Wow. I thought narrowing down the best songs of the sixties to ten in a list was a difficult task. The best songs of the seventies is even worse. Yikes. Again, my aim is to feature songs that are in my own experience, quintessential songs of the era in question. I personally believe that the Seventies is the best rock decade ever though not too apparent based on this list. Here they are, after some serious consideration, the best songs of the seventies in alphabetical order.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1975)
Yet another ground-breaking single (over six minutes long) with its distinctive operatic section establishing Queen’s reputation long after the untimely death of Freddie Mercury.
Dancing Queen – ABBA (1976)
One could probably curate any one of ABBA’s big hit singles as representative of the Swedish quartet’s massive sway over the decade. However, “Dancing Queen” makes the cut for its feel-good classical-disco vibe and its every(wo)man sentiment.
Elton John – Rocket Man (1972)
A song inspired by scifi writer Ray Bradbury and reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. The lyrics capture the ennui and mundanity of a jobbing astronaut perfectly while the music is a pleasing smooth ride, like a flight in space.
Heart of Gold – Neil Young (1972)
My earliest re-collection of Neil Young just happens to be his most successful song and probably his best known. Famously of course, Young’s response to getting into the middle of the road was to head straight into the ditch!
“Heroes” – David Bowie (1977)
You might argue that when it was released, “Heroes” was not the commercial smash that “Let’s Dance” was in the 80s. However, in hindsight, the song – co-written by Bowie and Brian Eno – has risen over the decades since to become Bowie’s most popular anthem.
Hotel California – The Eagles (1977)
This ubiquitous pub and bar favourite might have become overplayed but the title track of The Eagles’ fifth studio album certainly marked the bands’ creative and commercial peak. With its cryptic lyrics, legendary lead guitar outro and song length (over 6 minutes), it is surprising perhaps it topped the Billboard Singles Chart #1 in May 1977.
Money – Pink Floyd (1973)
Pink Floyd played a big part in establishing albums as the main creative and commercial focus for music fans over singles in the 70s. However, “Money” with its cash register sound effects and unique 7/4 time signature still managed to crack the Singles Chart. Certainly a high for 70s progressive rock.
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple (1973)
The classic riff that opens “Smoke on the Water” probably accounts for its inclusion on this list. It is synonymous with rock music and instantly recognisable. That hook dug deep enough for the single to end up in the top 3 of both American and Canadian hit parade!
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (1971)
The most popular rock song of all time? Hard to argue with that assessment. A running time of 8 minutes with three distinct sections does not lend itself to commerciality but Led Zeppelin sold albums in truckloads so the single was inconsequential.
Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees (1977)
A blessing and a curse from the Bee Gees’ perspective. While it provided the Gibb brothers with massive success, “Stayin’ Alive” and the other hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack unfairly pigeonholed the trio as a disco act. Love it or hate it, the song defined the 70s and the Bee Gees.
As a rule of thumb, I have excluded acts that were included in my sixties list – which allows for greater variety. Yes indeed, “BUT how could you not include ____________________ (fill in the blank) in the best songs of the seventies?” – let me know what you think at the Power of Pop Facebook page.
… still there’s more …