40 Years Ago: Eagles Become the First Band to Go Platinum With ‘Their Greatest Hits’
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The Eagles were big before they released Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) on Feb. 17, 1976. But they got a whole lot bigger afterward.
Coming off the previous year’s One of These Nights, their first No. 1 album, the Eagles were buying some time between their tour in support of that LP and the recording of their next record with a best-of compilation that drew from their first four years together. That next album, Hotel California, which they started recording just a few weeks after Their Greatest Hits came out, would turn out to be one of the biggest in rock history. The lean, 10-cut Greatest Hits planted the seeds for its success.
Up until that point, the Eagles had released four albums, starting with their self-titled debut in 1972 (even though Eagles was recorded in early 1972, the band formed in 1971, which sorta explains Hits‘ parenthetical title). They managed five Top 10 hits in that period, two of which — “Best of My Love” and “One of These Nights” — made it to No. 1. Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) includes nine singles plus “Desperado,” the popular title track to their second LP.
There was nothing new added to the package — back in the ’70s, artists rarely needed to bait fans with unreleased songs; you bought something that said “greatest hits” on the cover, that’s usually what you got. But who needed anything new with this lineup? “Take It Easy.” “Witchy Woman.” “Tequila Sunrise.” “Take It to the Limit.” Not so surprisingly, the album shot to No. 1.
And it stayed there for five weeks. And it kept selling. And selling. And selling. When the Recording Industry Association of America started handing out awards for million-selling LPs in 1976, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was the first album to ever be certified platinum, reaching that milestone in a week. As of 2016, the album has sold more than 29 million copies in the U.S., placing it just behind the all-time champ, Michael Jackson‘s Thriller (at 32 million), and standing over such classic records as Billy Joel‘s Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II, Led Zeppelin‘s fourth album and Pink Floyd‘s The Wall, all of which have sold 23 million copies.
Ten months after Their Greatest Hits hit stores, the Eagles released Hotel California, racking up another No. 1 album and two more chart-topping singles, “New Kid in Town” and the title track. That LP has sold more than 16 million copies, placing it within the RIAA’s Top 20 albums too. They sealed their legacy with Hotel California, but Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) shaped it.
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