France best selling albums ever: Breakfast In America by Supertramp (1979)
When reaching this album I almost feel the need to immediately contradict all fanciful claims about French sales of this album. Yes, Breakfast In America was a big hit album, but no it has not sold 3,2 million as ridiculously claimed by Infodisc, not even close.
The popularity of Supertramp was awful in France until 1977 with their few tour dates here selling virtually no ticket at all – reportedly eight sales, including six by their manager – with only invited people in the little crowd. During 77-78 yet they started to gain fame. Weirdly enough, their first albums to appear on charts were boxes of Crisis? What Crisis?, Crime Of The Century and Even In The Quietest Moments… rather than the stand alone studio albums. In 1978 their new tour was already rather big and all their back catalog was starting to move interesting numbers, not even to chart but enough to send the latter two aforementioned records past Gold (100,000) status.
From the start of 1979, lead single The Logical Song of their new Breakfast In America album was released quickly flooding all FM radios. According to infodisc website, it pushed the album #1 on unofficial charts for an unreal 40 weeks. So unreal that… it isn’t true. Julio Iglesias album A Vous Les Femmes released at the same time, peaked at #4 and charted only five weeks top 10. Guess what? Iglesias album easily outsold the Supertramp set during 1979. In August 1979 Jean-Michel Jarre top two albums crushed everyone including Supertramp too.
Their album still moved an incredible 250,000 copies after only seven weeks. After four months, it was up to 450,000 units, an impressive figure, especially with both singles The Logical Song and Goodbye Stranger selling large amounts as well. Subsequent singles failed to sell that well by themselves but maintained a high level of sales for the album. Their popularity climbed so high than their two previous Gold albums climbed past Platinum (400,000) and their 1980 live album was named Paris after being recorded in the country Capital. While there was no multi-Platinum nor Diamond certifications at the time and this record had never been updated since, we do know Breakfast In America had moved 800,000 units by early 1980 while it was nearing the million mark by 1986, out of a total 4 million units in Europe as reported the previous year by the Billboard.
That 1986 year was also the one that saw the release of the band first compilation album, The Autobiography of Supertramp. While it failed to move significant numbers it ate sales of the studio albums that were already low since mid-80s was a truly bad era for catalog sales due to the switch in formats. In 1990, The Very Best Of took off, selling incredibly well during the 90s. In fact, it is a million seller soon to be added on this master series.
Breakfast In America finally reappeared on French charts in 2009 thanks to an entry in catalog chart to celebrate the album 30th anniversary. The Deluxe reissue from 2010 added to the reunion tour from the band the same year increased largely the profile of Supertramp again. Since 2011 the 1979 classic album charted an incredible 48 weeks in the main chart. It sold an estimated 200,000 units from 1986 to 2010 and 90,000 since 2011.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,240,000 copies.
As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!
Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, Billboard, Cashbox, Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur.