Compiled and then filed


Nobody needs compilation CDs anymore. We have iTunes, Spotify, and all manner of streaming apps and gizmos to keep us in a state of permanent curated-music-playlist heaven for the rest of our days. Or so we are told.

With the death of the single (as we used to know it), the notion of a Greatest Hits release by an artist has also become harder to justify, and the era of “act releases a dozen or more singles, they chart, a few years pass and here is a collection of them on one LP/Cassette/CD” appears to be a thing of the past. No more anticipation of that longed-for release of all O.M.D.’s hits together on a compact disc (in February 1988), or Pet Shop Boys’ celebration of their imperial phase coming to an end with Discography (November 1991); every (Top 75) single, in its single version, in the order they were singles (quite a singular achievement).

A good Greatest Hits (or Best Of, or Very Best Of) could be an art form in itself. Some artists understood this better than others (or had labels who didn’t force them into rushed, cheap-looking collections before they were really necessary). Even the best ones (Queen: Greatest Hits, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, The Whole Story by Kate Bush, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits) were flawed to some extent, either by time constraints – in the pre-CD years, or when double CD sets were frowned upon – or by frustrating track selections (Eurythmics, Madonna) and unwanted tweaking (hello again Madonna and her Q-sound remixes).

Two of my all-time favourite Greatest Hits releases are The Cure’s Standing On A Beach and that aforementioned O.M.D. Best Of; yet both have nagging issues which spoil them for a completist like me (Staring At The Sea? Please, we won’t even go there) . The 1986 version of Boys Don’t Cry, which trailed the Standing On A Beach campaign, is nowhere to be found on the collection itself (and the 7″ mix continues to resist a CD appearance anywhere at all), while The Best Of O.M.D. had enough (CD) space to include all of their singles but omitted Never Turn Away and Shame in favour of dodgy 12″ mixes of two flops La Femme Accident and We Love You which sounded terrible at the time and haven’t improved since then either. The track sequencing was also enough to induce a nasty bout of Compilation OCD, with Maid Of Orleans (1982) followed on the LP format by Locomotion (1984), while the two 1983 singles from Dazzle Ships were added to the CD but not in their natural places. Argh!

So, as you can tell, I took these things to heart. Not to worry, I’d console myself, one day the technology and the means will arrive to make these problems go away. The record companies will be intelligent enough to archive all the music they’ve ever released, and look after it properly, so that in the future the entire history of popular music will be issued in beautiful high quality collections, without the need to fade tracks early so that they “facilitate the need of a single compact disc”. A great band like Eurythmics won’t need to have their career highlights condensed onto a single disc, with their most brilliant single left off, the track order sequenced by a blindfolded AOR man throwing darts at a board, and the whole thing housed in a blurry screen-grab from a 1985 VHS promo clip. In the future, things will be better. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY.

Um, well obviously that didn’t quite pan out the way I hoped.

Yes, the multi-disc sets came along, and the nostalgia market brought evermore variations on the Greatest Hits theme. Prices fell, too; where in 1993 a triple-disc Prince Hits/B-Sides anthology in a fatbox case was sold for £34.99, entire discographies (or large chunks of them) for some artists were now available for a penny under ten quid. This was great; if you didn’t mind “original albums” housed in thin card sleeves (an idea based on lovingly-recreated CD-sized replica vinyl reissues by the Japanese, but done on the cheap), and then put in a case that was really just some more card glued together in the shape of an outer sleeve.

(At this point, we could also drag up the Loudness Wars, and how modern remasters compare to older, “flatter” mastering, but we won’t).

The trusty standalone Greatest Hits collection, meanwhile, fell victim to record company cuts and the rise of DIY curation via iTunes and its offspring. Not that the labels stopped releasing them, but the quality control issues and repetitive nature of the titles that did get the green-light became depressingly familiar. When whichever corporation passes for EMI (or Universal, or Virgin) these days decided to commemorate Phil Collins’ career in 2016 with The Singles, you could choose between a standard 2-disc edition and a “deluxe” 3CD version that, retro-tastically, came in a fatbox case. Brilliant, eh? Except, despite being titled The Singles, and containing pretty much every song that was a Phil Collins single since 1981, some genius decided they would be included in their album versions. Not a Radio Edit, 7″ remix or In The Air Tonight ’88 in sight. As for the widely-derided artwork (Phil Collins wall graffiti anyone?), the will-this-do design team had gone to the trouble of including all the old single sleeves, but had signed off a cover clearly showing a yellow HMV price-sticker on one of the ..But Seriously singles.

This is the future, and things – sadly – are not better. Who envisaged a world of vinyl rips (a.k.a needle drops), deteriorating mastertapes needing to be baked within an inch of their life to remain usable, thin card sleeves, digipak glue, and the full horror of incorrectly labelled mixes? Something HAD to be done.

I started making my own. For my own sanity, for the love of a carefully-compiled anthology. For pretty much the only way to have the right versions, in the right order, in the same place. And while I was doing that, I decided to give them decent (or at least sympathetic) artwork and track annotation. My design skills are rudimentary at best, and the printed originals look better than those turned into PNG files for the purpose of displaying them here on this blog, but they’ll do.

So, here’s another section of amazinglyfewdiscothequesprovidejukeboxes. A place for some of the artist anthologies that I’ve created over the years. They fall into one (or occasionally more) of the following categories:

  • An all-time favourite act whose official retrospectives are lacking or flawed.
  • An act who have somehow never been officially given a Best Of release.
  • An act whose work I wasn’t completely familiar with, and so the project offered a chance to investigate them further.
  • An act whose catalogue is so vast, that it was the best way for me to attempt to make sense of it.
  • A long-running act whose work I am very familiar with, and just wanted it archived in one place.
  • A simple labour of love.

I’ll provide complete tracklistings, along with the artwork, but the story behind them is what I’ll mostly be concentrating on.



  1. I happened on your blog via the SHF and have been enjoying the entries. Your tastes are, for the most part, diametrically opposed to mine but that’s no bad thing. And you agree with me that Paddy McAloon is a genius, so you must be alright!

    Hope to see some updates soon !




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