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Something to Twist and Shout About : Pop music: Beatles' album sells more than 855,000 copies its first week--the third highest ever--and initial figures are believed to be a revenue record.

November 30, 1995|JERRY CROWE and ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Beatles and Garth Brooks made last week one to remember, both for the EMI-Capitol Music Group of North America and the music industry as a whole.

SoundScan reported Wednesday that "The Beatles Anthology 1" on EMI's Capitol label sold more than 855,000 copies in its first week in the stores, the third-highest debut week of any album since SoundScan began monitoring sales in 1991.

Only Pearl Jam's "Vs.," which sold 950,000 copies in 1993, and its follow-up "Vitalogy," which sold 877,000 copies last year, registered higher opening-week totals.

But the Pearl Jam albums were both single-disc collections, while "Anthology" is a higher priced, two-disc package. At a conservatively estimated average sale price of $24, the album generated an estimated $20.5 million in retail volume, which is believed to be the most revenue ever by an album in its first week.

The previous 1995 high for a two-disc album was the 391,000 sales of Michael Jackson's "HIStory" last summer.

In addition, Brooks' "Fresh Horses" on EMI's Capitol Nashville label sold 480,000 copies last week, the highest first-week total for a single-disc album since last December, when Brooks' "The Hits" sold 520,000 during its first week in release.

The Beatles and Brooks albums helped push last week's total album sales to 16.6 million, up 12% over what were considered robust sales figures for the same week in 1994. Thanksgiving week sales are widely viewed in the industry as a bellwether for the holiday sales period.

"It's staggering. . . . Exactly what the record business needed--a blockbuster to drive people into the stores," Gary Gersh, president and CEO of Capitol Records, said of the Beatles' sales spurt.

Though he estimated that "Anthology" sold another 200,000 copies in supermarkets and other outlets, the SoundScan figure is the industry standard because there is no independent system that measures the additional sales.

But SoundScan confirmed that demand for Beatles product, which was primed by ABC-TV's three-night documentary series on the band, resulted in about 250,000 older Beatles albums' being sold last week.

The week's news was good for Brooks too.

"Had this been any other week, the first words out of my mouth today would have been about how big the sales on Garth Brooks were," said Gary Arnold, merchandise manager for the 251-store Best Buy chain.

Charles Koppelman, chairman and CEO of the EMI-Capitol Group, phoned Brooks to congratulate him last week as soon as sales figures began rolling in.

"[Brooks] asked about the Beatles and I said they were doing better, but I told him, 'You've got to remember that there were four of them and there's just one of you,' " Koppelman joked.

Other albums in the top five last week were Mariah Carey's "Daydream" (254,000 copies), Mannheim Steamroller's "Christmas in the Aire" (204,000) and the "Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack (196,000). Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad" sold 107,000 copies its first week, earning 11th place on the sales list.

Times staff writer Chuck Philips contributed to this story.

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