100. “Get Dancin'” – Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes: This is an amazing name for a group. With that said, this song is weird. There’s just too many things going on at once to make it a pleasant listen at all. It’s a funky disco beat, layered with its “doot-doot-doot” hook, atop a whole bunch of horns, accompanied by an overenthusiastic emcee who just won’t shut up, amidst a bunch of other noises I can’t even decipher. I could barely make it through one listen.
99. “Swearin’ to God” – Frankie Valli: With the exception of 1967’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, Frankie Valli and his Four Seasons had all but disappeared after the mid-60s British Invasion. ’75 seems to be his comeback year as he tries his hand at disco for the first time, and… well, it’s okay. Valli is more than likely way out of style at this point, but boy is he trying! Though halfway through the album version of the single, it totally rips off the introduction of “Love’s Theme”. Take a listen for yourself!
98. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Just like their previous single “Takin’ Care of Business”, BTO seems to successfully meld small-town country sensibilities with big-city rock ‘n’ roll sound. It’s a bit more coherent this time around, though far more sillier. I get the story about the speaker meeting a devil woman who turns him to the dark side, but why the stutter chorus? Randy Bachman stated that it pays homage to his brother, who possessed a similar speech impediment, but it’s just plain weird for the rest of us. Still, that riff sure is a real kicker – even if it is essentially a “Baba O’Riley” rip-off.
97. “Third Rate Romance” – Amazing Rhythm Aces: Because it seems that this list has got nothing but weird songs, here’s another one. Yes, it falls in that ever-classic category of “one-night stand songs”. The unusual part comes in the details that the lyrics choose to focus on – her staring at her coffee cup, his walking to the hotel concierge desk, the small talk the two share in between. And then the song kind of just ends at a cliff hanger, right when they unlock the hotel room door. Though perhaps the lyricist intends this sense of disconnect, making a song about a realistic one-night stand for once (in the sense that they’re uninteresting as hell and rarely pan out to any real “romance”). The strongest qualities of this song, however, come in the great blues-country twang that the guitar players bring to the table. I’d be perfectly satisfied with an instrumental version of this track.
96. “Only You (And You Alone)” – Ringo Starr: I first became aware of “Only You” while working on my post for 1959, wherein the instrumental version by Franck Pourcel showed up. My immediate impression was that it was a lush and beautiful arrangement of strings and piano that really sets forth its romantic tone so successfully. With the Ringo Starr version, I’ve finally got some words to go with the melody. While the lyrics by Buck Ram are pretty alright for what the song is, I think the choice for Starr on vocals is a poor one. The reason why the Pourcel version was so lovely was due to the almost overwhelming melodrama of its arrangement; this version, frankly, has practically got all the life sucked out of it.
95. “I’m On Fire” – Dwight Twilley Band: I’m trying desperately to come up with something interesting to say about this song – but truthfully, I’ve got nothing. Everything about it is pretty generic, from the uninteresting lyrics, to the bland lead vocalist, to the simple verse-chorus-verse structure, to the forgettable arrangement. If anything, it’s a pretty good snapshot example of the most generic kind of 70s rock.
94. “Only Yesterday” – The Carpenters: After a great run for the past few years, “Only Yesterday” marks the very last Hot 100 hit The Carpenters would ever hold. It’s one of their weaker singles, as the melody doesn’t quite stick with as much immediacy as some of their earlier, more memorable songs. Still, it’s Karen Carpenter’s silky voice that, once again, makes it totally worth a listen.
93. “Bad Blood” – Neil Sedaka: Although Neil Sedaka has had consistent success in the American charts since the late 50s, this is the first time we’re seeing him in the year-end Hot 100 since ’62. With uncredited backing vocals from Elton John, this is also one of his most well-known singles. I usually really like Sedaka as a lyricist, but this particular song feels a bit too mean-spirited for me to really indulge in. Still, its super catchy bass groove is pretty impossible to deny.
92. “Misty” – Ray Stevens: Ugh, this guy again. As I’ve made perfectly clear, I am not a fan of Ray Stevens; however, this song is an improvement from his usual fare – mainly because it’s a cover so I don’t have to deal with his own atrocious songwriting this time through. It’s basically a straight-forward love song and actually pretty sweet. Stevens himself, however, isn’t much of a singer or musician, so the production isn’t anything of which to make a big deal. I’d probably be more interested in the Johnny Mathis original.
91. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” – Elton John: Having co-written this single with Taupin, this is the most autobiographical song John has brought onto the Hot 100 thus far. Intensely poetic, it’s largely influenced by John’s contemplation of suicide shortly before his music career took off. Although maybe not the strongest in terms of production and arrangement, I find it pretty poignant and incredibly touching nonetheless. Just the way he sings “It’s four o’ clock in the morning / Damn it; listen to me good” sends chills down my spine every time.
90. “Long Tall Glasses” – Leo Sayer: I feel like this song is not as catchy as it thinks it is. Its boogie-woogie rhythm undermines the fact that it’s just too weird and makes very little sense. Sayer does have a good voice, though, and I feel like he could be rather accomplished with the help of a good production team.
89. “Bungle in the Jungle” – Jethro Tull: Jethro Tull have always come off to me as a rock band that somehow existed in the English medieval era. In theory, this is a huge advantage; in practice, the results are relatively mixed. “Bungle in the Jungle”, by its very nature, is remarkably silly and I’m still not sure if I should take it as satire or not. I’m certainly perplexed over what to make of the content – essentially, it’s a bunch of jungle-based metaphors and imagery that don’t really amount to much. But boy, do I love those strings. Jethro Tull may let me down from time to time, but their sound is just too damn cool to completely dismiss.
