100. “Devil’s Gun” – C.J. & Company: This track is notable for being the first ever record spun during the first night of Studio 54, notorious for the huge role it played at the height of the disco scene. The first few measures, with its gradual buildup to disco bliss, definitely give off the vibe that something spectacular is about to happen. As with most lengthy disco songs, however, this one plateaus after the first minute or so, with a steady breakdown brought in to keep things interesting. The lyrics are rather uninteresting, however, and as fun as this track can be, it’s easy to see why it doesn’t hold up. Still, there are worse ways to kick off this year’s Hot 100.
99. “Star Wars (Main Title)” – London Symphony Orchestra: Haha. Here’s another one of those things about which – much like Shakespeare, The Beatles, or… well, Star Wars – no amount of analyzing or pontificating will result in something new or interesting that hasn’t already been reiterated millions of times. Arguably, this is the most recognizable movie themes of all time, and for good reason. Every note sticks and steadily builds into something epic and grandiose. Hell, I never watched any of the movies until about three years ago and I could still perfectly hum along to every note and nuance, including the tempo changes. It’s a great theme, for sure.
98. “How Much Love” – Leo Sayer: We last saw Leo Sayer back in my ’75 post, where I noted that perhaps a better production team would suit his voice. Well, the more pop-oriented production is certainly sharper in this single and – huzzah! – his voice fits it remarkably well! I must say I’m a bigger fan of his shiny, new falsetto than I am of his growling vocals in “Long Tall Glasses”. As for the song itself? It’s just okay. The lyrics are full of empty phrases, with Sayer speaking to a subject who is playing hard to get… or something. Nonetheless, it’s an improvement.
97. “Knowing Me, Knowing You” – ABBA: I am such an ABBA nerd, it’s not even funny. It’s pretty impossible for me not to love any ABBA single, given that so many of them are so dang catchy and others are so dang heartfelt. Somehow, this one is both. It’s not very upbeat, but uses its mid-tempo range to effectively emit its message of overwhelming heartbreak. I’d even dare to say that some of its lyrics follow the Bergman streak remarkably close (“No more carefree laughter / Silence ever after / Walking through an empty house / Tears in my eyes”). Sure the accents make things a little awkward, but once that euphoric chorus kicks in – “uh-huuuuh” – it’s hard not to ride along its wave.
96. “Don’t Worry Baby” – B.J. Thomas: This is a tough listen for me. For one thing, “Don’t Worry Baby” is one of my all-time favorite Beach Boys songs and it’s tough for me to separate it from Brian Wilson’s aching falsetto vocals. Here, one has to settle for Thomas’ crooning tenor which, honestly, I kind of love. He shines his best in “Hooked on a Feeling”, so he’s no stranger to sentimental love songs. The problem with this one is the production, which sounds so hokey and generic it actually brings down Thomas’ singing as well. It’s just too harsh and upbeat for a song that was meant for a tender harmony translation. Thomas has certainly done better.
95. “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” – Elton John: I have nothing against Elton John, I really don’t; on the contrary, I rather admire him. Still, would one blame me for being really tired of listening to his music? Since 1972, he’s had eleven singles appear on these charts (Wings has had the same amount in two more years time). And I’m not going to lie – after the previous year’s double-punch of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (which was just okay) and “Island Girl” (which I hated), the future doesn’t look very promising. Furthermore, “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” demonstrates some of Taupin’s laziest writing I’ve seen thus far. It’s a simple ballad filled to the brim with cliché phrases, and while John can often squeeze out some impressive emotional delivery, he just comes across as pathetic here. It’s the most plainly forgettable songs of his repertoire thus far.
94. “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is not only one of the best albums about breakup, but simultaneously one of the greatest albums of all time. Likewise, “Go Your Own Way” is most likely the one track that has had the most lasting impression on me. The lyrics carry its message so simply with hardly much poetic nuance, yet the emotional weight of their meaning is all heard in Buckingham’s strained vocals. Besides all this, is also just a great rock song, with its chugging drums and guitar-driven composition, especially with that final climatic solo. Heartbreak has rarely sounded so triumphant.
93. “Boogie Nights” – Heatwave: “Boogie Nights” professes perhaps the smoothest melding of straight-funk and straight-disco imaginable. The main theme follows little more than the simple joys of going out and dancing to tracks such as these. This is essentially just hooked layered upon hook, but they certainly are catchy and there’s no questioning just how well this song sticks. The very start of the song anticipates a slow, melodic build, only to suddenly crash into a full-on disco tempo. That deeply-sung “got to keep on dancing” hook is especially infectious, even if it does soon become repetitive. Unlike most disco songs that quickly plateau until fadeout, this one consistently brings in interesting elements to keep things fun. The final third is especially ripe with synths, a backing gospel choir, guitars, and incomprehensible party conversations. It is a bit much at this point, but the journey to get there is what makes this a delightful party jam.
92. “Year of the Cat” Al Stewart: What a weird song. The production, on one hand, is fabulous, driven primarily by various lovely instrumental solos, and follows along the line of those warm, cozy pop-rock songs you listen to on a rainy day. The lyrics, however, are just bizarre. From what I can grasp, the “Peter Lorre”-esque narrator is being taken on a surreal adventure by an elusive woman who’s like “a watercolor in the rain” and awakens the next morning to find that he cannot escape. As one can sense, this song is very largely metaphor-driven, which often works in its favor but its vague sensibilities often muddle the meaning and sometimes works against the song. What, for example, does “year of the cat” even signify? Stewart also doesn’t have a very good voice, but given that his background is in folk music, this isn’t all that necessary. Above all, however, this could very well be the only song to successfully rhythm “coolly” with “patchouli”.
91. “Cherchez La Femme” – Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band: Okay, now this is bizarre. If I’m understanding correctly, this is yet another gimmicky disco track that, this time, attempts to meld the genre with 30s swing music. This is obviously a predecessor to electro-swing, and possibly also the 90s swing revival as a whole (the former made possible by the latter). Unlike most disco songs I’ve heard, there’s no real chorus or even an indication of a payoff to the buildup that the track gives us. In fact, the whole song sounds like it’s slowly and gradually building up to something big and explosive, but it never delivers. Diversity is great, sure, but this is just peculiar to the musical ear and I can’t imagine this being very fun to dance to. Even the lyrics seem a bit off, almost a little too hateful to match with its party-loving atmosphere. It’s not hard to see how this was forgotten.
90. “Walk This Way” – Aerosmith: Yeah, yeah, we all know that this is a real catchy guitar riff. Besides that, though, this is just another of those hard rock songs that cater solely to the testosterone-driven whims of men and teenage boys. The lyrics come off as fodder for high school gossip, wherein girls are thrown under the bus in exchange for male bragging about their sexual exploits. If anything, I actually slightly prefer Run DMC’s cover, with its more polished production and fun sound overall. Since that version is in existence, I’ve no need for this recording.
89. “Muskrat Love” – Captain & Tennille: I’ve got to make a compilation of all these love songs from the 70s that just come off as tremendously unsexy and embarrassing these days. “Afternoon Delight” would be the first track; this would be the second. To be fair, the simple production is fine, if painfully innocuous, and the melody is rather pretty. But jesus, was there really this much demand for a song about muskrats dancing and making love? The Moog solo is alright – but is also apparently meant to signify the sounds of muskrats mating. To me, these noises just sound like alien transmissions. I’m really not sure if this was meant to be some kind of joke or if its genuinely bizarre. Given the tone of Captain & Tennille’s previous output, I’m more inclined to the latter.
