In Focus

Alan Partridge was right all along... the best Beatles record is their Greatest Hits album

For as long as they’ve existed, Best Of albums have been criticised as second-tier albums – light listening for day-trippers as opposed to true believers. It’s an unfairly maligned genre, writes Ed Power, just look at The Beatles, Queen or New Order

Monday 04 December 2023 06:40 GMT
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<p>The Beatles, New Order, Queen: whether they like it or not, some bands simply can’t top their Greatest Hits </p>

The Beatles, New Order, Queen: whether they like it or not, some bands simply can’t top their Greatest Hits

Alan Partridge was surely speaking on behalf of the silent majority when he declared his favourite Beatles album to be… The Best of The Beatles. How right he was: among the highest-selling Beatles records is their compilation album 1, which has moved 31 million copies despite its comparatively recent release date of November 2000. That’s well ahead of classics Abbey Road and Rubber Soul, and hot on the heels of Sgt Pepper’s 32 million. Give it a few years, and 1 could very well be the band’s biggest unit shifter.

The funny thing is, 1 isn’t even the best Best of The Beatles. That honour is shared by the so-called Red and Blue albums, originally released in 1973 and chronologically covering the arc of the group’s life and times (rather than focusing on their No 1 hits, as 1 does). Those records – officially, The Beatles 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970 – were reissued at the start of November in expanded, remastered editions, each featuring “Now and Then”, the so-called new Beatles song assembled from an old John Lennon demo using AI.

The re-releases have bounded up the charts and presently sit at positions two and three, trailing behind Taylor Swift’s re-recording of 1989. Their success is a reminder of the enduring potency of a cracking Greatest Hits. As is the blockbusting performance of a new vinyl reissue of New Order’s Substance 1987 singles compilation, which debuted at No 10. Put it this way: one-third of the Top 10 bestselling records last week were Best Ofs.

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