88. “Junior’s Farm” – Paul McCartney & Wings: This may just be the point where I’ve completely given up on McCartney as a musician and especially as a songwriter. As implied above, vague imagery with little rhyme or reason is hardly a reason to dislike a song, but this is just ridiculous.
87. “No No Song” – Ringo Starr: On the other hand, I had already learned to distrust Starr’s post-Beatles output from prior listening experience. Little did I know that he would attempt a reggae song, resulting in the most inane single he’s put out so far. It sounds like a children’s song and I’m sure its success could mostly be attributed to novelty value. And also ’cause it’s Ringo.
86. “It Only Takes a Minute” – Tavares: Songs like these are the reason I’m so thankful for the popularity surge of disco in the 70s, when mainstream music seemed to be at its most tired. There’s so much going on instrumentally that it almost seems overwhelming, but the real MVP is the sharp background synth that gives the whole song a real spirited character. As a whole it’s incredibly infectious, with a chorus that’s simple, yet to-the-point and certainly hard-hitting. For what it’s worth, it only took a minute for me to fall in love with this song.
85. “The Rockford Files” – Mike Post: It’s so weird to me when TV or movie themes make the Hot 100, something that could’ve only really happened in this era. I mean, everyone really loved Mark Snow’s theme to The X-Files, but it wasn’t topping any US charts back in the 90s. On the contrary, this theme to The Rockford Files became a top ten hit here. It’s a catchy tune, sure, yet I know absolutely nothing about its show. On the basis of composition, it’s rather uninteresting, pretty much repeating its main melody a few times before fade-out. Still, the keyboard/electric guitar combo is so pleasing to the ears.
84. “You Got the Love” – Rufus: Bringing back the funk once again is Rufus with their catchiest hit single since… well, their last single! I did state that “Tell Me Something Good” is most likely the funkiest song of all time, but that’s not to underplay the soulful ingenuity of their sound as a whole. The guitar licks here work so well, once again. Chaka Khan is incredible, once again. And while this isn’t quite as immediately catchy as its predecessor, it’s still a wonderful, beautiful arrangement nevertheless.
83. “Lonely People” – America: America’s sound is practically definitive of the bland nature that permeates through 70s soft-rock. Yet their songs – particularly this one – are just too simple and pure to dismiss completely. As the title might suggest, “Lonely People” was written as a less cynical response to “Eleanor Rigby”. What’s to hate about a song that mainly professes a message of positivity and the upkeep of one’s efforts for a better tomorrow? The song itself may be about eight to ten years too late, but it’s still kind of charming.
82. “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” – Al Green: It’s pretty cool that even with slightly more of a disco sound than his previous singles, Al Green still remains the smoothest, most soulful vocalist out there. It doesn’t resonate as well as his stronger early stuff, but it’s still so good.
81. “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” – Electric Light Orchestra: I love beautiful, symphonic, genuinely kitschy stuff like this. This sounds like it was made for some overblown, off-Broadway musical and is as overly abundant as it can get. Still, I’m pro-ELO all the way and this is gorgeous as hell.
80. “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” – B.T. Express: The production here, with its hand claps and cool conga beat, is decent enough. Yet the track doesn’t really form enough of a personality to be anything more than yet another cool slice from the 70s disco-funk era. It quickly wears out its welcome and doesn’t offer much else outside of the first couple minutes or so.
79. “Shoeshine Boy” – Eddie Kendricks: “Shoeshine Boy” marks the final true hit single from Kendricks as a solo performer. Frankly, this may also be his weakest, hardly amounting to the level of quality that the majority of Motown has offered in the past. Still, the subject matter is pretty endearing, paying homage to the lower-class individual who works hard just to eke out a living, aspiring for potential future stardom. Perhaps Kendricks himself has some personal attachment to this story.
78. “Killer Queen” – Queen: I’ll try to be at least somewhat objective here, since my true feelings for anything Queen- and Freddy Mercury-related would honestly boil down to me slapping my hands on my keyboard again and again in disorderly bliss. So yeah, this is a great song. It’s got pretty much everything I could ask for in a great song. Finger-snaps, harpsichord, triangle, Brian May’s multi-tracked guitar solo, a great cabaret atmosphere, kitschy lyrics, Freddie Mercury’s explosive vocal power – it’s got it all and in great plentitude. Finally, while it took me many years and countless listens of this song to truly appreciate Jon Deacon’s bass guitar work, I now consider it one of the most indispensable elements of its composition. In other words, basically every part of this song is perfect inside and out, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.
77. “I’m Sorry” – John Denver: Once again, John Denver shows that he has a real knack for making music that, atmospherically, sounds quite pretty. Lyrically, though, is where his more traditionally-themed love songs tend to falter. Generic lines such as, “I’m sorry for all the lies I told you / I’m sorry for the things I didn’t say” could have come from any writer or musician under the sun; the fact that it came from the person who penned “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is rather unfulfilling. Also – “I’m sorry for the way things are in China”? Explain yourself, John.
76. “Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor)” – Joe Simon: One of my biggest frustrations about the rise of funk and disco in the 70s is that we often end up with a lot of songs like these. Sure, this song gets the mood alright and you sure feel like dancing from beginning to end. However, after the initial buildup in the first few seconds, the whole rest of the song hardly deviates from its basic beat, rhythm, hook, and chord arrangement, not to mention its repetitive lyrics. It wears out its welcome after about a minute-and-a-half, yet there’s still a fair amount of song left. And it’s true that this set-up is perfect for similarly endless-seeming nights out on the dance floor (only this could explain the few dozen times the phrases “get down” and “get on the floor” are uttered), but sonically this is a dull arrangement. On the plus side, Joe Simon is pretty talented and I could see this song really getting people pumped off the strength of his voice alone.
