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Queen’s Greatest Hits confirmed as UK’s best selling album of the last 60 years

Queen_greatest

Queen‘s 1981 Greatest Hits album is the biggest selling album of all time in the UK, according to the official Chart Company who have published a list of the 60 largest selling long-players, to celebrate 60 years of the chart…

The best of (pictured above with the original cover) is the only album in Britain to have sold over six million copies (6.1m to date) almost a million ahead of the second placed album, ABBA‘s Gold compilation which was issued in 1992. Although Queen had an 11 year ‘head start’ on ABBA, it’s unlikely the Swedish pop group will ever catch Queen since both albums continue to sell strongly.

The first studio album in the list is, The Beatles‘ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which is the only other record that has broken the five million barrier. In fact, perhaps surprisingly, the top ten isn’t chock-a-block with greatest hits compilations, with seven out of the top ten being ‘proper’ albums, albeit familiar mega sellers such as Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon (no. 7), Michael Jackson‘s Thriller ‘s (no. 6) and Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms (no. 8).

Of the seven studio albums in the top ten only three haven’t had expanded deluxe reissues at some point: Sgt Pepper, Adele‘s 21 and Brothers in Arms. The Dire Straits album has been reissued as a 5.1 SACD but no actual ‘deluxe’ edition.

stars

It was in the top five for many years, but Simply Red‘s Stars – celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – now sits at number 14. Also, the reason James Blunt has “no mortgage” – as he once pithily pointed out to a someone who was criticising him on twitter – is because Back to Bedlam is the 17th biggest selling album of all time in the UK.

Scanning through the top 60 does cause the eyebrows to raise occasionally, because amongst the expected albums are a few surprises. For example the Scissor Sisters‘ 2004 is the 28th biggest selling album in UK chart history. Yes it is. And Take That have three albums in the top sixty, two of which Beautiful World and Progress from the second phase of their career. Shania Twain‘s Come On Over also shifted enough units at the time to sit high up the chart at number 15.

automatic_for

Still, it’s nice to see R.E.M.‘s Automatic For The People lurking at the back at number 60 and the Paul Simon‘s similarly lauded Graceland is nine places higher at number 51.

Although you might think the chart would be skewed towards the big selling era of the 1970s and 1980s a third of the list come from albums issued between 2000 and 2010. And remarkably, two albums from the last two years are in the chart (Ed Sheeran’s X – no. 49 – and Adele’s 25 – no. 27).

You can view the full listing of the UK’s top 60 best selling albums here.

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55 responses to Queen’s Greatest Hits confirmed as UK’s best selling album of the last 60 years

  1. ChristopherM says:

    “you might think the chart would be skewed towards the big selling era of the 1970s and 1980s”

    Yes Paul. Having seen “Tubular Bells” dominate the 1970s UK charts (alongside DSotM & Rumours) I’m amazed it reached only #42.

    However, I’m very reliably informed that the previously steady ongoing UK sales of the original Tubular Bells album suddenly evaporated in 2007. That was when a couple of million copies were given away free with a UK Sunday newspaper – just before Virgin’s rights reverted to Mike Oldfield.

  2. Chris Squires says:

    Funnily enough I came here to comment on Tubular Bells as well. It is commonly stated that it topped the chart for a year or spent ages at the top of the chart, which to me means number one but as any oldfieldophile knows it didn’t get to number one at all until AFTER Hergest Ridge had been released 18 months later.

    To me it’s just nice that Mike is somewhere on the list.

    That was a horrible thing for EMI to do, it really crippled sales for quite a while.

  3. RJSWinchester says:

    Reminds me of that oft-quoted saying that if you leave a cassette in your car glove compartment for long enough it will eventually metamorphose into Queen’s Greatest Hits. I own half-a-dozen albums on the list. Not sure if that confirms that I have good or bad taste in music, but on second thoughts, the likes of David Axelrod, Serge Gainsbourg, Lukes Haines, etc. would never trouble the upper echelons of a best sellers chart (although I’m sure Serge would in France).

  4. baward says:

    As people pointed out on the list page, no Elton John or Bowie??

