The UK’s Official Charts Company recently announced that Queen’s 1981 Greatest Hits collection is the first album in Britain to sell over six million copies. That figure, if you notice, also makes Greatest Hits the best-selling record in British history. To put that feat in perspective, note that the album outpaces popular works by fellow British royalty the Beatles (at number three on the country’s all-time sales list with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Oasis (number five with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?), and Pink Floyd (number seven for The Dark Side of the Moon). Even global superstars ABBA (number two), Michael Jackson (numbers six and nine), and Madonna (number 11) can’t best that.
Queen has long been considered a national treasure in its home country, but in other places (namely, the United States) the group has had to gradually allow its legacy to grow large enough to help it escape the dismissals of critics and earn it its proper place in the rock pantheon. Sniffed at for its penchant for campy bombast, its flights of fancy, and its brazen showmanship, history has proven those qualities to be among the band’s virtues. Look no further than 1985’s Live Aid extravaganza to see how Queen measures up in the wider scheme of music—it took the stage the same day as scores of other rock and pop icons, and in 20 minutes mopped the floor with the lot of them.