100. “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.) – Glen Campbell: Set side-by-side with the wildly successful, much better “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Country Boy” feels like a cheap follow-up. On its own, however, it’s just a completely innocuous country song about the titular country boy feeling alienated by his new surrounds. Certainly nothing we haven’t heard before, and Campbell sings it quite pleasantly. It’s nothing amazing, but also not a shabby way to kick off this year.
99. “Squeeze Box” – The Who: I’m not quite as familiar with The Who’s post-Tommy output as I think I should be. Nonetheless, its a decent demonstration of the rockers’ talents, with a classic structure and a country sound not previously seen in past singles. What does damper the mood, however, are all those innuendos – I don’t see myself at all as a prude when it comes to sex, but this is akin to watching a high school garage band full of dudes who want to be edgy.
98. “Take the Money and Run” – Steve Miller Band: This is a pretty catchy song from which my enjoyment is heightened simply because I love a good Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque story. Granted that it’s not a uniquely interesting one, with its lack of a true ending making it all the more uninteresting. There are a lot of little flairs in there that are kind of annoying, such as the “hoo-hoooo” beginning, the cries of “ooh, lord!” in the chorus and the generally lazy rhyme scheme. I never did and still don’t think Steve Miller has a very good voice, but at least it’s catchy.
97. “Disco Duck” – Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots: This year and the next could be considered the apex of disco’s popularity. Sure, this means that many, many of the best disco hits are to be found here (some of which I’ll cover later), but it also means a slew of other sub-par performers found fertile breeding grounds in this here. Hence the novelty hit “Disco Duck”, in which a talentless disc jockey projects weak half-verses around a chorus predominately featuring a Donald Duck impersonator over generic disco-style instrumentation. That’s all that really needs to be said about this garbage… which did go to #1, for the record. I think everyone reading this would be better off saving their three minutes, as this literally brings nothing at all to the table.
96. “Rock and Roll All Nite (Live)” – KISS: As I mentioned in my last post, some tracks don’t need much rhyme or reason to just simply rock. While my distaste for live tracks still stands, the live version of this glam rock standard holds up tremendously, perhaps even more so than the polished studio version, where the message of the song could hardly be trusted. This song was meant to be played loudly in an arena-sized audience, and this recording perfectly showcases that. It’s debatable to me whether or not the members of KISS are actually “talented”, but the charisma definitely shines through nevertheless. There’s no denying that “I want to rock and roll all night / And party everyday” is deservedly solidified as one of the great hard rock choruses.
95. “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again” – Barry Manilow: Manilow, we meet again. The first verse is addressed entirely to a doctor as the speaker pleads for a heartbreak cure, so we already know it’s going to be that kind of song. Like most Manilow songs, this one plays it pretty safely, with his signature swelling melodrama during the final choruses. Not really worth multiple listens.
94. “Junk Food Junkie” – Larry Groce: Finally, a song I can relate to. In all seriousness, though, this song has no business being as good as it is. Simply put, it’s a country-style novelty song about a health nut who is obsessed with junk food when the day ends. It does milk the concept a bit too far, but it’s clear that it’s a crow-pleaser (given that this single was recorded live, with audience laughter and all). Groce is also a pretty fine songwriter. I particularly love the “John Keats autographed Grecian urn filled up with my brown rice” line and the image of one “stumbling into a Colonel Sanders” is a great one. Like most novelty songs, I can’t imagine anyone listening to this one their own free time, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the finest of its limited genre.
93. “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” – Parliament: As yet another competitor for the funkiest song of all time, party songs rarely get more euphoric than this gem. It’s hook upon hook upon hook, from beginning to end, and is a perfect example of the distinct P-Funk sound of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective. The “We want the funk” section is particularly infectious and sets the message across plainly and definitively. Although my journey through these lists are technically meant to be for singles, the single version of this track is a full two minutes shorter and omits that awesome “Tear the roof off the sucker” intro. Not my kind of single, that’s for sure.
92. “Money Honey” – Bay City Rollers: Bay City Rollers, to me, come off as little more than one of those boy band types that sought for fame right at the peak of the British invasion. This also means that their music is catchy beyond all reasonable doubt. Though this initially comes off as yet another tune about the pleasures and pain that money can bring, on closer inspection it seems like the speaker of the tune is speaking to money itself. Sort of a love-hate song for the concept of wealth and the trials and tribulations it brings. It’s got a nice retro power-pop sound that I’m totally hear for; although inane in nearly every other fashion, it’s still pretty good for a gimmick band.
91. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” – Neil Sedaka: In contrast to Sedaka’s previous hit, which followed the line of late 50s teen pop, his cover is a completely different piano-driven arrangement, transforming it into a better song. Although it’s a bit too lounge-singery for my tastes, its sophistication really makes for a nice match, even if it does come off as a bit novelty. The problem comes in with the lyrics which still sound like they were written for twenty-year-old performers and sixteen-year-old listeners. Still, nostalgia is always the real winner.
90. “Young Hearts Run Free” – Candi Staton: Apparently this song was written and recorded after a conversation between Staton and the songwriter about an abusive relationship she was in at the time. Knowing that makes this song all the more heartfelt and achingly personal. One can practically hear the emotion spill from her voice when she sings “Don’t be no fool when love really don’t love you”. Although it was packaged and recorded as an extravagant song meant for disco clubs, its dance element somehow doesn’t demean or devalue its socially conscious message, or vice versa. It’s just a real cool song all around.
89. “Baby I Love Your Way (live)” – Peter Frampton: I guess ’76 is the year of the live single, or so it seems. Truthfully, I’ve never been big on Peter Frampton, not even Frampton Comes Alive!. Still, I think this song is beautiful. It’s so simple and idealistic in the way it compares love to the stars and moonlight, the live recording being especially cozy with its deep organ backing. “Baby, I love your way” is such a simple yet overarching thing to describe love, I can’t help but be suckered in. Yes, I’m a softie – sue me.
88. “Walk Away From Love” – David Ruffin: One of the biggest complaints around disco’s popularity was that it devoured everything in its far-reaching path; disco gimmicks were all around and were the ones getting the most play. An example can be seen here where David Ruffin, former member of The Temptations, cast away his soul/R&B background for a distinctly higher-end disco production. Lyrically, there’s nothing too special here (the title says you need to know), and even the arrangement tends to tread on some familiar grounds. The single’s real strengths lie in Ruffin’s exquisite vocal power which, frankly, leave one nostalgic for all those great Temptations songs. Still, he can sure hit those high notes like no other.
