Greatest Hits (Queen album)

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Greatest Hits
Queen Greatest Hits.png
Original 1981 edition
Greatest hits album by
Released26 October 1981
Recorded1974–1980 (1981 UK edition (EMI) & 2011 UK edition (Island) & 1994 US edition)
1972–1981 (1981 US & Canada edition)
1974–1981 (1981 Japan edition & 2011 Japan Reissue edition)
1972–1983 (1992 US edition (Hollywood Records))
1973–1982 (2004 US edition (Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You))
GenreRock
Length58:19 (UK edition)
Label
ProducerQueen, various
Queen chronology
Greatest Hits
(1981)
The Complete Works
(1985)
Alternative cover
1992 US edition
1992 US edition

Greatest Hits is a compilation album by the British rock band Queen, released worldwide on 26 October 1981.[1] The album consisted of Queen's biggest hits since their first chart appearance in 1974 with "Seven Seas of Rhye", up to their 1980 hit "Flash" (though in some countries "Under Pressure", the band's 1981 chart-topper with David Bowie, was included). There was no universal track listing or cover art for the album, and each territory's tracks were dependent on what singles had been released there and which were successful.

Greatest Hits was a commercial success worldwide. It received further boosts in sales following the death of Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury in 1991, and the release of the biographical film Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018. In the UK the album spent four weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart and sold consistently well throughout the 1980s, becoming the fourth-biggest selling album of the decade. As of October 2019 Greatest Hits has spent 868 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, has been certified twenty times platinum, and is the best-selling album of all time in the UK, with sales of over six million copies. It has been certified eight times platinum in the US, three times platinum in Canada, fifteen times platinum in Australia, and ten times platinum in New Zealand, and in total has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, making it the band's best-selling album and one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Release[edit]

There was no universal track listing or cover art for the Greatest Hits album, and each territory's tracks were dependent on what singles were released there and what tracks charted. In some cases, despite the band's popularity, not enough songs were issued as singles to fill a compilation album, and a few album tracks were used as filler. Some examples of these were "Sweet Lady" and "Love of My Life", neither was released as a single in any country, but appear on some regions' 1981 Hits release. In the UK and the US, where solid numbers could be collected, the album included only top 20 hits.

The US ended up with its original edit of Queen's first single release, "Keep Yourself Alive", which had been re-released in the US in 1975 (original release was 1973) after the success of "Bohemian Rhapsody". The US version also added "Under Pressure", Queen's collaboration with David Bowie, which was released the same week as Greatest Hits and subsequently topped the UK Singles Chart and reached the top ten in many charts around the world. However, the song was not included on the European versions of Greatest Hits – according to Queen's business manager Jim Beach, this was because the longer manufacturing time required to press records in Europe meant that several hundred thousand copies of the album had already been pressed up before the song had been recorded.[2]

In Argentina and Brazil, the LP edition included the same list of UK Greatest Hits minus "Seven Seas of Rhye", and including "Love of My Life" (Live Killers version). CD version is the same as the British.

The cover photo that appeared on the UK and US release was taken by Lord Snowdon at his home studio using only natural light. For the 1981 release the photo was skewed but later presented as it was originally taken for the 2011 re-release.[3][4]

In 1991, Queen sought to issue a second Greatest Hits collection worldwide, this time with a standard track listing. However, the band had just changed record labels in the US, from Capitol to Hollywood Records, who were keen on a massive promotion of the band's back catalogue. The problem was that Elektra still held the US rights to that first 1981 collection (despite being Hollywood's US licensee). Hollywood Records decided to not release Greatest Hits II to the US market until Greatest Hits II was released by Hollywood Records on April 19, 2011 to the US market, but instead created their own collection, Classic Queen (1992), peaking at no. 4.[5] This compilation was made up of tracks such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Under Pressure" (which had already appeared on the Elektra 1981 Hits collection) as well as newer tracks ("A Kind of Magic" and "Radio Ga Ga").[6] Some tracks were not even singles in the US ("One Year of Love") or anywhere ("Stone Cold Crazy").[6] Though well received, this collection would eventually pose the problem of overlapping track lists in the future.

Hollywood Records, later that year, re-released a companion collection Greatest Hits with similar artwork (on a red background, where Classic Queen was on royal blue). Commonly referred to as the Red Greatest Hits, it features most of the '70s tracks absent from Classic Queen (including "Another One Bites the Dust" [1980], "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Killer Queen").

