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Queen: Greatest Hits Album Of The Week Club review

Queen's Greatest Hits is the biggest-selling album in the UK ever, so is there anything new to be said about it?

Queen - Greatest Hits cover
(Image: © EMI)
Queen: Greatest Hits

Queen- Greatest Hits

(Image credit: EMI)

Bohemian Rhapsody
Another One Bites the Dust
Killer Queen
Fat Bottomed Girls
Bicycle Race
You're My Best Friend
Don't Stop Me Now
Save Me
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Somebody to Love
Now I'm Here
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
Play the Game
Flash
Seven Seas of Rhye
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions

Queen's Greatest Hits compilation may just be one of the rock world's most perfect collection of songs. 

More than any other rock band, before or since, Queen were both a great albums band and a great singles band. They could do it all – heavy rock, pop, opera, disco, gospel – and they did it all brilliantly. And they did it with four different songwriters, which is extraordinary.

The way those early hits were presented on this album was inspired – the breadth of Queen’s scope perfectly illustrated by the way the epic grandeur of opener Bohemian Rhapsody leads into the disco sizzle of Another One Bites The Dust.

For a generation of fans too young to have experienced the band's 70s' output first time round, Greatest Hits was their way into the band. For those people, the fade on Don't Stop Me Now will forever be followed by Freddie on the piano as Save Me gathers momentum, rather than as the original was presented, with Roger Taylor's thumping introduction to More Of That Jazz.  

Greatest Hits is the UK's biggest-selling album ever, with certified sales of over six million copies. It's spent 920 weeks on the UK chart, including four weeks at number 1. 

In the US, Greatest Hits has spent a total of 413 weeks on the album chart, and only last week reached a new peak of number eight, having previously clambered to the lofty heights of the number 11 position 29 years ago. 

Queen's Greatest Hits is an album so successful we made a podcast about it

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

Join the group now.

Other albums released in October 1981

  • Ghost in the Machine - The Police
  • Law and Order - Lindsey Buckingham
  • Denim and Leather - Saxon
  • Kollaps - Einstürzende Neubauten
  • Speak & Spell - Depeche Mode
  • Get Lucky - Loverboy
  • October - U2
  • Sonic Attack - Hawkwind
  • Underneath the Colours - INXS
  • Almost Blue - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • Freeze Frame - The J. Geils Band
  • Exit...Stage Left - Rush
  • Circle of Love - Steve Miller Band
  • Gonna Ball - Stray Cats
  • Mask - Bauhaus
  • Quarterflash - Quarterflash
  • Round Trip - The Knack

What they said...

"What the album also proves is that Queen concentrated their studio album efforts on what they truly did best (Catchy Pop Songs) then they would have probably made that great studio album instead of creating those inconsistencies that would dog their career." (SputnikMusic)

"If anyone wants affirmation of the continuing relevance of all those great songs recorded by Brian May, Roger Taylor, Deacon and the aptly mercurial Mercury, they might also look at the long list of  movies that have benefited from Queen numbers — from Wayne’s World (Bohemian Rhapsody) to Grosse Pointe Blank (Under Pressure) to Shaun Of The Dead (Don’t Stop Me Now). There are many more.  And their songs always pop up on The X Factor." (The Daily Mail)

"While there are tapir-hunting tribesmen in Borneo who haven’t heard the ‘politically of its day’ harmonised rock of Fat Bottomed Girls, and goat-milking crofters on the Isle of Arran who are unaware of the priapic, steroid-pumped funk rock of Another One Bites the Dust, it is EMI’s right – nay, their duty – to keep on reissuing these essential rock artefacts." (BBC)

What you said...

Daniel Southwould
I never need to hear any song on this album ever again.

John Davidson
Overplayed. That could be my whole review. I heard each of these songs when they were released, watched the performances and videos on Top Of The Pops.

