One of the very best selling albums ever in various countries, Queen first major compilation Greatest Hits has been released to very little fanfare in France back in 1981.
It did even worst that you can guess, failing to get into the Top 30 weekly chart and never going Gold. France was rather slow on Queen with their early albums like Queen, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack getting very modest results. Those difficult days continued longer than elsewhere. Their classic album A Night at the Opera, pushed by the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody, still struggled in France while A Day at the Races killed the tiny momentum the band had built with their two previous sets. Everything changed in 1978 when News of the World shot to #1 thanks to the pair of hits We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. The buzz was short-lived though as Jazz was much weaker and then The Game and Flash Gordon flopped badly in 1980, both failing to chart.
With only one successful era out of 9, the 1981 release of Greatest Hits wasn’t anticipated at all. It took 10 years and the death of Freddy Mercury to ultimately focus on this album even if it was amassing some sales year after year during the 80s. Peaking at #5 with 9 weeks inside the Top 10, Greatest Hits easily got its best year in 1992. In 1994/1995, it got a new life once again thanks to the 2CD box that merged it with Greatest Hits II. This release peaked at #7 in the Compilation chart, selling 200,000 copies overall.
Facing the competition of The Best 1 and The Best 2 from 1997, two local similar best of albums that did well in France, the original Greatest Hits sets never died yet. By 2004, this volume was up to 500,000 units on its stand-alone edition. This figure doesn’t account for Greatest Hits I & II release, but also ignores the 3CD package The Platinum Collection. As seen in Greatest Hits II article, that set was incredibly successful since 2000, moving 445,000 units by the end of 2016.
Interestingly, after the initial 1992 hype, Greatest Hits remained strong. From 2003 to 2008, it sold 54,000 units, some 30% more than Greatest Hits II. Charting various months since the 2011 remastered edition, this solo album moved a total of 120,000 copies since the 2004 article. All told, we are speaking about 620,000 plus 445,000 plus 200,000 units sold, easily enough to include this cult compilation among our million sellers.
Net shipment as of the end of 2016 is estimated at 1,265,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, GFK, L’Identité du Rock.