Hits (compilation series)
Hits is a compilation album series that ran in the United Kingdom for over twenty years from 1984 until 2006. It was compiled as a joint venture, variously between the compilation arms of the Sony BMG and Warner Music groups to rival the Now That's What I Call Music series that had launched a year earlier in 1983, compiled by rival companies EMI and Virgin. Initially, the Hits brand was arguably as popular as its main rival, with volume one through to volume eight all achieving at least a platinum BPI award, with several of the early albums going multi-platinum. The standard release rate of The Hits Album was two volumes per year compared with three volumes of the Now albums.
Five years into the Hits series' run, a drop in sales resulted in several re-brands meaning the series completely lost momentum with the release pattern and numbering of each volume. In November 1989, the first of a number of revamps occurred with what would have been The Hits Album 11 being issued with a new title: Monster Hits. In 1990, The Hit Pack was released, and by 1991 it was back to simply The Hits Album again. The series was then briefly retired, and in 1992, there were not any Hits compilations released. The following year, BMG partnered with compilation specialist company Telstar Records for a brief run of four volumes of the Hits '93 single-CD compilations.
From December 1995, BMG and Warner Music partnered for a new series of Hits albums, and Hits 96 was the first release of the relaunched brand. This was a very successful relaunch, and once again the Hits series started to rival the success of the contemporaneous Now releases of the time. Unlike the earlier Hits albums, there were up to five compilations a year, and instead of a volume number, the titles of this series had varied titles: Hits, New Hits, Fresh Hits, Big Hits and Huge Hits – this title is then always followed by the year of release; for example, Fresh Hits 1997.
In December 2000, Hits 2001 was released and this indicated that the following year there would be a continuation of the standard release pattern of New, Fresh, Big and Huge Hits. However, there was a failed attempt at refreshing the Hits brand once again. The compilers decided to rename Hits to Music: The Definitive Hits Collection, and the new series was billed to contain a much broader range of chart hits designed to appeal to buyers of the hugely successful and long-running Now That's What I Call Music series.
Finally, after just two volumes of Music in 2001, by the end of the year, Hits 50 was released and this saw a return to the original numbering format the Hits series had abandoned in 1989. This lasted for ten volumes and continued to Hits 60, after which, there was a return to having random Hits titles once again. But by 2006, almost twenty two years after the first Hits Album was released, the tired brand could not compete with the Now series. A tendency to edit down tracks to shorten the running time also damaged the success of the later Hits albums. Seen as no longer profitable or relevant, the last ever Hits album was called Summer Hits 2006 and this left the Now That's What I Call Music series as the only hits compilation brand still going strong on the UK Compilation Album chart as of November 2013.
The Hits Album: Hits 1 to 15
Original series (1984–1991)
The original series of The Hits Album began in 1984 and fourteen volumes of Hits albums were released between November 1984 and June 1991. The early albums contained 32 tracks, as opposed to 30 usually found on the Now compilations and reached either number 1 or number 2 on the UK Top 100 Album Chart. All of the albums from this period achieved at least a platinum BPI award, with the exception of the ninth volume.
The Hits series began as a joint venture by CBS and WEA, in response to EMI and Virgin Records starting the Now That's What I Call Music! series in 1983. RCA Ariola (later BMG) joined the partnership in 1986 and it would be a combination of these three companies that would release The Hits Album for the rest of its long run. The LP and CD (from 1986) variations were called "The Hits Album (Volume number)" whilst the cassette tapes were often called "The Hits Tape (volume number)"
Just like the Now series, The Hits Album collections brought together all the big hits from the partnering record companies and was seen as the music collectors companion to the equally popular Now releases. The Hits Album often featured songs by artists such as Madonna, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other big international artists that did not appear on rival Now compilations, and it was probably for this reason the albums were equally popular throughout the 1980s. The first Hits Album managed to keep the rival Now album (Now 4) from the number 1 position in December 1984 (the only Now album never to reach number 1) and it spent a total of 7 weeks at the top of the UK Top 100 Album chart.