As a result of their ubiquity I can hear each of these songs without playing the album. Their melodies are coiled around my brain and wrapped up in memories of my teenage years, reinforced by the transformation from yesterday’s hit singles band to global phenomenon in the five years after they conquered the world at Live Aid. Their 20-minute set in London on July 13th 1985 is as close as we will ever see to an actual phoenix take flight and the fact that two or three minute of that is ‘wasted’ getting the crowd to sing Ay-oh is part of the reason that almost everyone who saw it ‘loves’ Queen.

On the other hand, I have never owned any Queen albums other than this (on a long lost tape), Queen Rocks and Live Killers. The reason for that is that Queen albums were by and large a bit shit. Ok, if I am kind, they were eclectic, but for every Bohemian Rhapsody there is a Seaside Rendezvous and a Good Company to sit through and I wasn’t a big enough fan to listen to the stuff that wasn’t even vaguely hard rock.

If A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera were to some degree progressive rock albums that blended musical theatre, opera and rock guitars in a way that no-one had ever really done before (albeit with a knowing Vaudeville wink and a twinkle in their eyes) News of the World saw the band take a commercial turn that they expanded on in Jazz, The Game and pretty much everything after.

Live Killers (issued the year before The Game) is a better window into the side of the band that I am interested in. It includes most of the hits but eschews the quirky album tracks in favour of their hard rock and glam output. I would be tempted to offer it as the alternative to a Greatest Hits album, but the production/mix is so flat I can hardly listen to it these days without grimacing.

It is without question that Queen were a unique and supremely talented band- Brian May’s guitar sound, Freddy's presence, tight rhythms and the vocal harmonies made certain of that- and for all their eclecticism they always sounded like themselves, but Greatest Hits is just that – a collection of the most popular songs released by the band as singles.

There are no deep album cuts, no demo versions and no specially recorded new songs, but by focussing only on the ‘hits’ this album glosses over their strengths and weaknesses in equal measure. I might be glad that there is no Leroy Brown, but there is no Brighton Rock either.

Ultimately it is like knowing someone only through their Facebook or Instagram feed. We glimpse all their best moments but it bears little resemblance to reality.

The selection of tracks (based purely on sales) and the sequencing (based on what would fit on each side of a vinyl record) is almost completely artless.

On that basis I’m tempted to score this a 1 but the individuals tracks are by and large excellent (9/10) so the overall effect is better than any of the albums that scored 5 so a 6/10 it is .

Michael Kay
Let's get this part out of the way up front. I love Queen and the songs themselves are still spectacular. I have no problem awarding this a 10 based on the music alone.

Q: Is it even a 'proper' album? A: No... and a qualified yes. Unless a band or artist is completely defunct, a hits compilation is, by its very nature, a snapshot in time...and possibly a stopgap between recording new albums... and/or a way to fulfil a contract obligation. So, yes, it is considered a proper album in that it is a snapshot of a very specific time period, 1974-1980. That time period also roughly ends with their height of popularity in the U.S. - but not the rest of the world.

But, no, it is not a proper album in too many ways to count. If you read the Guardian article that our admins link to elsewhere in the comments, and I suggest you do; it's, to purposely misquote the song, "Price Tag": It's all about the money, money, money.

If a band is successful and long-lived, their greatest hits arc will run something like this: 1) A greatest hits released on album or cassette, with usually 10-12 songs. 2) The CD makeover with, hopefully, a few more songs to fill out the extra length and/or catch up the listener with later songs. 3) The 2-CD greatest hits, maybe even curated by the artists themselves so you're getting the greatest hits that they think are the best. 4) The 4 to 5 CD box set padded with extras and in my case, hopefully not too many demos. 5) Budget priced CDs, varying depending on what entity licensed what song, that can be one or two CD's.

6) All the above is irrelevant, because it generally means little in the world of streaming. And that's where the Guardian article comes in. This version of Queen's Greatest Hits is a) what Queen Productions Ltd. has determined is the Queen compilation and b) what the "Official Charts Company" (How's that for a name?) credits every time you stream Bohemian Rhapsody or Another Bites the Dust. If you look at the Spotify playlist. all these songs were remastered in 2011, so they are literally not the same songs that were released in 1981. The US version was only 14 songs and included both Keep Yourself Alive and the transcendent Under Pressure. My unscientific search suggests a Hollywood Records compilation gets the credit - and the cash - for Under Pressure.

