Magazine article The Spectator

Greatest Hits

Magazine article The Spectator

Greatest Hits

Article excerpt

It was the great fantasy of every popobsessed kid. You'd imagine recording your first number one single. You'd look forward to the success, the acclaim, the girls. Over weeks and months you'd plan out your long awaited debut album (Marcus Berkmann - At Last, with a photo of me on the front looking unfeasibly modest). But the true holy grail was the greatest hits set. Twelve, perhaps 14 of my best and brightest hit singles, artlessly thrown together for the Christmas market, and skilfully timed to coincide with a slight lull in the Berkmann recording schedule, or `two-year holiday' as I thought of it. Would I throw in a new song or two for the `real fans' (i.e. real mugs)? I was certainly going to write the sleevenotes myself, in which I'd be careful to play down everybody else's contributions to my glorious success. Only then would I address the most important question of all: what to call it? Should it be The Best Of Marcus Berkmann? Or Marcus Berkmann's Greatest Hits Volume 1?

Several decades (and careers) later, another Christmas rolls around, and another batch of greatest hits albums appears on the shelves. Nothing much has changed. Vinyl may be dead, cassettes grievously wounded and even CDs under threat from the Internet, but greatest hits albums still have photos on their front covers of musicians looking very pleased with themselves. After all, they have done well to get here. This is their payday, and they intend to make the most of it. Who are we to disoblige them, as we stand bleating in megastore queues with our credit cards at the ready?

Historically, of course, greatest hits collections fall into five rough categories: the genuinely useful and enjoyable career overview; the last desperate throw for an act in apparently terminal decline; the opportunistic rerelease; the pointless live album; and the good old-fashioned record company rip-off. Top of category one this year is The Best Of Blur (Food/Parlophone), which finally collects all the hits from a band who, for all their reputation, have never really produced the great album we have all been hoping for. Fortunately they have usually put out their best songs as singles, so this now becomes their definitive release. It's a wonderful listen from beginning to end, even if the jaunty singalong `Country House' had to be included for commercial reasons. …

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