In 2004, to promote the Las Vegas production of the musical We Will Rock You, Hollywood Records released Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition which was the UK Greatest Hits with three bonus tracks.

On June 21, 2019, a red vinyl re-release of Greatest Hits re-charted at number 31 on the Official UK Album Chart[7].

Greatest Flix and Greatest Pix[edit]

The release of Greatest Hits was accompanied simultaneously by Greatest Flix, a 60-minute compilation released on VHS video and LaserDisc of all the videos Queen had made up until that point in chronological order, and Greatest Pix, a 96-page paperback book edited by Jacques Lowe which featured photos of the band taken by Neal Preston.[2] Although Greatest Flix only listed 17 videos on its sleeve, it contained two videos for "We Will Rock You". The video for "Killer Queen" had been shot especially for Greatest Flix, as no video had been made for the song on its original release in 1974.[2]

Greatest Flix

  1. "Killer Queen"
  2. "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  3. "You're My Best Friend"
  4. "Somebody to Love"
  5. "Tie Your Mother Down"
  6. "We Are the Champions"
  7. "We Will Rock You"
  8. "We Will Rock You (Live)"
  9. "Spread Your Wings"
  10. "Bicycle Race"
  11. "Fat Bottomed Girls"
  12. "Don't Stop Me Now"
  13. "Love of My Life (Live)"
  14. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
  15. "Save Me"
  16. "Play the Game"
  17. "Another One Bites the Dust"
  18. "Flash"

Note: On the sleeve notes of the video, "We Will Rock You" is incorrectly listed before "We Are the Champions".

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[8]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[10]

Initial reviews of the album in the British music press were negative. In NME Barney Hoskyns said, "All of [their songs], besides 'Another One Bites the Dust', are quite repulsive, unbelievably crass insults to their respective genres and uniformly vulgar music. It was only when Queen took vulgarity to its absolute limit that they stood out."[11] Melody Maker's Adam Sweeting stated, "I've never been the slightest bit interested in Queen's ridiculous pomposity and Freddie just makes me snigger, but I suppose songs like 'Killer Queen' are sort of catchy, while anything as preposterous as 'We Will Rock You' deserves an award if only for bad taste".[12]

However, retrospective reviews have rated the album higher: Ira Robbins gave Greatest Hits a B+ rating in Entertainment Weekly upon its reissue in 1992,[9] and William Ruhlmann of AllMusic awarded the record four and a half stars out of five.[8] In an interview in 2003 as part of the Arte television programme Music Planet 2Nite, Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien hailed the album as "impeccable" and "absolutely genius",[13] while British journalist Brian Viner called it the greatest album of all time.[14]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the UK, Greatest Hits debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart and climbed to number one the following week, spending four weeks at the top. The album continued to sell well throughout the 1980s, appearing on several UK year-end charts, and by the end of the decade it had become the fourth-biggest selling album in the UK during the 1980s, with sales of over 1.9 million copies.[15] By 2006, Greatest Hits had become the best-selling album in the UK and the first album to sell more than five million copies there.[16] In February 2014, it was confirmed by the Official Charts Company that Greatest Hits had become the first album in the UK to sell over six million copies.[17][18] As of February 2019 the album has spent a total of 861 weeks on the UK Albums Chart.[19]

In the US the album sold moderately well on initial release in 1981, being certified platinum,[20] and peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200 chart on its reissue in 1992.[21] However, it has since been certified eight times platinum for sales of eight million copies, making it the band's best-selling album there.[20][22] It is also the band's best-selling album worldwide, with total sales of more than 25 million copies.[23][24]

Track listing[edit]

This section includes the track listings for the original Greatest Hits in its various forms. For other compilations, including the second and third Greatest Hits albums, see the relevant articles.

On the 17-track UK editions, Freddie Mercury was the writer of ten of the songs, Brian May five and John Deacon two. Roger Taylor had not written any songs that had been released as singles for the band at that point.