88. “Somebody to Love” – Queen: Obviously riding off the coattails of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, this single is, nevertheless, an absolute delight. If “I Write the Songs” is a cheap off-Broadway musical number, “Somebody to Love” is a centerpiece of a theatrical masterpiece. Queen’s music often makes me sound like a huge hypocrite; often, I roll my eyes over such bloated, dramatic production, but “Somebody to Love” is just so confident in its gospel-influenced bombast, I’ve just gotta enjoy every second of it. Freddie Mercury is obviously a highlight, effectively putting his all in his performance of a tired man searching for love and life’s meaning. Brian May’s guitar solo is also great, even if it does, once again, follow the same general patterns as his solo in “Rhapsody”. Still, there’s a reason why this has become a staple for me at karaoke. I love this song so much.
87. “I Wanna Get Next to You” – Rose Royce: The Whitfield-produced sound of this song is very similar to what he would have produced for The Temptations around the start of the decade (in particular, it shares similar qualities with “Just My Imagination”). I grew up listening to the major hits of Rose Royce and I could never get around to really loving this song. It might be because I love Gwen Dickey’s vocals far more than this guy’s – “I’m Going Down” didn’t make the year-end Hot 100, but it’s a terrific example of her ability. There isn’t anything wrong with this guy, per se; he’s just a bit ordinary. Not to mention that he makes the speaker out to be a huge chump with how he allows his lover to mistreat him, due his supposed love for her. Regardless, it’s a mighty smooth sound, akin to some of the best stuff of Motown.
86. “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” – Joe Tex: While Joe Tex has already had a long prolific career at this point, I’ve only been familiar with what I’ve seen in these year-end lists and boy is it a weird career. His first appearance was in ’65 with the sentimental “Hold What You’ve Got”, essentially a gospel song that delicately emitted its titular message. Next was in ’72 with “I Gotcha”, a more quicker, rambunctious tune that very quickly wears out its welcome. Now, this track, Tex’s attempt at disco. I’ve come to realize that his view of women – as mere playthings to be passed around from man to man, as pious creatures to stay at home and treat their man right, or, in this case, as grotesque objects to be recklessly mocked – is seriously annoying. This song contributes to the toxic assumption that heavier people (specifically women) are undeserving of love or self-enjoyment, to the point where the speaker’s interactions with the titular woman are played out in slapstick novelty. It follows the same general beat and rhythm as the popular disco tracks of its day, hence its popularity, but its merciless lyrics just throw the whole thing off. I’ll hopefully forget all about this single once I publish this post.
85. “Love’s Grown Deep” – Kenny Nolan: A few seconds after I pressed play and heard Nolan’s utterance of “I love you… so much”, I legitimately bursted out laughing. He’s definitely trying to tap into some kind of soft-rock Barry Manilow vibe, and he truly succeeded in that this song is brimming with the smoothest cheese. Here’s a sample of the chorus: “Love’s grown deep / Deep into the heart of me / You’ve become a part of me / Let us plant the seed and watch it grow”. The verses follow this same line of schmaltz, making this a song that only young, devout newlyweds could enjoy.
84. “High School Dance” – The Sylvers: Following up their silly hit “Boogie Fever”, The Sylvers seem all too eager to create G-rated disco singles for the whole family to enjoy. Their sound is obviously an imitation of The Osmonds, including their sugar-sweet melodies and innocent, nostalgic lyrics. Although, the only thing that makes this true nostalgia is starting the first verse with “Remember back in high school”; their sound and image otherwise makes them out to be genuine teenagers. Which is also baffling, since I don’t recall high school dances being at all as fun and lively as this song makes them out to be. Perhaps they were better in the 60s and 70s… but who knows?
83. “Nobody Does It Better” – Carly Simon: While I pretty much failed in my attempt to watch through all the James Bond films about a year ago, I did actually get around to listening to every Bond song of every year. As a Bond song, this is one of my favorites; yet as a Carly Simon song, this falters a bit. Makes sense, though, since she didn’t write it and her not-so-best work is often with others’ compositions. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful single and one of the better movie themes I’ve come across in these charts in a while. It’s even better when you listen to it separate from the Bond context; then, it becomes just a simple tune of admiration from the speaker to her lover. Throw in some lovely 70s classical strings in the mix and you’ve got one of the better adult contemporary ballads of the era.
82. “I Never Cry” – Alice Cooper: It’s interesting how Cooper’s most sensitive singles – this and “Only Women Bleed” – become some of his most popular. Given his shock-rock reputation, I’ve seen very little of this in these charts. Nonetheless, like “Only Women Bleed”, this is a bit of a bore to listen to, Cooper’s vocal performance being especially dismal. The lyrics are its best quality though, tackling rough subjects such as depression, alcoholism, and loneliness. Still, putting this in someone else’s hands would only be an improvement.
81. “The Rubberband Man” – The Spinners: As I mentioned before, The Spinners are their sharpest with big soul ballads. This single, however, proves that they could also take on fun and funky rather well. I’ve been aware of this song for a long time, but it’s not until this post did I actually listen to the words. Lyrically speaking, outside of straight novelty fluff, this is one of the silliest tracks on the Hot 100. Even that driving percussion riff at the beginning promises a real good time. Phillipé Wynne continues to be an excellent leading man, but the harmonies in the chorus and the “doot-doot-doot” bridge make some the best aspects of this track. Yet another well-deserved classic from the group.
80. “Love So Right” – Bee Gees: Is it just me or does this ballad simply pale in comparison to others from the Brothers Gibb? The story in the song isn’t all that interesting, certainly not one we haven’t heard hundreds of times before. Not even the group’s falsetto harmonies can help; usually they’re pretty strong on this front, but here they tend to crash and burn at every turn. This is little more than expendable AM radio fodder.
79. “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Shaun Cassidy: I don’t know about you, but judging from this sound alone, Shaun Cassidy wouldn’t necessarily be my go-to standard to which I hold 70s rock. Just his singing on this track alone indicates that he wants to be this Springsteen-esque idol of boogie-woogie rock ‘n’ roll, yet his vocal range is too weak and wispy to take on anything more extreme than crooning ballads. Thus, he’s not convincing for a second throughout his “C’mon everybody” chorus. The song itself is alright, though; yet another track that would only work better in a more experienced performer’s repertoire.
78. “Give a Little Bit” – Supertramp: This is a neat little song whose coolness extends beyond its utter simplicity. For one thing, the lyrics of love and tolerance seem more fitting for the hippie scene a full decade earlier. Still, Rodger Hodgson’s vocals fit the track so well, I couldn’t imagine any of the generally rougher vocalists of the late-60s to do this song as proper justice. Though it does build up in intensity to its climax, the arrangement still remains relatively simple, which is such a nice refresher. While I don’t agree with it being the band’s most radio-popular hit this day and age (though it is understandable how it is), it’s a nice song regardless.
77. “Livin’ Thing” – Electric Light Orchestra: I know I said that ’76 was one of the most well-reviewed years I’ve come across thus far, but ’77 may just give it a run for its money. While I haven’t delved enough into their music to call myself a true fan, “Livin’ Thing” is, far and away, my favorite ELO song. Once that introductory violin kicks in, my brain immediately kicks into full-scale happiness that doesn’t let up until the very end. Thematically, it’s a song about making the best of life and love while it’s still hanging around and being wonderful. I’m a big fan of hook-driven rock and this is some of the hookiest symphonic-based stuff ever. I only wish it were twice as long.
76. “You Made Me Believe in Magic” – Bay City Rollers: This seems to be the point, more of less, where Bay City Rollers stopped being committed to playing pop-rock music, giving way to the label’s demands for a more straight pop/disco sound. This is unfortunate since, although the Rollers weren’t a great band per se, at least their sound was youthful and vibrant, while this just sounds forced and sterile. It’s not a terrible song; it just kinda sits and doesn’t do anything interesting or distinctive. I suppose fates like these are what cause so many to turn on the disco trend by the end of the decade.
