After five successful albums from 1964 to 1970 ended by the gigantic Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel closed their duet chapter at the absolute peak of their popularity giving the highly tedious relationship between Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon.
If you are CBS, the label of the duo, the only thing you can do to still benefit from their fame is to release a compilation album. That’s exactly what happened with Greatest Hits release in 1972. Chart-wise, this hits package failed to make much of an impact. It was #12 in August 1972 monthly chart, #15 in October – the September chart failed to be published – at #21 in November before dropping out for good. For good until its comeback for a single week at #143 in March 2013, some 40 years later.
Well, this doesn’t look like a monster seller. It goes on to show the limits of unofficial charts especially in the case of hits packages that got allowed / excluded again and again on French charts. Later releases like Concert In Central Park in 1982 or The Definitive Collection in 1991 proved the incredible selling power of Simon & Garfunkel in France. There is little reasons to believe this selling power wasn’t there already from 1972 to 1982, even more considering the duet was big from their early days in this country.
In fact, this release sold in reality as much as 300,000 units in 1972/1973, plus a massive 406,000 copies during the year 1978. Although this later book refers to an album titled a bit differently, it is indeed Greatest Hits that is concerned. Then, we can understand much better how this item went Platinum (400,000) when the award was introduced in 1980 and Diamond (1,000,000) also in the year of this award introduction in 1988. Obviously as both of those awards weren’t available earlier they do not help in knowing when each milestone was reached. The most likely scenario is that it passed the million mark in early 80s, around the hype of Concert In Central Park. This release decreased the importance of Greatest Hits among Simon & Garfunkel catalog. While the 1972 was still selling, climbing to an estimated 1,2 million by early 90s, releases of The Collection in 1990 and The Definitive in 1991 killed it. Until mid-00s Greatest Hits remained selling low amounts as the physical album was hardly available but then got reactivated thanks to the digital era. It sold an estimated average of 5,000 copies per year during the last 25 years as the market went down while the profile of this set was increasing again.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,325,000 copies.
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!
Sources: SNEP, IFOP, Platine, GFK, Le Nouvel Observateur.