How Greatest Hits Go Wrong, Part 4: The Dreaded Re-Recording

For a brief explanation on this series, click here

You know how people get pissed about George Lucas tinkering with the rereleased versions of Star Wars? Ozzy Osbourne pulled a similar move with his greatest hits album The Ozzman Cometh, only it was subtler and pettier. Fans buying the 1997 collection presumably thought the songs from his two 1981 albums were 16 years old. Following a legal battle with his former bandmates and a union with a wife and manager who never lets go of a dollar unless she absolutely has to, Ozzy had his current band replace the bass and drums tracks on those old songs so the litigious original musicians couldn’t claim royalties. They kept Randy Rhoads’ parts, as he’s too tragically dead to sue.

In a more charming vein, blues artists used to re-record their old shit all the time. They thought they were pulling some kind of petty scam (you’re gonna give me $65?  Yeah, I got a song). The result is that there are dozens of Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker greatest hits of wildly varying recording and performance quality. I read once that John Lee Hooker would even re-record his own hits in different towns under fake names. If I was more obsessive compulsive, I’d start a tumblr with information on the 600 different recordings of “boom boom” that must be out there.

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