  5. edward says:

    yeh surprised about bowie also but in a way not that surprising.
    Having seen some of his sales more recently after his death, none appear to have mega sales

    • Andy says:

      I think Bowie is just too difficult to cross over in the way the top sellers of this list have. Critically acclaimed of course, and everyone knows and loves the hits – but as bodies of work, the albums are probably just too left field. I think you can say the same for Prince. Hits are hits, but as commercial bodies of work, the albums are anything but.

      • SDP says:

        Utter tosh. Let’s Dance was only outsold in 1983 by Thriller. And Aladdin Sane was also the second best seller of the year ten years earlier.

  6. elliott buckingham says:

    I own 37 from that list

  7. Metal Mickey says:

    Over half of these albums (and IMHO by *far* the worst half) are just from the last 20 years – it feels to me like there was a major shift in marketing of albums from the mid-90s onwards that enabled certain records to sell in these mega-quantities, which skews this list accordingly…

    As a very broad generalisation, I’d also say that most of the pre-90’s albums here are legitimately reasonably “classic” albums of their time, whereas most of the newer albums (The Corrs! Keane! Scissor Sisters! Shania! Dido! Travis! Leona! Buble!) are charity-shop regulars… make of that what you will…

  8. gary says:

    I own, bought, 27 of these. MOR indeed!

    This looks like the CD changer in a Lexus belonging to Alan Partridge, adding Deacon Blue, Tears for Fears and ELO.
    Would he swing for Wings over The Beatles tho?

    I’d be very interested in seeing what the American public bought…

  9. Dean says:

    Ha ha ha.

    It’s about the taste of the masses, of course – but that’s a depressing list.

    I own 5 titles from it, some of the rest are frightening. Still – clearly most people disagree. :)

  10. DaveM says:

    Tango in the Night at 54 and still no mention of a deluxe remastered edition on the horizon.

    The last twenty years sales are a surprise when we were being told ‘albums’ were a becoming a thing of the past and the music industry was in decline. It’s quite encouraging that some of those recent artists cut across a huge demographic (my 79 year old father in law has Adele CDs on his shelves) so the physical sales of these MUST help and keep CD alive.

  11. Foxee says:

    Interesting that ‘Tango in the Night’ makes the top 60, and yet no deluxe edition has ever been issued!

  12. gwynogue says:

    Before I comment, I just want to share a little gripe of mine – I don’t think compilations should be counted in these things.

    Moving on…

    It’s not surprising that ABBA Gold has sold a lot, considering how many varying reincarnations/repackages/reissues it has had in it’s 24 years (there’ll probably be a 25th Anniversary edition next year, LOL). I have FIVE different versions of it! I’m sure there are a lot of people who have bought multiple copies/editions. Like Metal Mickey said – the poster, not the TV show robot : ) – marketing skews the list (notice how the top 3 all have/had musicals featuring their music?)

    The other Top 10’ers have never had such constant recycling. Sure there’s been a bit of reissuing and remastering, but little overhaul of packaging or content, and not to the same frequency as ABBA. It’s been more about staying in print, rather than refreshing and renovating.

    I’d hate to see an Australian list – probably all Taylor Swift, Michael Buble and Andre Rieu. *shudder*

    Apropos of nothing, I have 30 of those 60.

  13. tom says:

    Some absolute shockers, I own or have owned 7 of those lps- the good ones obviously!

  14. Daran says:

    Goes to show you can’t bet on what is going to be a smash or not.

    How many of these top 60 are not good enough musically to be in the list, but are due to superb marketing, and how many should be in the list on merit but are not because the marketing side was messed up! A lot I would say.

  15. Simon says:

    Equally apropos of nothing, I own nine on the list.

    Martin Talbot’s decidedly arrogant comment Adele’s and Ed Sheeran’s inclusion in the list, “underlines the power of the Official Albums Chart in championing great British talent, young and old” suggests his organisation is doing most of the buying. The public buying those artists’ albums are the ones championing great British talent, thank you.

  16. RJSWinchester says:

    The reason why the likes of Scissor Sisters, Dido and Adele were/are so successful is heavy rotation on Radio 2, supermarkets and talk shows (Graham Norton; Johnathan Ross) that feature singers towards the end. I suspect the people who buy their music are the sort of people who only buy a couple of CDs a year and they pop it into their trolley at the checkout. I’m surprised at Adele’s success with what amounts to three albums of inter-changeable ballads. I’m guessing that most of her music is bought by women?

