Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Compilations and Greatest Hits
Recently, Queen’s Greatest Hits became the first album to sell six million copies in the UK, meaning that now a third of all UK households contain a copy. I know that mine does. It also contains Queen’s Greatest Hits II and III.
Now, keep calm, because what I’m about to say may shock you. Rein in your natural violent impulses and bear with me for just a few seconds.
I don’t like every song on Queen’s Greatest Hits.
I know, I know. Happily for me, I don’t live in Pakistan; otherwise I would be sentenced to death for blasphemy. But I’m afraid it’s true. I don’t really care for ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ or ‘You’re my Best Friend’. The rest are pure genius, naturally.
The thing is, that someone at some point, presumably at Queen’s record company, sat down and thought, “You know, there are some really good Queen songs out there. I should collect them all together in a single volume, so that people can have a single consolidated source of Queen-based musical joy.”
I don’t know who that was (and I’m too lazy to Google it), but they had the job of sifting through the significant body of Queen songs and selecting the ones that they considered to be the best, the most representative of Queen throughout a career that included pop and rock, up to the sad death of Freddie Mercury in 1993, and (in the case of GHIII, beyond). Overall, I would say that they did a reasonable job, apart from the exceptions noted above, but even then I can see why they made those choices.
My point though, is that unless I want to source every single individual Queen single (which would be difficult and extremely expensive, assuming it’s still possible at all), I have to rely on the subjective opinions of this unknown compiler, and clearly we disagree on certain issues. I would have included songs that they haven’t, and left out songs that they included. Ultimately though, I have to rely on the fact that this person (or persons) has a greater and deeper knowledge of the corpus of Queen’s work than I do. I can accept their decisions as authoritative, even if I reserve the right to disagree with them on certain points.
What this has all been building up to is a comparison with another compilation volume, condensing a massive body of work down into a relatively (!) concise volume: the Bible.
Some very learned people sat down and sifted through vast numbers of books, deciding what would be included in God’s Greatest Hits (and possibly planning on Greatest Hits II and III further down the road).
I am a wishy-washy liberal sort of Christian, and I don’t hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible. In fact, I outright disagree with some of its assertions. Counter to many people’s opinion, I think it is practically a duty to pick and choose from the Bible. That said, I acknowledge the greater wisdom, insight and learning of those ancient compilers, and I accept their reasoning for including and excluding certain books, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them on every single point. There was a degree of subjectivity (and no doubt more than a little politics and diplomacy) involved in what became canonical, and what was left to gather dust amongst the tape cassette and LP singles.
I consider the Bible to be an authoritative source of divine revelation, but that doesn’t mean that I have to think that it is an absolute and final authority, or that works not included in it (often because they didn’t exist at the time) can’t be just as revealing of God’s wishes for us.
I eagerly await the release of Greatest Hits II, but unfortunately I can’t see a wide enough group of people being able to agree on what should be included for it ever to happen.
Meanwhile, Queen still has quite a way to go to beat the sales of God’s compilation album.