France Album Sales: The Beatles

II. Red/Blue… Colorful Nostalgia 1973-1981

I could have ended the first chapter on 1970 as it is when the band dropped their final album, Let It Be. Instead, I decided to split those two sections between 1972 and 1973. If you have been around for long enough, inclusively reading CSPC articles, you must now be aware of the cannibalization phenomenon when a major compilation is issued. In spite of a few minor such packages, the Beatles original albums were their catalog main traction until 1972. This situation completely changed in 1973 with the arrival of Red 1962/1966 and Blue 1967/1970 compilations.

From a French market point of view, 1973 is also a pivotal year as it marked the introduction of SNEP Gold certifications, awarding 100,000 album sales. It took a few years before majors started to consider them seriously though as we will quickly notice.

Quickly peaking at #3 and #5, the impressive feat of Red and Blue compilations wasn’t the hype yet. Getting in and out the Top 20 for four consecutive calendar years, those two albums appeared unstoppable. The unreal value of each package containing 54 worthy hits combined made them an absolute must have. Although increasing year after year, the market was still rather small compared to later years, once again capping sales of those two packages. Both sets were well over 300,000 units sold by the start of 1977.

At that point sales of those albums were seriously reduced by several new releases exploiting the same songs. Rock N’ Roll Music was a #6 album in summer 1976, At The Hollywood Bowl was #2 one year later in mid-1977, Live In Hambourg #8 during the same period while Love Songs reached #10 during Christmas season of the same year. With such a busy release schedule plus Red and Blue that were still alive, those albums were all short lived selling from 80,000 to 150,000 copies a piece.

With all those albums and all those units moved, the band had yet to receive a certification in France. In fact, from 1973 to 1976 no CBS nor EMI artist was ever certified. In early 1977, EMI went deep into paperwork, certifying 32 albums from their artists, 5 of which from the Beatles, a number tied by Deep Purple and topped by Pink Floyd with 8 albums, although both bands enjoyed much better sales background when they issued their LPs.

The five Beatles albums over the 100,000 units mark were Red 1962/1966Blue 1967/1970, Abbey Road, White Album and Let It Be. As incredible as it may seem, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had yet to cross the mark. Interestingly, EMI took the habit to fully audit their catalog at each new certification batch. The next one saw three albums passing 100,000 units during the year, certified during the third quarter. Paul McCartney was honored for his Band On The Run album with the Wings, the Beatles with At The Hollywood Bowl which quickly topped the level criteria. A couple of months later, five new albums were awarded, Paul McCartney again with At The Speed Of Sound but no Beatles album was part of the pack. Along with his London Town LP, two new Beatles albums reached the milestone on EMI fourth historical audit in mid-1978 yet. They were Rock N’ Roll Music and, at last, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Those two albums weren’t their only albums Gold for the year. In fact, Ain’t She Sweet, The Beatles First, a budget release of their early material issued by Impact label went Gold after being issued and promoted in 1975.

In 1979, EMI did no audit at all. In 1980, with the introduction of Platinum award for 400,000 units sold, they fully audited their catalog again. Only six albums were eligible for the major – four by Pink Floyd and two by the Beatles, Red and Blue compilations. That year was also marked by the tragic murder of John Lennon, which increased the band catalog sales for some months. Below is their results up to 1981.

Studio Albums

1963 The Beatles (With The Beatles) – 40,000
1963  Les Beatles No 1 (Please Please Me) – 50,000
1964 4 Garçons Dans Le Vent (A Hard Day’s Night) – 50,000
1964 Les Beatles 1965 (Beatles For Sale) – 40,000
1965 Help! – 55,000
1965 Rubber Soul – 65,000
1966 Revolver – 85,000
1967 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 130,000
1967 Magical Mystery Tour – 60,000
1968 White Album – 150,000
1968 Yellow Submarine – 40,000
1969 Abbey Road – 205,000
1970 Let It Be – 115,000

Compilation Albums

1965 14 Plus Grands Succès – 20,000
1966 A Collection Of Beatles Oldies– 45,000
1970 The Beatles Again (US Compilation Hey Jude) – 25,000
1973 Red 1962/1966 – 560,000
1973 Blue 1967/1970 – 610,000
1975 Ain’t She Sweet, The Beatles First – 120,000
1976 Rock N’ Roll Music – 125,000
1977 Love Songs – 100,000

Live Albums

1977 At The Hollywood Bowl – 160,000
1977 Live In Hambourg – 80,000

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André Poirier

Do you have the chart listing and sales for the album «The Beatles’ First», the 1969 reissue of the 1964 German compilation of Hamburg recording of 1961-2 with Tony Sheridan. Also, in 1964, a 25 inch LP of these eight songs was released…Any info on this one ?

André Poirier

Thanks, I suspected that these editions did not do too well. But I wanted to make sure. Regards. André


You have to look at the eras that acts were active in. How many homes had record players in the 1960s, let alone the individuals in them. As time went on most kids had their own record/ cd players. It’s like comparing car sales. In the early 60s you were lucky to be a one car family. A few decades later many families had 2 and even 3 cars. It’s all relative.


I was expecting a little more coming from them, still a huge number that many acts can only dream of. Great analysis man, I will share this with my friends if you don’t mind.

About the other analysis that you made about Madonna… Do you know how much the “The Next Best Thing” soundtrack sold? Its chart-run was short-lived but it managed to peak at #36 on Billboard 200, at #19 in Germany and at #24 on the UK Soundtrack compilation chart.


It’s less than U2 and practically even with AC/DC… are you sure???? I’m shocked!


8.4 million only???? Less than Madonna??? WOW!!!


Why is it surprising? Madonna is huge in France.