Elton's tribute to a princess storms to Number One

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Elton John's tribute single to Diana, Princess of Wales, shot to the top of the charts after just one day on sale, it was revealed yesterday.

"Candle in the Wind 1997" went platinum after selling more than 600,000 copies in just a few hours yesterday, as shoppers frantically snapped up every CD and cassette they could find.

The remarkable scenes have made it the fastest-selling single of all time and have won it the coveted number one slot with record-breaking speed, pipping the Princess's friend George Michael's new release "You Have Been Loved".

Up to 1,000 staff came in for a special Sunday shift at Mercury Records' main pressing plant in Blackburn and other centres around the country yesterday, in a massive effort to get another million copies into the stores. Additional supplies of the single - recorded last Saturday immediately after its first public performance at Diana's Westminster Abbey funeral - should be in the shops by the time doors open today.

Fleets of lorries were making deliveries around the country yesterday, and Mercury expects to have all 1.5 million advance orders in the shops by tomorrow.

Robert Partridge, a spokesman for Mercury, said: "It has been an incredible few days and we have gone into completely uncharted territory. Around 1,000 people have been working on it. It's been a remarkable effort, which is still going on."

Initially, Mercury estimated that it would only be able to provide shops with 250,000 copies of the single on the release day, but calculations at the end of a hectic day showed that workers and distributors had vastly surpassed expectations.

The single - a rewritten version of Elton's Seventies tribute to Marilyn Monroe - looks set to become Britain's biggest hit, beating Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which sold 3.5 million.

It is expected to raise at least pounds 10m for the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund and some music industry insiders have predicted it will stay at the top of the charts until Christmas.

Record stores do not yet know how many singles they will receive today, and there could be a repeat of Saturday's scenes, when shoppers rushed to snatch up all available copies. Hundreds of people queued for hours to be able to buy the pounds 3.99 disc on its release day, and rationing had to be introduced after some asked for as many as 100 copies at a time.

It seems almost certain that "Candle in the Wind 1997" has achieved Britain's record first-day sale for a single.

Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" sold more than a million copies in its first 10 days in 1984, a figure which the Diana single looks set to smash.

The eagerly-awaited Oasis hit "D'You Know What I Mean?" took three days to sell 250,000 in July.

Most number one singles sell about 75,000 in the week they top the charts, though declining sales have meant some discs have claimed the slot with as few as 30,000 copies changing hands.