Johnny Mathis released the first greatest hits album, Johnny’s Greatest Hits, in 1958. It spent three weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Pop LP Chart.
Now, it’s common for artists to release compilation albums. But who released the greatest greatest hits album?
Let’s find out!
What Is a Greatest Hits Album?
A greatest hits album is a compilation of an artist’s biggest hits. It can be a collection of their most popular songs, most financially successful, or both.
Greatest hits albums are excellent ways for new fans to discover an artist’s work. They can also boost a sagging career or renew interest before releasing new music.
Compilation albums usually include a re-mix or a new take on an old hit. There’s almost always a brand-new track as well. Sometimes they’ll feature another artist collaborating on a song or songs.
Most of the time, artists fully support their greatest hits albums. However, in some cases, the studio will release it without permission. This can happen when the artist leaves the studio, but the studio has the rights to the music.
This happened to the Rolling Stones when their former record company released Hot Rocks in 1971. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were only able to collect songwriting and not ownership royalties.
A studio sometimes releases a greatest hits when the band is about to break up. This happened when Blink 182 broke up in 2005. That album hit #6 on the Billboard 200.
Around 2003, digital downloads and music streaming services began to decimate record sales. Streaming and downloading specific songs made buying complete albums unnecessary and more expensive than digital music.
However, recently there has been a renewed interest in vinyl. Loyal fans and musicians want to listen to the original recordings. They’re also quite collectible, especially greatest hits albums that can span a large portion of an artist’s work.
The Greatest Greatest Hits Album of All Time
Many opinions exist about which greatest hits album is the best of all time. Reasons for greatness vary from monetary, most hit singles included, best remixes, etc. You get the drift.
If we look at record sales, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection is the best-selling greatest hits album by a solo artist, with 30 million copies sold. Queen’s Greatest Hits is the best-selling album in the UK.
However, the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is the best-selling greatest hits album of all time. It’s also an example of a greatest hits album based on a solid catalog of quality music – four albums worth.
All the singles except Tequila Sunrise charted in the top 40, and five were in the top ten.
Digging Into Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)
Since Asylum Records released this Eagles greatest hits album in 1976, it’s sold approximately 45 million copies. It was the first record to receive the RIAA platinum certification.
Their Greatest Hits has nine singles from their previous albums, plus the album track Desperado.
The singles included Witchy Woman, One of These Nights, and Best of My Love with lead vocals by Don Henley. Glenn Frey sang some of his best for Tequila Sunrise, Already Gone, Lyin’ Eyes, Take it Easy, and Peaceful Easy Feeling. And Randy Meisner’s single, Take it to the Limit, rounded out their nine best for this album.
Unfortunately, the Eagles weren’t exactly happy about the compilation album.
According to Don Henley, “[The record company] didn’t give a shit about whether the greatest hits album was good or not, they just wanted product.” When a studio releases a compilation album, there are minimal production costs.
The band was working on Hotel California at the time. They admitted that releasing the compilation gave them more time to work on that album. Amazingly, Hotel California is also one of their best-selling albums.
Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was one of the Eagles’ most significant successes. It outsold Michael Jackson’s Thriller album for the best-selling album of the 20th century. It was also instrumental in solidifying the Eagles as the cross-over country and rock band icons.
About The Eagles
The Eagles are an American rock band formed in 1971 in LA. The founding members were Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner.
The original band members had a deep country-rock background. Henley and his band, Shiloh, had moved to LA from Texas to record an album with Kenny Rogers. Frey was the founder of the country folk-rock band Longbranch Pennywhistle. Bernie Leadon was a veteran member of The Flying Burrito Brothers, an iconic country-rock band.
They met through Linda Ronstadt on her third solo album. She had recruited them to be her backup band for the recording and her tour. Ronstadt also encouraged them to form their band and recommended guitarist Bernie Leadon.
Soon afterward, they formed the Eagles. Frey was friends with singer/songwriter Jackson Browne who introduced him to producer David Geffen. Geffen had just started Asylum Records.
Their first album, Eagles, was a huge success. It was released on June 1, 1972, and had three hit singles – Take it Easy, Witchy Woman, and Peaceful Easy Feeling. It reached #22 on the charts and went platinum.
Lineup Changes and Breaking Up
In 1974, guitarist John Felder joined them, and in 1975 Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon. The band has seen some members come and go for various reasons. They broke up in 1980 due to severe stress and interpersonal tensions.
They swore they would get back together when “hell freezes over.” But in 1995, they reunited for the Hell Freezes Over tour. It was the 7th highest-grossing tour of the 1990s.
Unfortunately, Glenn Frey died in 2016. His son, Deacon Frey, and country star Vince Gill joined the band and shared Frey’s vocals. Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B Schmit are the other current band members. Though Deacon recently announced he’ll be moving on to pursue other interests.
The Eagles have been awarded numerous honors throughout their body of work. They’re #4 on the Top 100 Certified Music Artists (albums.) They won six Grammys and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
How Many Greatest Hits Albums Do The Eagles Have?
Their label released Eagles Greatest Hits V. 2 in 1982, two years after the band broke up. That was the same year Henley and Frey released their solo albums. The album featured many of their hits that weren’t on the first album, including Hotel California.
The Best of Eagles came out in 1985, and The Legend of Eagles in 1988. The Very Best of the Eagles was released in 1994 in most of the world except the US.
Selected Works 1972-1979 was a CD 4 box set. It was released in 2000 and included previously unreleased live performances and a 44-page booklet.
They released five more compilations afterward as of 2018.
The Eagles Greatest Hits Album Soars Above All Others
When they released Their Greatest Hits album, it solidified The Eagles as the most successful American band of the 70s.
In 1999, The Recording Industry of America honored Their Greatest Hits as the Best-Selling Album of the Century. The record was also certified 38x platinum and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
What do you think? Is the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) the greatest greatest hits album of all time?