75. “Keep It Comin’ Love” – KC & the Sunshine Band: This time around, KC and his band decide to slightly divert from their samey sound (only slightly, though). Unfortunately, this is to their disadvantage, as it’s resulted in a song that is much more repetitive and clumsy than their previous hits. KC’s lyrics were already pretty simple and childish from the start, but even then these verses practically don’t exist amidst the consistent repetition of the title. I was going to count the number of times the title is repeated throughout the song’s entirety, but I got tired halfway through. It’s easily between 30-40 times though. What a dull disco song.
74. “Lido Shuffle” – Boz Scaggs: It’s interesting to me that this came off the same album as “Lowdown”, since they’re both so different stylistically. It is cool, though, that the same guy who put out a smooth, jazzy number could also write a catchy, synth-driven, boogie-woogie song as well. Seriously, though, the synth in this song is phenomenal and matches its soaring, anthemic vibe better than I could’ve ever imagined. I’m still not a fan of Scaggs’ voice, but at least the emphasis here is less on his vocal ability and more on the top-notch production. The lyrics are pretty vague and I’m still not so sure what it’s about, but I can’t help but sing along whenever that chorus comes along – “Lido! Woah-oh-oh-ohhhh”
73. “Jeans On” – Lord David Dundas: This song originated as jingle for a jeans commercial, then was released as a full-length single due to its immense popularity. The driving piano riff sounds a lot like “Long Tall Glasses”, while the bass and vocal delivery sound like something The Beatles would’ve released at the height of their popularity. So it’s almost no surprise that this got as popular as it did: listeners of popular music tend to cling to that which is familiar to them. Truthfully, it ain’t a bad song, though its innocence and tendency to follow these familiar paths prevent it from become anything truly great. Still, it’s light and breezy fare, probably waking up music.
72. “Float On” – The Floaters: This song is so corny and so myopic in its view of the “perfect woman” that I should hate it… yet here I am. That smooth soul groove is so damn infectious, I’ll listen to the whole track again and again just for this quality alone. I’m not sure if star signs and personals ads were at their peak popularity at this time, but I’ll be convinced from this track alone. This song instantly becomes better if you listen to it as a novelty, since there’s nothing about any of these four vocalists that really marks them as distinct or different. They were probably destined to become one-hit wonders for this reason alone – also the fact that they named their big single after themselves. “Float on” doesn’t even make sense in context! Once again, this is just a huge joke of a song, signifying everything embarrassing about throwaway smooth 70s soul.
71. “Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band” – Meco: Here’s yet another disco gimmick – a dance version of the most popular movie theme of its time! (And all-time, as it stands) Really, there’s no reason to listen to this outside of novelty value alone. Once the Cantina Band segment comes in, it becomes especially ridiculous. Still, the bigness of this theme matches surprisingly well with the equal bombastic flavor of disco music. With that being said, I applaud you, Meco. I would kill to own this on vinyl.
70. “Lost Without Your Love” – Bread: No one can carve up such tender heartbreak soft-rock the way that David Gates and Bread can. Still, unlike “Make It With You” and “If”, this doesn’t manage to really stir up any significant feelings for me. While the former song contains a distinct emotional weight and the latter offers some vibrant, lovely imagery, the feeling here seem artificial and the imagery (“I’m as helpless as a ship without a wheel”) simply falters. There’s also this weird piano-and-guitar bit before the final third that seems a bit too upbeat for a song of this caliber, which anticipates something slower and softer. A pretty forgettable song overall.
69. “Ariel” – Dean Friedman: Oh great, another one of these story songs. In this one, the speaker meets a free-spirited vegetarian girl, takes her out to eat, then takes her home. That’s really all there is to it. The production is a bland, piano-driven chug, and Friedman’s voice really isn’t all that great either. It was sometime around the second listen of that piercing “Aaaariel” chorus that I decided that this song really isn’t worth mine or anyone else’s time.
68. “Cold As Ice” – Foreigner: The piano in this song is hilariously repetitive – just the same two chords banging along over and over again. Once you notice it, you can’t unhear it and the song can no longer be taken seriously. Not that it really had much else going for it anyway. Foreigner is like the vanilla ice cream of 70s radio rock – it fills in all the right squares as to what listeners would be looking for with this type of music, but one could be listening to something so much better instead.
67. “Smoke From a Distant Fire” – Sanford-Townsend Band: The “smoke” in the title is soon revealed to be a metaphor for a relationship gone rotten. The lyrics are interesting enough for me to be convinced that this is coming from a place of genuine bitterness and heartache over their significant other’s infidelity (“I’d just like to know, do you love him or just making time / By filling his glass with your fast-flowing, bitter-sweet lime?”). This is neutralized, unfortunately, by the generic production and upbeat tone, replete with a blues-rock vibe that doesn’t really offer this group a personality of their own. This was their only hit single and that’s a real shame, since it’s apparent that they’re pretty talented and could’ve been destined for real greatness.
66. “It Was Almost Like a Song” – Ronnie Milsap: Through plainly insipid lyricism and tedious piano-driven production, Milsap declares in song how he fell in love, only to have his heart broken. This is so painfully boring, I would’ve taken it for a Manilow number.
65. “Weekend in New England” – Barry Manilow: And speak of the devil! Honestly, this is almost identical to the previous song in melody and production, I almost want to just skip it altogether. Truthfully, though, at least this one provides a nice backdrop of memories upon which we could form some semblance of a meaningful relationsh- wait, wait… this is a Manilow song we’re talking about. Outside of “Mandy”, I’m not convinced of anything he sings for one second. Let’s move on…
64. “Way Down” – Elvis Presley: Shortly after this single was released, Elvis Presley was found dead, marking a symbolic end of the first-gen rock scene that somehow still flickered in and out through two decades of musical trends and changes. Truthfully, this one is really clunky. The verses, bridge, and chorus just sound so tired and really struggle to emit a consistent mood to the recording. It’s pretty darn embarrassing to listen to, certainly not matching up to Presley’s early work nor even his singles from earlier in the decade. Not a very sharp note to leave on, unfortunately.
63. “Stand Tall” – Burton Cummings: Cummings had previously been known as the lead vocalist for The Guess Who, so it’s a bit surprising that he could churn out a single as explicitly cheesy as this one. It’s one of those dime-a-dozen “don’t let life get you down” anthems, this one in the form of a soft-rock ballad. Cummings himself, being a veteran in the industry, certainly has the pipes to pull off the range that the extravagant chorus needs to be effective. The problem lies in the lyrics, which really don’t offer anything particularly noteworthy, leaving this particular recording sadly lying in the dust.
62. “Jet Airliner” – Steve Miller Band: Honestly, I feel like if you’ve heard one Steve Miller Band, you’ve pretty much heard them all. The guitar here, however, is some of the best in any of the band’s singles thus far, providing a fun and poppy atmosphere upon which the rest of the song can build upon. Essentially, though, there isn’t very much else to build with a song about a guy riding a plane far away to an undisclosed location. Miller is back at it again with lazy vocals and even lazier rhymes. At least I admire his confidence.
61. “After the Lovin'” – Engelbert Humperdinck: We haven’t seen Humperdinck on these year-end chart’s since 1967’s “Release Me”, which I actually do like. Ten years later, this is a huge step down. I almost want to blame these sudden outbursts of schmaltz in talented performers on Barry Manilow’s popularity, but I know it’s probably not all his fault. Slow, symphonic, romantic post-sex love songs were just what was in demand at the time, I suppose. Anyway, there’s nothing decidedly wrong with Humperdinck himself, as it’s obvious he can carry a note. But verses like: “I sing you to sleep / After the lovin’ / I brush back the hair from your eyes / And the love on your face / Is so real / That it makes me want to cry”… That’s a whole different story.
