Sep 032020

Can you imagine The Rolling Stones leaving “19th Nervous Breakdown” off any one of their numerous classic greatest hits albums? How about Chicago bypassing “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” or Lynyrd Skynyrd putting out a greatest hits collection minus “That Smell”?

OK, these aren’t the first songs we tend to think of when we think of each band’s greatest hits, these are no longer in regular rotation on the increasingly narrowing playlists of Classic Rock and Oldies stations, but for those who grew up with these artists, they were cool songs, second-line radio staples that the artists’ record labels had the good sense to include on each band’s standard-issue greatest hits album. I was never a big fan of two of the three bands I listed, so I was happy to have these less-popular radio hits included on a hits collection to save me having to buy a full album by Chicago and Lynyrd Skynyrd just so I could have each of those songs handy.

When Tom Petty‘s first greatest hits collection came out on CD in the early ’90s (?), I played it a few times through, thinking I’d somehow skipped “Shadow of a Doubt,” a second-line hit from early in his career that I enjoyed hearing more than “Breakdown” (for the 8 billionth time in the first couple years of its release). No dice! “Shadow of a Doubt” was not considered one of Petty’s greatest hits.

Similarly, when I was a yon’ teen and brought home my copy of David Bowie‘s Changesone greatest hits collection, I was disappointed to find that one of the Bowie songs that most psyched me up when it came on the radio wasn’t included: “Panic in Detroit.” Why? That was in semi-regular rotation in its time, but it was cast aside by the greatest hits compiler. I didn’t want to buy whatever full Bowie album that song appears on, because I typically found his full albums to be a waste of time. I’m hoping that our resident expert on greatest hits collections, Townsman Andyr, can help us gain insight into the selection process.

Meanwhile, what relative radio staple have you been disappointed to learn was left off a greatest hits album? (Eventually inclusion on a boxed set, by the way, does not count.) Did you eventually break down and buy the original album on which that song appears? I’ve not yet bought a copy of Aladdin Sane.


  16 Responses to “Radio Staples Left Off Classic Greatest Hits Albums”

  1. diskojoe

    Aladdin Sane was the first Bowie album that I heard & “Panic in Detroit” is one of my favorite Bowie songs.

    Anyway, I think that the exclusion of “Sunny Afternoon” from the first Kinks’ Greatest Hits Album probably counts. Until it appeared on the Kink Kronkiles, the only place that you could find it was on, wait for it, Face to Face.

    On a related note, I wish that the Classic Rock stations in Boston plays “The Prettiest Girl” by the Neighborhoods, which did receive plenty of airplay back in the day.

  2. diskojoe

    Another example I just thought of is “George Jackson” by Bob Dylan which never appeared on any of his Greatest Hits or other compilations except for a couple of foreign ones, despite the fact that it was a Top 40 hit. The only time that I got to hear it was on a rebroadcast of an American Top 40 episode from 1971 when it was on the charts.

  3. Diskojoe, I didn’t realize “Sunny Afternoon” wasn’t on the first classic Kinks greatest hits record. Good thing that was rectified.

    I will have to look up that “George Jackson” song. I can’t place that tune by the song title! I wonder if it made no impression on Philly radio. Almost as a side topic, the classic Vol 2 of Dylan’s greatest hits is probably the best example of a “lesser hits” album that any artist ever released. That’s got some good stuff on it that could have been easy to overlook as his original album quality started to get spotty. The second Hot Rocks, if memory serves, is another decent lesser hits album.

    The Neighborhoods got no airplay on commercial radio in Philly. You had a commercial station in Boston that even played our little band a few times. (I can almost remember the DJ’s name!) Philadelphia commercial radio in the ’80s was the pits. We opened for The Neighborhoods on our home turf, if memory serves.