87. “The Boys Are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy: As anthemic as it is, I can’t really see this song relating to anyone who isn’t a straight (white) man. Aside from its chorus, during which the title is repeated no less than 500 times, the “boys” of Thin Lizzy revel in the simple pleasures of bar fights and picking up chicks. I could probably make a case for this single being an important frontrunner in what would soon be affectionately known as cock rock or – dare I say – dad rock. At least it’s got a cool driving riff, but even that repeats itself so often with little variation that it soon becomes little more than background noise.
86. “Who’d She Coo?” – Ohio Players: After a nice string of funky jams, “Who’s She Coo?” would be the final hit single from the Ohio Players before their success would inevitably peter out. Upon listening to this song, I’ve always heard the title as “hoochie coo” which, while not really clarifying what it means, at least is a bit more fun in its nonsensical nature. As with many funk and disco hits of this time, the sound tends to dwell into repetition after the initial introduction. Still, the guitar and horn combo is as sharp as ever.
85. “Slow Ride” – Foghat: This is so confusing. At this point, I’m used to the first half or even the first two-thirds of these lists to be mostly pointless drivel with a few legitimately great songs scattered in between. So far, it’s been the exact opposite. I guess I should note now that, although pop music has been a current obsession for a little while now, I’m always going to be a rock/punk lover at heart. As simple and silly as a song can be, if it has that certain rockin’ je ne sais quoi, I’m probably going to love it. Such is the case with “Slow Ride” – its primary message is “take it easy”, and what’s there to hate about that? Much like “Rock and Roll All Nite”, it just sounds like a real fun jam session, which is always gonna be a plus in my book. For the record, though, the LP version clocks in at over eight-minutes, and most of that is an energy-draining guitar solo. I’ll stick with the short, sweet, simple single version.
84. “With Your Love” – Jefferson Starship: Just thinking about the differences in lineup between Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship is giving me a headache, so I won’t get into that. Right away, one can see Chicago’s influence in this single – a variation of instruments; chill dreamy atmosphere; harmonizing but still off-key vocals. At least Robert Lamm had the common sense to make the lyrics interesting to listen to, while these are mind-numbingly generic and plain. Can’t say I’m into this at all.
83. “You’re My Best Friend” – Queen: Yep, it’s sealed – 1976 has got to be in the books for being one of the best years in pop music ever. John Deacon wrote this song for his wife, and knowing that makes this song and its cheesy lines (“You’re my sunshine / And I want you to know / That my feelings are true / I really love you”) come off as enormously schmaltzy. Still, it’s such a sweet feel-good little ditty, it’s impossible not to feel the sunshine. Irreplaceable qualities include Deacon’s electric Wurlitzer, Brian May’s guitar solo, and, of course, the syrupy-smooth vocals of Freddie Mercury, who I love with all my heart.
82. “Still the One” – Orleans: Usually anthems to long-term monogamy make me roll my eyes, but this one is actually kinda cute. It’s certainly better than their dreamy soft-rock stuff, as if the Eagles actually decided that quicker paced tunes can be real crowd-pleasers too. That introductory guitar riff is great, as is the deep baritone backing vocal that comes during the final chorus. Yes, it is a song about married people growing old together, which, y’know, is gross. Once again, though, I’m a sucker for all this love stuff. (Also, the cover of the album on which this single appears – seen above – is amazing).
81. “She’s Gone” – Hall & Oates: “She’s Gone” was actually originally released in ’74, but didn’t manage to get any major play until it was re-released two years later after Hall & Oates finally found an audience. Up until now, I’ve only been familiar with their more pop-oriented stuff, like “Private Eyes” and “I Can’t Go For That”. This is a much more different sound – a little bit of soul, jazz, and soft-rock influences in the mix. As the title indicates, this song was inspired by a breakup and while the chorus is nothing special, the verses take on some simplistic imagery (“One less toothbrush hanging in the stand”, ” Think I’ll spend an eternity in the city”) that is still often heartbreaking. The juxtaposition of Hall and Oates’ vocals remind me a lot of the Righteous Brothers, and this song might make an especially good pairing with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. I’m not so certain if this is among the duo’s best singles, but it’s certainly gotta be one of the most interesting.
80. “Getaway” – Earth, Wind, & Fire: Amidst a world full of corruption, pain, and temptation, “Getaway” urges listeners to strive for something better and escape the “troubled land”. But hey, no one really listens to Earth, Wind, & Fire for the lyrics, do they? As always, they prove to be one of the funkiest, most danceable group of musicians out there. Guitars, horns, and bass once again meld to a pleasurable, euphoric finish. The best part of this song, though, is the ascending “I know we can, I know we can” hook, leading up to a pleasurable synth explosion – and then, onto more boogying.
79. “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” – Bee Gees: This might be the one single that sealed the Gibbs’ fate to sing their songs primarily in falsetto. After all, the delicate, sensitive nature of this particular love song is fitting for vocals that are just as tender. Although this undoubtedly touches upon their soft-rock roots, the lyrical content and thematic material choose to go further than most of commercial AM radio. It’s interesting to note that this comes from the same album as last year’s “Jive Talkin'”, showcasing a true depth and range in style.
78. “Gotta Get You Into My Life” – The Beatles: Uh… what? I’m so confused. I guess this song was released as a single in the US to accompany the compilation album of previously released material this same year. It goes to show that the public will eat up practically any packaged-as-“new” Beatles song. And for the single itself – well, it’s fine. It was released from Revolver, which a generally good album. It’s a simple love song that McCartney claims is an ode to pot. Yet this says practically nothing about mid-70s pop culture, except that everyone still hasn’t gotten over The Beatles. Moving on.
77. “Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac: I’ve been actively listening Fleetwood Mac for several years now and “Rhiannon” has always stood out to me as a favorite track. Much of this is due to Stevie Nicks alone, who has a voice unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard before and since I discovered the band. It’s widely known that this song was inspired by a witch from Welsh mythology, but I’ve long applied it to the female condition in the general sense. Something about a woman taking up so much space in a song where the male gaze is practically absent is unbelievably refreshing and makes this a delight to listen to again and again.
76. “Fox on the Run” – Sweet: Ah, great, more of this stuff. “Fox on the Run”, I presume, is about the shrouds of promiscuous groupies that Sweet must have undoubtedly encountered on their trip through worldwide success. In terms of its sound, it’s eerily similar to “Little Willy” with all the cockiness to match. Nonetheless, I doubt that Sweet has it in them to make something quite as sharp and anthemic as “Ballroom Blitz” has proven to be. “Fox on the Run”, in the end, just might be a bit too bubblegummy for its own good.
75. “Let Her In” – John Travolta: Truthfully, songs like these are one of the major reasons I started this Billboard challenge in the first place. At the tender age of twenty-two, it’s clear that Travolta is really struggling to hang onto that melody and it’s a real pain to listen to. As his involvement in Grease a few years later shows, all the potential is there, but jesus christ is this bad. Lyrically, this song belongs in the late 50s teen idol era, or at the very least is more deserving for the young Donny Osmond. In any case, boy is this terrible.
