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15 Best New Songs Recorded For Greatest Hits Albums

As a young music fan, I was heavily reliant on Greatest Hits for my collection. I earned $3 for mowing the lawn and new albums cost $20, so compilations were a sure-fire way of getting bang for my buck.

Compilations often include of new tracks alongside time-tested classics. This practice dates right back to Johnny Mathis in the 1950s – Johnny’s Greatest Hits included a new song ‘I Look at You’. The practice became more common in the 1970s and it makes commercial sense – a new track can induce completists to buy a compilation even though they already own most of the songs, while a great new song getting airplay can boost hype and sales.

It’s a risk including new material, however, as sometimes it just doesn’t match the quality of previous hits. Crowded House’s Recurring Dream was weighed down by three new songs recorded while the band were in their death throes. Four songs on Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 Greatest Hits felt unbalanced, especially when it only featured six songs from his first six albums. Here are fifteen songs that actually earned their keep and became among the act’s best-loved work.

15 Best Songs Recorded Specifically For a Compilation

#15 – Tonight She Comes by The Cars

The Cars Greatest Hits

1985
The Cars’ 1985 Greatest Hits is a terrific compilation, packed with great songs like ‘Just What I Needed’, ‘Let’s Go’, and ‘Drive’. ‘Tonight She Comes’ holds its own in illustrious company, becoming a top ten hit in its own right. It features one of my favourite solos by underrated lead guitarist Elliot Easton too.


#14 – Do I Do by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder Original Musiquarium I

1982
Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I features a new song at end of each of its four LP sides. The new songs capture Stevie Wonder right before he slid into irrelevance with ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, and they’re all worthwhile. The highlight is the unadulterated joy of ‘Do I Do’, a ten minute epic featuring jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet and built around a mind-blowing Nate Watts bassline.


#13 – Here Comes the Flood by Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel Shaking The Tree Sixteen Golden Greats

1990
‘Here Comes the Flood’ wasn’t a new song, dating back to Peter Gabriel’s first solo album in 1977. But Gabriel reworked it for his 1990 compilation Shaking The Tree, turning in a gorgeous solo piano and vocal performance, similar to his take on Robert Fripp’s 1978 album Exposure.


#12 – All That Money Wants by the Psychedelic Furs

1988
I enjoy the Psychedelic Furs’ 1988 compilation All of This and Nothing so much that I’ve never bothered checking out their studio records. After flirtations with a poppier sound on mid-1980s songs like ‘The Ghost In You’ and ‘Heaven’, ‘All That Money Wants’ restores a tougher alt-rock sound, the perfect backdrop for Richard Butler’s gravelly voice.


#11 – Slip Slidin’ Away by Paul Simon

1977
Paul Simon produced little music in the second half of the 1970s as he dabbled in other interests. He acted in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and created his own movie, 1980’s One -Trick Pony. Greatest Hits, Etc. seemed premature, only covering Simon’s first three studio albums for Columbia, but it was contractually necessary. It did feature new song ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’, a top-ten hit, which successfully married the jazzy sound of Still Crazy After All These Years with some of Simon’s most mournfully incisive words; “believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip slidin’ away”.


#10 – Bring On the Dancing Horses by Echo & the Bunnymen

1985
‘Bring On the Dancing Horses’ was recorded for the 1986 John Hughes film Pretty in Pink, but it first appeared as the single for the 1985 Echo & the Bunnymen compilation Songs to Learn & Sing. It’s typical for the band, the neo-psychedelic sound and Ian McCulloch’s sonorous voice making them an equivalent to The Doors for the 1980s. “First I’m gonna make it/Then I’m gonna break it/Till it falls apart.”


#9 – The Sound of Crying by Prefab Sprout

1992
Paddy McAloon originally wrote ‘The Sound of Crying’ in 1990, for a planned Michael Jackson biographical album. The lyrics were adapted into a philosophical treatise about God’s role in suffering; “Sometimes I think that God is working to a plan/then other times I swear that he is improvising – discordant and remote”. Impressively for a song with such heavy subject matter, ‘The Sound of Crying’ was a top thirty single in the UK.