In 1986, Hits 5 was the first album of the series to be released on a single CD, with Hits 7 being the first to be released as a double-CD the following year. A video compilation was often released at the same time as the albums, but not always. Like the Now! collections, the packaging of the Hits albums contained pictures and background information about the tracks, including chart positions. This appeared in the gatefold of the standard album, and later, in a small booklet with the CD releases.
The Hits Album plus an issue number released was through to June 1989 and stopped at Hits 10, although the ninth volume had previously been released in December 1988 without an issue number. Subsequent releases through to 1991 were released without an issue number and this successive refreshing of the Hits brand could be seen as minor relaunches of the series, each time in the face of the continuing success and strength of the rival Now! brand.
From November 1989, the albums in the Hits series started deviating from their original chronological number system and began using alternative titles such as Monster Hits and The Hit Pack. They are however considered an extension of the original series as these albums were all issued by BMG, CBS and WEA. and also contained the word Hit somewhere in the title. From November 1989 to July 1991, The Hits Albums were released with these titles:
Both Monster Hits and Snap it Up! Monster Hits 2 featured a cartoon monster gimmick in the artwork and advertising campaign, in a similar way a cartoon pig was used during earlier Now That's What I Call Music releases. These two albums are listed with the previous Hits albums in "The Complete Book of British Charts".
'Snap it Up!' featured the monster 'snapping' his claws in the accompanying TV advertising.
- The Hit Pack (December 1990)
When the Monster Hits theme ended after just two volumes, The Hit Pack was released with much more restrained simple artwork and advertising. It was also unique because it was released on LP and cassette with 24 tracks, but only as a 21 track single-CD. A year earlier in 1989, Now That's What I Call Music 16 had been advertised as containing 3 bonus tracks, although these were found on the double-CD format.
- The Hits Album (July 1991)
The series went full circle and became simply The Hits Album, although it was listed as The Hits Album 15 in some chart statistic publications due to the catalogue number 'CD HITS 15', however, the volume suffix 'fifteen' is not included after The Hits Album anywhere on this albums actual artwork. The partners behind the series retired The Hits Album brand in 1991. There was not a version of The Hits Album 14 issued by BMG, CBS or WEA in any title variation or format and technically, what is listed as The Hits Album 15 is actually the fourteenth volume of the series.
1993 to 1994
With the Hits brand retired, Telstar Records launched the Hits '93 compilation series in association with its parent distribution company BMG, who originally joined the Hits series with WEA and CBS in 1986. Unlike the albums put out by the respective Sony BMG and Warner labels of the era, Hits '93 was formatted as a single-CD and included a large percentage of dance acts compared to the original Hits releases. Even though these albums could be seen as an extension of other Telstar Hit themed compilations (such as 100% Hits) these albums are categorized under the Hits brand in the Complete Book Of British Charts, which is probably due to BMG's former and Telstar's subsequent involvement in the series. The Hits '93 series ran for four volumes during 1993, and one volume of Hits '94 with the concept eventually being replaced by the resurrection of Telstar and BMG's short-lived single-CD version of The Hits Album later in the year, which also lasted one volume.
Whilst the Hits series developed a new era starting from 1995 through to 2000 (see below), BMG and Telstar went on to release Pure Hits 97 in 1997 which was (spiritually) a sequel to the Hits '93 and Hits '94 series due to its very similar cover artwork.
The Hits Album – Relaunch
1995 to 2000
Following an album called Hitz Blitz released by Global Television, The Hits Album was relaunched in December 1995 (with the BMG compilations arm trading as Global Television, and WSM being similarly labeled as warner.esp.tv) but this time the numbering system was replaced in favour of different titles such as New Hits or Fresh Hits and the year following the word 'Hits'. This was the most successful branding of the Hits series since the earlier volumes, and both Sony Music TV and compilation specialist company Telstar Records quickly joined forces with BMG and Warner Music early in the series run. Originally, the albums were divided into four distinct parts (and were labeled as such): Part One contained the biggest hits; Part Two had all the big dance hits; Part Three featured indie and rock tracks and Part Four would generally hoover up any left over hits the compilers had access to. This theme ended in 1997. Unlike the earlier Hits albums (and indeed all Now compilations), the inlay booklets contained no pictures or trivia relating to the track in any of the titles released during this period except for copyright details, which would have needed to be included.