74. “Summer” – War: While all of War’s songs are generally pretty laid-back, this has got to be one of the chillest of them all. I could practically feel all my tense muscles relaxing once those introductory drums and bassline kicked in. That percussion is so killer, though! Certainly among one of the best uses of cowbell. And that’s not even mentioning the lyrics, which are overflowing with some really calming, nostalgic imagery. The sax solo seals the deal for me, that this is probably one of the best summer pop songs of all time. Summer has always been my least favorite season – I don’t dig the heat, man – but I can totally get behind the love that this song professes.
73. “Wake Up Everybody” – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: It’s not too common that we find an R&B song around this era that captures a similar sensibility that the genre emitted a decade earlier. Nonetheless, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes had a successful single about social awareness, akin to similar material put out by Marvin Gaye and The Temptations years earlier. With the strings in the background, it still carries that 70s sound to it, but it also doesn’t follow the same general vibe that contemporary R&B does. Teddy Pendergrass is amazing singing lead for this song; while every other element of its production is effective, his voice carries this track above and beyond its potential.
72. “I’m Easy” – Keith Carradine: I’m mainly familiar with this song for its usage in the movie Nashville, for which it won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. While the juxtoposition of guitar and cello had always really won me over, I’ve never been a particularly big fan of this one. It may just be my bias against country music, but it doesn’t particularly win me over. It could also be my dislike of Carradine’s voice, which is just so 70s and not exactly pleasant to listen to.
71. “Wham Bam” – Silver: It was so difficult finding a playable file of this single’s original recording, but all my efforts eventually turned up successful. And it’s to my disappointment that the track that I spent hours trying to dig up turns out to be just okay – not good enough to revel in, not terrible enough to poke fun at. It’s yet another one of those California sunshiny, AM soft-rock radio hits, with the chorus’ “wham bam” and “sha-la-la” drawing special comparison to early 60s pop. Interestingly enough, the verses are also just as vapid as the worst of these songs, being little more than a “young lovers in doubt” story. At least the chorus is catchy.
70. “Evil Woman” – Electric Light Orchestra: ELO’s lush classical arrangement of instruments emitted a very different, unique sound from what else was being played these days. Although radio stations loved all those free-and-easy soft-rock tracks, songs like “Evil Woman” were definitely catchier than most of those. Violins were already being used in high quantities in disco music, so it’s only natural that a symphonic rock band would find their niche. They’re just so theatrical and playful, even if their lyrics aren’t always the strongest.
69. “This Masquerade” – George Benson: Benson’s cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” ended up winning the Grammy award for Record of the Year. Generally speaking, I’m hardly one to have faith in anything Grammy-related, but it’s hard to believe that this one recording won enough people over to declare it the best of its year overall. The jazzy production is really smooth, that’s for sure, and Benson himself sings the tune perfectly well, but it doesn’t have much else going for it. Maybe this was some amazing stuff for its time, but I’ve heard so many other, much better jazz/soul tracks that sound similar. This is fine, just not mind-blowing in any way.
68. “Baby Face” – Wing & a Prayer Fife Drum Corps: Since there’s no cheap gimmick that the disco era dared to shy away from, we’ve got a disco version of a 1920s American standard that managed to chart pretty well. I was surprised to find that this translates pretty well into a dance instrumental, the guitar and strings being exceptionally fun to listen to. Once the singers come in with the lyrics, though, the kitsch quality becomes pretty overwhelming – although the song itself has always come to be condescendingly cheesy, so this is only an improvement. At this point, it’s become clear that disco music is at its strongest in purely instrumental form.
67. “Let ‘Em In” – Wings: Ugh, at this point I really don’t know what purpose Wings serves being on the charts anymore. This is nursery rhyme levels of bad quality lyrics, punctuated by an obnoxious false fade-out. I don’t know why anyone likes this single at all.
66. “Let’s Do It Again” – The Staple Singers: The Staple Singers are probably best known for “I’ll Take You There”, a positively euphoric, gospel-tinged single that effectively showcased the group’s vocal abilities. This single – their final one to top the charts – definitely seems far more steeped in the soulful, sex-enamored slow jam era of R&B that has surged in popularity since “I’ll Take You There”. It’s not quite as sharp and creative as they have proven to be completely capable of, with its repetition of “do it again” eventually becoming a bit too much. Nevertheless, its quality of production is smooth and sassy enough to be a pleasant enough listening experience.
65. “Island Girl” – Elton John: Hearing Elton John sing “Black boy want you in his island world” is enough for me to decide that I would gladly go my whole lifetime without listening to this song ever again. What’s more is that this song absolutely reeks of the white savior complex, essentially being about the speaker’s desire to bring a sex worker back to her home country of Jamaica. I don’t know who decided this single was a good idea; it’s atrocious and not even its somewhat catchy melody could cover this up. This is not only one of the worst songs I’ve come across throughout my Billboard challenge, but it’s probably the single worst song I’ve ever heard to rhyme “girl” with “world”.
64. “Saturday Night” – Bay City Rollers: Once again, this song exemplifies how Bay City Rollers would fit right in with the bubblegum pop craze of the 60s and early 70s. It makes even more sense when you find out that this single was actually pressed three years earlier, but failed to make much of a mark until now. It’s hugely obvious that the producers really wanted to keep the “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night” chant in there, as the instances transition oh so clumsily into and from the rest of the verses. The rest of it is really fun, though. I can relate tremendously with the overwhelming anticipation of the fun, rock-n-rollin’ times that Saturday night promises (or at least I would, if I didn’t work weekends). It’s so sugary sweet and innocent, and while it’s certainly no masterpiece, it’s definitely reminiscent of simpler, more fun times of the past. I hate being an adult.
63. “Shop Around” – Captain & Tennille: Out of all the songs that I’ve come across and affectionately dubbed “white covers” (i.e. Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, Carly Simon & James Taylor’s “Mockingbird”, The Carpenters’ “Please Mr. Postman”), Captain & Tennille’s cover of The Miracles’ “Shop Around” has got to be the whitest. The slight changes in lyrics from Toni Tennille’s perspective shades it with a touch of feminism, but otherwise this is dull as hell. It drains it of all the fun originality the original possessed, creating it akin to something created at a run-of-the-mill karaoke bar.
62. “Rock and Roll Music” – The Beach Boys: I find it funny how The Beach Boys, whose first major hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was a literal rehash of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”, would turn around and cover a Berry tune ten years later. Unfortunately, the Boys are way past their prime at this point and it shows. Mike Love’s lead vocals are tired and dull, and the harmonies are very, very far from sharp. Much like the previous entry, this is a sad little cover tune that hardly brings anything new or interesting to the table. And this is saying a lot, given how innovative the Beach Boys had been in previous years, as well as how simple Chuck Berry songs already are in general. Inevitably, the memories of this recording’s existence quickly fade away soon after the track finishes.
