How Greatest Hits Go Wrong, Part 2: The Label Switch

For a brief explanation on this series, click here

I always think it’s funny when I pick up a CD and it says something like “The Arista Years.” I doubt that anyone but a band or a band’s manager would ever say that. It sounds like it’s tantamount to Picasso’s Blue period, but it really means that the band switched labels and their management wasn’t savvy enough to secure ownership of their back catalogue. Also, it really, really means that if you want to get every Grateful Dead song they play on the radio except for “Touch of Grey,” you buy their greatest hits and then reluctantly buy The Arista Years for “Touch of Grey.”

This is why the Stones couldn’t have “Tumbling Dice” and “Honky Tonk Woman” on the same album for 20 years. I’ll bet even Mick Jagger made a mix tape of that.

Another interesting example is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They started their career at EMI, where they struggled commercially until breaking through with their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Their next album, recorded for Warner Bros., was when they became superstars with “Under the Bridge.” EMI and Warner Bros. agreed to share two songs for their respective greatest hits albums, What Hits? and Greatest Hits.

This probably confuses the shit out of moms at Christmas time.

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