60. “My Heart Belongs To Me” – Barbra Streisand: I really love Barbra and will eat up nearly anything she puts out. With that being said, this is one of her weakest efforts thus far. It doesn’t have nearly the same immediate emotional resonance as “People” or “The Way We Were”, and I think this is mostly due to the song’s flimsy melody and even more artificial lyrics. Still, it’s a nice perspective on breakups – thinking about the well-being of oneself over others’ possible desires is a mature outlook on ending a relationship, while also being the scariest. It’s refreshing to have a song like this in the midst of songs about love affairs that are incompatible at best and abusive at worst.
59. “New Kid in Town” – Eagles: Country music has never been a preferred genre of mine; country-rock, while often faring better, still tends to turn me off. Thus, once the general mood of this particular single sets in, I tend to tune it out as background music. I do admire the instrumentation, though, the guitars being particularly reminiscent of mariachi music. Nonetheless, it is an Eagles song, which I tend to find more annoying and same-sounding than anything else. It probably just my own personal bias, but I can’t see anything really special about this single over all their others, which follow the same basic beats and rhythms.
58. “Carry on Wayward Son” – Kansas: The fondest memories I have of this song involve playing it on Rock Band 2 (I know, I’m an awful millennial). Other than that, though, I can’t say it stirs anything notable in me. It seems more like a collection of parts from different pieces, strung together in a fashion that I guess was supposed to be quirky and unique, but just comes off a bit clumsy and unfinished. Still, that ending solo sure is a good one and I can’t help but sing along to that chorus every time it comes around.
57. “Heard it in a Love Song” – The Marshall Tucker Band: Hey, look! Another song about love songs – what a surprise! In all seriousness, though, the country-rock mood of this song is the kind of stuff I like to listen to. And yes, I’m being very contradictory after what I just said about the Eagles song a couple entries up, but I just don’t like the Eagles. This is just another of those country songs where the speaker claims that it’s in his nature to love someone and leave them before things get too serious. Yet with lines like “I’d stay another year if I saw teardrops in your eyes”, it’s evident that maybe his partner is someone he genuinely loves and is at a crossroads on where to take his life at this point. This song also has a pretty neat flute that comes in now and again, something I don’t hear often in rock music. I’m so happy to have finally come across a genuinely good, strong single on this chart, after such a bland string of nothingness.
56. “You’re My World” – Helen Reddy: As I mentioned before, I’ve always been generally lukewarm toward Helen Reddy’s singles. That she maintained her popularity throughout the course of the decade says more about the dated tastes of the era than it does about Reddy’s particular strengths as a performer. To be fair, she does have a good voice; it’s the quality of the work she records that becomes an issue. “You’re My World” is almost definitely her dullest work to date, with its boring rhyme scheme and trite sentimentalism. It’s a love song that just kind of blurts out its message with absolutely no nuance; the fact that it runs at less than three minutes long gives it even less of a chance to really prove itself worthy of anyone’s time. It’s sad to see such a promising talent go mercilessly wasted so gradually over time.
55. “Night Moves” – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band: Bob Seger has stated that partial influence for this song came from Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin’s cover was on the list earlier in the decade). However, this song particularly reminds me of Rod Stewarts “Maggie May”, in that it details a young, reckless love affair from the perspective of an older, more mature speaker reminiscing on old times. Besides the fact that the speaker’s reference to his lover’s breasts in the first verse is a bit off-putting, I really enjoy this song. The partially acoustic, mid-tempo vibe of the piece really emits a truly detailed sense of nostalgia that is rarely so successfully accomplished in similar songs. This is heightened by the final third of the song, where the tempo is slowed, time returns to present day, and the phrase “night moves” takes on a wholly different meaning. This final part begins to stand for much more than a love affair – anyone with memories from childhood could apply their own personal, deeper meaning to “Ain’t it funny how the night moves”. It’s definitely not a perfect song, but it does tap into those certain specific feelings rather well.
54. “Strawberry Letter 23” – The Brothers Johnson: Now this is how you do smooth funk! This song is so well-composed and finely recorded, with harmonies to die for and a super-divine synth riff. I have no clue why the false beginning is there, but once that funky rhythm kicks in I forget this ever-so-slight clumsiness. Surprisingly, it’s also got a bit of a psychedelic edge to it, with its colorful, vibrant imagery that makes little sense yet still gets the mood across very finely – not to mention that sudden keyboard solo straight out of mid-60s garage rock. Quincy Jones is one hell of a producer, and the Brothers Johnson are so damn interesting as well.
53. “Barracuda” – Heart: Hard-rockin’ ladies will always win over my cold, dead heart. And speaking of heart… I don’t think I will ever truly get over this song. That driving guitar riff always gets me going from the start, properly setting the stage for the anger and spite enveloped in Ann Wilson’s emblematic lyrics. Other than that, the song is relatively straight-forward, admittedly not too experimental in its form or execution. But boy, the emotional drive in this one sells it completely. This has become a classic rock staple for good reason.
52. “Don’t Stop” – Fleetwood Mac: Rumours is still one of my favorite albums of the 70s, but even I must admit that this song was always a low point of the listening experience. It just doesn’t resonate quite as much as many of the other tracks. Yet that’s not to say that it isn’t a great song in its own right – quite the contrary, actually. If “Go Your Own Way” is the soaring, anthemic side of heartbreak, “Don’t Stop” is the more upbeat and positive promise for new beginnings. Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie really drive the point home in ways that others could only dream of achieving.
51. “I Wish” – Stevie Wonder: While Innervisions may just be Stevie Wonder’s strongest album objectively, Songs in the Key of Life always holds a place in my heart for being the album to turn me onto the talented musician initially. The whole album kicks, but the singles are some of his most phenomenally poppy and charming of his most popular output. “I Wish” is yet another of those nostalgic yearnings for earlier days of reckless childhood, yet unlike most songs that follow such a theme, this one is unexpectedly upbeat and delightful through and through. That beginning bass line alone is one for the ages, setting such an infectious atmosphere that refuses to let up. Moreover, Wonder’s vocal performance here is among his very best – which is certainly saying a lot, given his history of straight hits, few misses! A terrific song overall.
50. “Lonely Boy” – Andrew Gold: This is such a peculiar song. For one thing, despite the song’s title, we get no indication as to how or why the titular boy is a lonely one. Though initially lauded as the only child for his parents, the addition of a baby sister leaves him jealous and betrayed, so he… runs away? Hardly a convincing story, unless Gold expects us to sympathize with someone for feelings that children tend to get over after some time. It doesn’t help that the rhyme scheme ranges from clunky to nonexistent, while Gold himself seems to not know how to perform in any way but flat and emotionless. I’m not buying this for one second.
49. “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)” – Johnny Rivers: Johnny Rivers is unusual to me, in the sense that he’s come up multiple times in the charts, yet fail to leave any real lasting impression with any of his singles. The only exception may be “Secret Agent Man”, but only because that’s been drilled in my brain through years of pop culture saturation. As it stands, “Swayin’ to the Music” – which would be Rivers’ final Top 40 hit – continues this trend. Sure, it’s good mood-making music for those lovers who may in fact be slow dancing. Besides this, though, the lyrics are dreadfully generic, never really moving beyond its simple, dull imagery of swayin’. I never thought Rivers himself to be very talented in the first place and this doesn’t really convince me otherwise.
48. “You and Me” – Alice Cooper: And here’s another Alice Cooper ballad to shake things up. Honestly, though, this one is actually a bit touching. The lyrics detail a relationship that may or may not be on the verge of falling off the rails. In any case, the speaker seems pretty content with staying in this painfully ordinary relationship, complete with “a bed, some popcorn, and TV”. I actually have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for these types of songs – love ballads that eliminate any facade of glitzy romance in favor of cynicism and plain day-to-day living. This isn’t a great song by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure is nice to see Alice Cooper putting out a more down-to-earth single that is actually somewhat enjoyable.