61. “I’ll Be Good to You” – The Brothers Johnson: This is a neat, soulful single where the speaker addresses his lover with whom he wants to start a more committed relationship. My favorite parts are those synths and guitar that kick in immediately at the start of the track and refuse to let up throughout the rest. While the song appears to be in lack of a well-defined personality, those repetitions of “I’ll be good to you” in the final third really kick it into high gear. It’s hard to keep out of your head from that point on.
60. “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel” – Tavares: With this and “It Only Takes a Minute”, Tavares comes to be as a bit of a one-trick pony, with both of their biggest hits being catchy disco tracks about falling in love. It’s immediately apparent with one listen, though, that “Heaven” is the stronger of the two. Its usage of harps and triangle creates a euphoric atmosphere that certainly does feel heavenly. By definition, disco music is pretty extravagant and this track is over-the-top in all the right ways, even if it does lay it on a bit thick with the angel metaphor (“When you’re laying on my pillow, baby / Above your pretty head, there’s a halo”). Then again, love is generally pretty silly anyway.
59. “Sing a Song” – Earth, Wind, & Fire: Man, the Earth, Wind, & Fire guys were really cranking out some real legendary stuff during this era. One thing’s for sure: as skilled as they were in creating singles as smooth and sexy as “That’s the Way of the World”, they were just as talented (if not more so) in crafting some of the best danceable tracks of all time. Lyrically, “Sing a Song” is only slightly more complex in structure than The Carpenters’ “Sing”. Nonetheless, those wall-bashing harmonies, and strong instrumental arrangements automatically make this unique from other dance tracks of the time. I cannot emphasis enough just how important those harmonies are; that “sing a soooong” hook is like candy to the brain.
58. “Welcome Back” – John Sebastian: Since I was not alive in the 70s, I have only the slightest familiarity with Welcome Back, Kotter, for which this single is the theme song (I was actually initially familiar with this tune from it being sampled by Mase). Unlike something like “The Rockford Files”, this song is actually pretty listenable, being that it’s structured not unlike the folky pop music for which former The Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian is known. It’s nothing overtly special at all and the repetitions of its title get tiresome rather quickly, but the melody is nice, particularly around the verses. That’s a nice harmonica solo, too.
57. “Convoy” – C.W. McCall: Anytime anyone dares to complain how rap music is incomprehensible, I’ll direct them immediately to this song. Apparently, the 70s bred a brief yet popular subculture of truckers and how they were some kind of American outlaw hero figure… or something. The only thing I can decipher from this novelty tune – which is chock-full of some of the most inane slang phrases I’ve heard (“Callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck / We about to go a-huntin’ bear”) – is that the narrator is on the run… because of reasons… and that’s about it. On top of this, the obnoxiously sing-song chorus sound exactly like the theme to H.R. Pufnstuf. For the record, this did go to #1. Everything about this is just a huge, huge mess and definitely a dark point in this decade of music.
56. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – Elvin Bishop: Though this song is credited solely to Elvin Bishop, it should be noted that he does not sing lead on the track; rather, he invited blues-rock vocalist Mickey Thomas to helm the vocals. This is probably one of the strongest choices that this song could’ve gone through, as Thomas’ emotional tenor fits exceedingly well with the slow pace and weepy guitars of this single. As far as the lyrics go, it’s hard for one to feel bad for the speaker after he toyed with the emotions of “a million girls”, then lets his guard down because of one exceptional person. Still, “fooled around and fell in love” is such a relatable little phrase, encapsulated almost perfectly in this neat, well-produced jam.
55. “Devil Woman” – Cliff Richard: Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I am in love with songs that are about spooky subjects. From the kitsch of “Monster Mash” to the morbidity of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, it’s my bread and butter. What I do not prefer, however, are songs about these dark subjects with music that simply doesn’t fit its subject matter. It’s probably why I’ve never been fond of Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House” and is definitely why I’m not liking “Devil Woman” very much. Songs about women who victimize men are usually my thing, but this is so dull and devoid of any personality whatsoever.
54. “Times of Your Life” – Paul Anka: My research tells me that this song was used as an advertising jingle for Kodak’s television commercials. That’s all that it’s good for, without a doubt.
53. “Say You Love Me” – Fleetwood Mac: While Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks generally take a good share of the credit for Fleetwood Mac’s success in artistry, vocalist and songwriter Christine McVie should not be ignored. In a world where most AM radio rock all pretty much sounds the same, here comes a nice little piano-driven love song to shake things up a little bit. It’s not one of the strongest from the group, in my opinion, but it’s hard to deny how optimistic and sunshiny it is.
52. “I Love Music” – The O’Jays: Forerunners of Philly Soul The O’Jays try their hand at disco in this track – even though many of the production elements (courtesy of Gamble & Huff) still feel somewhat like some of their older stuff. It’s mainly the upbeat drums and backing strings that give it a distinctly disco feel. It is a bit funny how the speaker of this song claims to love “any kind of music”, then goes on to specify that it should be “funky”, “swingin'”, “groovy”, etc. That rules out… well, most music. Still a cool single, though.
51. “Dream On” – Aerosmith: It’s really hard to listen to and honestly evaluate a lot of these classic rock staples. This is mainly because a good number of them changed my life, in the sense that they played a big part in getting me into popular music in the first place. “Dream On” isn’t exactly “rockin'” in the traditional sense, in that you can’t really dance to it. It’s more of a contemplative, even existential ballad that showcases its lyrics and Steven Tyler’s voice more than anything else. Thus, it’s hard for me to really tell whether or not I enjoy the song because it’s actually well-composed, or if it’s just because I know it well. Its simplicity urges me to head toward the latter. What is amazing, however, is that really strong climax, where Tyler suddenly breaks into an intense falsetto. Gives me the chills every damn time.
50. “Show Me the Way (live)” – Peter Frampton: I’ve always considered this song somewhat of an upbeat sequel to “Baby I Love Your Way”, even though this single was released first and performed better. I just can’t really get behind the overall euphoria of this track like I can with the other. The chorus and verses are catchy and the talk box is interesting, but that’s pretty much all it’s got going for it. Quite a cool song to kick off the top half of the list. Also, it’s interesting to note that this is, so far, the fourth song on this chart with success found in its live recording. Live albums must have been at their most popular in the mid-70s.
49. “Lowdown” – Boz Scaggs: “Lowdown” occupies that sweet, smooth area between soft-rock and funk. The driving keyboard in the background is totally reminiscent of the soft-rock sound, while the guitars and punchy bass riff offer an almost disco-like quality to its production. The introduction alone is enough to send listeners into pure sonic paradise. I’d be perfectly content with a version of this song that excluded Boz Scaggs; the background singers are fine, but his blue-eyed soul vocals slightly damper the mood for me. Only slightly, though.