  4. 2000 Man

    I don’t buy many greatest hits records so I don’t suffer through this very often. My complaint is when someone like The Stones didn’t get the US label to put Honky Tonk Women and Jumpin’ Jack Flash on proper records. So now I have to buy a hits record, full of songs I already have where those two songs could have helped make yet another US cut and paste job awesome. Hey, I’m an American. I think 45’s are stupid.

  5. I always thought Van Morrison’s 1990 BEST-OF was kind of a mess.

    It’s missing “Caravan, “Into the Mystic” and “Tupelo Honey” and has lots of non-radio staples. An overall incomplete summary of Van’s whole deal.

    Peter Gabriel’s first best-of SHAKING THE TREE does not have “In Your Eyes.”

  6. Another total disaster: Springsteen’s first GREATEST HITS album.

    Completely insane that he left off “Rosalita.” Also missing “Prove it all Night” and “Tunnel of Love”

  7. GREAT examples, Oats! Thank you.

  8. One more: This was my first Who album.

    Missing “I Can’t Explain,” “I Can See For Miles,” “Baba O’Reilly” and probably others I’m forgetting. Some bewildering inclusions here (“Relay?” “My Wife?”). And the edit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a travesty.

  9. H. Munster

    My Ricky Nelson’s Greatest Hits has everything you’d expect except Poor Little Fool, his first #1 single.

  10. mockcarr

    I guess the timing of Bob Welch’s Sentimental Lady took it out of consideration in Fleetwood Mac compilations, right? It also might be that the soft rock of my teenage dental visits featured the solo version.

  11. diskojoe

    Mr. Mod, that Boston radio station that you got airplay in was probably WBCN, which played a lot of interesting things besides the soon to be Classic Rock staples. The DJs included Oedipus, Carter Alan & Charles Laiqudara. There’s a good book about the station called The Rock of Boston which tells its history, including the time that Peter Wolf was a DJ & the strike of 1979 that the DJs won.

  12. diskojoe

    Also, to second Oats, I don’t think there has been one satisfactory Greatest Hits or compilation by the Who. Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy comes close, but for all the compilations the Who put out, most of them seem a bit of a botch job.

  13. Good call on the Springsteen album Oats. That one always bugged me.

    As a rule, it’s bullshit when a “Greatest Hits” album has brand new songs on it. Also, that album has nothing from the first two albums, both of which contain some of his best work. It only has two from Born to Run and one from Darkness. So, three songs total from the first four albums. Those are the albums that his reputation and live shows were built upon. Instead we get 4 songs from Born in the USA and 4 new ones. I get it, this album is for the casual listener but it is a POS.

    Also, there should only be “Best of” collections, not “Greatest Hits”.


  14. Happiness Stan

    I can’t even begin to wade in here, since the Beatles and Stones albums you’re all familiar with bear only a passing resemblance to the ones I grew up with. Heaven only knows what they did to your greatest hits albums. My first Who compilation was a cheap, semi official thing I picked up in Germany, which had all the singles in order up to Pinball Wizard, and it’s difficult to say better than that.

    I used to hang out at a brilliant junk shop which got way more than its fair share of budget sixties compilations, effectively a band’s last five singles and b sides bundled together in no particular order. Sunny Afternoon was on one of the Kinks ones, along with I’m Not Like Everybody Else, which would be my nomination for greatest song to hardly ever appear on most compilations. Hit or not, I can’t imagine many fighting against its inclusion over, say, Dead End Street or Apeman.

    At least with a Beefheart compilation there’s no danger of it being mistaken for a hits package, even if the unwary are likely to find themselves wading through half of Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams.

  15. Oedipus, DJ: THAT’S the DJ I had in mind! Thanks.

  16. BigSteve

    One reason for a greatest hits comp is to sell the back catalogue. That Van Morrison comp is a good example. All of his albums have to have at least one song, even if it squeezes out songs from albums that have more than one ‘hit.’ It does make up for it a little bit by having a song from a movie soundtrack, which at least for me is the kind of album I’m least likely to buy. The Springsteen comp does this too.

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