The cover artwork is similar to the Now albums. Both volumes of Fresh Hits in 2000, however, featured a brand new design on the front cover but this was another unsuccessful attempt at refreshing the brand once again.
Notably, New Hits 96 holds the distinction for the most consecutive weeks at number 1 in the UK Top 20 Compilation Chart since its launch on 14 January 1989. It spent 9 weeks at number 1 from 18 May 1996 to 13 July 1996. It shares this record with Now 29 which similarly held the position for 9 weeks from November 1994 through to February 1995.
There was not a release entitled Hits '98. This is due to the compilers adding the Big Hits name to the brand; the first of the Hits series to be called Big Hits was issued in December 1997 which is when the Hits '98 volume would have normally been released. The next Big Hits was issued in September 1998, therefore, a Hits 99 followed in December as per the release pattern established in 1995.
Titles in the range
The earlier volumes of The Hits Album were generally released twice a year but this Hits series saw a noticeable increase to five compilations a year:
- Hits 96
This was the first in the relaunched series by Global Television and Warner Bros, then trading as WMTV, and was released in December 1995. Simply 'Hits' and the following year would then be released in December, beginning that year's series of collections.
- New Hits
Compilations with this title were always released in March; the first album was New Hits 96.
- Fresh Hits
Sony Music TV rejoined the Hits venture when this album was released in 1996; Fresh Hits were always released in July.
- Big Hits
Additional title, added to the series in December 1997 without a year suffix, the next and subsequent releases with the title Big Hits were released in September.
- Huge Hits
Year-end Hits collections were always preceded with Huge and were released around November. Not to be confused with Telstar's Greatest Hits of (year) which had been issued since 1985.
Hits: The Modern Years
2001 to 2006
In 2001, another relaunch occurred. This was an attempt to appeal to the broader range of Now That's What I Call Music buyers, Sony BMG and WSM decided to rebrand the Hits series with what was considered a more classy name and image and "Music: The Definitive Hits Collection" was launched in March. "Music: Part 2" was released three months later but the new concept failed to catch-on and neither compilation managed to reach the Top 3. So, the Hits series went full-circle and returned to the album numbering format it originally abandoned in 1989; the series was rebranded to Hits 50 in August 2001.
This relaunch saw heavy promotional emphasis on the fact that both Hits 50 and Hits 51 included 50 tracks, with 25 tracks on each disc. However, each song's running time was reduced to fit 25 tracks on a single disc, therefore, the new format was not a success, and sales for Hits 51 were much lower than Hits 50 – possibly because buyers were aware of the 50 track edited format. This practice was stopped and Hits 52 featured 40 tracks which were never edited. Hits 52 also started another short tradition; a music video as a bonus feature on CD2 when it is entered into a computer. The final volume to feature a music video was Hits 54.
In 2004, Hits 60 was released and had three discs instead of two, once again trying a new concept to compete with the double-CD Now compilations. After this, the Hits series began to run out of steam: the numbering system was once again discontinued, with what would have been Hits 61 being issued as Red Hot Hits. Only a few remaining 'Hits' albums have been released since then with Essential Hits released in late 2005, followed by Summer Hits 2006 in Summer 2006. This became the final Hits album and there have not been any more releases since (as of November 2012) if you count an expanded edition of Christmas Hits.
In 2014, Warner Music released the download compilation Top Hits, which could be considered a revival of the series.
Hits albums themed to Christmas music had begun in 2001. The releases all had the same name, but with different subtitles, and were:
- Christmas Hits (50 Festive Favourites) (2001): An album that had 50 tracks over 2 discs (being one in four Hits albums to do so). Re-released in 2002 and 2003. Once again, as with the regular Hits series, some tracks had to be edited for the ability to use 25 tracks.
- Christmas Hits (60 Festive Favourites) (2004): Contains 60 tracks over 3 discs. Re-released in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
- Christmas Hits (80 Festive Favourites) (2008): Contains 80 tracks over 4 discs, with the fourth disc being an exclusive studio album containing new recordings of carols. The digital version is titled Christmas Hits (Digital Edition). Re-released in 2009.