48. “If You Leave Me Now” – Chicago: So apparently this year’s list is so good, there’s even a Chicago song on here that isn’t completely awful! Now, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures in any way because I’m not guilty of the music I like. But there are songs that I enjoy that seem to contradict everything else I’ve said I disliked about musician(s) in general. This song is a perfect example of this. My experiences with Chicago prior to this list had led to to concluded that they are the leaders in adult contemporary ballads with lush production but unfathomably lazy writing. And yes, the writing here isn’t all that great either, ridden with heartbreak clichés to the max. But clichés are clichés for a reason, and I think this is a fine example of the band using simple, universal emotions to their advantage. Vocalist Peter Cetera comes off as utterly pathetic, but doesn’t heartbreak embarrass us all at least a little bit? And that’s not even mentioning the beautiful instrumental backing, undoubtedly some of the best I’ve ever heard from Chicago. AM radio rock is far from a favorite of mine, but this has to be one of the better inclusions to the genre.
47. “Shannon” – Henry Gross: Apparently, this song was written about the death of Carl Wilson’s dog of the same now. Honestly, that little bit of knowledge could only improve the song, given that it had a notable subject behind its empty words. Otherwise, it’s a bizarre, overtly trite song, made even more strange by Gross’ sudden shifting to falsetto after the first verse. I’m glad I wasn’t around when this song was on heavy rotation; I don’t know how long I could’ve possibly stood it.
46. “A Little Bit More” – Dr. Hook: I keep coming across these types of ballads and I can’t stand any of them. By “these types”, I mean the kind that are entirely one-sided, with no indication that the other party is even into being loved “a little bit more”. The chorus itself is particularly troubling – if someone’s “had enough”, they’ve had enough, period. Consent is so important and I don’t get any sense that there’s much of it playing out here. I’ve never been too big on Dr. Hook and I think this track pretty much seals the deal for me.
45. “That’s The Way (I Like It)” – KC and the Sunshine Band: Or as I’ve like to call it “Get Down Tonight Pt. 2″… or is it the other way around? My point being that KC and the Sunshine Band are notorious for being one of the more mechanical and formulaic members of a genre that is already fairly mechanical and formulaic. They’re so darn good at it, though. If I had to make a choice, this one isn’t quite as fresh and party-starting as its predecessor. I think it does have a better choral hook in its sharp “uh-huh, uh-huh”s – controversial for its time – even though it is repeated about 5,000 times. It also more succinctly encapsulated the sex and hedonism that so defined disco music as a whole. KC and the Sunshine may just be a bunch of talentless hacks who just happened to be making repetitious party music at the exact right time – but at least they’re doing it right.
44. “Sweet Thing” – Rufus: From the start, it’s instantly apparent that this is an unusually slower, jazzier attempt from Rufus, mostly known for their funky hits. The midtempo groove is mighty sulty and falls right in line with the smooth R&B scene of this era. Even better is Chaka Khan’s vocal performance, which is alluring and so, so excellent. Yet, even with Khan’s fiery “You are my heat, you are my fire” hook in the final third, I’m left anticipating more from the group that never really comes. It’s disappointing how so many great elements come together to form just an okay song. I think uptempo fare are more in Rufus’ comfort zone.
43. “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” – Diana Ross: Diana Ross is an excellent performer, which is why this single disappointed me. The real star power comes from the sweeping, ethereal production, but even that sounds like it was written to be played for drama in a motion picture. Even more disappointing are Ross’ vocals; I’m positive that the potential for true greatness is there, yet she’s left with a childish melody in a safe range that never really changes much. I doubt this would’ve been as big a success had Ross’ name not been attached to it.
42. “Deep Purple” Donny & Marie Osmond: These cover songs just won’t let up. I really don’t see why one would willingly listen to this track when they could just listen to the original from Nino Tempo and April Stevens, which is practically the same arrangement and still way more magical and lovely.
41. “Love to Love You Baby” – Donna Summer: Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder will always be one of my favorite musical pairings. The two of them took disco music to unprecedented heights, transforming the genre into a legitimate art form in the meantime. While the majority of pop music up to this point had merely danced around subjects of sex and promiscuity, Summer bravely took the topic head-on in a dance track replete with ecstatic moans. I could only imagine the minds blown upon the release of this song, which was also one of the first disco hits to be released in an extended 17-minute form. While Summer is the star of the show here, the slinky production is also some of the best that disco has to offer. Summer and Moroder would contribute to some even greater stuff later on, but this is legendary nevertheless.
40. “All By Myself” – Eric Carmen: This song has become somewhat of a joke in recent years – which is fitting, because the song itself is hilarious pathetic. Definitely even more than “If You Leave Me Now”, which at least addresses a second party as the source of heartbreak. Eric Carmen isn’t in love, nor do I think he actually wants to be in love. No, his biggest fear is being alone, being single, not having anyone to call his own. This, once again, is the kind of one-sided “love” song that drives me mad. How am I supposed to feel for the speaker if they’re coming off as insufferably selfish and needy? The Manilow-esque melodrama in the production doesn’t help either. At least that middle piano solo in the album version is nice.
39. “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” – Captain and Tennille: Okay, this is a nice song. A lot of it is due to Neil Sedaka’s writing, which has a certain flair to it evident to have come from a veteran in the music-making industry. He also wrote “Love Will Keep Us Together”, which.. well, I didn’t hate it. I still think C&T come off as incredulously corny, but at least this translates to something rather fun and cute, instead of obnoxiously lovey-dovey. I think I could forgive Tennille’s limited vocal ability this time around.
38. “Turn the Beat Around” – Vicki Sue Robinson: If not for those disco-defining violins, this could have been just another pop track on the outliers. Of course, this being produced during disco’s peak meant that it absolutely needed to be a disco track. Robinson has an alright voice; she doesn’t promise much range outside of “fun party girl”, but that’s far from a complaint as it totally works here. This is probably one of the better one-hit wonder tracks of the disco era, and certainly one of the best to incorporate congo drums.
37. “Dream Weaver” – Gary Wright: Fact: the introduction to this song is the best part; nothing else in it even comes close. I’m not the biggest fan of the lyrics or even Wright’s voice, but those spooky synths and the smooth driving bass riff are some of the best stuff around. It’s instantly calming, even more so than 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, which has been praised for similar qualities. But I’m not so sure if this qualifies as soft-rock as it doesn’t really profess many of the Americana country qualities that so much of the genre contains. This is more of a space rock sorta thing.
