France best selling albums ever: Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (1977)
Worldwide, there was a strong debate until the beginning of 1978 about which album was the bestselling ever. Sound Of Music soundtrack, Led Zeppelin set IV, Abbey Road by the Beatles, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel and Tapestry by Carole King were all part of the discussion at 15-ish million copies sold a piece. One movie and its related soundtrack ended all speeches within’ a few months, Saturday Night Fever.
In France, the success of the Bee Gees led soundtrack was undeniable as well. Historically, to enable main actors to promote a movie upon release, the movies industry always used a three to six months time span to release blockbuster movies, spreading largest markets every two or three weeks. This is why Saturday Night Fever movie was released in December 16 1977 in the US, March 13 1978 in Italy, March 24 1978 in UK and April 5 1978 in France.
Obviously, months before reaching April month, Polydor already saw the gigantic success of the soundtrack in the US. That’s why they released How Deep Is Your Love Bee Gees smash as early as in January. The track even climbed to #1 for a week in March, before the movie release, while the soundtrack was just outside the Top 10. The single and the album respectively sold 300,000 and 50,000 units prior the movie release. The hype surrounding the movie was absolutely insane, unseen up to that date. While the 4,3 million entries registered in theaters were already very solid, sales of related records went through the roof. How Deep Is Your Love went back to #1 for an additional six weeks once the movie was premiered. The Soundtrack shot to the top as well.
Although #1 on both charts plus second single Stayin’ Alive #2, those positions were still not fully reflecting the monster sales achieved by those records. In fact, while the album really took off along with the movie in early April, by mid-June sales were already crossing the million mark, representing an average of 100,000 copies shifted per week. Remaining #1 all summer long, the LP was already ’14 times Gold’ according to Polydor France by the end of August, 1,4 million sales, as per the same link. After deep researches all figures announced at the time were doubled yet, counting the number of discs rather than the number of albums.
The album only lost the top spot in October and was still Top 10 a couple of more months, pushing its tally to over 1,8 million discs sold by the end of the year, some 900,000 albums. The two aforementioned singles plus the lower profile third one Night Fever sold a cumulated 1,9 million units. By January 20 1979, the exact album count was on 1,966,368 (=983,000) copies sold in France, up to 2,1 million by July 1981, representing 1,05 million albums sold.
Unlike Grease soundtrack that succeeded it in 1978, Saturday Night Fever failed to become a monster catalog seller. Due to this latter album being highly related to the Bee Gees, sales of their compilations, including 1979 Greatest, ate sales of the original LP. Grease obviously had no such competition since John Travolta isn’t a proper singer and has no catalog selling compilation. Saturday Night Fever still had a great revival in 1995, peaking at #15 with close to 100,000 units sold. Sales are estimated on 1,2 million by 1990, 1,45 million by 2000 and 1,53 million by now.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,530,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, Platine, IFOP, Billboard, L’Express, Le Nouvel Observateur, Quid.