The Now series' album Now That's What I Call Xmas was released in 2005 to rival the 2005 re-release of Christmas Hits (60 Festive Favourites) and both albums continued to be re-released annually to rival each other with varying success until Christmas Hits was revamped with a new track list and artwork in 2008. Now...Xmas later followed suit by doing the same.
|Date Charted||Title||Record company||Chart position
(duration / weeks)
|1984-12-01||The Hits Album||CBS / WEA||#1 (7)||Double LP / MC|
|1985-04-13||The Hits Album 2||CBS / WEA||#1 (6)||Double LP / MC|
|1985-12-07||The Hits Album 3||CBS / WEA||#2||Double LP / MC|
|1986-03-29||Hits 4||CBS / RCA-Ariola / WEA||#1 (4)||Double LP / MC|
|1986-11-22||Hits 5 ||CBS / RCA-Ariola / WEA||#1 (2)||Double LP / MC; Single CD|
|1987-07-22||Hits 6||CBS / BMG / WEA||#1 (5)||Double LP / MC; Single CD|
|1987-12-05||Hits 7 ||CBS / BMG / WEA||#2||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1988-07-30||Hits 8||CBS / BMG / WEA||#2||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1988-12-17||The Hits Album 9||CBS / BMG / WEA||#5||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1989-06-03||The Hits Album 10||CBS / BMG / WEA||#1 (6)||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1989-12-02||Monster Hits||CBS / BMG / WEA||#2||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1990-08-11||Snap It Up! Monster Hits 2||CBS / BMG / WEA||#2||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1990-12-29||The Hit Pack||CBS / BMG / WEA||#2||Single MC / Single CD|
|1991-08-10||The Hits Album ||BMG / Sony||#1 (2)||Double LP / MC / CD|
|1993-02-20||Hits 93 Volume One||BMG / Telstar||#1 (3)||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1993-05-29||Hits 93 Volume Two||BMG / Telstar||#2||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1993-04-13||Hits 93 Volume Three||BMG / Telstar||#2||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1993-08-14||Hits 93 Volume Four||BMG / Telstar||#2||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1994-03-19||Hits 94 Volume One||BMG / Telstar||#3||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1994-10-15||The Ultimate Hits Album||BMG / Telstar||#11||Single LP / MC / CD|
|1995-08-01||Hitz Blitz||Global||#2||Single CD|
|1995-12-23||Hits 96||Global||#1 (5)||Double CD|
|1996-05-01||New Hits 96||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (9)||Double MC / CD|
|1996-08-31||Fresh Hits 96||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double CD|
|1996-11-09||Huge Hits 1996 ||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (2)||Double CD|
|1996-12-21||Hits 97||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double CD|
|1997-04-26||New Hits 1997||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (4)||Double CD|
|1997-08-01||Pure Hits 97 ||Telstar||#13||Double MC / CD|
|1997-08-16||Fresh Hits 1997||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (3)||Double CD|
|1997-11-01||Huge Hits 1997 ||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (1)||Double MC / CD|
|1997-12-20||Big Hits||Global / Sony / Warner||#4||Double CD|
|1998-04-04||New Hits 98||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (2)||Double MC / CD|
|1998-07-04||Fresh Hits 98||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (6)||Double CD|
|1998-09-19||Big Hits 98||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (5)||Double CD|
|1998-11-07||Huge Hits 1998 ||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (2)||Double CD|
|1998-12-19||Hits 99||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double CD|
|1999-04-03||New Hits 99||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (1)||Double CD|
|1999-07-03||Fresh Hits 99||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (3)||Double MC / CD|
|1999-09-04||Big Hits 99||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (2)||Double MC / CD|
|1999-09-04||Huge Hits 99 ||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (4)||Double MC / CD|
|1999-12-18||Hits 2000||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double CD|
|2000-03-25||New Hits 2000||Global / Sony / Warner||#1 (2)||Double CD|
|2000-07-15||Fresh Hits Volume 1||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double CD|