36. “Let Your Love Flow” – The Bellamy Brothers: This is just nice, breezy, optimistic country-pop; nothing more, nothing less. Somehow, though, it comes off to be as a bit like Christian rock in quality, 99% of which is terrible. This quality kind of ruins the mood for me a bit, but then I remember just how damn fun it is and keep singing along.
35. “Only Sixteen” – Dr. Hook: I am extremely disturbed by the fascination that grown men have for sixteen-year-old girls. I don’t care if Dr. Hook is singing this from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old; it’s still creepy. If you want to write a song about young, stupid love, make it about twentysomethings – we’re just as clueless and are far above age of consent. I’ve no patience for anything else. Besides all this, Dr. Hook’s singing is just annoying and the tune is pathetically banal overall.
34. “Moonlight Feels Right” – Starbuck: Is it just me or does this song make an excellent companion to “Dream Weaver”? They’re both largely synth-driven and are about livin’ easy among the stars and moon. “Moonlight” is obviously much more upbeat, which makes me prefer it just a little bit more. There’s also something about Bruce Blackman’s gravelly vocal technique that I find so, so appealing. And just when I think I was completely won over by such a sleek, jazzy arrangement, a marimba solo comes out of nowhere to send me right to cloud nine. So much about this little track is so pleasant-sounding, sending me to absolute elation with no need for drugs.
33. “Golden Years” – David Bowie: Funk/R&B David Bowie is probably my favorite David Bowie, and this is one of my favorites of this era. Like most sharp Bowie singles, the focal point here is more the succulent production than his own lyrics or vocal ability (which is undoubtedly on a whole different planet altogether). It’s all so funky and dramatic, with special emphasis given to percussion and a dynamic guitar riff. Add in some weird nostalgic lyrics in the mix and this culminates in yet another sharp single from the Thin White Duke.
32. “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” – Lou Rawls: The Philly Soul era of R&B has never been short of real, bonafide hits, and this is yet another one. In all actuality, this may be one of the best of the scene. Tinged with a slight disco flavor, this is an outrageously pleasing listen from beginning to end. After a decade and a half of releasing albums and singles with few bites, this single truly showcases his seasoned vocal ability that possibly rivals that of Barry White in terms of sheer class and suavity. The lyrics also transport one to a simpler time of Motown’s height in the mid- to late-60s, as this sounds like something The Temptations or Marvin Gaye would put out at their peaks. For this time, however, Rawls is an excellent compromise.
31. “You Should Be Dancing” – Bee Gees: If “Jive Talkin'” exemplified the Gibb brothers’ dipping their toes into something new, “You Should Be Dancing” is a full-blown cannonball. Many see this as the definitive Bee Gees song, as well as being definitive of the disco genre as a whole. It’s hard to deny how infectious it gets once that chorus kicks in, but in terms of production, this is pretty ugly. There’s just so much going on at once, from the guitar and bass licks, to the high-tempo percussion, to the blasting horns, to the multi-tracked falsetto vocals. And that’s not even mentioning the guitar solo, which feels a bit unnecessary. Overall, this feels like such a high-paced recording, it’s pretty difficult to keep up with it; nonetheless, it’s fun-loving quality cannot be denied and it’s impossible for me to really hate it at all. It’s more of a sign of bigger and better things to come from the Bee Gees.
30. “Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players: Bogged down by an urban legend that is more stupid than plausible, this song is real fuckin’ fun nonetheless. The Ohio Players are no strangers to chart success, nor for making really funky recordings in general, but this is definitely their tightest single yet. The guitar intro gives us a unique sound right off the bat; after that first “rollercoaster of love” hook, one is addicted immediately. The silliest thing about this song is its lyrics – or lack thereof. It’s literally just “rollercoaster of love” and “your love is like a rollercoaster / I wanna ride”. Not exactly the most poetic of love disclosures, but the simplicity allows the best parts of its production to shine through anyway.
29. “Theme From S.W.A.T.” – Rhythm Heritage: Here’s yet another theme, this one from a TV show. Along with “Welcome Back”, which charted lower, this is only one of a handful of TV themes that reached #1. I was never familiar with S.W.A.T. at all, and was never even aware of its theme before starting this blog post. Usually a show’s popularity ties in some way with its theme’s chart success, though I have no frame of reference here since I never really watched the show. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see how this would’ve struck a chord with listeners, the same types that brought “Love’s Theme” to #1. It’s super bombastic and in-your-face funky, even if it does suffer from the constant repetition of its hook that is typical of instrumental TV and movie themes. Moreover, it doesn’t really make me want to watch the show – I would rather just listen to this recording multiple times over.
28. “Right Back Where We Started From” – Maxine Nightingale: I can’t be the only one who thinks this song sounds a bit like The Chiffons’ “Sweet Talkin’ Guy”. In any case, its immediately evident that this song takes its influence from those Phil Spector-/Holland-Dozier-Holland-produced girl group recordings of the early 60s. Of course, while its bouncy rhythm is undoubtedly fun and its chorus is tremendously infectious, the production here doesn’t hold a candle to the Wall of Sound recordings of the yesteryear. Much of its success could most likely be due to nostalgia and novelty, but it doesn’t offer much else beyond this. Nightingale does has a rather pleasant voice, however, and I think she deserved a much more successful career.
27. “Sweet Love” – Commodores: Apparently, after a few years in the biz, this was Commodores’ first single to make a move away from their funkified sound toward smoother ballads. This would come to be the sound that lead Lionel Richie would call his own during his later solo career. Richie is obviously talented, but the song itself isn’t doing anything for me. How it got so popular baffles me, as this is some of the blandest soul production I’ve heard yet.
26. “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” – KC and the Sunshine Band: This third success from the group completes what I like to call the “KC Trilogy” – this also including “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s the Way (I Like It)”. Yet even though all of these singles follow the same basic disco formula, this one is somehow the weakest of the three. The horn section is strong as ever, but doesn’t feel like anyone else here is feeling it. Not even KC himself, whose lyrics here are as generic as ever, which is saying a lot. Also, “shake your booty” is also such a ridiculously stupid command in general; listening to it being chanted over 500 times doesn’t help matters.
25. “Take It to the Limit” – Eagles: At this point, I think I can draw my general apathy toward the Eagles back to personal taste. There’s just something about their music that makes me automatically roll my eyes once those opening chords kick in. It is rather funny that I, a Southern California native, am not particularly fond of the soft-rock sound that so defined SoCal in the 70s. With all that being said, I’m conflicted on how to feel about this one. I doubt that I’ll come across any Eagles song that resonates with me to any significant degree, but boy does this one linger. That string arrangement is some of the best in any single on this chart, and those vocal harmonies are so pleasing as well. I’m so divided on its lyrics though, especially the consistent repetition of its title around the final third, which can get awfully trying after a while.