47. “Just a Song Before I Go” – Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Gosh, those harmonies are lovely. It’s kind of a shame, though, that this song is so short. Its subject matter – dealing with the poignancy of leaving family behind while on the road – is truly compelling, augmented by the textured acoustic melodies that provide a lonesome atmosphere to the piece. The guitar solos are really nice as well. While my main complaint about its fleeting running time may be a bit nitpicky, it’s only because I feel that the four lone verses, as beautiful as they are, leave much to be anticipated and the song’s sudden ending is disappointing. Yet this could parallel how the weeks, days, hours, and minutes before the departure of a loved one, despite how well paced and planned they are, never seem like nearly enough time.
46. “Handy Man” – James Taylor: While I always preferred “Good Timin'” over Jimmy Jones’ bigger hit single “Handy Man”, there’s no denying that it’s an irreplaceable slice from its very own distinct era in pop music. James Taylor’s cover, on the other hand, is such a harsh turnaround, it’s nearly unrecognizable. Nonetheless, I would dare say that this cover – which is definitely a “white cover” – may actually be an improvement. While the lyrics are a bit off-putting against Taylor’s arrangement (the “come-a, come-a” bits being unintentionally hilarious), the choice to give a more heartfelt edge to the song is a great one. That’s not even mentioning Taylor’s guitar-playing, which is a high point. This cover – as well as Jose Feliciano’s “Light My Fire” – had to have been a influence for José González and the ilk.
45. “Da Doo Ron Ron” – Shaun Cassidy: And now, once again, here’s how not to do a cover. I honestly had to double-check to make sure that I didn’t get some generic cover band or a karaoke version; that’s how terrible this production design is. As mentioned, Shaun Cassidy’s voice clashes awfully against upbeat arrangements and only works with more traditional teen idol fare. This is yet another example of how to squeeze the ever-living life out of something so fresh and awesome. Definitely one of the worst things to come from The Partridge Family.
44. “The Things We Do For Love” – 10cc: I may just prefer this song over “I’m Not In Love” – the production is far more sharper, that’s for sure. The lyrics are pretty fun as well, as the speaker details the numerous trials that come with falling in the treacherous trap of love. I just really love the line, “walking in the rain and the snow / When there’s nowhere to go / And you’re feelin’ like a part of you is dying”. I know how that feels!! It often comes off a bit too “motivational speaker”-y at times, but this is regulated by all those slick, smooth harmonies, as well as a sharp, catchy arrangement overall.
43. “Lucille” – Kenny Rogers: Hey Kenny; it’s been a while. Thankfully, this is not a cover of a Little Richard song, as I was painfully anticipating given the past history of successful cover songs on these charts. Instead, we’ve got a soft country song, telling the story of a woman who leaves her husband and kids for a night with the speaker at a dingy bar. While it pains me to admit, the grit and gravel of Rogers’ voice is extremely pleasing to the ears and I’d listen to this song numerous times over if only for that. The song itself is just mildly okay, though – we don’t hear enough of her side of the story enough to really justify that the speaker’s hesitation is justified. We actually don’t hear too much of the story at all, leaving far too much of it uncolored for me to even give a damn. Still, that voice-guitar combo is killer.
42. “I’m in You” – Peter Frampton: This year, Frampton inexplicably decided to follow up his successful live album with an oddly simple, piano-oriented power ballad. Yet with lyrics like “I’m in you, you’re with me / ‘Cause you gave me the love / Love that I never had”, its clear that there’s a bit of a step down in overall quality. Then again, “Show Me The Way” is pretty nonsensical in its vagueness – but at least that was charming! This one adamantly refuses any notion of personality, its simplicity being far too inane and innocuous to leave any sort of impression at all, good or bad. I could only imagine that the title alone gave many a high schooler a good chuckle.
41. “Dazz” – Brick: After wading through an ocean of mediocrity, I was afraid that I may never come across another great song on this list again. Thankfully, Brick comes alone like a breath of fresh air to introduce an entirely new genre of music – in their words, “Dazz, dazz / disco-jazz!”. Truthfully, I hear more disco and funk in this recording; save for the instrumental breaks, there’s very little semblance of jazz to be found here. Still, I never thought I’d find a such a neat flute solo in any dance track. Unlike other disco tracks that introduce the beat and gradual build from there, “Dazz” starts up like a gut punch, right at its peak, and only gets more joyful from there. One of the many notable tracks I can’t help but dance along to every time it plays.
40. “Enjoy Yourself” – The Jacksons: The most fascinating aspect of this single is the opportunity to listen to a grown-up Michael Jackson’s matured, seasoned voice, mere years before he would reach superstardom via solo career. Truthfully, though, this recording falters in that it simply just isn’t as catchy or creative as many of their past singles. The group has definitely proven that they could put out some real distinct pop-R&B tunes; they trade these strengths in, however, for a more downtempo vibe and a chorus that simply repeats its title again and again. This is also the first single from the group since departing from Motown – perhaps this was a move that works only to their disadvantage.
39. “Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac: I must confess that I often confuse this song and “Rhiannon”, if only for its simple, bass-driven arrangement and lead vocals from Stevie Nicks. Other than that, the two are hardly similar. “Dreams” follows along with the overlying theme on Rumours: relationships ending and the resulting emotional journey that occurs. Indeed, Nicks definitely wrote this song with her and Buckingham’s own breakup in mind, yet the bitterness that lies in the background of “Go Your Own Way” is instead replaced with sadness and shades of regret. It’s the knowledge that the speaker is entering a new stage of their life, replete with confusion and emotional turmoil. Nicks’ performance is fantastic, as is both the tight percussion and smooth, ethereal guitar backdrop. Definitely one of the highest points of Rumours.
38. “So In To You” – Atlanta Rhythm Section: I don’t know why the word “into” is separated like that, but I’ll digress. This is some pretty neat jazz-influenced Southern rock, with the keyboard/guitar combo being especially light and perky. The lead singer has a really good voice, even if the arrangement doesn’t leave him much room to show off his range. Overall, I just love how sleazy this song sounds. It’s consistently running over with sexual frustration, while still being utterly sharp and listenable. Songs such as these are usually a bit of a risky move, but everything just works so well here it’s hard not to appreciate it for what it is.
37. “Looks Like We Made It” – Barry Manilow: I feel like I’m listening to way too much Manilow than what’s good for my health. While Elton John, Wings, The Beatles, and Elvis have certainly had more songs on these charts over the years, at least they keep their warm welcome with how diverse their sound could get, something that Manilow can’t exactly claim. I feel like I’m going crazy because every one of these songs sound exactly the same. Okay, not exactly, since the song in question this times deals specifically with an ex-couple who each found love with a new significant other, which is new. This one’s actually a bit more interesting, since the title suggests a blissful optimism that, while still present in the song’s story, is nonetheless tinged with the sadness of loving memories forever gone. But what could have been a really enjoyable song is inevitably ruined by Manilow’s inexplicable need to make everything so pompous and melodramatic and over-the-top. This one even has an upward key change to seal the deal!
36. “Blinded By The Light” – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: Three weird things about this song: (1) it’s a Springsteen cover; (2) I always forget that there are other words to this song besides the hook, in which I swear he’s singing “wrapped up like a douche”; and (3) this is from the same guy that brought us “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, which couldn’t be any different from this proggy recording. It is a weird song as a whole, though. A read-through of the lyrics indicates that it may just be an exercise in creative rhymes, rather than an effort to make any cohesive narrative whatsoever. Still, those keyboards are absolutely killer – those alone may just be the song’s sole redeeming factor.