1981 UK edition (EMI) & 2011 UK edition (Island)
Has a photograph of the band as its cover.
Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Bohemian Rhapsody" (from A Night at the Opera, 1975)Freddie Mercury5:57
2."Another One Bites the Dust" (from The Game, 1980)John Deacon3:36
3."Killer Queen" (from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)Mercury2:57
4."Fat Bottomed Girls" (single version, from Jazz, 1978)Brian May3:22
5."Bicycle Race" (from Jazz, 1978)Mercury3:01
6."You're My Best Friend" (from A Night at the Opera, 1975)Deacon2:52
7."Don't Stop Me Now" (from Jazz, 1978)Mercury3:29
8."Save Me" (single version, from The Game, 1980)May3:48
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
9."Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (from The Game, 1980)Mercury2:42
10."Somebody to Love" (from A Day at the Races, 1976)Mercury4:56
11."Now I'm Here" (from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)May4:10
12."Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" (from A Day at the Races, 1976)Mercury2:54
13."Play the Game" (from The Game, 1980)Mercury3:33
14."Flash" (single version, from Flash Gordon, 1980)May2:48
15."Seven Seas of Rhye" (from Queen II, 1974)Mercury2:47
16."We Will Rock You" (from News of the World, 1977)May2:01
17."We Are the Champions" (from News of the World, 1977)Mercury3:00
Total length:58:44

In addition to the variations above, the official biography Queen: As It Began by Jacky Gunn and Jim Jenkins states the following variations on the original UK track listing:[citation needed]

  • Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela had "Love of My Life" (live version) instead of "Seven Seas of Rhye".
  • Belgium and Spain had "Spread Your Wings" as an extra track.
  • Australia was identical to the US version, but had "Tie Your Mother Down" as an extra track.
  • Bulgaria had "Death On Two Legs" and "Sweet Lady" as extra tracks.
  • Canada, France, Germany, Israel and Netherlands had "Under Pressure" as an extra track.
  • Germany also added "Spread Your Wings" on some first pressing copies.

Personnel[edit]

  • Freddie Mercury – lead, backing and operatic vocals, acoustic piano, jangle piano, fingersnaps, bicycle bells, handclaps, acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, footstomps, fingersnaps (on original North American release only), drum machine (on 1991 North American release only), synth bass
  • Brian May – acoustic and electric guitars, co-lead vocals on "Fat Bottomed Girls" (chorus), backing and operatic vocals, bicycle bells, handclaps, piano, synthesizer, footstomps, fingersnaps (on original North American release only), co-lead vocals on "Keep Yourself Alive" (bridge), harmonium (on Japanese release only)
  • Roger Taylor – acoustic and (on 1991 North American release only) electronic drums, percussion, backing and operatic vocals, timpani, gong, triangle, chimes, bicycle bells, handclaps, woodblocks, tambourine, footstomps, fingersnaps (on original North American release only), cowbell, co-lead vocals on "Keep Yourself Alive" (bridge), rhythm guitar (on 2004 US edition)
  • John Deacon – bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic and electric pianos, bicycle bells, handclaps, footstomps, fingersnaps (on original North American release only), synthesizer (on 1991 North American release only)
Additional personnel (original UK release)
Additional personnel (original North American release)
Additional personnel (1991 North American release)

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[77] 3× Platinum 180,000^
Australia (ARIA)[78] 15× Platinum 1,050,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[79] 4× Platinum 200,000*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[80] Platinum 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[81] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[82] Platinum 55,058[82]
France (SNEP)[84] Gold 400,400[83]
Germany (BVMI)[85] 7× Gold 1,750,000^
Italy (FIMI)[86]
(since 2009)
Gold 25,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[87] 10× Platinum 150,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[88] Gold 10,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[89] Gold 50,000^
Sweden (GLF)[90] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[91] 5× Platinum 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[93] 20× Platinum 6,120,000[92]
United States (RIAA)[20] 8× Platinum 8,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Date Region Label Format Catalog number
26 October 1981 United Kingdom EMI/Parlophone LP / cassette EMTV 30
United States Elektra LP 5E-564
1990 Soviet Union Melodiya LP А60 00703 001[94]
15 September 1992 United States Hollywood CD 61265
17 August 2004 United States Hollywood CD 2061-62465-2
3 January 2011 United Kingdom Island CD 2758364

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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  5. ^ Billboard 25 Jul 1992 p.8. Billboard. Retrieved 30 May 2011
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  7. ^ https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/albums-chart/
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  12. ^ Sweeting, Adam (31 October 1981). "Queen – Greatest Hits". Melody Maker. p. 18.
  13. ^ "Radiohead live at Le Réservoir (Paris, France)". Music Planet 2nite. 3 July 2003. 26:34 minutes in. Arte. Queen did their Greatest Hits, and the first one is impeccable, isn't it? It's absolutely genius.
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External links[edit]