France best selling albums ever: Back In Black by AC/DC (1980)
Rarely a band had a twelve months period with so many key happenings. From July 1979 to July 1980 Australian rock band AC/DC released they worldwide breakthrough hit (Highway To Hell), completed their first international tour, suffered the passing of their lead singer Bon Scott and released one of the best selling albums ever, Back In Black.
Orphans of their leader in February 1980, less than one month after the end of Highway To Hell Tour, remaining members of the group questioned the future of their story. They decided to recruit English singer Brian Johnson that was appreciated by Bon Scott. Not everyone believed the official announcement since it was done on April 1st, but a mere three months later a fresh new album with Brian Johnson behind the mic was available everywhere in the world, Back In Black. The lead single You Shook Me All Night Long was a big worldwide hit, remaining a cult rock song to this day.
In France, the group was already very popular. Their previous tour included nothing less than 17 dates in the country, only one less than in UK highlighting the group status there. Back In Black almost naturally reached #1 once the lead single went Top 10. Second hit Hells Bells was a tribute to previous singer but also a instant classic track, just like the third single, title track Back In Black. The album immediately passed the 100,000 copies mark during its three weeks at the top and was over 340,000 units by the end of 1980 with nearly four months inside the Top 10. It added three more months Top 10 in 1981 thanks to aforementioned third single as well as the fourth one titled Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. Selling upwards 240,000 copies during 1981, a Platinum (400,000) award was earned that year, before selling an additional 40,000 units in 1982.
In 2001, WEA did a major audit of most of their biggest historical albums, including Back In Black. It was certified 2xPlatinum, representing 600,000 units, roughly what it sold by 1982, which look like a mistake considering the catalog appeal of this record. This catalog appeal largely evolved depending on the eras yet. From 1983, the band popularity severally dropped. Their last two albums of the decade, Fly On The Wall and Blow Up Your Video failed to chart, just like the two side projects 74′ Jailbreak and Who Made Who. From 1990 and the record The Razors Edge the band started to recover their past popularity.
The album Live in 1992 reminded the public why they used to love the band and following 1995 album Ballbreaker was a big hit. Stiff Upper Lip, released in 2000, was everything except a classic but at least gave AC/DC catalog a notable boost. As an illustration of this growing catalog appeal, in 1994 this album never charted inside the US Top 50 Catalog Chart. From 1995 to 1999, it charted an impressive 196 weeks although never reaching the Top 10. From 2000 to 2009, it charted 469 weeks and made the Top 10 in each and every year of the decade.
The same phenomenon happened in France. From 1983 to 1994 the album never charted, selling an estimated 10,000 copies per year. From 1995 to 1999, it never charted again although was selling an estimated 20,000 copies per year, especially thanks to the boost of their 1995 tour. During the 00s, the progressive fall of the market was compensated by their increase in popularity. Even if their main catalog item remained Live, Back In Black album sold 30,000 units in 2000/2001, bringing its cumulative tally to 870,000, thus explaining why the set was updated to only 2xPlatinum as it was still short of the 900,000 units plateau.
This certification is almost 15 years old yet and the strong sales managed since pushed the record to the million mark. It sold 15,000 copies in 2002, 79,000 copies in 2003-2008 plus 100,000 since 2009. It passed the million milestone during this latter period, explaining why it was never certified as the Diamond award level was dropped to 500,000 in-between.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,065,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, GFK.