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'Candle in the Wind' Selling Brightly

Pop music: First-week sales for the Elton John recording hit an estimated 2.8 million in the U.S., four times more than any one-week total since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

September 30, 1997|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

Elton John's charity recording of "Candle in the Wind 1997," the song he sang Sept. 6 at the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales, sold an estimated 2.8 million copies in U.S. record stores last week--four times more than any one-week total since SoundScan began monitoring U.S. sales in 1991.

SoundScan won't release official figures until Wednesday, but A&M Records, which distributes the single, made the sales estimate Monday, based on reports from retailers around the nation.

Mike Shallett, chief operating officer of SoundScan, said the previous seven-day high was the 632,000 set by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" during Christmas week of 1992.

Though there was no independent measure of record sales until 1991, various industry sources agreed that no record has even approached the "Candle" one-week sales. A&M, which distributes the single for Rocket Records, has orders for more than 12 million copies in this country. Proceeds from the record go to the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund.

"We sold out our initial order of 2,500 copies in two days," Laurie Miller, a clerk at Tower Records' Sunset Strip store, said Monday. "We could have sold twice that if we had them on hand. Every call this morning has been from people wanting to know when we are going to get more copies. We've got 2,000 on order."

Typically, Miller said, a blockbuster single at the store will sell about 500 copies in a week.

The nation's best-selling single the week before "Candle" hit the shelves--Boyz II Men's "4 Seasons of Loneliness"--sold around 170,000 copies.

Executives at A&M said "Candle's" sales last week were even greater than the estimated 2.8 million total because about 10% to 15% of the retail orders for the single came from outlets, including a hardware chain, that don't normally carry records and aren't monitored by SoundScan. The single, A&M suggests, may have sold another 500,000 in those stores.

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