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What is the Best-Selling 12 Inch Single of all Time?

The best-selling 12 inch single of all time

Holly |

The best-selling 12" single of all time is Blue Monday, by New Order. It's a record found in many of the collections we buy, transcending many collector's usual genre and listening habits. 

In the world of vinyl records, the 12" single format holds a significant place in music history and the development of the 1980s club and disco scene. While most collectors spend their time seeking out the next album, there are some 12" singles that everyone was after, perhaps still.

So, what is the best-selling 12" single of all time? Join us as we take a look at the top ten most popular 12" singles in the UK. 

1 - New Order - "Blue Monday" (1983)

New Order - "Blue Monday"
Undoubtedly the number one 12" single of all time!

Released in 1983, its unique blend of electronic and dance elements, coupled with its groundbreaking production, catapulted it to commercial success, making it the best-selling 12” single of all time. The 12" version of the single is also famous for being exceptionally long, with a total duration of over seven minutes.


The 12" single of "Blue Monday" is renowned not only for its music but also for its distinctive sleeve design. The cover features a die-cut sleeve with no text on the front, presenting a color code that reveals the title and artist when deciphered. This innovative design made it instantly recognizable and contributed to the single's cultural impact.

2 - Prince - "1999" (1982)

Prince "1999"
This is probably the most well-known version of the single artwork, released in the UK in 1984.
Prince "1999"
This artwork design was released in 1983, the year after the song was first released on the album of the same name.

The 12" single of "1999" is notable for containing the extended version of 1999, as well as several releases featuring other Prince tracks. Other tracks featured on its various releases include "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “D.M.S.R.”

"1999" was a critical and commercial triumph for Prince. The 12" single, released in 1983, played a crucial role in promoting the album of the same name. The extended version showcased Prince's prowess in blending funk, rock, and pop, contributing to the song's chart success and solidifying its status as one of Prince's signature tracks.

3 - Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five - "The Message" (1982)

3 - Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five - "The Message" (1982)
This single was released in 7" and 12" format, some versions came with artwork but the standard release didn't.

"The Message" is often credited as one of the first hip-hop songs to delve into social and political commentary. Released in 1982, the lyrics address urban poverty, inequality, and the challenges faced by marginalised communities. The single marked a shift in hip-hop's lyrical content, moving beyond party-centric themes to address broader social issues.

"The Message" is not only celebrated for its impact on hip-hop but also for its recognition in the broader music industry. In 2012, the single was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, solidifying its status as a groundbreaking and enduring work.

4 - Queen - "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980)

Queen - "Another One Bites the Dust"
We've seen plenty of copies of Another One Bites the Dust released as a 7" single.
Queen - "Another One Bites the Dust"
Discogs | This is the German 12" ‘Maxi Single’ version of the release.

With over 170 Discogs results, there are many, many different versions of “Another One Bites the Dust” released on a 12” format, although there was no widespread UK 12” release. However, there is a German ‘Maxi Single’ version, shown in the images above.

Released in 1980, "Another One Bites the Dust" achieved remarkable success on the charts. It became Queen's best-selling single, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Queen found unexpected popularity in the R&B and funk genres with this particular song. The distinctive bassline played by John Deacon, influenced by the funk genre, became a signature element of the track, and the single topped not only rock charts but also R&B and disco charts.

5 - Duran Duran - "Girls on Film" (1981)

5 - Duran Duran - "Girls on Film" (1981)
We've only ever had 7" versions of this single, but the 12" artwork featured the same design on the front of the sleeve.

One of the 12" single releases of "Girls on Film" includes an extended night version of the song. This version features additional instrumental sections and remix elements, making it a favourite among DJs and fans of extended dance mixes.

The music video for "Girls on Film" stirred controversy due to its explicit content and provocative scenes. Directed by Godley & Creme, the video featured suggestive imagery and scenes that led to its ban by the BBC. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the controversy contributed to the single's visibility and helped propel it to commercial success.

