We tend to forget our geography lessons too quickly. Until the fall of the former USSR and the wall of Berlin, there was various state-owned labels in Eastern Europe that used to control what was coming out or not. They often used compilations that are completely unknown from the rest of the world. One of the most famous examples is no doubt Beatles‘ 1986 compilation A Taste Of Honey which shipped 300,000 units upon release in USSR. It was their first legal album ever released there.
Presley also had his share of state-owned records. Here they are!
Bulgaria – Balkanton
The most collected record from the state owned label Balkanton is Michael Jackson‘s Thriller with 1,162 owners across 18 versions. Presley does extremely well there too. His Bulgarian-only compilations Elvis from 1985 and Rock-And-Roll from 1986 are among the Top 10 most owned foreign albums from this country with respectively 682 and 566 users collecting them. While we lack data about Bulgaria to set up highly reliable processes, over 500 owners of an LP from the 80s make both of them very likely 6-digits sellers in this country.
Czechoslovakia – Opus / Supraphon
The discography of Presley in Czechoslovakia was made of 2 records Pure Gold and Promised Land, from 1978 and 1980, respectively. With 50 and 40 owners a piece, they are not huge sellers there, which is consistent with his low popularity in this market as shown by our global heatmap. Jackson‘s Thriller which shipped 100,000 units by 1985, has 255 owners up to date from its Supraphon versions. Surprisingly, the most owned record from this country is a compilation of James Brown.
East Germany / GDR – Amiga label
The only official Presley release in East Germany was a compilation titled Elvis in 1978. With 489 owners it is no fluke. The top performer at Discogs from the AMIGA label is once again Jackson‘s Thriller at 1,434. Applying the same ratio than standard German releases suggests around 100,000 sales for Elvis.
Hungary – Pepita
The state label from Hungary never issued Presley recordings. Instead, the top 3 best performing foreign albums there are A Hard Day’s Night (1981, 373 owners) and Please Please Me (1982, 333) by the Beatles and the Best of Pink Floyd (1983, 263).
USSR – Melodiya
Along with some music clubs, USSR sales must be one of the biggest black boxes of the music industry. The Melodiya label used to be massive. The only label in existence during the era of the USSR, it grossed over $200 million per year.
I already mentioned A Taste of Honey by the Beatles, which shipped 300,000 units upon release and sold strongly for 4 years. With sales anywhere from half a million units to a million, it has an immense 2,096 owners. Led Zeppelin actually outperform them with the local compilation Stairway to Heaven at 2,285.
Guess what? Presley also got his monster selling compilation in the USSR. The 1988 best of That’s All Right has 885 owners and likely as many as 300,000 purchasers.
Yugoslavia – Jugoton
Unlike remaining state-owned labels, Jugoton used to drop many international albums. Presley himself got more than 50 distinct albums issued there, combining for nearly 800 owners. Our favorite scale, Thriller, once again among the most owned albums in the country, has 479 owners from Yugoslavia where it had shipped 112,000 units by 1984, which sets the mark on over 200,000 for Presley in this market.
With this article, the discography of Elvis Presley has no more secrets for you. Same for loopholes and state-owned labels. While evidencing these albums, we completed our all-around study of the King’s career. Next up: his CSPC article with all results. Stay tuned!
Sources: Discogs, Chartmasters.org, Memphis Recording Service, Billboard, Elvisoncd, Jorgensen, Agora SA, Le Monde, OCC, BPI, Not Now Music, RPM, SNEP.