April 29, 2016
#16 – The Kinks – “Lola” – (1970)
The Kinks are one of the most underrated bands of all time and this is one of their best songs. The song is actually about a man dancing with a man disguised as a woman. It was an unexpected hit (due to its strange subject matter). There was actually some backlash about it – which sounds ridiculous today, but whatever. Strangely, because it mentions “Coca-Cola” the song was banned by the BBC (so Ray Davies had to record alternate lyrics for the official single release). Good thing he did because it ended up as a #2 song in the U.K. and a top ten hit in the U.S.
April 27, 2016
#17 – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Mr. Bojangles” – (1970)
This country folk song is about a tap dancer. It was written by Jerry Jeff Walker and most successfully recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who took the song into the top 10 on the Hot 100. I would even go so far as to describe this song as “borderline pretty.”
April 25, 2016
#18 – James Gang – “Funk #49” – (1970)
Before Joe Walsh joined the Eagles, he was a member of James Gang, a band he joined in 1968. This is probably their biggest hit and Walsh left the band in 1971. It’s a classic rock staple and it peaked at #59 on the Hot 100 (so technically it was their third-biggest hit… but their most remembered).
April 22, 2016
#19 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Hey Tonight” – (1970)
CCR put out a ton of awesome hit songs in only three short years. 1970 was chock full of them but this is my favorite, even though it might not be the best (1969 was a better year for them anyway). This was the last album with the full CCR crew and the only single was a dual single: “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?/Hey Tonight.” Together, they peaked at #8. It’s a fun song.
April 20, 2016
#20 – Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride” – (1970)
This song is kind of reminiscent of The Looking Glass’s “Brandy”. Maybe nautical-themed songs were just popular in the early 1970s, who knows. Blues Image was kind of a one-hit wonder with this #4 hit.
April 18, 2016
#21 – Ray Stevens – “Everything Is Beautiful” – (1970)
Here we are with our final Top 21 countdown for the 1970s before we take a break for the summer and return with the 1960s. Ray Stevens is best remembered for comedic songs that border on novelty status like “The Streak.” But he actually had two #1 hits, “The Streak,” and this beautiful tune. Story time: I was once sitting in France eating dinner outside and I heard a bunch of kids singing something in French (that I couldn’t understand) to a strangely familiar tune. It was this. And it was a strange experience.
April 15, 2016
Scorpions – “Wind of Change” – (1990)
It’s the whistling that gets you here and sucks you in. I always forget that the Scorpions are German and I usually forgot about this song. This is from that awful era of the late 1980s and the first few years of the 1990s where hair band ballads were still relevant and black and white music videos were all the rage. Here’s a famous one.
April 13, 2016
The Cars – “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” – (1978)
From the opening chords and lyrics you might think (see what I did there?) that this isn’t anything special – but the chorus is really what sells this song. It wasn’t a major hit (it wasn’t even technically released as a single) but it still receives airplay here and there.
April 11, 2016
The Beatles – “No Reply” – (1964)
Okay, it’s apparently hard to find Beatles songs on YouTube. The video below sort of has the song, broken up by a bunch of weird, racist 60s cartoons. It’s not The Beatles’ best work, but it’s not terrible and is kind of underrated.
April 8, 2016
#1 – Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” – (1971)
Listen to this and tell me Marvin Gaye wasn’t an incredible singer and songwriter (he co-wrote this one). The song was written about police brutality originally, but given the timely nature of its release it was the perfect song to sum up a lot of people’s feelings on Vietnam. Disappointingly, it only made it to #2 on the Hot 100, but it doesn’t matter because it remains of the greatest songs ever recorded.
April 6, 2016
#2 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – (1971)
The band Wings would not form until after this album was released, so it was technically a Paul McCartney solo album, though he did share credit with his wife, Linda. Not everyone loves this song, but I think it’s marvelous. From the sound effects to the split A/B layout of the track. Apparently, this song was multiple McCartney half-written tracks stitched together. Strange process, but it worked, propelling it to #1.
April 4, 2016
#3 – The Who – “Wont Get Fooled Again” – (1971)
Who’s Next is one of the best albums of the 1970s and the best thing The Who ever did. It has some of their best songs on it, including this eight and a half minute epic of a rock song with a brilliant opening that makes a good number of people want to dramatically take off their sunglasses and peer into the distance like David Caruso on CSI: Miami, the show for which this was the theme song.