Q: Is it too long? A: Not to me. It is actually arguably woefully incomplete, if only for the lack of Under Pressure. But there is nothing from the last four studio albums, or five depending on how "tacked on" you feel Under Pressure is to Hot Space. While I like my studio albums to cap out at 45-50 minutes, I want compilations to fill up every second available because I want those "only good song on the album" tracks as well as songs I may have missed the first time around. I have the two-disc Hollywood Records Queen comp for those reasons. Again, increasingly irrelevant in the stream age.

Q: Would it be improved if Flash was discarded? A: No. The lyrically challenged track fortified with the best bits of dialogue from the campy film classic really shows Queen could put their indelible stamp on anything they set their mind too, even soundtrack music.

So, that answers the three questions our admins asked outright. Like many others, I cringed when the thumbnail popped up and saw it was a greatest hits album. But maybe our incisive admins are asking a deeper question...

What does an "album" mean in the age of streaming? That's a good question and, for me, not one with an easy answer. I have bought albums that the club has introduced me to, like Girlschool's Demolition or Whitesnake's Saints and Sinners. But, more likely, I've bought a digital version of the song I liked best and have added it to various playlists, including one dedicated to songs I have discovered through this excellent club.

Or maybe not, maybe they just felt like playing some classic Queen. Not to be confused with the compilation, Classic Queen.

Marco LG
I discovered Queen with The Miracle, in 1989, and have been a fan ever since. I remember warm summer days spent listening to their music, and singing the lyrics of all the songs together with my sister. Queen were one of a very selected few bands my sister and I equally liked, and still sit to this day at the intersection between my musical taste and that of (most) people around me.

Given all that, you may think Greatest Hits would be highly regarded in my collection but you would be wrong. I collected all their studio albums and many of their live albums, but never their compilations. Instead, I spent a lot of time compiling a series of mix-tapes for the enjoyment of my family. Our favourite songs included quite a few of those present on Greatest Hits, but there are notable missing ones: ’39 and The Prophet’s Song from A Night at the Opera, Stone Cold Crazy from Sheer Heart Attack, Jealousy from Jazz to name but a few. This alone would be enough for me to dismiss Greatest Hits, but I realise I am very privileged: I am very familiar with the entire catalogue and I know which songs are my favourite.

Probably not by coincidence, this week is the anniversary of the passing of Freddy Mercury. My social media feeds are full of remembrances, and it just so happens I would have listened to Queen regardless of them being the pick for this club. The first album I probably would have chosen is Sheer Heart Attack, but with the only possible exception of Hot Space it could have been any studio or live album. And that for me remains the best way to listen to Queen: from the glittering glam of the first two albums, to the touching conclusion of Made in Heaven, the association with two blockbuster movies, and the sheer brilliance of their live performances captured in Live Killers and Live at Wembley. For me, each album is worth listening on its own right.

So, is Greatest Hits even a “real” album? As it is an official release the answer has to be yes in some shape or form. But it doesn’t add anything to my knowledge of the band, it doesn’t add anything in terms of music or in terms of liner notes, and it doesn’t even have a mind blowing cover art to make it desirable somehow. It’s a rather pointless release from my point of view, but it’s their best selling one, so surely it deserves some respect. 

I very seldom have started listening to a band from a compilation, but there are a few: Beach Boys, Heart and Janis Joplin for instance. Of the Beach Boys I eventually got Pet Sounds years later, the Heart became a favourite of mine and I ended up collecting all their albums, but Greatest Hits by Janis Joplin is still the only release I have. I can see how a Greatest Hits could be attractive as an introduction to a band, and although in the age of streaming this should really be no longer the case, for a band like Queen it probably still is given they firmly belong to the previous generation.

In conclusion: this is an album I personally regard as superfluous, I never bought it and never listened to it before this week. It’s however as good an introduction to Queen as any of the mix-tapes I created thirty years ago and for that reason I will score it 6 out of 10.

