220px-Hotelcalifornia#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.

220px-BostonBoston#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.

Allthingsintime#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.

S2s#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.

220px-The_Roaring_Silence#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.

Al_Stewart-Year_of_the_Cat_(album_cover)#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!).

Englanddan4#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.

220px-Songs_in_the_key_of_life#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.

Maxine_Nightingale_Where_we_started_from#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.

Firefall-album#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.

night moves#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.

bellamy#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.

220px-Aerosmith_-_Rocks#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.

flylike#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.

220px-The_Royal_Scam_album_cover#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.

220px-A_Day_at_the_Races_(Queen)#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.

The_Doobie_Brothers_-_Takin'_It_to_the_Streets#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.

220px-Album_Summertime_Dream#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.

220px-TomPettyDebutCover#20 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Breakdown” – (1976)

“Breakdown” was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ first single. Ever. It came from their self-titled debut album that was released near the end of 1976. It just barely became a top 40 hit in the U.S. and Canada –  good enough that radio stations continued to give Petty airtime for many years to come.

letemin#21 – Wings – “Let ‘Em In” – (1976)

Okay, so we’re on to 1978. Originally, I had “Live and Let Die” at #2 on this year’s rundown, but I already featured that song as part of our James Bond countdown. So I bumped everything up a spot and Wings again became eligible for the list, turns out “Let ‘Em In” is good enough to make the cut, but not good enough to make the top two. It’s a good song, and it made it into the top three on the Hot 100 and was an Adult Contemporary #1.

Elton John with Kiki Dee – “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” – (1976)

Here’s one of the most famous duets of all time. It was a #1 hit on the Hot 100 for the better part of a month and it was intended as sort of Marvin Gaye-esque duet and if you listen to it that way, you certainly can hear it. This song was never included on an actual album, but only released as a single (it appeared on other albums years later, however). It remains one of Elton’s biggest hits and the main thing Kiki Dee is known for.

AC/DC – “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” – (1976)

AC/DC’s third studio album was released in Australia and most of the world in 1976. It wasn’t officially released in the United States until 1981 – which is weird because Bon Scott had already passed away by then and Brian Johnson’s first album with the band, Back in Black was already a huge album. I guess it was a good time to capitalize on the band’s popularity – and it worked because this was their 3rd-highest selling album. The title track is a good one and was voted the 31st best hard rock song of all time by VH1, if that means anything to you.