75. “When Will I See You Again” – The Three Degrees: In Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Bill notes this song as his “favorite soul song of the 70s”. Not a bad choice, if I do say so myself. It’s a dreamy, achingly nostalgic love song, quite possibly one of the very best Gamble/Huff productions of the Philly Soul era. It’s a tad unfortunate that The Three Degrees were never to match the success this single brought them; they seemed to have a whole lot of talent up their sleeves.
74. “Some Kind of Wonderful” – Grand Funk Railroad: The sooner that Grand Funk Railroad and their terrible cover songs disappear from all existence, the better.
73. “Morning Side of the Mountain” – Donny & Marie Osmond: Not to mention yet another unbearably saccharine cover song from this duo! With this particular recording, though, I’m getting some unfortunately icky vibes, akin to Frank and Nancy Sinatra singing “Something Stupid”.
72. “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” – Paul Anka & Odia Coates: I can’t help but feel really bad for Odia Coates while listening to her duets with Paul Anka. It’s obvious that she’s got some genuine talent, but she’s mercilessly overshadowed by her terrible co-performer who just happens to have the bigger name. This song sounds pretty much like every one of Anka’s other hit singles – in that it’s boring as sin and truly unlistenable.
71. “Never Can Say Goodbye” – Gloria Gaynor: I’m forever thankful that someone took a listen to The Jackson 5’s soulful, moody version of “Never Can Say Goodbye” and decided that it needed to be an uptempo disco song. Gaynor certainly does great justice to the tune, being in possession of the few types of voices that could possibly rival young Michael Jackson’s skills. I still prefer the original, but I also think that this is very deserving of being the very first #1 song in Billboard’s newly formed Dance/Disco chart. This is disco to a T.
70. “Cut the Cake” – Average White Band: It took me way to long to find out that AWB were a Scottish band, inherently making them anything but average within the American funk scene. The band definitely has a real flair for creating groovy flows that really kick. As hinted from this track alone, their sound is primarily built from sharp horns, syncopated drums, and a smooth bass. Unfortunately, their strengths are incapacitated by their lyrics and vocalist, who is frankly just so annoying. I’ll stick to their instrumentals.
69. “Dance With Me” – Orleans: Apparently, the “Love’s Theme” ripoffs extend beyond the disco genre (I seriously can’t be the only one who have pointed out these similarities; they’re uncanny). In any case, this is another case that gives the impression that soft-rock, like disco, was inescapable in the 70s. Orleans just kind of comes off to me as a less-good Bread. I mean, I know David Gates was a bit of a cornball, but this song is so cheesy, it’s hilarious. I like the harmonica solo, though.
68. “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” – James Taylor: Just like Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” from the previous year, this is one of the most succinct examples of taking a terrific song and making it insufferable. It’s hard to accept that this is from the same guy that gave up “Fire and Rain”.
67. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” – Bad Company: And speaking of corny, this song is so corny. “Feel like makin’ love” is a very straight-forward sentiment, and it might have been okay if Bad Company had just stuck with that. But then they add lines like, “And if I had the sun and moon / We will shine them / I would give you both night and day of satisfyin'”. This is a pretty interesting juxtaposition between honest love and primal sex. It’s hard to know if the speaker of the song honestly feels his lovey-dovey emotions to the core, or if he just wants to get laid. Still, that chorus just hits so damn hard, exemplifying Bad Company’s distinct guitar-drive sound.
66. “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” – Paul Anka & Odia Coates: Seriously, why wasn’t Odia Coates more famous?! This is really upsetting to me. This is an awful song, but her bits are pretty nice. Though it’s such a shame that one has to endure such awful material to get to listen to them.
65. “You Are So Beautiful” – Joe Cocker: One of the cowriters for this song is Billy Preston, who – judging solely from “Will It Go Round in Circles”, “Nothing From Nothing”, and now this – isn’t really the best lyricist. Only fourteen different words are ever sung from Cocker, whose raspy vocals work surprisingly well for this tender ballad. Just as simplistic is the arrangement, made primarily of just a sole piano with some strings coming in later. It’s not really that great of a song, but something about it just tugs at the heartstrings ever so slightly.
64. “Get Down Tonight” – KC and the Sunshine Band: Yeah yeah, it’s true that no one ever really cares to sit down and listen to the words in these kinds of songs. After all KC and the Sunshine Band’s music was made specifically to be played in heavy rotation and cash in on the disco craze. This must be why all their singles are practically the same song. In any case, “Baby, baby, let’s get together / Honey, honey, me and you / And do the things, oh, do the things / That we like to do” reads like a first draft. Still, I can’t help the fact that it really makes me feel like dancing from beginning to end. Also, that is one sick bass groove.
63. “Doctor’s Orders” – Carol Douglas: Jesus, this is corny. From the introductory phone call (that’s never/always a good sign), I could immediately tell this would be quite a trip into cheeseville. I mean, come on – her doctor is saying that her lover should return to make her feel better… or so she says. I can’t tell if the overall message of this is one of pathetic desperation or of warm-hearted camp. It’s probably a little bit of both.
62. “Only Women Bleed” – Alice Cooper: Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: this song is mistakenly assumed to be about menstruation, but a listen-/read-through on the lyrics indicates it’s actually a song about domestic violence. With that said, it isn’t a very good one. The first verse immediately constructs the premise of female subjugation: “Man got his woman / To take his seed / He got the power / Oh, she got the need”. In this manner, it continues to build upon this fetishization of battered wives and girlfriends with little to no sensitivity about the humanity of such individuals (See also: The Beatles’ “Run For Your Life”). Cooper’s voice really isn’t fit for ballads either, not that this one is very interesting in terms of production either. How this song got big totally baffles me.
61. “Bad Time” – Grand Funk: I don’t know why this song is credited toward Grand Funk rather than Grand Funk Railroad; as far as I can tell, they’re the same band. In any case, for once we’ve got a song from this group that isn’t a cover – and it’s actually kinda good! The bridge and the chorus are a bit repetitive, sure, and the lyrics in general aren’t really anything to write home about. At the same time, though, they at least seem comfortable with this kind of mid-tempo, melody-driven rock sound. The vocalist still isn’t remarkably pleasant to listen to, but at least the straining screeches from “Loco-Motion” aren’t found here. I still don’t think they’re a very good band, but at least it can be said that their potential hasn’t been completely obliterated.
60. “Lady” – Styx: Is it cool to enjoy Styx? I never know if it is or not. Still, this song is triumphant and dramatic in all my favorite ways, building up its initially delicate pace to a totally overblown climax. Plus, I just really love the line “You’re my lady of the morning / Love shines in your eyes” for some reason.
59. “That’s the Way of the World” – Earth, Wind, & Fire: Those horns in the intro really set the mood for a truly magnificent song, and its promise is held up rather well. The marriage between the back vocals with Maurice White’s leading ones make this a heavenly sonic paradise. Not to mention that lovely guitar solo, the triangle, those horns (once again), and the generally sexy atmosphere of the track as a whole. Songs like these are what I reminisce on when thinking about what makes 70s music so fabulous.
58. “Express” – B.T. Express: Trains are cool. Fortunately, B.T. Express has now come out with the coolest, funkiest single about trains since “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva’s, not Grand Funk Railroad’s!). It’s essentially an instrumental track, although the members of B.T. occasionally intervene with some “chug-chugs” to give it a more train-like vibe. Even without that gimmick, this is a rather fun song, its strong points lying with its percussion-and-horns combo. Yet another neat little slice from the peak of the disco era.
57. “How Long?” – Ace: This song kind of encapsulates AM rock for me – more so, even, than Bread and The Carpenters. I think the smooth guitars and drums, along with the crooning vocals, tend to make that immediate association for me. The one-line hook “How long has this been going on?” would make one believe that this song was about infidelity, and understandably so. Yet the rest of the lyrics seem weirdly vague. It turns out that the subject matter more broadly covers infidelity within the band, rather than within a romantic relationship. Go figure.
56. “Poetry Man” – Phoebe Snow: This song may have a little more “whoas”, “yeahs”, and “ohs” than I would like. This doesn’t change the fact that Snow’s voice is absolutely divine, with quite a few of these lines standing out as distinctly beautiful. I was not expecting that saxophone solo upon my first listen, but when it came it completely took my breath away. Though it may be innocuous, it’s still a delightfully pleasant little jazz single and a welcome diversion from everything else on the charts.
55. “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” – Sugarloaf: Honestly, I totally forgot about the existence of Sugarloaf before this song came back up. Once I re-listened to the beginning riff of “Green-Eyed Lady” from 1970, it became clear how that song and this are the only two big hits of their career. Their earlier song, though generic in its lyrical content, still had an interesting 60s sound with its organ keyboard, while everyone else was experimenting with newer sounds. “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”, however, is their commencement into the samey sound that they had previously veered away from. Sure, it’s catchy, but essentially it’s the same ol’ “the music industry is terrible!” message that we’ve all heard before. Still, it’s got a nice homage to The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, even though it makes no sense.
54. “Midnight Blue” – Melissa Manchester: Upon first listen, this track sounds like yet another one of those songs that would fit neatly in the AM radio lineup at the time. Melissa Manchester, followed by Phoebe Snow, followed by Orleans or Bread. Listening to the lyrics, though, there’s a bit of a story there; some “friend turned lover turned friend again” kind of story. It’s nothing too flamboyant and the pace stays gentle and cozy throughout, highlighted by Manchester’s powerful vocals. All in all, a perfectly neat single.
53. “The Way We Were / Try To Remember” – Gladys Knight & The Pips: It always bothers me a bit when live versions of songs become big. Having them play on regular rotation next to studio-produced singles with much better production and the absence of the crowd’s reaction just comes across as jarring – as it does on my end, as I listen through this list. I’m willing to set these complaints aside for a minute, though, since this is Gladys Knight (whom I love) singing “The Way We Were” (which I also love). While few things could top Streisand’s original for me, this is an excellent compromise. I could do without her speech at the introduction, but the second half is total bliss all the way to the end.
52. “Walking in Rhythm” – The Blackbyrds: This song is a weird hybrid of a bunch of different sounds that were popular at the time: disco violins and bass, a soft-rock style vocalist, and a general Philly Soul vibe. There’s really not much to it otherwise. It’s one of those songs of is era that one forgets they listened to after it’s over, but it’s a real treat for the ears nonetheless.
51. “Dynomite” – Bazuka: I can’t find anything that explicitly connects this song – the repetition of its title being its only true lyrics – with the character J.J. from Good Times (the show becoming popular around this same year). I’m not sure if the phrase “dy-no-mite” has that exact connotation or if it was just another popular phrase of its time, like “boogie” or “far out” in the 60s. In any case, this is a pretty ridiculous song and I really can’t imagine anyone going out of their way to dance to it. It’s got all the same charms as “Get Dancin'” (see #100), only slightly less obnoxious.
50. “You’re No Good” – Linda Ronstadt: Linda Ronstadt always comes off to me as a less good Carole King. I haven’t heard a single song of hers that wasn’t just some generic cover; I don’t even know if she does any original material at all. While this song is certainly no exception to this trend, it does have a neat inclusion of some rockin’ chords in the middle section. Poor Linda, though, just tends to play it very safe, making this hardly a fun listen at all.
49. “Please Mr. Please” – Olivia Newton-John: The guitars that introduce this track are suspiciously reminiscent of Anne Murray – but I digress. As always, Olivia’s vocals are quite pleasant to listen to, although everything else is considerably weaker than her previous singles. It’s a slow, bittersweet tune about a failed romance, though nothing about it feels like it’s tailor-fit for Newton-John’s particular talents. It is pretty nice, though, that she explains how jukeboxes work in the first few lines; it’ll probably be some historian’s dream in about ten years when jukeboxes become completely obsolete.
48. “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” – Barry White: Lyrically, this is just a bunch of love clichés (the title alone indicates this!). But somehow, this doesn’t matter much, mainly due to White’s seductive vocals and the nice danceable rhythm that permeates through this track. I don’t think there has ever been a better disco producer.
47. “When Will I Be Loved” – Linda Ronstadt: Okay, fine – I guess this song is better than the original. Sure, there’s nothing in this recording that’s better than the Everly Brothers’ vocal harmonies, because those are always divine. But the way that the Ronstadt cover reassembles the arrangement for a more modern setting makes this a much more enjoyable track. It’s boogie-woogie rock ‘n’ roll flair makes one wonder how it ever worked as a late-50s heartbreak ballad in the first place. This is also a better demonstration of Ronstadt’s vocal abilities and it actually sounds like she’s having some fun here. It’s still not really in my tastes, but it’s a solid recording nonetheless!
46. “Chevy Van” – Sammy Johns: “We made love in my Chevy van“ must have been a relatively risqué line for radio listeners in the 70s. There isn’t much else to say about this one; just yet another goofy country soft-rock single that somehow managed to resonate enough to make it this high on the list. For what it’s worth, I did actually watch The Van, a softcore flick mildly influenced by this song. It was bad.
45. “Feelings” – Morris Albert: The word “feeling” or “feel” is said twenty-one times in the whole song. I wouldn’t be the first to say that this is a bad song, but there’s a reason why it’s largely considered among the worst. Just one listen will show why.
44. “Fallin’ in Love” – Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds: Hah. Nice move, Drake. Anyway, it’s odd how different this song is from 1971’s “Don’t Pull Your Love”, which was a highly horn-driven, bombastic, melodramatic lover’s plea that has quite a fun melody. “Fallin’ in Love”, however, is replete of horns, opting instead for a smoother, jazzier sound. Often going for an artsier vibe helps an act; in this case, it only makes me nostalgic for their past sound. These just sound like a bunch of white guys who want to be Barry White so, so badly. The gentle piano saves it from total failure, though.
43. “I Can Help” – Billy Swan: If Jerry Lee Lewis had played the organ, gigged at honky tonk bars, and was twenty years too late, he’d probably sound something like Billy Swan. This song is perfectly innocent, kind of sweet, and even really catchy at times. All this guy wants to do is help – how could you deny him that? Plus, effective fake endings always win my heart over.
42. “I’m Not in Love” – 10cc: The ambient backing vocals on this track – for which it is probably most well-known – are lovely and haunting and all, but they can also be a bit distracting. Like they’re tuned up a bit too high for their own good, muddling up the lead singer’s main melody and lyrics, which should be the true centerpiece here. I’d love to hear two different versions of this song: one without the backing vocals, one without the vocals in the foreground. That should guarantee much stronger recordings on both fronts. Otherwise, everything else about this single is solid, and it’s clear to see how it’s been so beloved.
41. “Listen to What the Man Said” – Wings: That sax is super great. Otherwise, it’s just another song from Wings that’s just purely bizarre.
40. “I’m Not Lisa” – Jessi Colter: This is a heartbreaking song where the speaker tries to console her lover as he tries to get over his love from “years ago”, amidst her own heartbreak over never quite being enough for her partner. The soft piano chords and Colter’s delicate vocals really makes this quite a sad listen. This is probably one of the better country-pop songs on any of these lists.
39. “Wildfire” – Michael Martin Murphey: Zzz…
38. “Cat’s in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin: Chapin’s previous single “Taxi” was pretty nice, playing out like a musical form of those European art films from this era. Though dated, it’s still rather well-written, humanistic, and certainly resonating. “Cat’s in the Cradle”, by contrast, is ridiculous in its preaching, trite sentimentality. Maybe I’m just cynical, or maybe I simply can’t relate, but the story in this song plays out like a sterilized, family-friendly drama to which everyone knows the ending. I will say that the guitar and strings in this song are pretty divine; certainly far more tragic and tear-jerking than this song could ever hope to be.
37. “Could It Be Magic” – Barry Manilow: I have a lot of… feelings about Barry Manilow (and not the Morris Albert kind). With that being said, this is one of his better singles. Yes, it’s overblown and corny, but what Manilow song isn’t? This is actually a pretty clever incorporation of Chopin; the instrumental arrangement is actually rather beautiful. It’s too bad that Barry isn’t a very good singer and his voice tends to pull one away from the magic of the production, especially his “come on!”s at the end. I’d prefer not to party with Manilow.
36. “Have You Never Been Mellow” – Olivia Newton-John: At this point, much of Olivia Newton-John’s music is starting to sound like different variations of the same song. This isn’t all bad, though – Olivia seems comfortable with her vocal range, hardly wavering from her sweet high-pitched melodies. As expected, this is another one of her weak ones. If anything, it comes off as a bit condescending, as it seems that she’s talking down to someone who’s in a less good position as her. Kinda rude, if you ask me.
35. “Mandy” – Barry Manilow: This is another one of his good singles. Yes, you heard me: I, dissenter of most things soft-rock, kinda dig Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”. The kitsch is just so obnoxious, I’m bound to be won over by it in some way or another. I still don’t think Manilow is a good singer, but those horns! Those strings! That piano! All the stuff of my dreams. I’ve definitely belted this out a couple times on karaoke nights; it’s just too damn cheesy not to.
34. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – Elton John: I never really liked “LSD” much, though placing Elton John at vocals seems an wacky choice indeed. Yet while the original, as weird as it is, felt definitive of the psychedelic 60s, this version feels far too toned-down to bring anything new or interesting to the table. It is pretty cool, though, how John Lennon is present here on backing vocals and guitar. The reggae breakdown is pretty fun too, I guess, although psychedelic Elton John has never really been a real favorite of mine.
33. “Sister Golden Hair” – America: This song makes me feel so happy. From the slide guitar, to the soft melody, to the abrupt ending. It seems to me that this song is about a groom with cold feet, thinking about another woman (possibly a nun?) with beautiful golden hair, with whom he is still in love. Probably a long shot, but this is a nice-sounding one nonetheless.
32. “Please Mr. Postman” – The Carpenters: Soft-rock covers of actual good songs will forever be the death of me. I’ve had to endure Eric Clapton, The Osmonds, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and now The Carpenters. This hurts the most – I love Karen! At least she does sound nice here. The production is just so incredibly hokey; I can’t take it seriously for one minute. At least The Marvelettes sounded like they were having a fun time; this just sounds so forced and bland.
31. “Magic” – Pilot: Gosh, that hook is so tight and so good. Unfortunately, the rest of the song hardly lives up to that sublime chorus. What, exactly, is “magic”? Who cares when it’s just so fun to belt – if one could reach that high a caliber, of course. The guitars are neat too, although I can’t help but feel that this single could greatly benefit from a sharp guitar solo somewhere before the final chorus. The strength of those power chords are definitely promising.
30. “Fire” – Ohio Players: One of the funkiest songs of all time. That fire alarm at the start really sets things up. Bring in some sharp drums, some funky horns, a tight bass, and an excellent “fiiiiiire” hook, and we’re all set. The lyrics are undoubtedly silly – “The way you squeeze and tease knocks me to my knees” – but we’re all here for the groove, baby, in any which way it comes. As these songs go, the first minute-and-a-half or so are the best parts; the quality tends to plateau from there. Still, this one’s a guaranteed earworm.
29. “Jackie Blue” – Ozark Mountain Daredevils: That three-chord guitar riff sinks in from the very start. Other than that, this is a rather ordinary song from a band whose name suggest southern hard rock, but whose sound is more fitting for soft-rock radio.
28. “Angie Baby” – Helen Reddy: I never thought I would be listening to a surreal horror narrative from Helen Reddy, but here we are. It’s obviously drawn inspiration from both “Ode to Billie Joe” and “The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia” and doesn’t quite deliver as successfully as either of those two. It is fascinating how vague the story leaves its mystery, although the likely conclusion is that the protagonist has killed someone. It isn’t all that interesting musically either – but boy, am I a sucker for these kinds of cryptic story songs. I’m still no fan of Helen Reddy, though.
27. “Fight the Power” – The Isley Brothers: It’s really cool how The Isley Brother have been putting out hit after hit for almost two decades at this point, most of them actually being totally cool. Although I’m most familiar with the phrase “fight the powers that be” from Public Enemy’s similarly-titled song, it comes as no surprise that the Isleys would originate the saying. There are a lot of great things about this song, the best being the underlying Moog synthesizer throughout and Ron Isley’s utterance of “bullshit” – such a refreshing, sharp swear amidst a sea of sterile singles. Don’t ever change, Isleys.
26. “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” – Freddy Fender: I’m not sure if the rest of the world is familiar with Freddy Fender, but I’ve been aware of his music since I was a kid. It makes sense, since I was partially raised by my grandpa, who is of a Tejano background and appreciated Fender’s music for its cross-appeal into South Texas culture and music. The lyrics are hardly anything special and even the production is a bit lackluster. But alas, I can’t go into his music without any bias – listening to his unique style of singing, as weird as it is, transports me back to a simpler, cozier time.
25. “Boogie On Reggae Woman” – Stevie Wonder: When doing these posts, I always get so excited when I reach the top twenty-five, as more times than not, they contain songs much more solid and fun than most that came before. It’s certainly fitting that a Stevie Wonder song would kick off this part of the list, seeing that he seems to put out nothing but high quality singles. This one is one of his weirdest, not so much lyrically, but mainly in the way it sounds – the Moog synthesizer, Wonder’s singing at a lower register than usual, the pianos and guitar simply sounding off, the fact that this song is neither boogie nor reggae. Yet I’ll be damned if this isn’t just an absolute delight to listen to.
24. “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” – Major Harris: This song has got a nice sulty sound and all, but I’m really not a fan of the message behind it. The speaker is so enamored by his lover that he can’t wait any longer to make love. But where’s the autonomy of the subject? If she does have to wait, does he have the capacity to give her that amount of agency? Given how desperate his pleas for sex sound, I don’t think he has any intention to. Not to mention that those orgasmic moans in the final half were a bad production choice.
23. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” – War: War has an indisputable knack for take songs with first-draft lyrics and injecting them with a firm dose of personality and charm. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” is no exception and is one of the best examples of this form. It’s incredibly repetitive, but one can’t help singing along by the time the second chorus comes along. The sense of community given by the multitude of voices heard – along with the general message of acceptance and anti-prejudice – is so endearing, it’s hard not to be won over. War just sounds like a real fun group of people to hang around with.
22. “Lady Marmalade” – Labelle: Being a millenial, it’s basically impossible for me to listen to this song separate from the fact that I was very familiar with the 2001 cover for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack for years before (I know, I’m the worst). With this one, however, it’s clear that Patti Labelle brings a significant amount of charisma to the table in this rendition. She just sounds like she’s having so much fun with all those notable hooks – “Hello, hey Joe, you wanna give it a go?”, “Voulez-vous cocher avec moi, ce soir?”, “More, more more.”, etc. It’s just so damn fun, while never demonizing Lady Marmalade as a sex worker. I frequent a lot of karaoke bars, yet this one never seems to be work as a staple. Must be all those high notes.
21. “The Hustle” – Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony: Although dance songs haven’t been really big since the early 60s, there was no denying how “The Hustle” would explode into popularity during the peak era of dance clubs. In all seriousness, it’s a nice little disco tune, punctuated by some truly infectious piccolo playing (probably the best usage of the instrument in pop music). What dampers the mood for me, however, is the spoken “Do the Hustle!” hook that seems to repeat itself twenty times over the course of the track. It just doesn’t work in this kind of dance song with few lyrics otherwise – it doesn’t even teach listeners how to do the Hustle! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dig it though – but I could probably blame Futurama for that.
20. “Pick Up the Pieces” – Average White Band: Here is another AWB track that’s done even better. The saxophone hook is terrific, the backing guitar and bass are super solid. It’s got a fully realized sound that is just so sharp and so catchy, and there’s no annoying vocalist to constraint on the quality. And even though, like “The Hustle”, the title is repeated a few times throughout, this effect is used sparingly, during points when the hook comes to a climax, as a method to keep listeners’ anticipation lingering. This is just strong instrumentation throughout; I haven’t listened to anything else from the band that tops this, but I’d be hard-pressed to find it.
19. “At Seventeen” – Janis Ian: Years before Taylor Swift would come to represent pop music’s voice for teenage girls, Janis Ian released this single, which vividly and honestly commented on standards of beauty and popularity as they relate to young women. Instrumentally, it’s got a nice, delicate bossa nova flair to it, which made it palatable for soft-rock listeners while still attaining a nice unique sound of its own. As someone who never had any friends in high school, I relate so strongly to this song its almost painful. Although it would be hard to believe that the issues described by Ian – “inventing lovers on the phone”, “cheat ourselves at solitaire” – isn’t at least vaguely familiar with the vast majority of teenage girls whose existence seems practically defined by all these useless measures. All in all, it’s an achingly lovely song and warmly welcome this high in the charts.
18. “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” – Tony Orlando and Dawn: This personality-devoid single stayed at the number one spot for three weeks. I haven’t heard the Jerry Butler original, but I feel like it would have at least a minuscule amount of soul attached, which would be a huge improvement. I’ve never been big on Tony Orlando and Dawn, but at least “Candida” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” were remotely catchy – this is just a drag.
17. “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” – B.J. Thomas: I challenge everyone reading this to find a song title worse that this one. In any case, this song really isn’t as bad as I was expecting. It’s an interesting hybrid between country sentimentality and melody, with soft-rock instrumental backing that is typical of a B.J. Thomas single. It gets repetitive and trite around the second half of the song, but the tune is agreeable enough where it doesn’t get too annoying. It’s nowhere near the best that Thomas has put out, but it ain’t too bad either.
16. “The Ballroom Blitz” – Sweet: As much as I enjoy listening to all of these songs, good and bad, and analyzing them down to their very core essences, with some tunes, there simply is no rhyme of reason. Some songs just fuckin’ rock – and this is one of those songs. I just can’t help feeling so happy everything I hear it; full blame goes to those drums, that guitar riff, those clapping hands, and Brian Connolly’s maniacal vocals. Even though it seems that this song is about the speaker’s dreams and, thus, is not meant to make sense, I still don’t know what exactly a “ballroom blitz” entails – but it sounds like fun. I swear, this is glam rock at its most chaotic and very best.
15. “Black Water” – The Doobie Brothers: Up until this point, The Doobie Brothers’ most successful singles have been upbeat, relatively happy-sounding jams – “Listen to the Music” and “Long Train Runnin'” specifically. “Black Water”, however, has a darker, somewhat murkier sound to it, these respects given to the country sound of the guitars and violins. The a capella section of the final third confirms my suspicions: it’s an homage to the Delta blues, and a great one at that. Despite its darkness, it’s also pretty catchy, with its “black water” chorus and “Dixieland” bridge taking center stage in particular. Certainly one of the strongest singles from The Doobie Brothers, if I say so myself.
14. “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas: Lately, I’ve been getting really enamored with Chinese martial arts films, particularly those from the 70s. And if you’ve been reading this far, you’ll know I also really dig disco music. What a nice treat that the two would be combined in a rather fun little single that, while not that well-written, is such an immediate earworm and practically defines the 70s. There’s no denying how this song got so popular – Douglas isn’t the best singer, but that intro is enough to get one hooked right away, and the rest of the song delivers quite nicely. Now, Carl Douglas would perform this song on stage while dressed in kung fu garb, and I’m not very well-informed on what, if any, boundaries that crosses as far as cultural appropriation is concerned. The use of the Oriental riff throughout is troubling alone. Giving these elements, however, it’s still an enjoyable, enormously kitschy hit that really packs a punch (*dodges tomatoes*).
13. “Lovin’ You” – Minnie Riperton: It’s pretty disappointing not only that Minnie Riperton is widely known solely for this single, but also that she’s been made a huge joke of over the years. Yes, this song is obnoxiously sentimental, but Riperton herself is an absolute gem and it’s a shame that she’d have passed away a few years after this song’s success. There’s a strange spookiness that encompasses this track, and her whistle register gives me the absolute chills. Listening to her sing “Maya, Maya” to her young daughter at the very end is just so sweet, sealing in the pure saccharine of this whole track. It’s just so darn cute; I can’t help but appreciate it at least a little bit.
12. “Best of My Love” – Eagles: I really don’t like the Eagles; I never have, and I probably never will. This particular song encompasses the type of slow, sleepy, AM rock mood that I tend to turn a cold shoulder toward. The production is nice enough, but there’s nothing in it to give me the sense that I should care or should be moved by the words at all. While not nearly as boring as much of the soft-rock output out there, it’s still pretty darn boring.
