From Beach Boys to Queen, 5 Bands With Too Many Greatest Hits Compilations

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Last week, the Beach Boys announced that they’ll release two new greatest hits albums in October, bringing their grand total of best-of compilations nearly as high as the number of Beach Boys hits.

In recent years particularly, labels like Rhino and Sony Legacy have released more best-of collections and box sets than ever. But how many is too many? If nearly all the compilations are identical in tracklisting, what’s the point?

Throughout their careers, iconic bands typically go through a few record labels, so to each and every one of those companies, the hits the band produced while on their label remain viable business. Every few years, a new best-of disc or box set will arrive, but imagine how confusing that could be to a casual consumer looking for a gateway into a band’s music. We took a gander through AllMusics archives to see which acts have, simply, too many greatest hits compilations.

The Beach Boys

Is it all the surprising that one of America’s most commercially successful and longest-running bands has more best-of albums than anyone else? The first of the Beach Boys’ greatest hits albums came just five years after the band’s 1961 conception, with more volumes added in 1967 and 1968 as the hits continued to pile up. The 1970s saw the release of a different best-of compilation nearly every year of the decade by various labels, even as the Beach Boys continued to release new music (albeit divergent from their surf-and-cars hit formula). With the exception of 1988’s “Kokomo,” the Beach Boys were long-past their Top-40 singles phase by the time the band’s longtime label, Capitol/EMI, as well as Hollywood Records began rolling out definitive greatest hits compilations in the 1990s. These included what is thought to be one of the more definitive Beach Boys’ collections, 1999’s two-volume Greatest Hits set, which includes all the usual suspects. 2003’s Sounds of the Summer has all your bases covered if you’re looking for just one album.

The Byrds

For as short-lived as The Byrds’ heyday was (1965-1967), the folk-rock act has inspired far more compilations than original albums. There are four different albums titled The Very Best of The Byrds, all with varying tracklists and release dates. The first of these arrived in 1967, just three years after the band’s forming and with only two Top-10 hits (both covers) under their belt. The band, which spawned David Crosby and Gram Parsons, is considered influential and ahead of its time for incorporating folk and psychedelic elements into pop music. However, that doesn’t change the fact that outside of their covers of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, The Byrds aren’t a “big hits” band.

Queen

Queen’s first greatest hits compilation came ten years after the band’s founding – and after the band had scored massive hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” So it was about time, and the hits compilation became one the UK’s best-selling albums ever and went multiple-times platinum in the US. Queen scored more hits after 1981, from “I Want To Break Free” and “Innuendo,” so definitive best-of compilations seemed particularly necessary, especially in the wake of Freddie Mercury’s 1991 death. Then came the band’s Greatest Video Hits, of which they’ll release another volume this fall, and even more best-of collections, even after they’d stopped scoring big hits. When you’re an act with as many iconic singalongs as Queen, greatest hits albums are totally necessary – but at this point, there are nearly 20 different best-ofs.

Chicago

There were few rock bands who scored more charting hits in 1970s than Chicago, so there’s certainly a need for best-of collections from the jazz-inspired group. And several of the band’s greatest hits albums – like Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits 1982–1989 -have sold extraordinarily well. But given the act’s decades-long history, it’s almost a struggle to keep track of what hits are on which best-of compilations. The group’s various labels – Reprise, Warner Bros. and Rhino – have released too many uncomprehensive collections through the years, upwards of 20. A box set really is in order for fans looking for an accurate portrait of Chicago’s history and hits (and several of those exist).

The Monkees

The Monkees were very popular for a brief moment in time, scoring their four consecutive No. 1 albums from 1966-1967. During that time, the goofy pop group also hosted its own TV show, on which they performed hits like “I’m A Believer,” “Last Train To Clarksville” and “Daydream Believer.” With the release of their trippy film Head in late 1968, they shifted from a hits-delivering act to a band attempting to jump on the psychedelic train. Unsurprisingly, the hits largely stopped around this time, which is why the constant release of Monkees best-ofs seems all that more redundant. Rhino has released more Monkees greatest hits than there are Monkees hits, and with the recent passing of Davy Jones, even more compilations and reissues have been released or are in the works.

- Jillian Mapes, CBS Local

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