Gary Claydon
It is what it is. Nothing wrong with Greatest hits/Best of albums. They are popular with many people and can be an ideal way of getting 'into' a band before delving into their back catalogue. Same could be said with live albums to some degree.

It's not a detour, it's definitely not surprising and it's not interesting. A collection of songs that are well known to both fans of the band and non-fans alike through sheer volume of airplay down the years, several of which have been played to death to the point where, personally, I wouldn't care if I never heard them again. Boring. But then, I admit I'm not much of a Queen fan. Didn't mind them when they were still a rock band, thought they were extremely dull as they morphed into a pop group.

When I joined this group I promised myself I would listen to every album that was up for review. This was the nearest I've come to not doing so. In the end, I gave it a perfunctory run through then went back to listening to the new deluxe version of UFO's seminal Strangers In The Night.

Bill Griffin
I have a problem with "greatest hits" albums because they use the single versions of songs instead of the full length album cuts, the edited Fat Bottomed Girls being the most egregious example here. That intro is just too brilliant to be cut.

It also came too late in their career, thus including things I would rather not listen to like Another One Bites The Dust and Flash. Fans would have been better served if this (or, my preference, a live album) had come out between A Day At The Races and News Of The World given the change in direction. Still, it sold a bazillion copies so what do I know?

I did learn in my research that virtually every country got its own version based on what songs were released as singles in that country. That must have cost a few pounds and I have a lot of respect for acts that put their money back into their show like that.

Roland Bearne
Well this is an easy one. I am so bored of this album. I used to commentate live shows for a Mediaeval Jousting team! For well over a decade and every time we were setting up or breaking down the arena this is the one album the guv'nor insisted on playing weekend in, weekend out, year in, year out. It's a very good "Best Of" if you can't be bothered to dig any deeper into Queen, a pop picker's selection. Not surprised it hit the charts again. Somebody's Dad, Uncle, Granny etc is going to get this on some Christmas at some point. I love Queen, but I'm gradually picking up the albums on vinyl and enjoying the less obvious tunes. Next...

Chris Downie
Those with more than a passing interest in Queen knows that this collection is not in any way a fair representation of their whole career, for while they were natural successors to The Beatles in being masters of the fabled 'three minute pop song' they were also musical pioneers, who successfully melded heavy metal and glam rock long before Motley Crue and their ilk, as well as linking heavy metal and prog-rock with exhilarating results when Rush were only starting out and had yet to outgrow their 'Zeppelin on steroids' roots.

Taken for what it is (i.e. as the name affirms, a collection of hit singles) this is as much a token disc for casuals as much as it is a gateway album for those of a more discerning mind, but with the exception of perhaps Now I'm Here and Seven Seas of Rhye it does not even begin to tell the full story of what is one of the most eclectic and vital rock bands of all time. That story is better told by directing listeners to the majestic brilliance of their 1973-80 albums.

Philip Qvist
Firstly - this is a true Greatest Hits album, i.e. no gimmicky recently released or never previously released song, obscure B Tracks or a remastered song that so many Best Of albums resort to in an effort to sell more copies. Every song here was a hit prior to the release of this album.

Secondly - for sure, while albums such as Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, Queen II and News Of The World are your "go to" albums to discover how great Queen were in the 70s and the early 80s, this album suits another purpose; i.e. if you just want to listen to their hits then this is the record to go to. Trust me, our family has plenty of pleasant memories of going on holiday and listening to my, then, teenager daughter (who was born in 1997) and her friends singing every song on this collection word for word - and loving every minute of it.

And that's the thing; if you want to introduce Queen to people who were born well after Freddie's death, then this is the album to start with.

Finally - it seems easy, release a Greatest Hits album and watch it sell. And many do, but how many of those Best of Albums sell more than 10 mill, far less 20 mill?

Not many do - and this is why this is an exceptional Greatest Hits collection.

My verdict for QGHv1 has to be 10/10 - there isn't a single dud on this LP.

PS - yes, of course Flash should be included here, it was a hit for the band; and, with all due respect to a fun film and an interesting sound track, I wouldn't advise people to go out and buy the Flash Gordon album.

