RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits
The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them. Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums. I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person. Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.
And what about you? How many do you own? What are your favourites? Why did you buy them? I asked myself those three questions too. #1. I don’t know. #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there. #3. Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:
1. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example. There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from. I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits. I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.
2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.
3. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.
4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.
5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.
6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).
That point is the most important one. Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience. My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits. Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size. I don’t even know how many I have. 100 maybe? More? And it keeps growing!
My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. My first Rush? Chronicles. First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits. See where I’m going with this? These are bands that, today, I am still collecting. I still buy whatever’s coming out. Which brings me to my last point.
7. Personal history. I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones. Something about the familiarity, I suppose. But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all. In some cases, vinyl too!
What are your favourites? Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs? If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it? Let me know!