France best selling albums ever:
Red & Blue albums by The Beatles (1973)

Here comes the very first article about two albums rather than one. Some three years after their last studio album, The Beatles have put the cherry on the cake with the release of a pair of hits packages. The first one, the Red album as per its cover, featured hits from 1962 to 1966 while the second, Blue album, was fulfilled with smashes from their latter career, covering years 1967 to 1970.

When first released, both compilations did well but they haven’t took charts by storm as 1 did some 27 years later. Both albums stayed three months inside the Top 10 during summer period, with 1962-1966 peaking at #3 and 1967-1970 at #5. Those peaks are almost an anomaly in that 1967-1970 has always been the better seller of the two, with a small advance. While those solid performances weren’t record breaking, both albums went on to sell well for many years. They dropped out of the Top 20 after October 1973 but got back in January 1974 after the Christmas rush was over. During that year they reproduced a similar chart run, ranking Top 20 many months on weaker sales periods and dropping out when the competition was bigger. In both 1975 and 1976 the Blue 1967-1970 album had very brief returns on charts showing its consistency. Although Red 1962-1966 failed to do the same, as there sales were quite similar and the former album chart at the lowest positions, there is little doubt the Red set was close to rankings as well.

Sales-wise the Blue set sold an estimated 250,000 copies by early 1975 while Red was on 230,000 units. They got certified Gold, representing 100,000 units, in 1977 only mostly because there label failed to care about official awards. Those later distinctions were introduced in 1973 and needed some years to get credit from various labels that were used to certify their artists with in-house plaques. When Pathé-Marconi did their first historical large audit in 1977, six Beatles albums went Gold including the two big selling 1973 compilations.

In 1976-77, other albums covering the same songs got released like Rock N Roll Music, At The Hollywood Bowl, Live In Hambourg and Love Songs. Those releases downgraded the profile of Red and Blue sets although they kept selling well, especially with the booming album market in the second half of the decade that generated many new regular buyers. Thanks to this, sales of both compilations doubled from their early 1975 point to 1980 with Blue being estimated on 500,000 units while Red was on 460,000. On that year, Platinum awards got created with a requirement of 400,000 units. Only two Beatles albums were over that mark when their label audited the catalog, very precisely both Red and Blue LPs.

Years 1980-1981 were good in sales column because of the tragic murder of John Lennon, each album adding over 20% to their tally. With the market going down from 1982 and the absence of a CD version decreased the interest in those compilations from mid-80s, catalog sales went downhill as the decade advanced. From 1982 to 1992, estimates are on 190,000 and 175,000 units for Blue and Red albums bringing their cumulative tallies up to 800,000 and 730,000 copies respectively.

In late 1993, both albums finally got issued in CD format for their 20th anniversary. EMI always used that trick, holding the demand during years to create a huge hype once the demand is ultimately fulfilled. It has been done with those CD reissues, the career spanning compilation coming only in 2000, the 2009 release of remasters after several months of originals deletion, the availability on iTunes first and on Streaming platforms second. Fact is, the strategy always did wonders. We can see it with Red and Blue reissues in CD. Both albums stormed into charts with the former entering at #2 blocked only by the latter that first topped charts 20 years after the original release.

This impressive 1993-1994 run by both albums represented 300,000 buyers for Blue album plus 275,000 for Red one, pushing both of them past the million mark in total. Since, they remained pretty solid catalog sellers and got boosted strongly by 2010 remasters as well. Sales by time frames are displayed below:

  • 1973-1974: 230,000 (Red) & 250,000 (Blue)
  • 1975-1979: 230,000 (Red) & 250,000 (Blue)
  • 1980-1981: 100,000 (Red) & 110,000 (Blue)
  • 1982-1992: 170,000 (Red) & 190,000 (Blue)
  • 1993-1994: 275,000 (Red) & 300,000 (Blue)
  • 1993-2002: 160,000 (Red) & 175,000 (Blue)
  • 2003-2008: 75,000 (Red) & 85,000 (Blue)
  • 2009-2015: 120,000 (Red) & 130,000 (Blue)

Red 1962-1966 net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,360,000 copies.

Blue 1967-1970 net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,490,000 copies.

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

Sources: SNEP, CIDD, Platine, IFOP, GFK.

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