CSPC: Elton John Popularity Analysis

Elton John

Original Album Sales – Comments

1969 Empty Sky – 710,000
1970 Elton John – 2,650,000
1970 Tumbleweed Connection – 2,090,000
1971 Friends – 440,000
1971 Madman Across the Water – 3,270,000
1972 Honky Château – 3,280,000
1973 Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player – 5,460,000
1973 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 12,510,000
1974 Caribou – 3,760,000
1975 Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – 5,910,000
1975 Rock of the Westies – 2,290,000
1976 Blue Moves – 2,410,000
1978 A Single Man – 2,410,000
1979 Victim of Love – 620,000
1980 21 at 33 – 1,400,000
1981 The Fox – 1,010,000
1982 Jump Up! – 1,330,000
1983 Too Low for Zero – 3,350,000
1984 Breaking Hearts – 2,530,000
1985 Ice on Fire – 2,390,000
1986 Leather Jackets – 750,000
1988 Reg Strikes Back – 1,880,000
1989 Sleeping with the Past – 5,540,000
1992 The One – 5,680,000
1993 Duets – 3,550,000
1995 Made in England – 3,690,000
1997 The Big Picture – 3,120,000
1999 The Muse – 100,000
2000 The Road to El Dorado – 300,000
2001 Songs from the West Coast – 1,940,000
2004 Peachtree Road – 820,000
2006 The Captain & the Kid – 390,000
2010 The Union – 500,000
2013 The Diving Board – 310,000
2016 Wonderful Crazy Night – 240,000

Some 88,63 million studio album sales across 35 releases. The average may not seem impressive for a singer as popular as John, but there are several reasons to explain this situation.

During the first half of the 70s he was undoubtedly the biggest pop star in English-speaking countries. This preceded the real explosion of the LP format though. At the time even the Platinum award was still not invented as 500,000 units was already a tremendous achievement. Most mega-sellers from the years 1970-1975, led by the likes Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) and IV (Led Zeppelin) achieved the largest part of their sales thanks to catalog appeal. The point is that except Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which is still widely available and frequently promoted, the remaining studio albums by John are ignored. Both by his labels and by his fans. Original marketing campaigns of those albums were also axed around only two single releases at most, with new LPs coming out every semester. The lack of success in key markets like Japan, Germany and France didn’t help either. All these elements combined limited the potential of early 70s albums, the biggest ones.

In fact, as early as in 1974 John had a monster selling compilation, Greatest Hits. This very early choice of releasing compilations destroyed any kind of chance for his studio albums to amass relevant amounts in the long run to make up for the limited market initially available.

Then his flamboyant years came to an end. From A Single Man at last he started to enjoy some success in continental Europe and in Latin America, but it was also his first album to fail to reach the Top 10 altogether in the US. Victim of Love was a disaster everywhere and the next 3 albums remained fairly low sellers by his standards.

Too Low for Zero operated a strong comeback with 3,35 million sales in part thanks to the hit I’m Still Standing. Albums such as Breaking Hearts and Ice On Fire all had their own hits with Sad Songs and Nikita respectively pushing them to more than 2 million units each. Leather Jackets shot down this nice string with chaotic results.

John then managed to revive his success thanks to the smash Sacrifice from the album Sleeping with the Past. This opened the door to an extraordinary decade for the singer. During the 90s his studio albums mostly failed to register big hits, but he did achieve several hits like Can’t You Feel The Love Tonight from the Lion King Soundtrack and the Candle In The Wind tribute to Lady Diana, a song initially released on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The market was so big in the 90s that all the old glories regarded as cool were registering 3-5 million album sales per record on their name alone. This happened to the Rolling Stones, to Bruce Springsteen, to Eric Clapton, …, to Elton John. For this reason the song Sacrifice was really essential to the success of the latter part of John‘s career.

Late 90s Soundtracks and the rough failure of Peachtree Road killed this positive momentum. For the last 15 years the singer hasn’t managed to recover. Now nearly 71, we can hardly blame him for not being a fresh pop star anymore. His successful period already outlasted most artists with 30 years of great showings. This was also visible inside the Singles charts that we are going to examine right now.

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I can’t believe that in Wikipedia it is mentioned that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sold 30 million copies.


Wikipedia, as we know it, is built by anonymous contributors. Some are reliables, others aren’t. And often, artists pages are fanmade… The 30 million copies for GYBR are as fake and ridiculously inflated as the 1 billion sales claims for the Beatles and Elvis. Or the 750 million sales for MJ, 110 million for Thriller, 300 million for Nana Mouskouri, 45 million for Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, etc.


Biggest Tracks

16. 1983 – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues [Too Low for Zero]4,180,000
17. 1995 – Can You Feel the Love Tonight [Orphan]3,470,000
18. 1975 – Philadelphia Freedom [Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy]3,280,000

The Lion King soundtrack sold 18m though… I understand that you wouldn’t want to credit him for the entire soundtrack, but I feel like he should be credited to some extent, especially if the Tarzan soundtrack is credited entirely to Phil Collins.


hi, coming back to this article im curious as total of dont let the sun go down on me. what are the separate sales for the original and the george michael duet?


hello what are the total AES for George Michael and Elton John’s version of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me??