11. “Jive Talkin'” – Bee Gees: This is the Bee Gee’s first top-ten single in four years, their last being the distinctly soft-rock “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”. It’s also the begin of a string of singles that would solidify them as the kings of disco; while the rock elements here are too pronounced for it to be purely disco, it’s unmistakenly disco-esque. It’s also fun as hell, driven by a scratchy guitar, bumping bass, and absolutely groovy synthesizers. As yet another ambiguous title here, I’m really not sure what “jive talkin'” means, though I could entail the speaker is talking to his partner who’s been telling lies or being untrue. You could’ve fooled me, though, with how delightful this sound is.
10. “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” – John Denver: Hoo boy. So, for this one, just combine what I’ve said about John Denver in my 1974 post (“Annie’s Song” (#25), “Sunshine on My Shoulders” (#18)), what I said about him in this post (“I’m Sorry” (#77)), and my feelings on hit live recordings (“The Way We Were / Try To Remember” (#53)). Maybe it’s just my bias with country music, but there’s nothing here that I haven’t already heard a hundred times before and better.
9. “One of These Nights” – Eagles: Alright, this Eagles single is a little bit better, if only for that driving bass that introduces the song. Yet, just as Peter Citera’s vocals ruin Chicago for me, Don Henley does just that for Eagles. I don’t know what it is about it, but it just fills me with revulsion. I do like those harmonies in the chorus, but the lyrics are just too basic and generic for it to be anything really special at all.
8. “Laughter in the Rain” – Neil Sedaka: Eh… there’s nothing special about this one either. The sound is pretty nice and jazzy, as light AM radio fare more fit for a sunny day than the rain to which the lyrics refer. Anything other than that… well, I don’t really feel obliged to comment.
7. “Fame” – David Bowie: If I had been more on top of this Billboard challenge in recent months, I would probably have put out this post before David Bowie’s death this past January. This was his most successful single up until this point and comes at a point of artistic maturity and development of a distinct, cultured sound. Those guitars totally make the track, maybe even more so than Bowie’s own vocal ability (which, frankly, isn’t at its fullest display here). Amidst some incoherency, the message is one that’s been said many times before: “Fame, makes a man take things over / Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow”. Regardless, this is a super solid track in terms of composition, arrangement, and production. It’s far from Bowie’s best – but that only means that it’s better than most on this list.
6. “Shining Star” – Earth, Wind, & Fire: One of the best opening basslines of all time, I’m pretty sure. The rest of the song isn’t all that bad either. Although “That’s the Way of the World” is a masterpiece in smooth soul, Earth, Wind, & Fire found their real groove in making tight, funky, fun party tracks with terrific harmonies. “Shining Star” belongs in this list, as every part of it seems destined to become iconic from the very start. Even the a capella ending that finishes the track abruptly is a classic, proving that everything these guys touch immediately turn to gold.
5. “My Eyes Adored You” – Frankie Valli: The opening line – “My eyes adored you / Though I never laid a hand on you” – is all I need to hear to know that I would hate this. Teenage romances sung from the perspective of a fully-grown adult will never not be creepy; I don’t care how charming I found Frankie Valli back in the day. Besides all this, everything about the lyrics and melody (including those insufferable key changes) are corny as hell. It’s safe to say that he, like Paul Anka, would be more than welcome to stay in the early 60s where he belongs.
4. “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” – Freddy Fender: This is where I realized that I definitely had a soft love for Freddy Fender. While it’s often interpreted as a pathetic promise to never give up on an ex-lover, I’ve only ever heard this song played at quinceañeras, giving it the context of a loyal parent or family figure to always be there for their child. This interpretation is what I hold the closest to my heart. Additional points are given for, not only Fender’s incorporation of a distinctly Tejano sound (like he did with “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”), but also for the bilingual lyrics. As someone with a Mexican-American upbringing, I’m definitely biased with my love for this, but I don’t care. This song always brings me back to a warm, comfortable place, and I have Fender to thank for that.
3. “Philadelphia Freedom” – Elton John: I’m always for songs that sound like a part of some overblown training montage in a sports film. I have no connection to Philadelphia at all, but it’s hard not to feel equally as triumphant as John seems to feel when belting out these words. Hearing that this was written for Billie Jean King almost makes me love it even more, since she’s obviously the best. It’s not a very strong premise, that’s true, and it’s also far from John’s best. But what’s so bad about some good classic fun?
2. “Rhinestone Cowboy” – Glen Campbell: This sounds like the theme song to some great western I still haven’t realized the existence of yet. I’ll ignore the fact that the melody in the verses is basically “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, but the line “There’ll be a load of compromising on the road to my horizon” is too, too good to pass up. Not to mention that absolute blissful chorus – I don’t think I could ever relate to what being a rhinestone cowboy is like, but that chorus makes me believe it’s entirely possible. Starting off as a studio musician, Campbell obviously knows what he’s doing here. It’s pretty schmaltzy, sure, but this is exactly the kind of schmaltz I love. Godspeed, Glen.
1. “Love Will Keep Us Together” – Captain & Tennille: I’ve always been so torn on Captain & Tennille. On one hand, they have pretty good production and their songs are almost too sweet not to love. On the other hand… well, they’re so damn sweet. “Love Will Keep Us Together” in particular makes me want to tear up every heart-shaped thing in a five-mile radius. It’s so obnoxious in its perfect, lovey-dovey sentimentality, it inexplicably wears down on my inner cynic. Then again, there’s a good reason why this went to #1: those verses are some of the catchiest around, even though Tennille’s belting of “I will, I will, I wiiii-iill” tend to throw off this poppy element a bit. I guess it depends on what day of the week one catches me listening to C&T, which determines whether I’m dancing in my seat or contemplating arson.
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