France best selling albums ever:
Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé by Jean-Jacques Goldman (1987)

Coming back after his album Non Homologué, the only one which topped Dire Straits gigantic Brothers In Arms in 1985-6, Jean-Jacques Goldman was aiming to duplicate this smash.

By 1987, the artist had been releasing hit after hit after hit for five full years, most of them being Top 10 singles. His 1985, released for the Christmas season, ranked 15 months in a row inside the Top 10. A live record, En Public, was issued for Christmas 1986 and was a big hit too staying inside the Top 30 for nearly one year. Close to saturation point, Jean-Jacques Goldman still released a new LP for 1987 fall, a double one, Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé. The lead single Elle A Fait Un Bébé Toute Seul was released a full four months prior the album to enable a second single to come out along with the LP, a rare promotional method at the time that became the norm many years later. It was a strong #4 hit.

The album easily debuted at #1 despite being released at the same time as You’re Under Arrest, the new Serge Gainsbourg album. The second single, the duet with Sirima Là-Bas was launched at the time. A classic song that stayed five weeks at #2, it supported the album impressively well. In fact, this later never dropped from the top spot during 18 consecutive weeks, including the entire Christmas season.

Just like U2 with the album The Joshua Tree a few months earlier, this long run at the top is misleading. Apart from the debut week, the album faced rather weak competition. During Christmas week, its runner up was Madonna album You Can Dance and although Madonna was incredibly successful at the time this was only a remix album. By the end of this run at the top, the album was up to a still solid 500,000 copies sold.

In early 1988 the album was still promoted by Là-Bas hit, never leaving the Top 3 during the first quarter. The second quarter was not as big as third single C’est Ta Chance (#16) failed to attract the masses. It was the first Jean-Jacques Goldman single to miss the Top 10 since the official Singles Chart was introduced in 1984, all his previous eight singles had peaked #6 or better. Similarly, the album slowed down a bit by ranking #17 by the summer.

A last, but not least, single was released in July. Puisque Tu Pars spent 15 weeks inside the Top 10, peaking at #3. The album instantly responded, climbing back to #2, only blocked by the huge Eric Serra soundtrack Le Grand Bleu. By the end of the year, this record had yet to drop below #17 in spite of being available for 14 months.

What about sales? If his previous album was the best seller from 1985-6, Jean-Jacques Goldman ended as the best selling artist from both 1987 and 1988, each time ahead of Michael Jackson, both times with over 2 million discs sold, more precisely 2,3 million in 1987 and 2,4 million in 1988. How are those sales spread over his catalog?

  • During 1987 – 2,300,000
    • Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé – 425,000 sets – 850,000 units
    • En Public – 300,000 sets – 600,000 units
    • Singles – 750,000
    • Back catalog – 100,000
  • During 1988 – 2,400,000
    • Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé – 725,000 sets – 1,500,000 units
    • En Public – 100,000 sets – 200,000 units
    • Singles – 650,000
    • Back catalog – 100,000

The 1,15 million copies sold of this album gave it the honor of receiving the very first Diamond certification ever awarded, in 1988.

It was not completely dead yet as it was still #6 in early 1989.  In March, a live album – Traces – of the related tour was released. Two new songs initially from Entre Gris Clair Et Gris Foncé got their chance as singles, both Top 20 hits. Newly sold copies pushed the record up to 1,3 million units by the end of the decade.

Catalog sales wise, while this album is not especially big among Goldman records, this singer always sold large amounts of his past albums. At 30,000 copies a year from 1990 to 1995, until the release of compilation Singulier, and a little less than 10,000 copies a year from 1996 to 2015, the album added 350,000 units to its total.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,650,000 copies.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, Billboard, Rock Music Magazine, Platine.

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