35. “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” – Natalie Cole: I was really sad when I heard of Natalie Cole’s passing late last year. Separate from the fact of who her father was, she was a wonderful talent of her own. With this single in particular, I’m reminded of Aretha Franklin whose fantastic vocals could make even the most dismal of productions into something magical. I could only imagine that folks were blown away by the special range demonstrated by Cole; she sings the title the first few times with a soft, seductive demeanor, gradually building up to a powerful demonstration of her professed feelings. And while the production is far from the centerpiece in this recording, the piano throughout and midway guitar solo both set the mood fantastically. A simple love song, sure, but also a rather well-composed one.
34. “Right Time of the Night” – Jennifer Warnes: While the previous song definitely gave off some notion of a lush night of passion, this one does not at all, despite being the one that actually states it’s about “makin’ love”. Jennifer Warnes has a pretty good voice, but the song just feels like it drags on and on without transforming into anything interesting or vibrant. I usually hope with songs like these that I’d feel like I’m somewhat feeling how the speaker feels, and I’m just not getting that at all here. It’s forgettable pop-country fluff, nothing more than that.
33. “Easy” – Commodores: With the rising popularity of these low-tempo soul love ballads, I sometimes wonder if Commodores were ever really a funk band at all. This would be a pretty good companion piece to Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy”, even if they both are very different themetically and stylistically. Lionel Richie hear sings about a desire to have no chains in his love- and pleasure-seeking ventures. Unfortunately, this is a broad step back from the potential of his performance. The best parts of this single come from the simple, clean electric guitar solo right before the final choruses, as well as the cool harmonies from other members of the Commodores in the backdrop. “Easy like Sunday morning” is a cool phrase to attach to the song, but the track itself is less than memorable.
32. “Couldn’t Get It Right” – Climax Blues Band: This is a nice, catchy, blues-rock-esque hit with a nice cowbell that keeps up the beat throughout. It was actually released the previous year, but didn’t really go anywhere until it was given a second chance. It’s one of those classic tales of a man on the road, looking for meaning in life. It’s a nice detour from the saturation of disco, soft-rock, and soft-pop on this list; it’s pop-rock flavor feels a bit 60s-ish, but the four-on-the-floor beat and electric guitar flavor keep it grounded in its era. I like this one!
31. “Feels Like the First Time” – Foreigner: In terms of its sound, this is just as vanilla as “Cold As Ice”, yet it’s somehow better. Sure, the lyrics sound like they were strategically assembled from various Valentines Day cards (“It’s just the woman in you / That brings out in the man in me”). But the way those verses build up to the chorus is just so inexplicably pleasing, even if the end result leaves much to be desires. Plus those synths throughout and the delicious guitar solo are so very glam-rock, I can’t help but be drawn in by this song’s charms, if only for a little while.
30. “On and On” – Stephen Bishop: Besides its already hokey lyrics, I just can’t get over the way Bishop slurs over the words “on and on” like a drunken cat. While it is nice to listen to a sentimental, acoustic-led ballad every once in a while, more often then not they come off as disingenuous and cloying. Unfortunately, while this may have come from a special part of Bishop’s heart, this is still no exception to the rule. He just kind of comes off as this era’s John Mayer.
29. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – David Soul: This is one of the most 70s songs I’ve ever come across on the charts. Despite his name, David Soul’s only US hit single is the least soulful thing imaginable. This was released with intention to further capitalize on Starsky and Hutch and the rushed nature of it shows. Soul’s voice is depressingly flat and shaky throughout, especially evident when he tries to hit those climactic high notes. Even worse is that this is yet another song about two people who simply do not belong together; “I really lost my head last night / You’ve got a right to start believin’ / There’s still a little love left, even so” – No! Just break up! Adding in another sickly sweet key change results in just another incompetent bullshit love song.
28. “Fly Like an Eagle” – Steve Miller Band: What a messy song. One minute Steve’s singing about the passage of time; next he’s expressing a desire to rid all the bad in the world. This is all strung together by its “I want to fly like an eagle” chorus, which… yeah, what the hell? It’s just a bunch of nonsense words and phrases strung together so they sound cool and catchy to some degree. Sure, it’s synth-driven backdrop is pretty cool in a dreamy funk kinda way, but even that loses its heat after a little while. Pretty disappointing, considering that Steve Miller Band do know how to carve a catchy, blues-rock riff and make it stick. This just seems beyond their element.
27. “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” – Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.: Finally!!! Back to disco. Interestingly enough, this comes from two former members of The 5th Dimension, who were huge in the latter parts of the 60s. The sleek, soulful energy of this track almost sound like something The 5th Dimension would have release in their prime, but there’s no denying that its strings, drums, and danceable rhythm are purely disco. McCoo and Davis have some great, fun chemistry and play off of each others’ strengths wonderfully. Other than that, the song isn’t anything particularly outstanding, which makes me wonder if its success is due to their simply being recognizable names. Regardless, I’m very happy to have listened to it.
26. “Car Wash” – Rose Royce: Once again, Rose Royce has always been more of a “smooth R&B” band to me – “Ooh Boy”, “I’m Going Down”, “Wishing on a Star”, and even “I Wanna Get Next to You” are swell examples of this. Nonetheless, while I’ve yet to watch the film from which this song originates, its charms are obvious and plenty. The introductory buildup (clapping hands, to funky bass, to sweet guitar licks, to drums and piano, etc.) is the stuff that most songs of its caliber could only dream of accomplishing – it is a Whitfield track, after all! Once the strings kick in, the track is suddenly brimming with essential disco bliss. This isn’t Gwen Dickey’ best vocal performance, but the personality that she – and later, other members – brings to the recording is unparalleled. Not too bad for a song that is quite literally about working at a car wash.
25. “Hot Line” – The Sylvers: More G-rated disco from The Sylvers, this one containing the line, “Baby, I’m burning like a house on fire”. Enough said!
24. “When I Need You” – Leo Sayer: Wow… this song is really making me miss the boogie-woogie blues days of Leo Sayer. This is yet another generic, tender love song that, if given a few minor chords, could easily come from the likes of Manilow. I will say, however, that this is a grower and I enjoy it a little more with each listen. Not that I could ever listen to this willingly on my own free time… especially not with cryptic lines such as “It’s not easy when the road is your driver / Honey that’s a heavy load that we bear”. That is a nifty sax solo, though.
23. “Rich Girl” – Hall & Oates: I’ve always thought this song was so fun and catchy (and still do), but now that I’m closely reading the lyrics, it’s actually very mean-spirited. Who are Hall and Oates to criticize the titular girl on how she decides to spend her (or her father’s) money? How does the speaker play in this story anyway? Are they family? Friends? An ex-lover? A random onlooker? In any case, it’s a little cruel to suggest that she’ll “never be strong” just because she may never know the plight of the middle-class. And then there’s the line “It’s so easy to hurt others when you can’t feel pain”, which assumes even more dastardly things about her character due to the simple fact that she has money. It seems that the prevailing attitude here is that one has to struggle with finances and life in general in order to be seen as a fully-formed, respectable human being. She seems to be in the same boat more or less as the speaker – trying to get by in the real world for the first time – but just uses access to her dad’s wealth to her advantage to make things simpler for herself. And more power to her! Assuming that her problems are nonexistent is just being bitter as hell. For all we know, she could have some real dilemmas of her own such as, I don’t know, being accused of being heartless and evil because she dares to “live for the thrill of it all”. I think Hall & Oates should stop being such nosey individuals and worry about their own problems before mindlessly judging others.
