But that new record comes with an overlooked caveat: It’s the fastest-selling record since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music purchases in 1991.
So, with that in mind, who really holds the record for fastest-selling record of all time? President John F. Kennedy.
This week, 52 years ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sold an astonishing 4 million copies in its first six days of availability, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
It cost 99 cents a copy.
The record was released just 15 days after Kennedy’s assassination, by Premier Albums Inc., a now-defunct label based out of New York City. All proceeds from the sale went to the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for intellectual and developmental disabilities research.
Both sides of the LP consisted of excerpts from some of the late president’s most memorable oratory moments: his televised debate with Nixon; his 1960 DNC nomination speech; his oath of office for the presidency; his inaugural address; his “moon speech”; his remarks on the Cuban missile crisis; and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. A man named Ed Brown narrated the entire affair.
The radio station WMCA in New York first broadcast the production on the night of Kennedy’s death, but the album still managed to sell at a feverish pace upon its release two weeks later.
Despite its history, John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album hasn’t become much of a collector’s item today. On the vinyl-trading site Discogs, the record goes for a median asking price of 59 cents; on eBay, a handful of unsold listings ask (to no avail) for anywhere between $5 and $20. Perhaps that’s a testament to its ubiquity after hitting the shelves.
Before A Memorial Album came around, who was the previous record-holder? Ironically enough, it was JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader’s comedy record, The First Family, released in November 1962.
Suffice it to say, JFK was a pop star.