We are the champions of the charts: UK’s all-time best-sellers revealed

Queen: Greatest Hits album is top seller. Picture: PA
Queen: Greatest Hits album is top seller. Picture: PA
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Classic rock songs still hold their own in a list of the UK’s best-selling 40 albums, released today.

While Adele is the biggest contemporary chart phenomenon, bands from the 1960s and 1970s such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen still claimed leading places on the list.

Queen, formed in 1971, holds the record for the best-selling album since 1956, with their Greatest Hits compilation, first released in 1981. It has sold 5.8 million copies since its release.

But the late Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black is in 12th place, along with four other 21st-century names that made it into the top 20 – Adele, James Blunt, Dido and Leona Lewis.

The all-time countdown of the best-selling albums since 1956 features in a BBC Radio 2 special today hosted by Tony Blackburn.

He said: “This chart is a real mixed bag, and I think listeners will be quite surprised. There are artists in there you would expect to see in a countdown of this nature, but not necessarily at the positions that they are.

“I was really surprised to see who hadn’t made it in – no sign of the massively successful acts like The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Diana Ross or Marvin Gaye.

“Listeners are in for a real treat. There’s something for everyone in the chart.”

The nearest rival for Queen’s Greatest Hits was the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which has sold five million copies.

That was just ahead of Gold by Abba, which sold 4.9 million, according to the figures from the Official Charts Company, which has compiled weekly running counts of retail sales since 1956.

Queen’s second collection, Greatest Hits II, also featured in the list, at No 10, with sales of 3.8 million.

Sgt Pepper is the oldest, from 1967, with Bridge Over Troubled Water dating from 1970.

Adele’s album 21 – released just last year – has already outsold Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms.

She must now surpass Michael Jackson’s Thriller to break into the top five.

Figures suggest that globally Thriller has notched up the biggest album sales of all time, perhaps as many as 100 million. The Eagles and the Bee Gees are among the biggest worldwide sellers, but neither make it into the UK album lists. Sales of 21, Britain’s biggest selling album this year, are estimated at 20 million to date, with about eight million in the United States alone.

“Adele has really just taken the pop world by storm,” said Donny Hughes, a DJ and business development manager at Castle FM in Edinburgh.

“She is absolutely huge here and even more so in America, where she has had the top- selling album. The Beatles are the yardstick of how successful a group can be if they make it in the US. Adele has knocked that ball right out of the park.”

“It’s no surprise that Sgt Pepper is up there, I remember it was quite a shock to me when my 15-year-old daughter asked to listen to it recently.”

“It’s probably not strange that a compilation album comes out on top, because in the old days when you bought an album there were other tracks in there to pad it out.”