#8 – Runaway by Janet Jackson

1995
Jackson’s Design of a Decade is a strange compilation – for contractual reasons 1993’s janet. is only represented by one track. Fortunately the other two albums it draws from – 1986’s Control and 1989’s Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 – are so packed with hits that it holds together. Abetted by regular collaborators Jam & Lewis, ‘Runaway’ is a breezy piece of pop, employing some world music textures.


#7 – Experiment IV by Kate Bush

Kate Bush The Whole Story

1986
Kate Bush’s compilation The Whole Story has a misleading title – twelve tracks wasn’t enough to capture the breadth of her work. New track ‘Experiment IV’, however, is excellent – like ‘Cloudbusting’ from Hounds of Love it’s sci-fi themed, about a sonic weapon. Befitting the subject matter, it’s classy art-rock, maintaining the standard of 1985’s classic Hounds of Love.


#6 – Changes by Tupac Shakur

1998
‘Changes’ is the only posthumous song on this list, released two years after Tupac’s death. Tupac’s two-disc Greatest Hits featured four new songs; ‘Changes’ was recorded back in 1992, but was remixed before its 1998 release. The socially conscious ‘Changes’ is built around Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s ‘The Way It Is’, and Talent guests to sing the chorus.


#5 – Mary Jane’s Last Dance by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

1993
Tom Petty enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and a 1993 Greatest Hits captured him still in his prime. ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ is a simple four-chord riff rocker, but it’s elevated by some great Mike Campbell guitar work. It’s the last Petty song to feature the crisp drumming of Stan Lynch. Petty’s laconic storytelling is also enjoyable, with the chorus serving as a double-entendre for giving up weed.


#4 – On The Radio by Donna Summer

1979
Disco queen Donna Summer released two versions of ‘On The Radio’ on her 1979 double-record On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. The set opened with a stately piano version and closed with a disco version. In either form it’s terrific, Summer collaborating with Italian producer Giorgio Moroder.


#3 – Fernando by ABBA

1976
ABBA’s 1975 Greatest Hits is a terrible representation of a talented band, with only a handful of songs (‘S.O.S’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Waterloo’) anywhere near their best. The Swedish quartet became more sophisticated and accomplished as their career progressed, and early songs like ‘People Need Love’ are merely formative. The 1976 edition of Greatest Hits was bolstered by the inclusion of ‘Fernando’, a song previously recorded by Anna-Frid for her 1975 solo album. Interestingly, the lyrics in Swedish and English are completely different – in Swedish it’s a song of consolation for a heartbroken bartender.


#2 – True Faith by New Order

1987
New Order’s Substance is terrific, lining up all the 12-inch mixes of the band’s singles and highlighting their strengths as a dance act. ‘True Faith’ is a sunny slice of upbeat pop that shows how far the band had come since their Joy Division days. New Order recorded two new songs for Substance – the also excellent ‘1963’ was relegated to b-side. According to Wikipedia, Bernard Sumner liked to include inappropriate lyrics about Michael Jackson when the band performed ‘True Faith’ live.


#1 – September by Earth, Wind & Fire

1978
When choosing the best song to originate on a greatest hits it’s difficult to go past this musical explosion of joy. Co-writer Allee Willis was initially nonplussed by the inclusion of gibberish lyrics, but learned “never to let the lyric get in the way of the groove”. Apparently the 21st of September was the due date of Maurice White’s son Kahbran.

Did I miss your favourite new compilation song? Apologies to U2’s ‘Electrical Storm’, Sting’s ‘When We Dance’,

Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’, R.E.M.’s ‘Bad Day’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘That Girl’, and Hall and Oates’ ‘Say It Isn’t So’.

60 thoughts on “15 Best New Songs Recorded For Greatest Hits Albums Leave a comment

  1. Not surprised that “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is on here, as it’s a great example of bucking the trend of putting a throwaway cut on a Greatest Hits package. It could be argued that MJLD is Petty’s biggest hit, though according to Billboard “Free Falling”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, and “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” had higher chart positions.

