I Want to Break FreeUK2, US2 (4/7/84) #45 US, #3 UK
It’s a Hard LifeUK2 (7/28/84) #72 US, #6 UK
Hammer to FallUK2, CQ (4/7/84) #13 UK, #35 AR
One VisionUK2, CQ (11/16/85) #61 US, #7 UK, #19 AR
A Kind of MagicUK2, CQ (3/29/86) #42 US, #3 UK
Friends Will Be FriendsUK2 (6/21/86) #14 UK
Who Wants to Live ForeverUK2 (9/27/86) #24 UK
I Want It AllUK2, CQ (5/13/89) #50 US, #3 UK, #3 AR
BreakthruUK2 (7/1/89) #7 UK
The Invisible ManUK2 (8/19/89) #12 UK
The MiracleUK2, CQ (12/9/89) #21 UK
Head LongUK2, CQ (1/26/91) #14 UK, #3 AR
InnuendoUK2 (1/26/91) #1 UK, #17 AR
I’m Going Slightly MadUK2, CQ (3/23/91) #22 UK
The Show Must Go OnUK2, CQ (10/26/91) #16 UK, #40 AR, sales: 0.5 m
These Are the Days of Our LivesCQ (12/21/91) #1 UK
Notes: The below codes are used throughout this page to distinguish five different anthologies covering Queen’s material released from 1973 to 1991:
UK1 1981’s U.K. Greatest Hits. Includes tracks as listed under Album Tracks – Greatest Hits. 2004’s U.S. Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition followed this same track listing and added bonus tracks “Under Pressure,” “Tie Your Mother Down” (both live), and “I’m in Love with My Car.”
US1 1981’s U.S. Greatest Hits. Included songs noted under Album Tracks – Greatest Hits as well as ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ and ‘Under Pressure.’
US2 1992’s U.S. Greatest Hits. Included songs noted under Album Tracks – Greatest Hits as well as 1982’s ‘Body Language’ and 1984’s ‘I Want to Break Free.’
UK2 1991’s U.K. Greatest Hits II. Includes tracks as listed under Album Tracks – Greatest Hits II.
CQ 1992’s U.S. Classic Queen. Included songs noted under Album Tracks – Greatest Hits II as well as ‘Stone Cold Crazy,’ ‘One Year of Love,’ ‘Tie Your Mother Down,’ ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives,’ and ‘Keep Yourself Alive.’
Greatest Hits/ Greatest Hits II
Sorting out the Queen anthologies takes some work. Things kicked off with a 1981 collection called Greatest Hits that was released in the U.K. If you want to avoid the messy explanations that try to sort out the Queen compilations that came over the next twentysomething years, stop here, and get this collection (called Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition in the U.S.). It’s the best of the bunch and, as reported by the Official U.K. Charts Company in 2007, is the country’s biggest selling album of all time.
The 17-track CD version features 11 top 10 U.K. hits, including Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and Another One Bites the Dust. These five were also U.S. top 10 hits (although technically ‘We Will Rock You’ was the B-side of ‘We Are the Champions’) and the latter two went all the way to the top of the U.S. charts. These songs, as well as gems like Killer Queen, You’re My Best Friend, Somebody to Love, Fat-Bottomed Girls, and Bicycle Race have all become staples at album-oriented rock stations.
In the U.S., where Queen was contracted to Elektra Records, another album was released that was “called Greatest Hits (Elektra 564), which contained 14 songs that chronicled singles from 1973 to 1981.” US2 A dozen of these songs were also featured on the U.K. counterpart. Of the five that were omitted, only Don’t Stop Me Now had charted in the U.S., and only at a mere #86. The U.S. version added 1973’s Keep Yourself Alive and 1981’s Under Pressure, a collaboration with David Bowie. While the former was neither a hit in the U.S. or U.K., the omission of the latter from the U.K. greatest hits was puzzling. It was a #1 hit there and, considering that the song came out at the same time as the Greatest Hits album, one would think it was a new song to promote the compilation. Instead, the song appeared on 1982’s Hot Space.
In 1991, the U.K. only release Greatest Hits II picked up where the first collection left off. It was also a huge hit in the U.K. and one of the country’s top ten best selling albums of all time, also according to the 2007 report by the Official U.K. Charts Company.