|2000-09-16||Fresh Hits Volume 2||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2000-11-04||Huge Hits 2000 ||Global / Sony / Warner||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2000-12-16||Hits 2001||BMG / Sony / Warner / Telstar||#2||Double CD|
|2001-03-31||Music: The Definitive Hits Collection Volume 1||BMG / Sony / Warner / Telstar||#4||Double CD|
|2001-06-23||Music: Today's Definitive Hits Collection Volume 2||BMG / Sony / Warner / Telstar||#7||Double CD|
|2001-09-29||Hits 50 ||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2001-12-15||Hits 51||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar||#10||Double MC / CD|
|2002-04-06||Hits 52||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2002-08-10||Hits 53||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2002-11-02||Hits 54||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar||#1 (2)||Double MC / CD|
|2002-11-30||Huge Hits 2003 ||BMG / Sony / Telstar / WSM||#4||Double MC / CD|
|2003-04-12||Hits 55||BMG / Sony / WSM / Telstar / WSM||#1 (2)||Double MC / CD|
|2003-07-26||Hits 56||BMG / Sony / Telstar||#1 (1)||Double MC / CD|
|2003-11-01||Huge Hits 2004 ||BMG / Sony / Telstar / WSM||#3||Double MC / CD|
|2003-12-13||Hits 57||Sony BMG / WSM / Telstar||#5||Double MC / CD|
|2004-06-12||Hits 58 ||Sony BMG / WSM / Telstar||#1 (1)||Double MC / CD|
|2004-10-02||Hits 59 ||Sony BMG / WSM||#2||Double MC / CD|
|2004-11-27||Hits 60 ||Sony BMG / WSM||#5||Triple CD|
|2005-03-21||Red Hot Hits||Sony BMG / WSM||#19||Double CD|
|2005-12-05||Essential Hits||Sony BMG / WSM||#24||Triple CD|
|2006-06-26||Summer Hits 2006||Sony BMG / WSM||#12||Double CD|
|2014-04-07||Top Hits ||Warner||#16||Digital download|
- The first Hits album to be released on CD: like Hits 6 it was a single CD with a selection of tracks taken from the standard LP/MC versions.
- The first Hits album to be released on double CD. Henceforth all subsequent Hits CD releases would be identical to their LP/MC counterparts, where applicable.
- Although not titled as such, this album is listed on album charts as 'Hits 15' and bears the catalogue number 'HITS CD 15'. Although simply titled The Hits Album, strictly speaking it is the fourteenth release in the series.
- As Global/Sony/Warner were owners of the Hits series at the time of its release, Telstar's Pure Hits 97 was arguably not a part of the main Hits series, but rather a continuation, and conclusion, of the Hits albums released in 1993/94 by BMG and Telstar. This is substantiated by the similarities in artwork between those particular releases. The aforementioned 1993/94 releases are, however, considered to be part of the main Hits series.
- Strictly speaking had the chronological numbering system of releases been followed then this album should have been titled 'Hits 48'. If the fourteenth release is considered to be 'Hits 15' then Hits 50 should have been titled 'Hits 49'. If Pure Hits 97 is also taken as being part of the main series then Hits 50 is correctly titled. Hits 50 would also be correctly titled if Telstar's The Hits Album 1997 was added into the main series alongside their Pure Hits 97 album, but only if 'Hits 15' is considered to be 'Hits 14'. To further complicate matters Huge Hits 2003 and Huge Hits 2004 are not included in the numbering system, whereas the earlier Huge Hits titles are. It should also be noted that the title Hits 50 may have been given to this particular release with little regard to any strict numbering system, but rather as an attempt to more closely compete with the Now That's What I Call Music! series which would see the release of Now 50 three months later.
- Some of the songs found on Hits 58 and Hits 59 made their way onto Hits 60: e.g. "Life for Rent" by Dido, "Left Outside Alone" by Anastacia, "Love is Only a Feeling" by The Darkness, "Hold Onto Our Love" by James Fox and "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" by Agnetha Faltskog.
- These were 'year-end' collections, combining the biggest hits of previous volumes. There was not an edition of Huge Hits 2001 or Huge Hits 2002, although Huge Hits 2000 was released in 2000, Huge Hits 2003 was released in 2002, and Huge Hits 2004 was released in 2003, making 2001 the only year without a Huge Hits release between the 1996 and 2004 volumes.
- The first Hits album to be released as a digital download.