    Never realized that “September” was a non-album track!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all these songs are pretty full realised. Could probably do a separate post about throwaway cuts on greatest hits. I really don’t like the new songs on Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits in 1988 – they really missed Lindsey Buckingham when he left.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t recall those two songs, and it wouldn’t surprise me. Besides “Save Me”, Behind The Mask was pretty forgettable. I don’t think it’s as much as they needed Buckingham, instead Burnette and Vito were weak replacements. Fleetwood Mac had fine singer/guitarist/songwriters before Buckingham. They never reached the level of the self-titled (1975) to Tango In The Night run, but there were decent cuts.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I do think Buckingham was very talented at arranging Christine and Stevie’s songs – adding his weird production touches, giving them some extra energy with some impassioned guitar work and backing vocals.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh no doubt! Buckingham was the “special sauce” that added to everything. The previous guys not so much. But they had their standout moments–I’ll go to bat that “Hypnotized” is the great Mac song no one knows anymore. I can’t remember anything that stood out about Burnette/Vito, whether in addition to C. McVie/Nicks compositions or their own.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right on about some of these. Tonight She Comes was their best since Shake It Up and a real surprise coming after the lousy Heartbeat City and Door to Door albums. Although I’m still not sure if it was a new track or an older unused one. And September is Earth Wind & Fire’s best or maybe second-best after Sing a Song. And of course Experiment lV. And I’m a huge Psychedelic Furs fan so I don’t agree with all that money wants which I’m not that crazy about. However that greatest hits album is ace otherwise. And the Donna Summer and Abba and Stevie Wonder are pretty good too. Although That Girl is better.
    Let me try to think of some more good ones cuz this is a cool topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently Tonight She Comes was written for Ocazek’s solo album, but it didn’t fit and he donated it to the Cars – so it was a new song. I think the Greatest Hits was before Door to Door – like a few others on this list, it captured them right before they went off the boil.

      I did consider That Girl but I went with Do I Do, but could go either way.

      This post was kind of inspired by your frequent references to greatest hits, actually.

      Like

  3. Good idea for a post… I didn’t know September was one…but I like that one, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Tonight She Comes, and Slip Slidin Away.
    Some really good songs to add on to a greatest hits package.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The one that comes to me because it’s one of the reasons I bought the cd is Murder Incorporated…by Springsteen but it’s not a classic.
        Slip Slidin’ Away is one of my favorite Paul Simon solo songs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think those four new Springsteen songs on Greatest Hits are good, but it really needed to be a double. Hurts to have nothing from the first two albums, and only one from Darkness.

          Like

  4. Love this topic – and I have another potential track for the record: Groovy Situation by The Cruel Sea off their We Don’t Work, We Play Music compilation (2002). It may not be from their peak period but a cool tune nonetheless!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fun idea for a post. Frankly, I never would have thought about it! Instead, I come up with brilliant ideas, such as doing a list of Beatles classic style rock & roll.😆

    Oh, well, I suppose at the end of the day it’s all about the music we love and the theme is secondary!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s right. I forgot Door to Door came after it. And actually there is one song I like on Heartbeat City and it’s the most unlikely one. Drive is the only one that I like to hear. But it was their most popular album, so what do I know? lol

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with the guy who says that Hypnotized is the great Fleetwood Mac song. It is. Its probably the best thing they ever did. Except for maybe a couple songs on Rumours. And Sentimental Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bruce Springsteen – Back In My Arms
    Bob Marley – Iron Lion Zion
    Bob Dylan – Dignity
    The Rolling Stones – Don’t Stop
    Roxy Music -Jealous Guy

    All these appeared on ‘Greatest Hits’ or other compilations and helped in the marketing of those releases to fans who had all the other tracks.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For me, Springsteen just isn’t a ‘Greatest Hits’ type of artists (he didn’t have many ‘hits’ anyway) and many of his finest tracks are lengthy ones like Incident on 57th Street, Jungleland, Racing In The Street, Rosalita etc. The same applies to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Thus, ‘best of’ compilations of those artists invariably are not. A similar thing occurs with Pink Floyd, where lengthy stuff is criminally edited or left off altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

      • ‘Best Of’s without Desolation Row, Sad-Eyed Lay Of The Lowlands, Madame George, And The Healing Has Begun, Take It Where You Find It, Jungleland, Incident on 57th Street, all the Crazy Diamond parts etc are always going to be lacking.

        Unlike yourself, and Kingclover too, I am not so much of a ‘best of/greatest hits” kind of a guy. I find myself having to listen to everything an artist has done. That has its problems, of course, as I’m going through a Grateful Dead phase at the moment!

        Liked by 1 person

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