22. “Southern Nights” – Glen Campbell: Wherein Glen Campbell truly goes John Denver on everyone’s asses. In truth though, this is wonderful and I really wish more country music was this sharp and blissful. Campbell begins by painting a sumptuous portrait of the beautiful southern nights of his fantasy, told amidst a musical backdrop that harks back to New Orleans-style country and jazz. Around the final third of the song, however, the song takes a slightly darker turn, where the speaker desires a world as pure and lovely as the atmosphere of the untouchable nighttime. A bit ham-fisted, maybe, but regardless it’s a delightful listen in its entirety.
21. “Gonna Fly Now” – Bill Conti, DeEtta Little, and Nelson Pigford: It’s interesting that two of the most recognizable movie themes of all time both came from 1977 films. It’s even more strange that Rocky‘s theme ranked supremely higher than Star Wars‘, though it does make sense now given that the former film was a more overarching critical and audience darling in its day. For the record, I never really fell in love with the Rocky franchise, but I always look forward to Conti’s composition, which is practically the definitive soundtrack to all training montages to come. Just listening to it now makes me want to watch the first movie. Those horns and strings are killer (and so 70s), as is the nice electric jazz guitar solo that comes in about halfway through. Though I was never a fan of the choral bits (“gonna fly now”, etc.), whole track is already so darn epic it hardly dampers the mood.
20. “Got to Give It Up” – Marvin Gaye: Wherein Marvin Gaye tries his hand at this whole disco thing. Apparently this song was produced as Gaye’s attempt to parody the whole disco scene (“Baby, just party, high and low / Let me step into your erotic zone”), but it inadvertently became one of the most popular dance tracks of the era. That groove contains just enough of a R&B/funk bounce to keep things interesting, and although Gaye’s consistent falsetto often make the lyrics incomprehensible, his professional fingerprints are all over this track. It’s a bit weird that a live recording should rank so high, since I could only imagine that the collection of various background noises would be a distraction. But I guess there’s already enough of that going on in a party setting to where it wouldn’t even make a difference. Honestly, Gaye has done much better, but I think this does its job quite alright nonetheless.
19. “Hotel California” – Eagles: As a native Southern Californian, I’ve heard this song enough times to be perfectly okay with never listening to it ever again. In fact, after I finish this paragraph, I plan to never again extend any more willpower to listen to it ever again. Just that single opening chord alone is enough to get an audible groan from me – but I’ll digress and try to judge this objectively. Those guitars are cool, but Don Henley’s voice can just hide away in a dark place forever. I don’t mind the melody too much, as dull as it is, but Henley brings as much passion to it as a wet paper napkin. The lyrics aren’t terrible, but have a certain annoyingly vague quality that prevents me from investigating any further – unlike, say, “Ode to Billie Joe”, which at least got me invested in the mystery at its core. I can only surmise that this song got as popular as it did only because it happened to be what listeners desired at the time. The Spanish flavor given to the recording is certainly distinct, but over time it’s come to reveal itself as distractingly artificial. That outro guitar solo is definitely the best part of the single, but so far from the best of all time. Canon rock really bugs me sometimes.
18. “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder: “Sir Duke” – like, as I mentioned, all of Songs in the Key of Life – holds a special place in my heart, as it’s probably the one song that really made me fall for Stevie Wonder and urged me to delve further into his work. It may have also turned me onto Duke Ellington on accident. But I just love this song! It’s a love song for jazz music – or music in general – and the wonderful feelings that great tunes that bring by simply being played by talented musicians. Sure it’s cheesy as hell (“Music is a world within itself / With a language we all understand”), but its innocent, seemingly naive sensibilities are what make it so charming, I think. Wonder sounds as great as ever, and this is undoubtedly his explicitly catchiest song (yes, even more so than “Superstition”). On that note, I wonder if anyone has ever written a tribute to/parody of this song, essentially describing what Wonder’s describing but its subject matter being specifically about “Sir Duke” and Stevie Wonder. After all, he probably is to pop R&B what Ellington was to jazz music.
17. “Do You Wanna Make Love” – Peter McCann: Oh great, another dull soft-pop love song, sung by some ordinary, run-of-the-mill vocalist. It’s really weird how the verses are some deep pontifications of life and love (“Sometimes the love rhymes that fill that afternoon / Lose all their meaning with the rising moon”), while the chorus is blatantly blunt and simple (“Do you wanna make love / Or do you just wanna fool around?”). It makes McCann seem truly disingenuous with his emotions and the message he wants to get across. I understand the frustration with being given mixed signals in a relationship, but maybe he should just have a bit of patience – “foolin’ around” really isn’t all that bad in the first place. I do like the jazz guitar bits, but there’s never enough of it to really justify making this an enjoyable listening experience.
16. “Whatcha Gonna Do?” – Pablo Cruise: I’ve been listening to the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast for several weeks now and generally enjoy every episode. Most importantly, it’s given me a better understanding of the “yacht rock” subgenre, mainly with qualities that make certain musicians and songs distinctly yacht rock. I’m pretty sure that the synths, jazzy guitar, and bluesy vocals found in this song make Pablo Cruise a yacht rock band. However, I find myself more admiring the almost gospel-like quality of its form, specifically its call-and-response style chorus and its soulful vibes in general. It’s a simple song about a breakup, which does keep it from being anything remarkable. But I’d have to thank J.D. Ryznar and the guys for giving me a broader understanding of yacht rock; otherwise I probably wouldn’t find this as fun as I do now.
15. “Telephone Line” – Electric Light Orchestra: ELO are just a huge bunch of band nerds, aren’t they? In any case, I’m glad they’ve given us such a nice array of symphonic jams to revel in. This tends to follow along the same beats as “Can’t Get It Out of My Head”, and it’s hard for me to decide which of the two I find the most pleasingly melodramatic. I think this one gets a few extra points, if only for that Moog synthesizer at the beginning, which gives my heart such a flutter. It’s evident with the choral parts in the beginning that they want to be Queen so badly, but I think they do a pretty fine job nonetheless. This is a nice recording.
14. “Margaritaville” – Jimmy Buffett: Way to build an entire franchise off an entire song, Jimmy Buffett. This song just gives me this lingering image of drunken white guys in Hawaiian shirts dancing alongside a swimming pool, wearing sunglasses and clutching said margarita in hand. This isn’t a very pleasant image. To date, this great article from Rani Baker is definitely my favorite Jimmy Buffett-related thing out there, and probably the only one I legitimately enjoy.
13. “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” – Leo Sayer: ’77 seems to be the year of Leo Sayer. Out of the previous comeback singles that we’ve seen on this year’s list, this one is definitely the strongest. Sung almost entirely through falsetto, it’s almost certainly a Bee Gees ripoff single, but it’s still so strong one wonders why Sayer didn’t just stay with this schtick. It’s yet another love song, yet the emotions put to music are just so cute in its simplicity. I think we’ve all met that one person who inexplicably makes us feel like dancing, in some way or another. It’s nothing too special, but its too damn agreeable to hate.
12. “Dancing Queen” – ABBA: As big of an ABBA nerd as I claim to be, you’d be pressed to find me listening to “Dancing Queen” during my frequent ABBA listening marathons. Besides the fact that it’s easily their most overplayed track, it lacks a lot of what I love about the group. Their signature sound characterized by dark, Bergmanian imagery filtered through a catchy beat and great harmonies is replaced with relatively generic lyrics and more upbeat disco. While many from the “disco sucks” crowd complain about the Rolling Stones or KISS selling out to disco, had I been around in the day, ABBA’s foray into the genre may just be the breaking point for me – that is, if the song weren’t so damn awesome. Yes, this is so different from what I’m used to from them, but that chorus alone is enough to bring me back to when I was a teen, a simpler time when I believe that I was indeed a dancing queen. The whole melody is pleasant, but once the chorus kicks in – and especially the “You can dance, you can jive / Having the time of your life” part – it’s just plain euphoria. Filtered through lush instrumentals (Those strings! That piano!) and emitted through the power of Anni-Frid and Agnetha’s distinct vocals. And while this is not nearly as dark and existential as some of ABBA’s other output, I feel nothing but joy while listening through all four wonderful minutes of the track, proving that the group could do outright elation just as well. These are all reasons why this has become a staple at karaoke for me. Much love, ABBA.
