Most aspiring popstars would count themselves lucky to have just one hit single and maybe even an album, but the holy grail for any artist is to enjoy a career long and successful enough to win the ultimate prize: releasing a greatest hits
Almost all of us grew up with at least one greatest hits collection in the house. Not only are they the perfect way to look back at your favourite artist's material, they're also a fantastic introduction to their work for anyone either too young to appreciate them first time round or never interested enough to care until now.
Greatest hits retrospectives are more than just stocking-fillers; they sell in their millions. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Official Albums Chart, we reveal the greatest of the greatest – the hits collections that sold the most.
Queen – Greatest Hits
Can there be anyone left in the UK who doesn't know a Queen song? Even young whippersnappers will know We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You, right? Right. And they're just two of the tracks you will find on this, the bestselling hits album of all time. Packed with huge hits, including million-selling Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust and Don't Stop me Now, some of the songs on this set are possibly even more famous than the band who created them. One in four British households own a copy of Queen's Greatest Hits, originally released in 1981 – it was the first album in the UK to pass 6 million sales. Six. Million. It's on over 6.12 million now.
Abba – Gold
From one iconic quartet who ruled the 1970s to another, with arguably Sweden's most famous export – though Volvo or Ikea may have something to say about that. Released in 1992 after the movie Muriel's Wedding sparked a reappraisal of and new appreciation for Abba's talents, Gold has shifted almost 5.3 million copies. It features every single one of their nine Number 1s, including Waterloo (1974), Dancing Queen (1976), Take A Chance On Me (1978) and Super Trouper (1980).
Queen – Greatest Hits II
Yep, it's them again. The trouble with releasing a hits collection is that there's every chance you'll carry on having more hits, in which case you'll need to… well, you'll need to release another greatest hits, won't you? Simple. Queen didn't stop delivering the bangers once their 1981 Greatest Hits was released, so 12 years later, they released another. Includes the Number 1 with David Bowie, Under Pressure, and classics like Radio GaGa and I Want To Break Free. It's no wonder this has found space in almost as many record collections – and hearts – as its predecessor; it's sold over 3.99 million, so it should soon become the 10th album to break the 4 million sales barrier.
Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
The most successful greatest hits by a solo artist in our countdown – did you imagine it would be Madonna? Course you did! The Material Girl's 1990 hits retrospective came, in hindsight, very early in her career, but it certainly wasn't short on hits. Out of 17 songs featured, only one missed the Top 10 (Lucky Star) and Madonna used the canny trick of driving up demand by taking the then-unusual step of featuring all-new remixes of some of her classics. Fans are still divided over whether this was a travesty or a revelation (justice for Into The Groove and Like A Prayer plz). The Immaculate Collection was Number 1 for nine straight weeks and has sold 3.7 million copies.
Bob Marley and the Wailers – Legend
It's one of the cruellest injustices of the music business that some artists only get the recognition they deserve once they have passed away. While Bob Marley did enjoy plenty of hit singles in his lifetime, it wasn't until after his death that he scored a Number 1 album with this career retrospective. And what a Number 1 it was – a true phenomenon, entering at Number 1 in 1984 and refusing to budge for 12 consecutive weeks. 3.38 million of you bought this one.
Beatles – 1
One of three entries on our Top 10 to come from the 21st century, this was the first time the Beatles' major hits had been available on one CD. Pretty much all the Number 1s are here – hence the name of the album – from From Me To You (1963) to The Ballad of John and Yoko (1969). Demand for the Fab Four had shown no signs of slowing 30 years after their break up: 1 spent nine weeks at Number 1, and has sold 3.23 million copies in the UK.
Abba – Greatest Hits (1976)
Hang on, didn't we already have an Abba greatest hits album? Well, why have one when you can have two? Originally released in 1976, way before the group would have the bulk of their signature smashes, they put out this retrospective of tracks from their first three albums. The cheeky thing about this was that around half the tracks on it hadn't been hits at all, not in the UK anyway. Nevertheless, it was the perfect introduction to the band for anyone who'd avoided them before, and Greatest Hits was the biggest selling album of 1976, probably helped along by the fact it featured the non-album single Fernando.
George Michael – Ladies and Gentlemen
A collection of 29 tracks, including then hard-to-find non-album singles and special duets, the former one-half of Wham! scored the biggest selling album of his incredible career with this 1998 set. It was the mist-have Christmas present of that year, staying at Number 1 for eight weeks over the festive period. There are 2.48 million copies out there somewhere.
Take That – Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection
When whispers start that your long-split favourite band might be talking again, what's the first thing you do? Why, you listen to all their old hits again and wallow in nostalgic bliss. To coincide with a new documentary that hoped to reunite the group with estranged bandmate Robbie Williams, this 2005 greatest hits collection featured all their Number 1s up to that point. It has the dubious honour of being the biggest selling greatest hits album not to get to Number 1, too. While it shifted plenty of copies, it was beaten to the top by Madonna's Confessions On A Dance Floor. Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection has sold 2.36 million.
Michael Jackson – Number Ones
With a chart record like Michael Jackson's, you were always going to struggle to pick a selection of his best tracks for a greatest hits. This 2003 retrospective, then, kept things simple: tracks that had hit Number 1 somewhere in the world got a free pass. 2.35 million copies of this chart-topping album, which is as good an introduction to the King of Pop as you're likely to get, are in homes around the UK. Ow!
Robbie Williams' 2004 Greatest Hits just misses out on a Top 10 placing but has still sold 2.31 million copies, and Tina Turner's 1991 hits collection Simply The Best has shifted an impressive 2.17 million copies.
Here's the Official Top 10 biggest selling greatest hits albums:
|2||GOLD - GREATEST HITS||ABBA||1992|
|3||GREATEST HITS II||QUEEN||1991|
|4||THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION||MADONNA||1990|
|5||LEGEND||BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS||1984|
|8||LADIES & GENTLEMEN - THE BEST OF||GEORGE MICHAEL||1998|
|9||NEVER FORGET - THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION||TAKE THAT||2005|
|10||NUMBER ONES||MICHAEL JACKSON||2003|
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Take a look at our gallery of the bestselling album of every year since the Official Albums Chart began in 1956: