April 24, 2015
#19 – Elvin Bishop – “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – (1975)
Elvin Bishop got his start performing with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Eventually going solo, Bishop released Struttin’ My Stuff in 1975. This would be his biggest hit, charting at #3 on the Hot 100. The blues-ey guitar throughout the song is Bishop, but the vocal is not. It’s actually sung by Mickey Thomas, who normally sang backing vocals for Bishop. It’s really good.
April 22, 2015
#20 – Gary Wright – “Dream Weaver” – (1975)
Gary Wright had a few singles get radio airplay, but this is easily his signature song. It’s kind of a very early version of synthpop and was Wright’s biggest hit, climbing all the way to #2 on the Hot 100. Famously, it is used in the movie Wayne’s World when Wayne sees Cassandra performing for the first time.
April 20, 2015
#21 – Michael Martin Murphey – “Wildfire” – (1975)
I remember seeing Michael Martin Murphey perform this song on Letterman what seemed like a few years ago (turns out it was in 2007… and that was seven years ago, which is insane). This was his biggest pop hit in the U.S., reaching #3 on the Hot 100 – pretty high considering it’s essentially a country song. It’s a sort of cowboy song – telling the story of a woman who died chasing a pony in a blizzard. Yes, that’s a weird subject for a top five pop song. But it’s good.
April 17, 2015
John Mayer – “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” – (2006)
Continuum is one of my favorite albums. It’s full of really good songs from John Mayer right before his sound started to change. I mean, this was a departure from his previous albums as it’s pretty somber and blues-y, but it hadn’t gone folksy just yet. This was the fourth single from the album – but it only just barely made it onto the Hot 100, peaking at #99, which is a shame, because it’s pretty good.
April 15, 2015
Ozzy Osbourne – “No More Tears” – (1991)
This is the title track of Ozzy’s sixth solo album and what I like most about it is the really nice groove it has going with the bass in the background. It actually charted on the Hot 100, peaking at #71. The awesome metal rhythm is broken by this weird and unnecessary Meat Loaf-like piano bit that really tended to mar most rock songs from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Otherwise, good tune.
April 13, 2015
Madonna – “Into the Groove” – (1985)
Madonna’s second studio album Like a Virgin had its share of hits none more dance-worthy than this track, which wasn’t originally included on the album’s release. It was added for a 1985 re-release after being used in the film Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna stared. It’s a synth-infused 80s dance track and a fine example of early Madonna.
April 10, 2015
#1 – Eagles – “Hotel California” – (1976)
This is, perhaps, The Eagles’ signature song. It’s chock full of classic, well-known lyrics such as “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” It was a Billboard Hot 100 #1 in May of 1977 and should be on everyone’s list of the greatest songs of all time.
April 8, 2015
#2 – Boston – “Foreplay/Long Time” – (1976)
Boston’s debut album is sort of their greatest hits album. I’ve heard every one of the album’s eight tracks on classic rock radio. That’s not to say they didn’t have later hits – they did. But this is easily their best song. “Foreplay/Long Time” is one album track (although Boston did release “Long Time” as a standalone single). “Foreplay” is instrumental and it’s pretty awesome on its own. Apparently, Tom Scholz (the very intelligent man behind Boston), recorded “Foreplay” in his basement by himself about six years before this album was released. Scholz is interesting because he has a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and was a Polaroid product engineer before becoming a rock legend.
April 6, 2015
#3 – Peter Frampton – “Do You Feel Like We Do” – (1976)
“Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide” is the great quote from Waynes World 2 about the album that this great song came off of. Peter Frampton originally recorded this in 1973 for a studio album. But then in 1976 he recorded a live version for Frampton Comes Alive – one of the best-selling albums of all time. It’s a 15 minute meandering rock song that includes a number of solos and one of the most famous uses of the talk box. It’s an incredible song from one of the happiest-seeming guys in rock and roll. If you get a chance to see him live – DO IT!
April 3, 2015
#4 – Lou Rawls – “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” – (1976)
The voice. The song opens with a great rhythm and then Lou comes in with that deep, soulful voice and that simple piano hit and blows everything away. Somehow this only hit #2 on the Hot 100 (becoming Rawls’ breakthrough hit). If you were to argue about what the best R&B song of all time is, this is certainly a prime contender.
April 1, 2015
#5 – David Bowie – “Golden Years” – (1976)
This is my favorite David Bowie song. It’s funky – funkier than just about any other Bowie hit. It was the first single from Station to Station and is the best song on the album. Apparently, according to Bowie, he wrote the song and offered it to Elvis, who declined. Good thing.
March 30, 2015
#6 – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded By The Light” – (1976)
Originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen (it was his first-ever single in ’73), “Blinded by the Light” was turned into a classic rock staple by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The group was formed in 1971 even though Manfred Mann (the person) had been in bands like Manfred Mann (the band) since 1962. The lyrics are a bit different in this version versus the original and it’s one of the most misheard lyrics of all time (the “revved up like a deuce” part). This was also a #1 on the Hot 100.
March 27, 2015
#7 – Al Stewart – “Year of the Cat” – (1976)
This quirky song starts of with nice piano before being joined with a kind of funky pop beat. One thing I really like about it is its references to Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre – it really sets the tone of some faraway place and time. This was Scotland’s Al Stewart’s biggest hit. A great use of this song was in what is probably the best scene in the otherwise “meh” film Running With Scissors (I don’t have a link to it, sorry!).
March 25, 2015
#8 – England Dan & John Ford Coley – “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” – (1976)
“Hello, yeah it’s been a while…” is the opening lyric and is actually a one-sided phone conversation. This is a soft rock classic and fun fact: England Dan was actually the younger brother of the Seals half of Seals & Crofts. This only made it to #2 on the Hot 100, but it’s easily one of the best songs of 1976.
March 23, 2015
#9 – Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t She Lovely” – (1976)
This is one of Stevie Wonder’s best songs. Undoubtedly a love song, this song is actually about his daughter and her birth. At one point, he says “isn”t she lovely, less than one minute old.” I like to think that Stevie wrote this song within the first minute of her birth and there was some chaotic scene playing out in the delivery room. Probably not. But it’s still great.
March 20, 2015
#10 – Maxine Nightingale – “Right Back Where We Started From” – (1976)
Maxine Nightingale, who was actually from London, recorded this smash hit in 1976. The pulsating disco beat and superbly-delivered lyrics make this one of the best disco songs ever. It only was able to get to #2 on the Hot 100 – but that’s not too bad for a song that was reportedly written in only seven minutes.
March 18, 2015
#11 – Firefall– “You Are The Woman” – (1976)
This flute-infused track was the biggest hit for Colorado-based Firefall. It peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 and is a soft rock marvel. The song is quite lighter than the rest of Firefall’s catalog (according to them) but it’s such a fluffy piece that’s just… well, nice.
March 16, 2015
#12 – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band– “Night Moves” – (1976)
Theory: Bob Seger used to have poor self esteem. Why? Opening lyics here: “was a little too tall coulda used a few pounds.” There are other songs (like “Mainstreet”) where he tears himself down a little too. Anyway, this title track from Seger’s 1976 album – the best album he ever released, as it’s chock full of hits – is the best song on it. It ended up being a top five hit on the Hot 100. The music is perfect for the lyrics describing a high school love affair. It’s a great song.
March 13, 2015
#13 – The Bellamy Brothers – “Let Your Love Flow” – (1976)
Whoa, #13 on Friday the 13th. The Bellamy Brothers were a pop/country duo consisting of David and Homer Bellamy of Darby, Florida. This #1 hit was the biggest of their career by a good margin. Initially, Neil Diamond was offered the song (as it was written by one of his roadies) but he declined and the Bellamy Brothers took it all the way to the top. It’s a good song, but very 1976.
March 11, 2015
#14 – Aerosmith– “Back in the Saddle” – (1976)
“Back in the Saddle” was, with the exception of their cover of the Beatles “Come Together,” the last major hit for Aerosmith until they revived their career in the late 1980s with songs like “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” The song cracked the top 40 (just barely) on the Hot 100 and is really the band’s heaviest major single.
March 9, 2015
#15 – Steve Miller Band – “Rock’n Me” – (1976)
Here is one of Steve Miller’s best tracks. It was a Hot 100 #1 and a good example of that weird type of rock music that blends in some Americana, namely in the form of city mentioning here (sort of like the Eagles’ “Take it Easy”). It was released right in the middle of a stream of awesome hits from Miller.
March 6, 2015
#16 – Steely Dan – “Don’t Take Me Alive” – (1976)
This Steely Dan song wasn’t even an official single. The lyrics have a Butch Cassidy-type story going on, but the way they are sung is what sells this track for me. It’s jazzy, it’s funky and it’s slick. The album this appears on, The Royal Scam, features backing vocals from Michael McDonald and Timothy B. Schmidt. So it’s no wonder the vocals are great.
March 4, 2015
#17 – Queen – “Somebody to Love” – (1976)
A Day at the Races was Queen’s second consecutive album to be named after a Marx Brothers film. This is easily the best song from the album and also it’s first single and biggest hit (reaching #13 on the Hot 100). It has that signature Queen vocal layering that builds momentum as the song progresses. That vocal layering gives it a gospel feeling, which is apt as this was written with strong influences of Aretha Franklin.
March 2, 2015
#18 – The Doobie Brothers – “It Keeps You Runnin’” – (1976)
This Doobie Brothers classic was written by lead singer Michael McDonald and features his silky smooth blue-eyed soul voice. The Doobie Brothers spot on this list came down between this and “Takin’ It To The Streets.” I picked this one for the great vocals and funky Steely Dan-esque groove it has.
February 27, 2015
#19 – Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – (1976)
This huge hit for Gordon Lightfoot has to have the weirdest inspiration for a hit song ever. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975 and Lightfoot, for some reason, decided to write a folk ballad about it. Stranger still, it was a #2 hit in the U.S. and a #1 in Canada. This song is basically a story, sung, about a giant boat sinking in a storm and killing its crew. It’s not really a happy tune and there have been so many disasters in the past 100 years, so to single out one ship that went down in the “Great Gitche Gumee” is so bizarre to me. I don’t know. But Lightfoot is one of Canada’s proudest sons and this is his best work.