France best selling albums ever: Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre (1976)
With a grandfather creator of the first French radio mixing console and a father that composed iconic soundtracks like Lawrence Of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago or Ghost, one may expect the son to have some skills related to music. Jean-Michel Jarre did had some and used this contextual knowledge to become one of the most predominant electronic music pioneer.
From 1966 when he turned 18 to 1975, Jean-Michel Jarre was busy composing music for TV shows, movies or special events. He was also very active writing songs including big hits for artists like Christophe, Gérard Lenorman and Patrick Juvet. While his name was still unknown by the general public the release of his first proper studio album Oxygène in December 1976 quickly changed this situation.
Containing six songs each named Oxygène part X with X the number of the track and released mostly with several synthesizer, the album was revolutionary. Such unusual releases rarely impact the public and radios, but this one did just that. The lead single, Part IV, gained popularity in early 1977. The album was already up to 70,000 units by March having cracked the Top 10, topping his label expectations. The single climbed as high as #3.
Those results were first achieved despite low exposure. Giving the obvious potential, Medias and radios started to give it more attention. By May, the album was already #1 and retained the top during a massive four months before returning to it in November with the help of Part II single. The hype was so big in France that the album was exported in various markets, peaking at an incredible #2 position in UK for five weeks. Locally, the eight consecutive months without leaving the Top helped sales up to a calculated 877,000 units by the end of 1977, a gigantic figure for the time.
Continuing its run first inside the Top 20 and then lower down charts during the year 1978, the album was already on 1 million when he got a second life. It happened in National Day, July 14. On that date, Jean-Michel Jarre performed an outdoor free show in Place De La Concorde in Paris. The success of the event reached a magnitude out of this world with 1 million persons joining the audience. At that point, follow up album Equinoxe was already released. His label used this hype to drop a 2CD box of both albums, which was the largest selling album of 1978 summer, shipping over 350,000 units (700,000 discs) within’ six weeks, out of a 800,000 total for the artist.
In January 1981, sales were up to more than 1,5 million total. During this decade, the composer released various successful albums and kept doing monster outdoor events. Sales are estimated close to 1,8 million by 1991 and 1,95 million by 2007. That year, the 30th anniversary edition of the record was released, selling 30,000 units in slightly more than a month. The album also charted in 2008, 2009 and 2015, selling an estimated 115,000 units since the reissue.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 2,065,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Platine, IFOP, GFK, Billboard.