The team behind The Book of British Hit Singles & Albums has revealed that — thirty years since their first UK #1 album A Night at The Opera — Queen has overtaken the Beatles as Official UK Album Chart champions, having spent more weeks on chart than the Fab Four.
According to British Hit Singles & Albums’ database of official UK chart statistics, Queen has spent 1,322 weeks on the UK albums chart (29 weeks more than the Beatles). With sales figures notoriously unreliable in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the “weeks on chart” figure represents the fairest, most accurate method of ranking acts, according to David Roberts, editor of the book published by Guinness World Records Ltd.
Top 10 Most Successful Acts of All Time on the UK Albums Chart:
1. Queen (1,322 weeks)
2. The Beatles (1,293 weeks)
3. Elvis Presley (1,280 weeks)
4. U2 (1,150 weeks)
5. Dire Straits (1,136 weeks)
6. Simon and Garfunkel (1,114 weeks)
7. Madonna (1,032 weeks)
8. David Bowie (1,005 weeks)
9. Elton John (989 weeks)
10. Michael Jackson (966 weeks)
Roberts commented: “Given that Queen’s chart career has been much shorter than those of The Beatles and Elvis, this is an incredible achievement. They’ve long been written about with reverence in the pages of British Hit Singles and Albums and this just serves to cement their legendary status.”
The band wind up their current 32-date European tour with Paul Rodgers singing lead this week, performing in London’s Hyde Park Friday, July 8.
The date, which sees the band joined by Razorlight, Peter Kay and special guests Justin and Dan Hawkins of The Darkness, marks Queen’s return to the site of one of the most historic of their earlier concerts. Performing a free concert in Hyde Park almost 29 years ago (September 18, 1976), Queen attracted an audience of more than 150,000 to the park.
Queen holds a number of records officially recognized by Guinness World Records. The band are lauded for having the biggest selling Greatest Hits album in the UK with Greatest Hits 1 (now over four million) and Queen is also the only act to top the chart with the same single twice – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – selling a million copies both times. The single, which celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year, was also voted the favorite single of all time in a poll conducted by readers of British Hit Singles & Albums. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is also the biggest selling non-charity UK single of all time.
In a cosmic coincidence, I just named “BoRhap” the most overrated song of all time, but what do I know?
I DO know that Queen began as a glammy hard rock rock of incredible power in the early-70’s, establishing a reputation for soaring, multi-tracked group vocals and an explosive, theatrical live show before slowly giving way to their campier side, greatly escalated by the success of the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist Jon Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor all had university degrees when they came together in London in ’71.
Their first album, Queen, was their best, an alternately thundering and delicate affair, light on the camp and featuring the group’s two best, if not best-known songs: charging “Keep Yourself Alive,” and the astonishing gossamer and thunderclap of “Doing Alright.”
Queen 2 featured similar, if less memorable, qualities, and Sheer Heart Attack was blessed with the blistering “Stone Cold Crazy” and “Brighton Rock”; but while the charming “Killer Queen” was band’s first US hit single, it also pushed them down the path of camp, which led for good or ill to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Somebody to Love’ and the end of the band as a serious force.
News of the World was a brief return to fine rocking form for the band. The medley of “We Will Rock You’ into “We Are the Champions” features a great Freddie Mercury vocal and is a sporting event staple worldwide; “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Fight From the Inside” rock like the band means it on the strength of Brian May’s guitar and Roger Taylor’s vocals and drums.
Even though Queen’s sales rose through the 70’s, peaking in ’80 with The Game, their original, hard-rocking fans had drifted away and the band ended up, unfortunately, and in some ways unfairly, as something of a joke in the US from then on. They remained second only to the Beatles in rock group popularity in England until the end, and they were hugely successful throughout the rest of the world until the group was forced off the stage by Mercury’s death from AIDS in ’91.