PART II: BABY I’M A STAR 1984-1986
Purple Rain Soundtrack (1984) Era
Now a major selling force in the US, Prince came back in June 1984 with his new album, Purple Rain. It was the first of the Prince & The Revolution albums that spanned the 1984-1986 years, although the backing band was already working with him on his past albums.
The lead single was When Doves Cry, which went on to be the highest selling single of 1984. A huge five weeks #1 in the US, the song brought Prince into the spotlight worldwide. In Europe, the hit went Top 10 in the UK, in Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Top 20 in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden. In France, it peaked lower, at #32 only. It was barely due to a technicality yet as the French Singles chart started in November 1984 while the song had already peaked a few months earlier.
Within’ six months, Let’s Go Crazy went #1 in the US, Purple Rain single #2 and I Would Die 4 U #8, despite the album having already sold bucket loads at that point. Although the US was easily the artist biggest market, Europe responded rather well to several of those hits, especially Purple Rain.
The album obviously outperformed by very far all its predecessors thanks to this success. Its sales in the US were ridiculous with almost 9 million copies shipped by the end of the year in an era where 3 million worldwide was already a huge achievement. It dominated the album chart an unreal 24 consecutive weeks at #1 thanks to its more than 300,000 average weekly sales during six months.
In France the Purple Rain album had a first run in 1984 during When Doves Cry success, pushing it to #8 in early December, exactly when the album was certified Gold representing 100,000 units shipped. In 1985, thanks to the #12 peaking Purple Rain single, the album tied its peak again by being the #8 top seller of February monthly chart. Calculated sales in France are on 232,000 units by the end of 1985. This spike in Prince career increased the interest on his catalog in Europe. The album 1999 ultimately entered Album charts of UK or the Netherlands in 1985 in lower positions. While charts were too short to enable such catalog items to chart in France, 1999 sold an estimated 25,000 copies during Purple Rain era while his past albums sold in the 5,000 to 15,000 range.
Around The World In A Day (1985) Era
Rather than capitalizing on his new success, Prince went against music industry rules by rushing a new album with almost no promotion and no lead single prior the record release. Around The World In A Day was issued in April 1985 at the surprise of many.
Hardly radio-friendly, the album was nowhere near to reproduce Purple Rain results in the US. The immense popularity of the artist still sent the record to #1 there. In France, the album completely failed to chart. Surprising? Not that much. In 1985 the album chart in France was barely a Top 20 ranking, including compilation albums. It was also a Monthly chart, thus albums dropping fast after the initial rush struggled to perform well on it, especially this album that came out on April 22. Too late to accumulate enough sales to be part of April chart, too early to get fans purchases accounted for in May chart. It sold an estimated 50,000 units in 1985.
Parade (1986) Era
Less than one year after the disappointment of Around The World In A Day, Prince rebounded incredibly well with Parade album. The album entered at #18 in France April monthly chart on the back of his fan base, thanks to a March 31 release date which concentrated nearly all those sales into a single Monthly chart.
If I refer to the fan base is that the album hit single, Kiss, took over in May only and peaked during the summer. As of today Kiss remains second to Purple Rain among his biggest hits. Off charts during four consecutive monthly charts, Parade re-entered at #14 in September 1985 before leaving the ranking for good. The album went Gold well into 1987 already but that certification wasn’t date specific. In fact, during the second half of 1986 WEA did no audit at all on their catalog, then requesting seven Gold awards at the same time in mid-1987 including last albums by A-Ha and Paul Simon. Calculated sales are on 122,000 units in 1986 only and 35,000 more in 1987.
Interestingly, despite Kiss went to #1 in the US, the album is the first Prince album to sell slightly more units elsewhere than inside his native country, a situation that was going to become the norm in following years. This album is also the last record of the Prince & The Revolution era.