Friday, August 22, 2014

Greatest Hits, Guilty Pleasures

To be honest, I always feel like a bit of a cheater when I purchase a 'Best Of' or a 'Greatest Hits'. It's like watching a ten-minute 'Chang's Funniest Moments' compilation on YouTube instead of sitting down with a Community boxset and watching each episode properly. When you purchase a Greatest Hits compilation, you're effectively saying:

"Wait, you've released HOW many albums in your career? Eighteen?!  No thanks, Mr Springsteen - just gimme the songs that everyone knows and I'll be on my way."

But I'm not trying to claim some kind of moral high ground here - I buy Best Ofs as well. In fact, only yesterday I listened to three Best Ofs in a row: 

Scott Walker, Cat Stevens and The Pogues are just three examples of artists whose albums I couldn't be bothered choosing between. In fairness, I did buy a proper Scott Walker album before I resorted to No Regrets, but that album was Tilt and it so betrayed my expectations that I decided, there and then, to never trust Mr Walker ever again.

This is the sort of thing I was looking for. The hits albums delivered; Tilt decidedly did not.

The other two are less excusable - The Pogues and Cat Stevens each have several bona fide classic albums to choose from. Unfortunately, the fact is that I wanted Boys from County Hell and Fairytale of New York and A Pair of Brown Eyes, but I didn't want to pay for three CDs. I wanted them all in the same place.

(For Cat Stevens, replace those three songs with Father and Son, The First Cut is the Deepest, and Another Saturday Night.)

But while it is considerably less time- and cost-efficient, I do love gradually working my way through a band's whole discography, getting to know each album one by one. And yet I still buy hit compilations, ownership of which gives me far less incentive to explore the artist's actual albums (after all, why venture any further when you've already got the best bits?)

So why do I deny myself the drawn-out pleasure of a full discography exploration? The answer, I think, is peer pressure. Not because my friends are egging me on to buy Best Ofs, but because the music-listening community expects you to be familiar with Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark and The River, and so it's far quicker to just buy Springsteen's Greatest Hits and get all the important information in one handy, filler-free package.

On the Greatest Hits, this song is followed by Thunder Road. On the actual Born to Run album, it's followed by She's the One, which I can only assume is a naff Robbie Williams cover.

Deep down, though, I know that I'd be far happier if I left the Greatest Hits on the shelf and bought an original studio album instead. So I'm writing this blog as a challenge to myself, and to you if you need it: next time you're tempted to purchase a Best Of, purchase a proper album instead. You never know what you might discover!

Of course, if the artist in question is Scott Walker, you have my permission to simply run away screaming.

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