for $606.16 at Reciprocal Studios in Seattle -- they even mentioned the cost in the album's liner notes -- the band's 1989 debut, 'Bleach,' undoubtedly has one of the best cost-to-sales ratios of any rock album ever released.
'40oz. to Freedom'
Sublime were still selling homemade demo tapes out of the back of their van after shows around Long Beach, Calif., when they recorded their self-financed debut, '40oz. to Freedom.' They released it first on singer Bradley Nowell's own label, Skunk Records, and substantially more than the original $1,000 recording budget was spent remastering the disc when it was re-issued on MCA a few years later. It went on to sell more than 2 million copies in the U.S.
RCA / Latent
'The Trinity Sessions'
Cowboy Junkies (1988)
Some albums recorded on the cheap have a thrifty sound to match, and bands like Guided by Voices and Wavves purposefully adopted the lo-fi sound as an aesthetic choice. Cowboy Junkies took a different approach in their early days, using their limited resources as efficiently as possible and making the best albums they could. Recorded at Toronto's Holy Trinity Church for $900, the band's second disc, 'The Trinity Sessions,' sounds like a million bucks -- and sold 2 million copies.
'Big Lizard in My Backyard'
The Dead Milkmen (1985)
Philadpelphia's Dead Milkmen dropped less than a grand on their 1985 debut, 'Big Lizard in My Backyard' -- and it sounds like it. But when a band is recording an album with songs like 'Right Wing Pigeons,' 'Bitchin’ Camaro' and 'Takin’ Retards to the Zoo,' does it really need to sound larger than life? More than two decades later, the Milkmen are still going strong, so we're thinking it worked out just fine.
Swell spent next to nothing recording 1991's '...Well?' for the local San Francisco label pSychoSpecificMusic, but the folks at Rick Rubin's major label Def American liked what they heard enough to give the album a wider release later that year without making any changes to the disc. Considering the original recording budget was less than a grand, that means '...Well?' may be one of the most cheaply recorded major label releases of all time.
Did we leave any cheaply recorded classics off our list? Hit us up in the comments and let us know.