France best selling albums ever: Rêveries by Richard Clayderman (1979)
Years before saxophone had Kenny G and violin had Andre Rieu, the piano instrument also had his flagship with French instrumentalist Richard Clayderman.
A couple of years after breaking the main audience with his debut original hit Ballade Pour Adeline, Richard Clayderman already defined well his outputs by selling both popular and classical music instrumentals to the masses.
1979 LP Rêveries notably included covers of very famous songs a la Yesterday (the Beatles), Für Elise (Beethoven) or Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel) among many others. As this tracklist was used as his breakthrough album worldwide, the pianist own Ballade Pour Adeline was also included.
While chart performances weren’t necessarily impressive due to this kind of artists, similarly to Julio Iglesias, were poorly represented on unofficial charts panels. He exploded big time in 1979 yet with two albums, Rêveries and Lettre A Ma Mère. Both sold over half a million units within’ a year but Rêveries even went much further passing the million mark. By September 1980, Richard Clayderman had sold an outstanding 9 million albums worldwide in 18 months, a tally that climbed to 28 million by late 1982. This unreal total, especially considering the artist sold almost no album in US and UK up to that point, included a massive 5,5 million albums sold in France. By that time more than a dozen of different albums were already issued in the country, way more elsewhere. Both 1979 hit albums were his highest sellers with estimated figures of 1,25 million and 800,000 units respectively. Those figures do not include the 3LP set released in 1980 that contained both of those albums and sold upwards 200,000 copies.
Predictably with this kind of acts who release compilation of songs rather than proper studio albums, this original album failed to get large catalog sales, being now deleted for long, replaced by many other compilations of his career. Ironically, from 1984, just like his popularity was exploding in the US and in UK, his fame decreased strongly in France. Rêveries still increased its count by an estimated 100,000 more during the 80s and 50,000 since, mostly in early CD era.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,400,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, Platine, Billboard.