April 1, 2016
#4 – The Hollies – “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)” – (1971)
The Hollies album Distant Light was released in the U.S. in 1972 but it came out in the U.K. in 1971. Additionally, the U.K. version of the song does not have the parenthetical title like the U.S. version does. This. Song. Rocks. Peaking at #2 on the Hot 100, it has a very recognizable guitar twang that is purposefully reminiscent of the style of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
March 30, 2016
#5 – John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – (1971)
Well this spot was originally reserved for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”… but that came out in 1969 (not sure what I was thinking). So I needed a replacement. It came down to “Me and Bobby McGee” or this. I made the right decision because the more you listen to John Denver (and the more you really listen to the songwriting) the better it gets. It was a #2 song on the Hot 100.
March 28, 2016
#6 – Don McLean – “American Pie” – (1971)
Many people consider this among the greatest songs ever written. It’s Don McLean’s biggest (but not only) hit. Most know that the song has strong allusions to the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper on their plane or “The Day The Music Died.” Aside from that, the song has a lot of references to other pop culture events in the 1960s. It’s timeless.
March 25, 2016
#7 – Carole King – “I Feel The Earth Move” – (1971)
From one of the greatest albums of the 1970s, Tapestry, we have one of Carole King’s best works. It was a #1 hit and has an almost jazzy upbeatness about it that set it apart. It’s, in a word, great.
March 23, 2016
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#8 – The Temptations – “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” – (1971)
Imagination Week continues with a song so smooth that, with one exception, brought a halt to The Temptations string of hit records. Times were changing and that old 60s soul wasn’t selling quite the same – this was the final Temptations single to feature Eddie Kendricks. This #1 is one of their greatest songs.
March 21, 2016
#9 – Gene Wilder – “Pure Imagination” – (1971)
That’s right, this song sung by a brilliant comedic actor from one of his family films is one of the ten best songs of 1971. It was written for the film by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Gene Wilder gives a solid performance on vocals to a whimsical tune. The song has the ability to just suck you out of reality and put you in a fantasy land. It’s magical.
March 18, 2016
#10 – James Taylor – “You’ve Got a Friend” – (1971)
This James Taylor #1 hit was written by Carole King, who is more or less the female equivalent of James Taylor. Or is James Taylor the male equivalent of Carole King? It won two Grammy awards and remains one of James Taylor’s most popular and beloved songs.
March 16, 2016
#11 – Jethro Tull – “Locomotive Breath” – (1971)
Jethro Tull is one of the strangest rock bands of all time. Their main man played the flute. Yet, this song is one of the greatest classic rock songs ever. It’s a mix of progressive rock and just plain, hard rock. They say that it is supposed to resemble a locomotive chugging along and they really nailed it.
March 14, 2016
#12 – The Doors – “L.A. Woman” – (1971)
Not the biggest fan of the Doors, but this song is incredible. It’s their best album and probably their best track. Why were songs so long back in the 70s? It seems like half of the songs on this year’s list are over 7 minutes. “Mr. Mojo Risin'” would pass away a few months after this album’s release, making this song one of his final pieces of work. And what a good one.
March 11, 2016
#13 – Tom Jones – “She’s a Lady” – (1971)
Tom Jones had nearly twice as many top 40 hits in the U.K. as he did in the U.S. But still, he had a few huge hits here, including this, his best work. It was actually written by Paul Anka. It has a great swinging 60s orchestral vibe and just spot on vocals.
March 9, 2016
#14 – Three Dog Night – “An Old Fashioned Love Song” – (1971)
This was a tough one. Three Dog Night was going to be on this list, but deciding between two awesome tracks on this album wasn’t easy. Ultimately, “An Old Fashioned Love Song” peaked one position higher (#4) on the Hot 100 than did “Never Been to Spain.” One thing interesting about this track is how meta it is… it describes itself as it is being sung.
March 7, 2016
#15 – Black Sabbath – “War Pigs” – (1970)
Crap. This album came out in late 1970 and this song was never released as a single… not sure why it ended up on our 1971 list. At any rate, this is the best song from Paranoid. It’s an anti-war song – an obvious one, which isn’t something that was always readily apparent around the time it was released when seemingly every other song (regardless of what it sounded like) was labeled an “anti-war” song by its performer. Oh, and the air raid siren in thi song is at once creepy and awesome.
March 4, 2016
#16 – John Lennon – “Imagine” – (1971)
No, this is not our #1 song for 1971. It’s good, but like with everything John Lennon touched (and Yoko was there instead of another Beatle to bring it back to reality) it kind of reeks of pretension. It’s an amazing, beautiful song. It peaked at #3 in the U.S. and is the definitive John Lennon song – and that includes everything he did with the Beatles.