“While Queen’s hits from this era may not be as stellar as their ‘70s predecessors, they were all still very compelling rock compositions. Tracks such as Radio Ga Ga, Friends Will Be Friends, I Want to Break Free, and I’m Going Slightly Mad show that the band could still compose pop gems, while the hard rockers I Want It All, Headlong, One Vision, and Hammer to Fall kept their longtime fans happy. Also included are a few of the band's more epic compositions – The Miracle, Innuendo, Who Wants to Live Forever, and A Kind of Magic – which help round out this second excellent collection of British Queen hits.” UK2
The release of this album was followed by a couple of events occurred to put Queen on everyone’s minds. Lead singer Freddie Mercury died of AIDS within a month of the album’s release and the song Bohemian Rhapsody saw a huge resurgence in popularity, due to its inclusion in the movie Wayne’s World. Already a #1 song in the U.K. and one of the country’s biggest singles of all time, the song returned to #1 there while in the U.S. the song went to #2, besting its original #9 position 25 years earlier.
Now the U.S. had to capitalize with an album release. “Due to various legal reasons, Queen’s catalog didn’t hit CD until 1991.” UK1 When, “in 1990, Hollywood Records acquired CD rights to Queen’s catalog,” US2 the logical first step would have been a reissue of the 1981 Greatest Hits, especially since the original U.S. “Elektra Greatest Hits had gone out of print on vinyl.” US2 Such a collection could have also merged the U.K. and U.S. versions of the album into a single-disc 19-track compilation that could capitalize on the presence of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Queen’s song-of-the-moment and song-of-the-past all rolled into one.
That isn’t what happened. Instead, Hollywood Records repackaged the U.K. Greatest Hits II as Classic Queen, a collection that “covered Queen’s hits from 1982 to its demise in 1991, with a few older songs thrown in.” US2)
Of course, one of the old songs was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ That song and the three other pre-1981 cuts – Stone Cold Crazy (a 1974 album cut), Tie Your Mother Down (only a minor hit in the U.S. and U.K.), and ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ – really have no place here and really betray how much this was a cash-in project and not an attempt to truly anthologize Queen properly.
To make matters more puzzling, the presence of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ and ‘Under Pressure,’ which were on the 1981 U.S. Greatest Hits but not the U.K. version, would suggest that this was designed as a companion to the first U.K. anthology. Considering that Classic Queen was targeted at the U.S. market and the U.K. market already had Greatest Hits II anyway, this move makes no sense at all.
To get the older songs on Classic Queen, six songs were bumped from Greatest Hits II. However, Classic Queen then added two other songs (One Year of Love and These Are the Days of Our Lives) from the 1981-1991 era that didn’t chart at all in the U.S. Oddly, the latter was a #1 UK hit that would have seemingly been on Greatest Hits II in the first place, but, to be fair, it was really single #5 in support of Queen’s final studio album, 1991’s Innuendo and not released until after Greatest Hits II.
If Classic Queen needed any substitutes, the first choice should have been Body Language. Not only was it the biggest U.S. hit from 1981-1991 (peaking at #11), but one of only three top U.S. 40 hits from that whole era (the others being ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Radio Ga-Ga’).
In any event, Classic Queen “returned Queen to platinum status and the U.S. Top Five for the first time since the early ‘80s.” CQ Still, “listeners expecting Queen songs a little more classic than ‘Headlong’ and ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ were disappointed that, say, We Will Rock You and Another One Bites the Dust weren’t on this new CD. So, six months after…Classic Queen, Hollywood followed with Greatest Hits, which may have shared its name with the 1981 collection but essentially rounded up the tunes from that disc that didn’t appear on Classic Queen” UK1 and added “a few tracks from the 1973-1982 era that did not appear on the original release.” US2
“It doesn’t stop there. Since the 1981 collection had an expert track selection, it continued to be a big seller in the U.S. as an import CD, and then in 1994, Parolophone in the U.K. reworked the compilation to bring it up to 17 tracks…This reconfigured Greatest Hits was the best available hits compilation, but it was only available as an import in the States, or as part of the 1995 two-disc repackage of Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2, or as part of the 2001 repackaging The Platinum Collection,” UK1 which combined those collections with a third.
In 2004, Hollywood Records finally released “Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition, …the long-awaited stand-alone reissue of the first [U.S.] Queen Greatest Hits, with the addition of three bonus tracks,” UK1 including ‘I’m in Love with My Car,’ which “was used in commercial for Jaguar in 2004.” UK1 “For those listeners still looking for the perfect single-disc Queen collection, this is as close as you’re going to get, and it’s nice to have it available on the U.S. shores as a stand-alone domestic release.” UK1