Elton John's 'Candle' anthem for Diana sells briskly in U.S. debut
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER, c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service, NEW YORK

It took all kinds, and they took all the copies they could grab.

British tourists on holiday, compulsive buyers adding to their collections, men sheepishly buying for their wives and men weepily getting copies for themselves.

The Elton John song memorializing Diana, Princess of Wales, went on sale nationwide Tuesday, with some stores in New York selling out within hours. At the HMV Record Store on Broadway at 72nd Street, the recording went on sale at midnight and nearly 100 copies were sold by 1 a.m., when the store closed, said Faisal Mohamed, the manager. When it reopened at 8:30 a.m., the crowds returned, and by midafternoon close to 1,000 copies had been sold, he said, and all 12 people in a line to pay had a copy. He said the HMV store at Fifth Avenue and 46th Street had sold all its 2,500 copies by 2 p.m.

Just after midnight, Sandi Anastacio bought three compact-disk versions of the single, "Candle in the Wind 1997," and three on tape, for $2.99 each at the Virgin megastore in Times Square. Popping one tape into a portable stereo for his walk home, Anastacio said most of the copies would be gifts.

Across the country, eight million copies were shipped with a suggested retail price of $3.49, said Diana Baron, a spokeswoman for Rocket Records/A&M Associated Labels, the single's distributor. Most chain stores in New York were selling it for $2.99, although a few had marked the price up to more than $4. Many customers said they were buying the single -- a remake of the singer's 1973 paean to Marilyn Monroe -- because the proceeds, including the record company's profits, are being donated to charities favored by Diana. But Ms. Baron said she did not know what the company's costs were, so she could not say how much would be donated.

Whatever the case, the eight million copies in Rocket/A&M's initial shipment was a record number for a single, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, coming a week after the song's release in Britain broke records there.

Around New York, the single's arrival on store shelves came as a coda to an extraordinary mourning period that drew to Diana's story many who had not followed her in life.

Celine Boursiquot, an Upper West Side resident who bought three copies, as well as one imported recording of the entire funeral service, said that she had only become mesmerized by Diana after the princess' Aug. 31 death. "I was here three times last week" looking for the single, she said.

In Times Square, Marshal Phillips of Hollywood and Donald MacDermid of Boston each picked up three copies of the single. "I discovered with her death that I felt a lot more strongly about Diana than I'd thought," MacDermid said.

So did Mike Smith, 25, an accountant from London spending his first day in the city. "Before she died, I never really felt that mad for her," he said. "But I got swept along with all the TV. It really felt like I had lost something."

This being New York, there were some conscientious objectors to the buying frenzy. "It's really overblown," said Brendan McCarrick, 18, a sales clerk at Tower Records at 66th Street and Broadway. "They're calling it a brilliant remake. He changed a few words, but the melody is still the same."

Still, critical listeners seemed vastly outnumbered by the sentimental. In New Jersey, Evelyn McCann bought a copy for $3.49 at a Sam Goody's in the Paramus Park mall. "I was up at 4 a.m. watching that funeral, and I was crying," she said. Added her friend, Joan Tamulevicz: "And now we bought this record so we can cry some more."

Mercy Porras, a cafeteria worker who said she collects memorabilia of the princess, made two trips to a Manhattan record store, first buying a copy of the Elton John single with cash, then returning with her credit card so she could buy the funeral album for $17.99.

Despite the heavy sales, few record stores were mobbed. One exception was the Virgin store in Times Square. Robert Boucher, 60, who got up from a four-hour nap at 11 p.m. on Monday, arrived to find hundreds of people waiting in line.

"I was going to go back home," he said. But then Boucher discovered that most of the people were waiting to see members of the group Boyz II Men, who were inside signing autographs. Boucher stuck around and got his compact disc.

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