February 1976: Eagles Fly High with THEIR GREATEST HITS (1971–1975)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The year was 1976. The Eagles were toiling away at what would become the band's breakout fifth studio album, Hotel California. Considering the group's growing popularity, manager Irving Azoff had an idea for the Eagles' first compilation album. The rationale was straightforward: "We decided it was time to put out the first greatest-hits because we had enough hits," Azoff told Rolling Stone in 2016.

Compiling nine singles from Eagles' first four albums, plus popular album track "Desperado," Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was released February 17, 1976. The collection went on to redefine what it meant to have a "hit" album. Debuting at #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, the record charged straight to #1 one week later for the week of March 13, 1976. It held onto the top spot for four weeks straight.

"Our record company released a greatest-hits album," former guitarist Don Felder said in his book, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001). "None of us had a say in the decision. A week after its release (the album) had sold a million copies." Given the incredible number of LPs flying off record store shelves, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was the very first album to receive the RIAA Platinum certification, introduced in 1976 to recognize albums that shipped one million copies in the United States.

As the years passed, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) never stopped selling in considerable and consistent numbers: "You probably sell 1,000 other records because somebody came into the store to buy the Eagles' greatest hits, so it's hugely important,” Carl Mello, senior buyer for New England record chain Newbury Comics, told Rolling Stone. "It was never the biggest thing ever, but each year it just sold tons and tons and tons."

Ironically, those years of "never the biggest thing ever" resulted in Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) going on to become the best-selling album of all-time, surpassing even Michael Jackson's ubiquitous Thriller LP. As of August 2018, the RIAA awarded the band with certifications for the #1 (Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) with 38x million) and #3 (Hotel California with 26X million) top-selling albums in history.

"Congratulations to the Eagles, who now claim the jaw-dropping feat of writing and recording two of the top three albums in music history," said Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO, RIAA.  "Both of these transcendent albums have impressively stood the test of time, only gaining more currency and popularity as the years have passed, much like the Eagles themselves.  As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the RIAA's Gold & Platinum Program this year, it is only fitting that we can recognize the Eagles for their singular contribution to the history of American music."