  17. AlexKx says:

    I LOVE QUEEN! They are my third favorite recording group ever!!! No Led Zeppelin?! At some point they were the world’s second best selling group until Pink Floyd released “Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd” which then allowed them (Pink Floyd) to become the second best selling group in the world. I don’t get all of that. Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” is not on the list?! Or even “HIStory: Past, Present, And Future – BOOK I”? I for one think that Michael’s sales worldwide are VASTLY undercounted and have been since the mid 1980’s. I think that there is a huge story there. I think that explains why some people are so shocked of “Thriller” having sold so much worldwide being 100 million copies according the both the “Guiness Book Of World Records” as well as “The World Music Awards”. So in my opinion after doing SEVEN SOLD OUT nights at Wembley Stadium in what was it 1988? that the sales of “Thriller” should be larger than they are in England significantly more than QUEEN’s “Greatest Hits”.

  18. alan hansen says:

    i can only say this, after decades of having worked in several different independent music shops (from about 1981-2005?): 1- for the record, the UK version of this QUEEN “Greatest Hits” has a different track-listing from the US version, and 2- although we sold our share of MJ’s “Thriller” when it was released and for a time afterward, its sales simply vanished statistically after a year or two; whereas we were (and had always been) continually ordering and restocking the shelves with “Dark Side of the Moon” and other PF titles alongside LED-ZEP, THE BEATLES, FLEETWOOD MAC, etc.

  19. alan hansen says:

    …besides, statistics are funny things – they are easily manipulated – statistically speaking, of course.

    • gwynogue says:

      97% of statistics are made up. : )

      Referring to MJ, his sales took a massive hit in the 90s, thanks to allegations and issues that we don’t need to get into here. Even though he still retained a devoted fanbase and his popularity slowly returned, it never really recovered to his 1980’s success levels. It was 10-15 years before his sales really kicked off again – and that was created by his death and didn’t last long. So even though his albums were absolutely HUUUUUGE sellers when released, long-term sales have been very difficult to maintain.

  20. Greg says:

    Do deluxe editions count towards the sales or is it just original albums?

  21. Paul Murphy says:

    No Nick Kamen? I’d have thought that Deluxe re-issue would have propelled it way up the list.

  22. mike says:

    Tango, tango, tango….

  23. Paul says:

    I am always fascinated by these types of lists, as it always sparks off great debate! And talking of these type of top selling lists, it’s always famously quoted in respect of 12 inch singles that New Order’s 1983 Blue Monday is the best selling 12 inch ever. Does anyone know where such a top 10 or 20 list of best selling 12 inches exist? Always curious as to where that stat comes from.

  24. Shane says:

    No Madonna. Even in the US list she is far far below. *shakes head. When you see who is above her.

  25. Neil says:

    I find it very hard to believe Keane’s Hopes And Fears which is a great album btw has sold more copies than The Joshua Tree. I can understand why there are no Bowie or Elton John albums but i’m amazed that Peter Gabriel’s So or Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush are not on that list. I think they lost track of album sales at some point.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hounds of Love ‘only’ sold about 600,000 copies (double platinum) in it’s first year, when it was a ‘big’ album. I remember keeping a close eye on it. I’m sure it has been a steady catalogue seller in the last 30 years, but if Let’s Dance didn’t make it into the top 60 then no chance for Hounds of Love.

  26. Steve says:

    gwynogue: regarding endless repackaging, check Dark Side of the Moon. It’s definitely had plenty of versions.

    I have 18 of the releases on the UK list (some multiple copies); 30 from the US. The lists are hard to compare, of course.

  27. Joseph says:

    Bit of a hard time trusting the data accuracy from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s. I know it’s only been the basis of how artists royalties have been calculated since the dawn of time, which means units moved should be spot on, but I just don’t know.

    Were labels not known to leverage overreporting in their various ways for chart visibility (and then the story changes when time to cut the check)? Who knows where the numbers have landed.

    Sorry to be a cynic.