24. “Get Up and Boogie” – Silver Convention: I’ve stated before that adding the word “boogie” to your song in the 70s is an excellent way of ensuring that it’ll sound dated in a decade or so. I think this single is the exact kind of situation I’m talking about. Only six words are repeated throughout its entire duration – “Get up and boogie – that’s right!” – and this gimmick gets old remarkably fast. More than anything else, this actually reminds me of the consistently annoying Europop of the 90s, which makes sense since Silver Convention are from Germany. Still, I’ll take Boney M and ABBA over these guys any day.
23. “Love Hurts” – Nazareth: “Love Hurts” was initially written for The Everly Brothers in 1960 by husband-and-wife team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who also wrote a number of other hits for the Brothers. It has been covered numerous times since, and each cover seems only more and more heartbreaking. Seriously, writing like this only comes from someone who has truly been broken down, bit by bit, by heartache. Nazareth’s version of the song proves that it translates exceptionally well to power ballad form and I struggle to think of any other power ballad covers that could claim the same. Dan McCaffrey’s voice doesn’t normally do anything for me, but the pain really bleeds through in this recording as he strains to get all those high notes. Believe me when I say that power ballads are far from my favorite types of songs; this one, however, pretty much rocks.
22. “You Sexy Thing” – Hot Chocolate: If you follow me on Letterboxd, you might be aware of my list in which I compile movies that feature this song. In the comments section, I note that it is “objectively one of the greatest songs of all time” – and I wasn’t lying. Everything about this is just so perfect, from that killer guitar riff, to those disco-infused violins, to those hand drums, to Errol Brown’s high-octane, high-energy vocals. Like “All By Myself”, this song has become somewhat of a joke song in recent years; unlike “All By Myself”, this song is an absolute delight to listen to separate from any other context. Slow, romantic love songs are cool and all, but I think I prefer mine silly and funky. My favorite part is probably when Brown screams “Sextasy!”, which I think is the best thing ever. “You Sexy Thing” just delivers on all fronts.
21. “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” – England Dan & John Ford Coley: The way this song begun as one side of a phone conversation – “Hello, yeah, it’s been a while / Not much, how ’bout you?” – immediately indicated that I would probably hate this one. Thankfully, the rest of the song isn’t nearly as insufferable. I wouldn’t blame one for thinking that this was about the speaker reconnecting with an old acquaintance to get them in bed with no ties (“I’m not talkin’ ’bout moving in”). However, the line where he notes that a walk in the park or a night in front of the TV is fine with him changes things a bit. England Dan is just a big romantic dork who doesn’t want to be lonely – a bit like Eric Carmen, though more choosy with his words. Anyway, this isn’t really that remarkable of a song, but it’s still kind of cute in that old-timey monogamy way.
20. “Boogie Fever” – The Sylvers: As I noted before, the top twenty is where things generally get seriously good. Unfortunately, this one just misses the mark. The hook itself is pretty fine, falling right in line with the repetitive, danceable disco-funk tracks that came in droves around this time. The verses is where this falters, plugging in the typical “dancing as a virus” narrative. I guess this is fine enough if you’re not listening to what the Sylvers are singing about, but they’re barely decent to begin with. There are just so many other, much better songs one could listen to as a substitute.
19. “Misty Blue” – Dorothy Moore: The classic, delicate beauty of “Misty Blue”, along with Dorothy Moore’s performance of the song, make this one such a tremendously refreshing entry on the list. I haven’t heard the original from Brenda Lee, but I doubt she’d be qualified to bring about the same level of soulful charm. While Moore doesn’t boast a tremendous vocal range like, say, Gladys Knight or Aretha Franklin do, she delivers emotion and tenderness like a pro. The fact that it was supposedly recorded all in a single take makes it all the more amazing.
18. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen: Literally nothing I can say about this song hasn’t already been said a hundred times over. I hate boring music opinions, but I just really love this song and think it’s one of the greatest recordings of all time. Freddy Mercury was such a mad genius and I miss him so much.
17. “More, More, More” – Andrea True Connection: Yes, Andrea True really isn’t a good singer at all. It’s more probable that this song was recorded only to further capitalize on her adult film career. But I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the most outright fun disco songs of the era. Dance songs primarily driven by piano are one quick way to my heart; interesting female vocals are another, as proven by True’s breathy, stimulating “more, more, more”s. It’s kitsch, sure, but its playful kitsch and that’s what makes it so awesome.
16. “Get Closer” – Seals and Crofts: This is the purest definition of slow, boring 70s soft-rock imaginable. There’s absolutely nothing interesting going on here. Let’s move on.
15. “Love Hangover” – Diana Ross: Following up from her dull “Theme from Mahogany” is the smooth, poppy disco number I knew she had in her. It begins as a slow, sexy, soulful ballad, immediately picking up its pace after the chorus and turning to full-blown disco. I’ll have to admit that outside of her work with The Supremes, Ross seems to have struggled in really finding her voice as a solo artist. Thus, it was a wise move in letting the production mostly take over for this single, as it’s easily the best parts of the song. Still, Ross occasionally intervenes to murmur along, even imitating Billie Holliday at parts (who she played in Lady Sings the Blues a couple years prior). This isn’t the cream of the crop of disco, but is still a fine dance track regardless.
14. “Fly, Robin, Fly” – Silver Convention: After “Get Up and Boogie”, I would have assumed that Silver Convention got away with being one of the multitude of one-hit wonder artists that emerged in the 70s. I was unfortunately mistaken, as they actually had a second hit that charted even higher. Much like the predecessor, this single only contains six words spoken through its duration. Thankfully, the vocalists here are much more subdued than the obnoxious screeches in “Get Up and Boogie”. Also, the instrumental parts here are much stronger, with a funky-as-hell piano and a violin riff that is actually quite lovely. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with robins, but this is some mighty fine production regardless.
13. “I Write the Songs” – Barry Manilow: Just when I thought that “Mandy” was peak schmaltz, Manilow comes back around and out-schmaltzes himself a hundred times over. This comes across as a terrible number from a equally terrible off-Broadway musical. At this part of the show, I’d imagine that this is God singing, played by Manilow himself, backed by a choir of angels. But seriously – “I am music and I write the songs”. Who thought this was a good idea to begin with? Schmaltz amid schmaltz to the schmaltz’d power.
12. “Afternoon Delight” – Starland Vocal Band: Imagine that you’re in a lovely new relationship in 1976 and your significant other decides to woo you over with this song. How much would you hate your life at that very moment? Above everything else that has already been stated about this song, listening to it just reminds me of that one white hetero couple who decided that this song would be fun to do on karaoke night, making the entire rest of us in the bar painfully embarrassed in the process. It’s the kind of song that makes one never want to have sex ever again.
