Greatest Greatest Hits

I’ve just spent three days away in the Lake District camping with family, with all the usual laughing, walking, eating, playing Frisbee and bickering this entails and I made sure that apart from the car stereo, which we never seem to use when we’re all together, I had no music with me at all.  It was a really nice thing to do actually, curbing my obsessive ways for a few days and hopefully cleansing my palate a little.  Last time I walked up to the shelves looking for something to put on, I just couldn’t be bothered.

The view from Wray castle yesterday
The view from Wray Castle yesterday – better than Lego and vinyl?

Still, now I’ve come down (literally) from the mountain to dispense my wisdom and lore to my faithful followers I decided upon one that was a real life-changer for me, Queen Greatest Hits.

Like the rest of my generation I fell in love with Queen after their consummate performance at Live Aid.  I knew of them before and had enjoyed the video for ‘I Want to Break Free’, but that was about it; but where to start? my friend’s big sister’s copy of Greatest Hits was the perfect answer.  What an LP! 17 tracks of brilliance, the best-selling album ever in the UK – 5.8 million sold in a population of (today) 62.74 million, without allowing for babies and irredeemable homophobes that means that by my crude calculations one in 12 of us own a copy of this LP.  Add in all the copied and illegally downloaded ones out there and I strongly believe that the actual figures point to every man, woman and child in the UK owning at least 4.2 copies of this LP*.

I love that fact it means that for every difference that shapes us as a nation, be it ethnic grouping, religion, language, gender, social class, political views, sporting allegiances, regional loyalties whatever we are all united in a common ability to sing the wrong lyrics to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, all the right ones to ‘Flash’ and in our ability to do a half-decent Freddie Mercury impersonation.  In these days of mistrust and division I find that a comforting thought.

Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #1
Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #1

I understand that the LP was released with a different track-listing in every territory to reflect the singles actually released there, the US version which I’ve just looked at is a substantially different LP.  The UK one opens with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a song that just blew my mind when I first got hold of it, but one which I’ve heard so many times now that I actually find it difficult to listen to, my brain shuts off after a chord or two and wakes up again during the ‘silly’ bit.  One hell of an opening track too, how do you follow that? ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ of course!  John Deacon’s borrowing (and slight inversion) of Chic’s ‘Good Times’ Every track here is brilliant, even the slightly soppy, John Deacon penned, ‘You’re My Best Friend’ which I never used to like at all.

I was a teenage Queen freak and I loved all the LPs fairly indiscriminately and Greatest Hits was my launching point.  It was good to have some reference points I knew already when I went potholing into the LPs proper, I could pitch camp and rest up safely during ‘Now I’m Here’ and plot my assault on the summit of Side 2 of Sheer Heart Attack.  I’m not much of a one for greatest hits-type LPs normally^ you need the band in question to have been a real singles machine to make it worthwhile and that art seems to have gone the way of the cooper, fletcher and farrier**; and woe betide any so-called Greatest Hits LP coming my way padded out with favourite LP cuts and live versions.  At their best though Queen were a singles band quite unlike anyone else. their tastefully schizophrenic dabblings in rock, pop, dance and ballads give them a volume of quality singles unrivalled by anyone band I can think of excluding the big legendary 60’s ones.  So they are the only band who’s back catalogue I have explored in this way.

Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #2
Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #2

Anyway, all that babble aside Queen Greatest Hits is, as I might have said earlier, a brilliant LP full stop.  It’s fun and playful, ‘Flash’ makes me smile from ear to ear as well as hard-hitting at times, ‘Save Me’ is the track that my overly dramatic adolescent self went for big time.  It just has most bases covered and it also has my fave all-time (today anyway) Queen song on it, ‘Somebody to Love’ – I just don’t think rock/pop gets any better than this.  You add the inner sleeve notes (gotta love sleeve notes) about each track and I’m a happy little obsessive.

Interestingly enough my kids, with whom I’ve adopted a strict ‘don’t-force-them-to-listen-to-your-music, it’ll-only-turn-them-away-from-discovering-it-themselves policy’, LOVE this album already.  It’s become a family thing singing along to ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ in 4-part harmony and let’s face it they do make the rocking world go round!

Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #3

183 Down.

P.S – we do actually own 2 copies of this LP, Mrs 1537 and I both bought copies before we were manacled together for life; and yes, it was my wife’s copy that was the ‘stunt LP’ for these photos!  Shhhh.

Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #4
Proof that every UK home owns 4 copies of this LP: #4

*I don’t want to dazzle you with my rigorously peer-checked scientific calculations here, you’re going to just have to trust me on this one.

^although I’m not against the idea of Greatest hits LPs per se, a Kanye West’s one will be a great LP one day and maybe Lady Gaga too – it’s more of a pop than a rock thing, maybe.

**yes, I know there are still lone practitioners out there doing their coop-thang, but you know what I mean!

20 thoughts on “Greatest Greatest Hits

  1. Can’t say I share your passion for Queen, but enjoyed the article muchly and the photos are just terrific. I will doubtless cite them when someone (who may or may not be my partner) asserts that record collectors have no sense of humour.
    PS. Was I the only one who winced at the pot plant on the LP?

  2. I got the Canadian edition of Greatest Hits (aka “the red cover”) first, in Christmas of 93. Fell in love with it. Got the proper UK version in a 3 disc box set with the other two Greatest Hits. Just to have it, you know? I already had all the songs on all three discs anyway. Just to have it.

  3. I concur regarding Sign Of The Times. That’s a piece of pop weirdness that will never be topped. “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” is a favorite among many.

    And Supergrass wrote a really good song about 11 years ago called “Brecon Beacon”. Probably one of the last good songs they wrote.

      1. It’s off Life On Other Planets. Great record throughout.

        Big fan up until that self-titled. Got spotty from that point on. But yeah, definitely a singles band for sure. In It For The Money was the highlight of 1997 for me.

      2. As a matter of fact I did. Red vinyl. Sounds great. “Blade Runner Blues” is always a great listen. I always liked the old timey number at the end of side one too.

        Funny side note…the day I bought it off Discogs we went to the big city and I hit one of the record stores in town. First record I see? Blade Runner Soundtrack on vinyl.

  4. Queen are legends this is true. Where in Abergavenny did you stay? Mrs 80smetalman and I went there for our anniversary back in March and we stayed at a great hotel in the village of Pandy some seven miles outside Aber.

    1. No it was the Lake District – the Abergavenny reference was from a bit I scrapped about listening to it over and over again on my walkman when my parent’s car broke down in Abergavenny one Christmas Eve.

      It’s a beautiful part of the world, if you know where to go the Brecon beacons are stunning.

  5. If it matters, I can verify the above computations, if I apply a suitably large confidence interval.

    For me, Queen is like Prince (don’t scoff … yet) where they are both prolific and high quality, memorable and replayable, iconic and really iconic.

    In the Orangey household, there’s a BBC Queen documentary that gets played every time it’s scheduled. It feels like we should be practicing to do a live re-enactment of it, but, if I don’t get to play Brian May’s hair, I’m not going to do it!

    1. Pah! Confidence intervals are for mere mortals!

      I dig your Queen / Prince comparison wholeheartedly, but much as I love Queen, Prince at his best was far more innovative though – Sign @ the Times is 4 sides of genius beyond measure – I tried writing about it once and scrapped it. Maybe in 2015?

      I’d like to have been John Deacon, an earth-conquering stadium rocker that I’m not entirely confident I’d recognise if he sat opposite me on the train. I respect that.

      1. I didn’t know who John Deacon was (hiding face in shame). Quick research of that revealed that Queen’s Roger Taylor is not Duran Duran’s Roger Taylor. That explains a long ago faux pas of a young Orange. How retroactively embarrassing!

      2. You should hang your head in shame several years ago!

        Maybe gathering together all present at the time and re-enacting said faux pas in the presence of a Supreme court Judge / Transvestite longshoreman might give you closure?

  6. “Tenement Funster” and “In The Lap Of The Gods” are probably two of my favorite songs by Queen. Weird favorites, I know. But I grew up on Sheer Heart Attack and I can remember my parents spinning that a lot on the console record player in the basement. Nothing gets the blood pumping like the opening to “Brighton Rock”.

    Btw, that’s a hell of a view. I think I could leave the iPod at home for that mountain view. Glad it was an enjoyable step away from civilization.

    1. I love SHA too, I’ll write about it in 2018! ‘Tenement Funster’ and ‘She makes Me’ are my faves, but there’s not a duff track on that LP.

      It was great, its nice to be happy tired on a Monday at work, rather than stressed tired, or shoot-me-now tired. It was nice to leave the music behind for a bit too, although I did find myself humming ‘The Macarena’ at one point, which was a bit worrying. No, very worrying.

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