    • gwynogue says:

      I don’t know about the UK charts, but the Australian charts can be a bit ‘fudgey’/’fuzzy’ – I read somewhere that ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ certifications are based on the number of copies supplied to retailers, rather than the number of those copies the retailers actually sell.

      And now that downloads and streams are factored into sales/chart figures, it could be even more ‘fudgey’/fuzzy’…

      e.g. I don’t know if an album download counts as an album sale, if you don’t buy all the tracks?

  28. Richard says:

    Hello Everyone,

    This Brooklynite has 22 of the 60. I’m into most genre of Rock. 1950’s- 1980’s Pop. No Jazz? I do plan on Sound of Music from original tapes in the near future, on vinyl. Most lists change as the population s get older and new blood ( mostly crap ) lovers get their tastes reflected.
    I don’t let Rolling Stone or any other lists bother me. Every thing is subjective. Their are larger issues that matter in life.
    Let’s just enjoy what matters – Great Music – That stands the test of time.
    I just want to than Paul and his co-workers for their great work everyday. It’s a must everyday when I wake up in NYC.

    Cheers.

  29. andrew R says:

    Would the surprisingly small amounts sold by various bands be down to
    the fact that in the 70’s vinyl was quite expensive and people had less disposable income

  30. andrew R says:

    They had to be saved up for. In Zeppelins case people forget their sales collapsed for most of the 80’s only ressurected after remasters came out

  31. andrew R says:

    Paul is there any way to go back in to a reply and alter typos or mistakes like
    splitting the comment as i have done above? Thanks

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Not at the moment. Upgrading comments, and perhaps asking some sensible folks here to help moderate, is on the list of things to do!

      • don cooper says:

        Good luck with ‘sensible folks’, Paul. We’re all mad as snakes round ere’.
        ;-)

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Haha… I’ve noticed ;)

          • Chris Squires says:

            Get the Brummies in! It is “The most trusted” accent in the UK… Unfortunately it’s also the dullest according to the same Poll.

            I have 25 of the list, including the Sound of Music. A perfect album in every way.

            It’s odd when you compare official sales against what one thinks was a “Massive” album. I think Hounds of Love, Out of the Blue, So, No Jacket Required….. they are, as Paul says above…Not even close

    • Phil says:

      Good point Andrew. I also think the size of the album-buying market is significantly bigger now than it was in the earlier years. I do remember saving for records. You really thought long and hard about which album you would spend your money on. I bought lots of them secondhand.

  32. Andrew says:

    I own 5 of the 60. None of what I’ve previous,y owned is in there. I don’t listen to much radio, the new music I pick up is through word of mouth or gigs. Just the way I like it. If you can’t play an instrument or perform live, I’m not interested.

  33. Mikko Suhonen says:

    I find it interesting that only one of the Beatles studio albums got in this list. Did Sgt. Pepper’s sell so much more than, f.eg. Abbey Road, that the former is in the top 5 and the latter (like all the rest of the Beatles albums that were sold in huge quantities) is not in the list at all.

  34. don cooper says:

    Sad to see ‘Queen’s T.V. advertisement Soundtracks’ fails to make the list.
    I jest.
    Not.

  35. Jan says:

    I do remember, when working for a certain Megastore, that when we had a CD campaign on with key titles such as REM or Paul Simon, they would then appear in the chart a week later. Everyone likes a bargain.

  36. MiG says:

    Should Queen fans be celebrating this? Surely fans don’t buy best ofs…

    Love this list. Fun to compare it to the typical critical best ofs. What, no “Pet Sounds”? No “Exile”? No “Bollcks”? Are music buyers and music lovers the same thing? Is somebody who listens on an iPod or smartphone the same as someone who listens on vinyl?

    This list looks almost exactly like my sister’s music collection, and almost nothing like mine. So she’s obvious more clued in to good music than I am. Which is something she’s been telling me for the past 40 years. Or as she puts it, “Lark’s Tongues In Crap.”

  37. Eric says:

    So, is that just Queen Greatest Hits I, or including II and III as per the Platinum Collection set which the OCC have previously included in various statistics and achievements now attributed to “Queen Greatest Hits” generally? Once upon a time, these things were separated. Some time in the last 10 years, II and III have seamlessly merged with the original Greatest Hits when various sales/chart landmarks are trotted out.