11. “Sara Smile” – Hall & Oates: The bass in this song is everything, though the general production of “Sara Smile” as a whole is delightfully jazzy and smooth as hell. Daryl Hall’s vocals are also pretty dreamy, even amidst the often-clumsy lyrical structure. Still, it’s never been one of my favorite songs from the group by a long shot.
10. “A Fifth of Beethoven” – Walter Murphy: Disco is a genre that has never been deprived of gimmicks. Walter Murphy’s most important output to this trend is a disco reworking of Beethoven’s Fifth, which works shockingly well. It’s also interesting that this was produced by Thomas J. Valentino, most notable for his development of one of the first sound effects libraries. As for the single, it’s remarkably funky and certainly fun to strut along with. It’s success could most likely be due to simple novelty value (there were a whole lot of these), but it’s still an impressive feat regardless of the fact.
9. “Love is Alive” – Gary Wright: “Love is Alive” is the follow-up single to Wright’s “Dream Weaver”, with the latter being relatively more definitive of the artist with the passing of time. Truthfully, I think I prefer “Love is Alive” a bit more. While “Dream Weaver” has more of the atmospheric space-rock thing going for it, “Love is Alive” is just a stronger, sharper rock song overall. Though it initially sounds like just another riff-driven rock anthem of its time, the occasional spurts of synth backing make it something a little more special. It’s also more upbeat and generally happier than “Dream Weaver”, which I always saw as a bit of a downer. Yet even separate from all these contrasts stands a tune that, on its own, is pretty damn cool. I wish half of the popular 70s rock anthems were this well-composed.
8. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” – Paul Simon: The chorus of this one sounds like a desperate attempt to channel how Dr. Seuss would approach infidelity and ending relationships. In all seriousness, something about this track feels a bit off – like Paul lazily combined two rough drafts of two separate songs and felt it good enough to release as a single. It’s generally been hard for me to really get into post-self-titled-album Paul Simon, and this song basically solidifies that maybe he isn’t for me.
7. “Love Machine” – The Miracles: “I’m just a love machine / And I won’t work for nobody but you” has got to be one of the best non-funk, non-disco hooks of this era. It is strange to listen to a Miracles track without Smokey Robinson’s lead vocals, but I think they do a fairly good job in forming their own kind of personality for themselves besides being Smokey’s backup. And it’s true that this does ride the line between disco and straight R&B, but I think it’s slightly too uptempo and vocal-driven to follow the general trajectory of the genre. It does feel a little forced at times, especially with all those groans and growls in the latter half that dwell into some intense silliness. It’s also a bit weird to me to think of love (see: sex) in terms of a mechanical engineering. Still, it’s hard to not feel like getting up and dancing once the beat kicks in.
6. “Kiss and Say Goodbye” – The Manhattans: Sometimes I feel like songs like these would be more appropriate had they been released ten years earlier – except when they only work because they have the context of the previous ten years of genre tropes and trends upon which to build. I used to think this was a simple song about a breakup, but the line “I’ve got ties and so do you” actually indicates that the speaker is ending an illicit affair. Sort of like a sequel to “Me and Mrs. Jones”. The smooth, soulful instrumentation makes this worth listening to; otherwise, it’s hard to really put this on any sort of pedestal. The lyrics aren’t very creative and the lead vocalist isn’t very outstanding either, nor is the Barry White-impersonator at the start. I’m really not sure how this got as popular as it did, though I presume it’s from the same league of listeners who ate up “Side Show” (which is a much better song overall).
5. “Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry: I find it a bit inappropriate that the most popular funk song of this year is from a bunch of white guys – though at least they openly acknowledge the novelty that they’re just a bunch of white guy playing funk music. Truthfully, with an opening riff that sharp and memorable, there’s no way this song wasn’t destined to be an outright success. It’s also got a lot of other qualities going for it though – lead vocalist Rob Parissi sounds like a real party-starter (even if he can’t sing for shit), hand-claps and cowbells are a good choice, and the guitar solo is pretty fun as well. Not to mention that chantable chorus that just drives the whole point home. While I’d be pressed to name it among the best one-hit wonders, it’s definitely one of the catchiest.
4. “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” – The Four Seasons: I hold a firm stance that there’d be no way that The Four Seasons would top the charts in the mid-70s had Frankie Valli not found newfound success as a solo artist in the previous year. Yet here we are. Honestly, though, it’s pretty admirable that the group was able to update their sound for a new decade, especially given that their peak was in the pre-Beatles 60s. It’s definitely one of the most impressive comebacks of any returning artist in this time (I’m looking at you, Paul Anka). The group even brought Valli back in the group, though he didn’t sing the falsetto hook, a decision I really can’t quite understand. In terms of structure, this song is fun as hell and feels far too short each time I play it. It is a bit odd how the speaker is reminiscing on a one-night stand from over ten years ago, but the general sense of nostalgia for better, younger times is one that is fiercely relatable and emitted pretty well through its production. I’m pretty surprised that I enjoy this one as much as I do.
3. “Disco Lady” – Johnnie Taylor: The most peculiar thing about this song is that, despite its title, there’s nothing about it that really says “disco” at all – it’s a straight soul single, from start to finish. The second-most peculiar thing about it is that it managed to rank #3 for the whole year, yet isn’t really that interesting at all. Taylor has a fine voice, but the lyrics are completely lazy and the song rarely gives him a chance to show off his range. I can’t help but feel that this was just a cheap attempt to capitalize on the disco trend – which certainly worked, apparently.
2. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John & Kiki Dee: Enjoyable love fluff; nothing more, nothing less. I don’t know if I’ve heard anything else from Kiki Dee, but she comes off as a slightly more refined Toni Tennille. In fact, I somehow always thought this song as a Captain & Tennille number – it certainly dwells in that same amount of saccharine sweet catchiness, if not for Taupin’s imagery-based lyricism. It’s fun enough, if a bit repetitive, though it’s yet another song over which I’d probably tear my hair out due to its constant rotation in the midst of ’76.
1. “Silly Love Songs” – Wings: For once, the charts give us a Wings song that isn’t utter nonsense. In fact, the message is very explicitly Beatles-esque: “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs / And what’s wrong with that?”. It’s a nice sentiment, but: (1) the love song doesn’t really need defending, given that it’s easily the most popular topic among chart-topping singles, and (2) this song goes on for at least two minutes too long, without really diving any deeper into this admittedly surface-level non-issue. The first verse is definitely the catchiest, and frankly that’s really all anyone really needs to hear to get the gist of it all. In fact, that might even make it a more pleasant listening experience as a whole. So, yes, it is nice to be able to aptly interpret a Wings song, but if this trifling piece of work is the immediate alternative, I’d much rather have their more experimental output. In other words – there’s no surprise at all that this song would reach #1 for the year.