11. “I’m Your Boogie Man” – KC & the Sunshine Band: This is definitely a step up from “Keep It Comin’ Love” – and the rest of their singles output thus far, in fact. It’s true that the lyrics are barely better and even give off a little more of a creep vibe than ever before (I still don’t know what “I want to be your rubber ball” means, though), but at least there’s a bit more of an edge – something slightly more going on than just “shake your booty” or “get down tonight”. KC himself is, once again, overshadowed by the horns and production overall, which is some of the best that the group has ever recorded. It’s definitely flawed, but if you’re looking for a good disco track, it does its job.
10. “Torn Between Two Lovers” – Mary MacGregor: One of the coolest qualities of this list, to me, is the fact that six of the top ten singles are credited toward women. This makes it the most women-centric top ten in every list since 1957 (second place goes to ’62, where it was exactly 50% representation both ways). Little statistics like these are always pleasing to me, since women are historically underrepresented and under-appreciated amongst the music industry. Moving onto the song in question… I quite like this one, but it’s also pretty frustrating. I think MacGregor does a great job at laying out all the emotions of the song on the table and her soft, wistful voice does the complicated material pretty good justice. However, it is a bit questionable how the speaker begs her partner to stay with her, despite her infidelity and the assumption that she has no intention of leaving the other man. If anything, I’m more concerned for her well-being – there’s no need to beat yourself up over your emotions. Embrace your situation or move on to something more fitting for your predicament. Love yourself, girl!
9. “Undercover Angel” – Alan O’Day: While he had previously found success composing songs for other artists, “Undercover Angel” is Alan O’Day’s most well-received single as a solo artist. It’s definitely a weird one, essentially some kind of weird fantasy where a literal angel comes down to save the speaker from debilitating heartache by having sex with him. The keyboard riff is catchy enough, but O’Day’s weak delivery make it pretty clear how he was to become a one-hit wonder. Nonetheless, as campy as it is, it knows not to take itself seriously and it’s somewhat catchy, as ashamed as I am to admit.
8. “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher” – Rita Coolidge: Yet another one of these cover songs of which I’m really not a huge fan. At least Coolidge’s arrangement dares to do something daringly unique – I could barely recognize Jackie Wilson’s original amidst the 70s style production. Unfortunately, this change in mood and tone results in a song that is significantly less exciting and more boring. The gospel flavor that made the original so vibrant is barely found in the background vocals, while Coolidge’s more listless new melody is at the forefront. It’s far from the worst of these cover songs, but as with most cover songs, it’s definitely a step down.
7. “Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston: Philly Soul meets disco in the most blissful way imaginable. Professionally produced by Gamble & Huff and brought to life by the electric vocals of Houston, it’s hard to believe that this was indeed a cover of a Teddy Pendergrass song. Houston really makes it her own, her vocals starting off smooth and seductive, gradually building to an explosive, emotional plea for understanding, with the musical background following suit. Besides the vocals, the disco strings and fabulous bass line help to make this one of the definitive hits of the era. I do wish Motown would have done more to promote Houston after the success of this hit; she’s truly a talent that deserved more than her one brief blast at fame.
6. “I Like Dreamin'” – Kenny Nolan: Men singing about their sex fantasies were a big thing in the late 70s, weren’t they? This one is just far too corny to take seriously for a second. Here’s the entire first verse: “I see us on the shore beneath the bright sunshine / We’ve walked along St. Thomas beach a million times / Hand in hand, two barefoot lovers kissing in the sand / Side by side, the tide rolls in / I’m touching you, you’re touching me / If only it could be”… Trust me, it doesn’t get much better after that. Kenny Nolan sucks and this is one of the most dated songs I’ve come across this decade. Yes, it’s even more dated than “Disco Duck”.
5. “Angel in Your Arms” – Hot: See, this is the kind of infidelity anthem I like to hear. The speaker in this song responds to the discovery of her partner’s cheating ways by going behind their back herself and having some liaisons of her own. The tune is a bit flimsy and the vocalist barely forms any real personality of her own, but it’s a fine song. It is a shame that 70s pop music, while brimming with some really interesting talented performers from numerous sectors, often has the most ordinary singles being the most commercially successful. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of this trend.
4. “Evergreen (Love Theme From ‘A Star is Born’)” – Barbra Streisand: Though I’ve yet to watch A Star is Born (this includes the original and its two remakes), I’ve been aware of “Evergreen” for at least a few years. While Streisand has always been among the best at making emotional, melodramatic ballads, this is sadly one of the weakest I’ve heard from her. If the opening lines are any indication (“Love, soft as an easy chair / Love, fresh as the morning air”), this song is overflowing with so much schmaltz, the result is just another cheesy, drippy love song. Streisand sounds great, to no surprise, but there’s no reason to listen to this song when “People” and “The Way We Were” already exist – they both hit all the same marks that this one does, being far more effective in the meantime. I am happy that this one her a Grammy, though.
3. “Best of My Love” – The Emotions: One would be hard-pressed to find many girl groups having as much success in this era as the early-60s “Wall of Sound” era, but The Emotions surely did it and deservedly so. Honestly, the similarities to The Supremes end right at them being a female trio – the tremendous, soulful vocal power demonstrated by all three of these ladies is unparalleled, and the sharp, polished production only works to their advantage. It’s just so bouncy and upbeat, positively reflecting upon similar warming feelings of the love about which they sing so rapturously. It’s almost like a religious experience for the speaker, with how passionate this song is from beginning to end. A righteously fun staple of 70s R&B and miles ahead the Eagles song of the same name.
2. “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” – Andy Gibb: This is a pretty good song, but I’m suspicious that the reasons it ranked so highly on this list is all due to Gibb’s older brothers finding their own success as the Bee Gees. Truthfully, I could’ve been fooled into thinking that this was just another disco-era Bee Gees single – although the lyrics are decidedly more bubblegum teen pop than adult-oriented disco. Still, Gibb voice suits the mood of nocturnal romance emitted in this song. It’s just short enough to not wear out its welcome, resulting in a tight and sharp-ended single. One could find much better production in similar-sounding songs (even other Bee Gees tracks), but this is perfectly fine for what it is.
1. “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” – Rod Stewart: How is it that some of the worst songs of the year manage to do well enough to make it as the best-selling single of the year? This almost seems specifically a mid- to late-70s problem, which doesn’t leave me much hope for the 80s. The dreamy guitars and overall seductive production isn’t the issue. It’s Rod Stewart himself and the way he so nonchalantly brags about having sex with a young woman. And we know it’s a young woman through Stewart’s carefully selected phrases such as “my virgin child”, which make this an unbearably discomforting song to listen to. His previous hit “Maggie May” also dealt with a love affair between two people of significant age difference (he was the younger one here), but that song consisted mostly of complicated feelings the two had for each other once the night of passion was over. “Tonight’s The Night”, on the other hand, is purely about this night of passion and without much context, the story is boring as sin. And yes, it’s also so fucking creepy. Lines like “Don’t deny your man’s desire / You’d be a fool to stop this tide / Spread your wings and let me come inside” don’t make this any easier to digest. Moreover, the French dialect at the end is so clumsily added in, I’d be more convinced that it was pasted in by mistake. What a terrible song to become so popular.