6 - Blondie - "Heart of Glass" (1979)

6 - Blondie - "Heart of Glass" (1979)
This 12" single's B side features an instrumental version of Heart of Glass and the track Rifle Range.

"Heart of Glass" became one of Blondie's most successful and iconic songs. Released in 1979, the single achieved crossover success by topping both pop and disco charts. "Heart of Glass" is known for its distinctive blend of new wave and disco elements. The 12" single version extends the track, allowing for more exploration of the disco-influenced beats and rhythms.

This format, popular in the dance and club scene, allowed Blondie's music to reach a wider audience and gain popularity on dance floors. The extended mixes showcased the band's ability to create music that transcends traditional genre boundaries.

7 - Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean" (1983)

7 - Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean"
Much like the Duran Duran single, the artwork for Billie Jean was the same across the 7" and 12" versions.​​

"Billie Jean" was a massive commercial success. Upon its release in 1983, the single topped the charts in numerous countries, including the United States, where it became Jackson's first solo song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The 12" single format, with its extended mix, contributed to the song's popularity in dance clubs, further solidifying Michael Jackson's status as the King of Pop.

The iconic dance move known as the moonwalk was popularised by Michael Jackson during a performance of "Billie Jean" on the TV special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" in 1983.

8 - Madonna - "Vogue" (1990)

7 - Madonna - "Vogue"
Vogue reached number one in 30 countries worldwide.

The 12" single of "Vogue" features the iconic Shep Pettibone remix, known for its extended length and additional production elements. Shep Pettibone, a renowned DJ and producer, played a significant role in shaping Madonna's sound during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"Vogue" incorporates distinctive sound effects, including the snapping fingers and catwalk-like footsteps. These sampled sounds, often associated with the world of fashion and runway shows, added a unique and stylish flair to the song.

9 - Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1980)

 Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1980)
Love Will Tear Us Apart was such a hit that it saw multiple reissues, all of which are treasured by collectors.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" was released in June 1980, a month after the death of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis. The song became one of the band's most well-known and enduring tracks, and the 12" single release included an extended version of the song.

The 12" single of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" features a distinctive cover design by Peter Saville, a graphic designer known for his work with Factory Records. The cover is a black-and-white photograph of the Ribaudo family tomb in Italy. You can learn more about this photograph on the Post Punk website

10 - Frankie Goes to Hollywood - "Relax" (1983)

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - "Relax"
Relax was Frankie Goes To Hollywood's first single!

"Relax" became a massive commercial success, topping the charts in the United Kingdom. It spent a total of 42 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The single's success was further enhanced by its unique marketing campaign, including provocative advertisements and slogans.

"Relax" is known for its provocative lyrics and suggestive content, leading to controversy upon its release. The BBC banned the song from airplay due to its explicit nature. This ban, coupled with the controversy, contributed to the single's notoriety and actually boosted its sales, turning it into a commercial success.

You may have noticed that many of these 12" singles were released in the early 1980s, and feature brilliant music for dancing to.

The 12" format allowed for extended mixes of songs, often with longer instrumental breaks and remixes. This was particularly appealing to DJs in clubs, as it provided more extended and dance-friendly versions of popular songs. The extended playtime made 12" singles ideal for the evolving club and dance music scene.

The larger size of the 12" vinyl also allowed for better sound quality compared to the 7" singles. This was especially important in the context of dance and electronic music, where nuances in sound and production were crucial. The format provided a higher fidelity listening experience, making it a preferred choice for DJs and audiophiles.

The 12" single format became a canvas for remixing and experimenting with songs. Producers could create alternative versions, remixes, and dub mixes that showcased their creativity. This remix culture contributed to the emergence of new sounds and styles, particularly in genres like electronic, dance, and hip-hop.

Overall, the 12" single format became an integral part of the music industry during the early 1980s, playing a significant role in the development of various music genres and contributing to the overall cultural landscape of the time.

1 comment

I Just Have Gotta Ask That Can You Do A ‘TOP 100 BIGGEST/BEST-SELLING “12-inch” Singles Of All-Time List’?

Sam McNeal,

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