The record that is recognized 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 November 14, 1981. It’s gone on become the first album in UK chart history to reach 7 million UK chart “sales,” a milestone reached in recent years by the addition of downloads and streams to its vast total as a physical release.
In 2014, the OCC had confirmed that Greatest Hits was 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 honor, 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.
The first Greatest Hits, released 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. It had opened at No.2, behind British rock’n’roller Shakin’ Stevens’ Shaky, before starting the first of four weeks at the top. The collection also topped the charts on first release in Germany, Holland and Austria among other markets.
Seen by many as the definitive hits collection by any artist, it had by November 2022 risen to an astonishing aggregate of 1023 weeks in the weekly UK Top 100, 343 of them spent inside the Top 40 and 56 in the Top 10.
The hits package was in the Top 5 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 10 from late 1991 alongside its second volume. The success of the Bohemian Rhapsody film and its soundtrack propelled the collection back into the UK Top 30 once again and, in the digital era, it has spent its chart life from 2019 onwards back in the Top 40, and often higher. Few, if any, albums in the history of British music have been quite so indispensable.
Buy or stream Queen’s Greatest Hits.