November was almost over, so that could only mean that the weather was getting colder, Christmas was approaching and we were all getting ready to be submitted to Paul McCartney’s warbling aural crime against festive music many, many times over the next five weeks. And if that didn’t get too much for you, if the thought of having nothing better to do than play Chegger’s Party quiz or watch the new last ever episode of Only Fools and Horses didn’t prove too taxing, you could just settle back amongst the wrapping paper and 3 for 2 Boots presents you’d bought, and listen to The Greatest Hits of Taurus.
The Greatest Hits of Taurus. What a crazy concept for a band that has only ever released one single. But that’s what Project Y Records churned out just in time for the Christmas market leaving us all thinking: Project Y – why?
It seems that the label that had so recently dropped the band without releasing their debut album, had decided to release it after all, packaged as a hits collection instead. They had the rights to the material and it had been recorded a long time ago, it just needed manufacturing and pushing to the masses. And that’s what they did.
It’s such a strange concept that a band with only one hit can qualify for a hits release. It leaves you wondering if any group can really ever claim to have enough hits to warrant a greatest hits album. I believe in most cases the answer is no. It’s a no because with nearly every Greatest Hits release by any band there is pretty much always a new single or some previously unreleased tracks on it. If the band had enough hits in the first place, why would they fill it with new material that may or may not turn out to be a greatest hit?
In order to clarify, a more pertinent question would be: do they do that on Greatest Hits albums, or do they just do that on Hits collections? If the latter is true, the record label is just making the assumption that people will buy the album, therefore making the additional tracks hits in their own right. When Michael first broke the news of the release to Taurus it started some debate as to whether Project Y were justified in calling it a Greatest Hits or not.
"I’m pretty sure I’ve got albums that are called Greatest Hits that have got new material on," said Ashley. "I think that one is Europe’s." Which is fairly ironic I suppose.
Ashley’s example is a peculiar one really because initially Europe’s greatest hits was called 1982-1992 and then in 2000 the remix of The Final Countdown was released and they altered the title of the collection to 1982-2000. That’s cheeky. They tagged another eight years on to their career, just because someone else remixed their song after eight years of them releasing nothing.
"Hang on a second, they’ve only ever done two songs!" said Pat. "One is The Final Countdown and the other is the remix of The Final Countdown."
"No you’re quite incorrect," Ashley pointed out.
"They’ve had at least eighteen songs. At least if you believe the track listing. And they’re still releasing music in Europe."
"Are you the president of the Europe fan club or something?" asked Robert. He shouldn’t have been surprised by Ashley’s Hair-Rock knowledge.
"You’re certainly not pro-Europe I know that!" said Patrick.
"It depends on what you mean by Europe! But let’s not stray into political ideologies here."
To take another example, I know for a fact that there is a Motorhead Greatest Hits album. The only song I really know of theirs is Ace of Spades. But again, this all depends on what you mean by greatest hits. I’m sure that Motorhead have got something of a loyal following. No matter how unknown their best songs are in general, their top twelve best known songs could be classed as their greatest hits.
This in turn poses more questions.
Does most known mean best or greatest? To me a hit is a song that does well, so a greatest hit is the one that has done most well in terms of sales. The greatest hits of an artist and the best of an artist are not necessarily the same entity.
Patrick thought that there are four different categories of this type of album. "Allow me to elaborate," he said.
"There’s the Greatest Hits, there’s simply the Hits, there are Singles Collections and there are Best Of collections.
"The Best Of is always going to be subjective. You could pick any songs from your back catalogue and claim that you feel it is the best of your work. I would say that Best of Me by Bryan Adams is a best of because it’s not all singles. I would suggest that Phil Collins Hits is…well, a bit rubbish really."
"Carry on I want to see what your other examples are," said Robert.
"I would say that Motorhead’s Greatest Hit, is accurately titled. And the Pet Shop Boys Singles collection, Discography, is now out of date!" Patrick was accurate but wasn’t really helping the debate.
"Have you just been looking through my CD collection?" asked Ashley.
"Yeah. You’re the Best Of king!"
"You do like to buy Best Ofs," added Robert.
"There’s good value in buying Best Ofs. I would argue that you don’t need all of Poison’s albums. You need the Best Of and you need Flesh and Blood and that’s pretty much it."
"How many Best Ofs have Def Leppard had?" I asked.
"Two. Vault, which I think is a Best Of and the recently released Best Of Def Leppard," said Ashley.
"I don’t like it when people cash in and have multiple collections. Like when one artist has a Best Of, a Greatest Hits and a Singles Collection of love songs for example," said Patrick.
"You’re getting back to Phil Collins aren’t you?" asked Ashley.
"Yeah, I’m going there."
On the note of Phil Collins, Jahn Teigen, the first person under the current voting system of Eurovision to get Nul Point, was gigging around Norway with his band during his early career. Genesis were playing at the same venue and in the bar after the show they told Jahn that Peter Gabriel was leaving Genesis and they asked Jahn if he would like to be the new lead singer. He declined because he was committed to the band he was in at the time. I suppose at the time, things were going fairly well for him in his own country. I’m not sure how big Genesis were over there so he could have just thought "I’m doing alright for the time being."
So essentially we’ve got Jahn Teigen to thank for Phil Collins’ million selling international career. Just think, if Jahn had said yes we may never have heard Two Hearts, You’re no Son of Mine or Dance into the Light!
Ashley would have been disappointed. "Dance into the Light is a funny one in my opinion. It makes people laugh for the wrong reasons, but I quite like it. Also we’d have never had the theme tune to Tarzan. And I don’t mean Tarzan Boy by Baltimora! I found a remix of that on some old CD a couple of weeks ago and considered making it a ring tone on my phone!"
"I was thinking of getting the remix of Moonlight Shadow on mine," said Robert.
To bring it directly back to the question, does any artist really ever have enough greatest hits to warrant a Greatest Hits album? I would say no. And this type of thing is getting increasingly poor. You’ve got people like Westlife releasing greatest hits albums. If the songs on there are their
only hits then technically yes they are their greatest hits, simply because they haven’t done any others.
If someone’s career is pretty much at an end, fair enough, release a Greatest Hits. If it’s like their career is being put to bed, then for that reason it’s acceptable. It’s like they’re putting a bookend at the end of their musical career. So yes, release a Greatest Hits. But when the artist has done two albums, their career is showing no signs of flagging, they haven’t done a particular big change in style, what is the purpose of a Greatest Hits other than to milk the cash cow?
I’m sure that in Westlife’s case the claim would be that they did that to keep the fans going until the next album came out. And that is exactly why Ashley, Robert and Patrick did not grumble over the bizarre release that was The Greatest Hits of Taurus. It kept them in the public eye a little while longer.
It’s not like they stood to gain much money from the release. They didn’t expect it to sell well, and it would be a long time before Project Y made back the advance in sales from when the boys first signed to them, even though that wasn’t massive either. However, Project Y wanted to try and claim back as much as they could. They were going to milk this modest cash cow for all it was worth. This mini wave of attention resulting from Snapshots being used in the TV show At Your Leisure, was seen as their last chance before interest in Taurus died an inevitable death.