    No beef with the band themselves, I think they were great (I own all the albums), but this manipulation of stats never fails to tick me off.

  38. WKRP says:

    The UK list is missing so many great artists on the US list. Conversely the US list is only missing #1 Queen in my opinion, but I would expect the US list to have the Chicago’s Greatest Hits ahead of Queen anyway. I love Queen but they are not as popular here as Chicago.

    Surprised both lists are missing any entry by The Who, particularly Who’s Next, and that the US is missing megahits Back in the High Life, Glass Houses, High Infidelity, No Jacket Required, Rhythm Nation 1814, So, Sports, Synchronicity (these must be close to 10 million right behind Eliminator).

  39. Jason Brown says:

    I’ve got 18x of that list. Yet I do find myself agreeing with an underlying tone of the thread – i.e these are really the best sellers? I seem to recall that Automatic For The People has been certified 7x platinum in the UK for having shipped (not sold, though that definition seems to have evolved over the years) 2.1 million copies or therabouts, and that was by about 1996.

    It seems hard to accept that some albums we think as classics are not there. But then, I dig through my Official Virgin Book of Chartsd, dated to year end 2008, and…yup. Appropriately similar to the above. According to the same book, Automatic… had approx sales of 2.3million to end 2008, so – assuming truth and not the legendary Motown way of allegedly counting sales – seems to be in the right ball park.

    I wonder if Queen’s Platinum Collection – Greatest Hits I, II & III – has it’s sales figures split between the three releases? ‘Cause according to the same book, that release alone had sold around 1.6m copies to 2008?

  40. John Hunt says:

    On the website that tracks the daily itunes charts, Queen Greatest Hits and The Platinum Collection are always listed seperately. For example, today in the UK itunes chart, Greatest Hits is at 59 and the Platinum Collection 195.

    http://kworb.net/charts/aitunes/uk.html

  41. Colin says:

    The 1st two Queen ‘Greatest Hits’ Albums are 1st & 10th respectively in the recent Official Charts Company’s List of the UK’s Top 60 Best Selling Albums. However, they have not really sold the 6,120,000, (GH1), & 3,900,000, (GHII), UK copies that The OCC credit them with. Each has sold 626,000 less than that. This means that ‘Greatest Hits II’ has sold 3,274,000 UK copies as a stand-alone’ Album, & rather than being the UK’s 10th Best Selling Album, it is really the 18th.

    I explain how those 1st two Queen ‘Hits’ Albums each managed to get 626,000 ‘Bonus’ Sales below…..

    Although the UK Charts Company gives ‘Greatest Hits’ 6,120,000 UK Sales, they know that it has not actually sold that many as a stand-alone Album. In 2006 the UK Charts Company got some ‘Chart Experts’ to calculate the UK’s Top 100 Best Selling Albums. The ‘Experts’ decided to add the UK Sales from 2 other Queen Compilations to Queen’s 1st & 2nd ‘Greatest Hits’ Albums. They each got 66,000 Sales from a 1994 Double Queen CD & 560,000 each from a 2000 Triple Queen CD, ‘The Platinum Collection’. That gave the 1st 2 Queen Hits Albums a massive 626,000 ‘bonus’ Sales each. If we remove the ‘bonus’ Sales, from the 1st ‘Greatest Hits’ Album, we get 5,494,000 UK Sales for it. The Official Charts Company do not go into this, when they say that it has sold over 6,120,000 UK copies, as they know that the UK Media prefers uncomplicated matters & so they simply give the impression that it has sold 626,000 more than it really has. The ‘bonus’ Sales were admitted to & revealed by UK ‘Chart Expert’ Alan Jones, in the 19th September 2009 issue of ‘Music Week’. However, even with the reduced total of 5,494,000, ‘Greatest Hits’ is still the UK’s Best Selling Album. It just means that it is ‘only’ about 174,000 Sales ahead of the 2nd UK Best Seller – ‘ABBA Gold’, (which has over 5,320,000 UK Sales) – & not the massive 800,000, more than ‘ABBA Gold’s Sales, that the ‘bonus’ 626,000 Sales give it.

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