Alex Hayes
I think the majority of the songs on offer here are fantastic, although I like them even better when placed into the context of their respective Queen albums. Like many rock fans, I'm an 'album' person at heart and this compilation is the antithesis of that. Which position Another One Bites The Dust reached in the pop charts is of no consequence to me whatsoever and certainly isn't the barometer for how Queen's music should be judged in terms of 'greatness'.

Alan Dingley
We all love Queen, but who honestly sits through their albums - as good as A Night At The Opera is it's all over the place. For many, the original Greatest Hits is about as perfect as you get (switch out Flash for Love Of My Life).

Jonathan Novajosky
Queen sentiment seems to be extremely high these days, but it usually is. I’m not a massive Queen fan by any means, but there’s no denying the greatness of most of these songs. Unfortunately, I don’t love a lot of Queen’s deeper cuts as much as I should. This also seems to be another case of a band ruined by the radio for me growing up. I could go without hearing some of these for a long time.

I don’t want to sound too negative though, because I really do like these songs. It’s not even worth stating the obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say Mercury’s talent is on an all time level – especially shining on songs like Somebody To Love. They aren’t my favourite band like they are for others, but I just feel wrong not giving this album a high score. 8/10

Plamen Agov
First of all, what are the compilation albums and who they serve?

1. Compilation albums are actually playlists. They were of use to music fans in the pre-2000 era because creating a playlist was technically difficult. After 2000-2005, compilation albums have no meaning for music fans (except for supporting the band financially) because any fan can easily create compilations.

2. The second purpose of the compilation albums is to serve the majority who are not so deeply into the music, so these releases save them time and money by presenting only the best selection of a band.

In both cases, there is one important thing: The compilation album should not contain songs to be skipped. If something is advertised as a selection of the most memorable tunes, no ‘skip songs’ are allowed.

The first part of Queen's Greatest Hits 1981 (UK edition) serves the above regulations very well with only one exception – the last song, Save Me, which is more or less a song to be skipped.

The second part of the album starts superbly with two top hits Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Somebody To Love. This part finishes in the best possible way with two of the best tunes ever, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions

Well, between the start and the end there are five tracks that don't have very memorable melodies – meaning songs to be skipped – and these are too many for a compilation album-type “Best Of”.

All this means – for me personally – that the album doesn't reach a rating of 9 or 10, but it is good enough to be rated 7 or even 8.

Carl Black
It's happy hour on the Classic Rock Album of the Week Club. Each and every song us pure joy. This is truly a definition of a greatest hits. A solid gold album. No weakness at all.

Brian Carr
I remember having Queen’s Greatest Hits in the house growing up - on 8-track! I loved it then and how can you not? Classic song after classic song and absolutely unique - nobody sounds like Queen vocally and no one sounds like Brian May on guitar.

Fast forward a few years and I’m working music retail when their catalog in America flipped to Hollywood Records. I was puzzled at the release of Classic Queen. This wasn’t remotely the same thing as the Greatest Hits record I knew. Which kind of benefitted me because I started buying the actual albums instead of compilations. Which brings me to the podcast.

I enjoyed the ability to listen to the podcast for added perspective, but came away with something Nicky, Siân and Scott missed, in my opinion. Yes, Queen albums have songs that will send most people to the skip button, and yes, Greatest Hits contains all (most?) of the well known gems. 

But the joy for me in exploring the albums is finding songs that are inbetween those two cases - tunes that don’t appear (or get repeated into annoyance) on radio, but are just as, uh, killer Queen tracks. For me, it would be things like ‘39 and Death on Two Legs, Let Me Entertain You, Dragon Attack, A Kind of Magic, Princes Of The Universe, Get Down Make Love and, possibly my favourite Queen song, Spread Your Wings. Casual fans might be fine missing such tunes, preferring the known stuff. For me, Queen’s Greatest Hits served as the entry point for my discovery of more phenomenal songs.

Final Score: 8.93⁄10 (249 votes cast, with a total score of 2225)

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