What about “Don’t go breaking my heart”? It doesn’t appear on the list although it may have been his biggest hit single during the 70s.


perhaps I’m too blind to find it. I’m not refering to the 1993 version from the Duets album. The original version from 1976 is not on the list with the physical singles. If I overlooked it please tell me.


It *is* on the physical singles list, but it’s missing from the digital singles list.


On which page exactly? I’m sorry, but I’m still confused because it’s not listed under “Rock of the Westies”.


I think that would be fair weight to the extra value of the good box sets. Certainally the people who bought”to be continued” wouldn’t have ran out and bought all the studio albums that made it up. They would have probably bought volume I, II and maybe III of his greatest hits, but the box set had some nice extras in it. So I think if that was given a weight of 2 albums that would be a logical offset. On the other hand, I think if the best of Led Zeppelin would have come out prior to the Led… Read more »


Wow, awesome article. I really thought Elton would finish higher, but still an amazing figure. One thing I was wondering about is why a box set, like “to be continued” is only counted as one unit in the CSPC. I remember buying that box set when it came out, because next to Led Zeppelin it was one of the most comprehensive box sets ever released, and as I recall it was in the neighborhood of $60.00, the equivalent of about 5 or 6 regular album sales at the time. On the other hand Queen’s Platinum Collection was counted 3 times… Read more »


Hi Lance! Interesting question there! Though MJD might explain it further, I believe the main reason for this is because of the nature of the 2 sets. Both are classified as box sets by Wikipedia, but here, Queen’s Platinum Collection is definitely a box set, while To Be Continued is classified as a compilation set. I believe the reason here is because the 3 discs on The Platinum Collection have the same track list as their 3 Greatest Hits Album (I,II and III). Thus, when this box set was released, it cannibalized the catalog sales of all those 3 albums.… Read more »


Apparently, MJD also referred to this situation as well!

MJD: Elton really suffers from an exploitation of his catalog that doesn’t benefit sales units. First, he never had a major selling box set. The only one close to that, To Be Continued…, was a ‘new’ package rather than already existing sets put together.

I hope this answers your question!


I see the logic in it, and I also understand that this site measures popularity and not necessarily the monetary value of sales created the way Billboard tries to, which I think is good because a double album that sells 7 million albums isn’t more popular then a single album that sells 13 million albums. However, I’d argue the 350,000 copies of “to be continued” cannibalized several times that number in studio albums and compilations because it was such a comprehensive set, just as Queen Platnum and the individual Greatest hits albums that made it up cannibalized it’s back catalog,… Read more »


Hi MJD, perhaps a bonus article for your top 10 greatest superbowl halftime shows ever?


I also think Candle in the Wind (the charity single) should be included in Elton John’s total. It may be an outlier and not truly reflective of his popularity but Elton’s popularity coupled with his musical ability in co-writing the song and adjusting the lyrics helped it sell 30 million copies. If that song had been recorded by any other singer (Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, George Michael, Billy Joel, Liam Gallagher etc) it would not have sold any where near that number. The original was written about Marilyn Monroe and this version adapted for Lady Di, both women… Read more »


I can see why MJD didnt include sales of the Titanic album soundtrack to Celine Dion’s name but not including Candle In The Wind to Elton John’s is definitely unacceptable.


But Billboard awarded Celine the soundtrack’s album of year award , and receive name also wrote her


You have a point. The Bodyguard sales was added to Whitney Houston’s sales. And since Kevin Costner’s name is also on the album cover, then Kevin Costner should also share the sales with Whitney.


I point Billboard recognizeed Titanic soundtrack as Celine’s album, present award to her: the name refer to the award


1998 Album of the Year
Celine Dion “Titanic”
1998 Soundtrack Album of the Year
Celine Dion “Titanic”


I was thinking about this matter last night and today and thinking Madonna shouldnt be credited for the sales of Evite because it was for Evita. But when i tried to weigh things more, I have realized that you are more right than what i think is right. So im sorry but now, I agree with you. 🙂


I agree that CITW should be added to Elton’s sales.
I can certainly see the charity aspect, but it is:
1. A Taupin/John penned song
2. Performed by no one else but Elton John
3. Released as a single by Elton John
4. Performed live at Diana’s funeral in front of a billion people by Elton John

But in my mind, I also add groups and solo artists for totals like MJ and Jacksons/J5 together, so no biggie

Nuclear dolphin

I think AC/DC may have a shot at 200 million! Only them and Elvis are left. There are sources on the net that say AC/DC sold more albums than Queen, U2 or The Stones. It’s gonna be close folks! Prepare for a surprise!


i doubt they will be more than 180 million but we shall see.

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