France best selling albums ever: Les Marquises by Jacques Brel (1977)
There is some artists for who even words like iconic or legendary seem to fell short of illustrating their greatness. That’s how Jacques Brel is still regarded up to this day in France and various other European countries.
From 1953 to 1968, the Belgian interpret recorded loads of cult French songs, including Ne Me Quitte Pas, Amsterdam or Quand On A Que L’Amour. He announced his departure from the music scene as early as in 1966, just before his Olympia appearance that remains one of the most famous show ever in France. From that point, Jacques Brel was strongly looking for exploration both artistic and geographic. During almost a decade, he lived on various exotic places and barely released one album of covers from his own catalogue in 1972 due to contractual constraints.
In late 1974 the artist was diagnosed a lung cancer at an advanced state. He first decided to die alone and left to the Marquises island, some little area in the Pacific ocean midway between Australia and South America. By 1977, the artist wanted to release a farewell record. He came in France, quickly recorded Les Marquises in September and left back to his island on the day of release of the album. Never an album has been more anticipated in the history of France. Even before its release, 1 million copies had been pressed already, despite the artist completely refusing any kind of promotion. This figure was an overall figure Jacques Brel being one of the few French language artist with a strong appeal in various countries.
Giving both the insane expectations and the lack of promotion, it was a very short-lived record. Dominating the album chart during 1977 Christmas rush, the album sold to consumers over 600,000 units during its first six weeks. Less than a year after the album release, in October 1978, Jacques Brel passed away.
By the end of 1978, Les Marquises had sold in excess of 900,000 units in France alone, including over 700,000 in LP format.
Since that date but essentially from 1988, the catalog of Jacques Brel was extensively exploited with various hits packages and also several Integral type boxed sets. The appeal of this LP is still large enough to enable it to reenter charts in 1996 at #40, plus in 2001 at #135, highlighting continuous interest in this original record. Estimated on 1,15 million by 1988, the album added some 275,000 copies since.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,425,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Platine, IFOP, L’Express, Top France.