The record that is recognised by the Official Charts Company as the UK’s bestselling artist album of all time, Queen‘s first Greatest Hits collection, began its reign on 14 November 1981. It’s gone on to sell more than 6.1 million copies in the UK alone.
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A little over seven and a half years into the band’s chart lifespan, and with their ‘Under Pressure’ collaboration with David Bowie just seven days away from becoming Queen’s second chart-topping single, the retrospective gave them their third No. 1 UK album.
In 2014, the OCC confirmed that Greatest Hits had become the first album to pass sales in Britain of six million copies, some 900,000 copies ahead, to February that year, of ABBA‘s Gold anthology. To add to the honour, the Greatest Hits II album, released exactly a decade later in October 1991, just a month before the untimely death of Freddie Mercury, stood at No. 10 in that all-time sales list, with a further 3.9 million UK sales.
That first Greatest Hits, seen by many as the definitive hits collection by any artist, had by November 2017 risen to an astonishing aggregate of 798 weeks in the weekly UK top 100, 164 of them spent inside the top 40. Its undying popularity was further underlined in the OCC’s list of the UK’s bestselling albums of 2017 on vinyl: to October, it was sitting at No. 25.
Now certified eight times platinum in Queen’s home country, the record also topped the charts on first release in Germany, Holland and Austria among other markets. The album appeared on the UK chart for the first time at No. 2, behind British rock ‘n’ roller Shakin’ Stevens’ Shaky, before starting the first of four weeks at No. 1.
The hits package was in the top five every week until the end of January 1982 and remained in the top 75 for almost a year, until the end of September. It has reappeared at regular intervals ever since, and as Queen’s legend grew, the album spent an unbroken run of 224 weeks on the top 100 between 1983 and 1987.
Mercury’s sad death did, of course, give Greatest Hits new momentum, with a nine-week sequence in the top ten from late 1991 alongside its second volume. Greatest Hits continues to sell to this day: from July 2015 to November 2018, it was outside the top 100 of the UK album chart for precisely two weeks. The success of the Bohemian Rhapsody film and its soundtrack propelled the collection back into the UK top 30 once again, and it returned to the top 40 yet again in June 2019. Few, if any, albums in the history of British music have been quite so indispensable.
Queen’s Greatest Hits can be bought here.
Follow the official Queen Best Of playlist.