220px-ACDC-LetThereBeRockAC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” – (1977)

This is a classic AC/DC tune from the Bon Scott era. It is the last song on Let There Be Rock and the third and final single released from the album and remains not only the most popular track from the album, but one of the band’s most popular songs overall.

Aja_album_coverSteely Dan – Peg – 1977

Steely Dan songs are, for some reason, really hard to find on YouTube. The version below is live, so it’s not quite as good. Recently, I was told that Steely Dan sounds completely different live as compared to their studio work, which I believe. This song almost made it to the top ten (#11) on the Hot 100 and is the fairly normal Steely Dan blend of jazz, R&B, and rock.

rumours#1 – Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain” – (1977)

Honestly, if I didn’t abide by the rule of “only one song per artist per year” on this whole “Top 21 by Year” thing, then Fleetwood Mac would’ve covered half of 1977. Rumours is the greatest album of all time – every single song is fantastic. It’s one of the biggest-selling albums of all time and “The Chain” is the only song on the album that is credited to every member of the band. Really, it’s incredible that this album was ever finished considering that the band was basically exploding from within – and that’s where the genius of a lot of the songs come from. I could’ve picked almost any song from this album to be #1 (I had to whittle it down from five), but this, to me, stands out among the others.

jbrownrun#2 – Jackson Browne – “The Load Out/Stay” – (1977)

This is actually two songs. But they’re so commonly played as one that I’m including them as one. “Stay” is sometimes heard on it’s own, but no one ever plays “The Load Out” alone. The first part is a tribute to Browne’s fans and roadies. It’s basically about tearing the stage down after a show and the piano is hauntingly beautiful. It was recorded live in Maryland in ’77 but wasn’t released as a single with “Stay” – a cover of the Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs song from 1960. This is a long track, with the tempo not really picking up until well after the three minute mark. And the “Stay” part – no that’s not actually an aging Maurice Williams hitting those high notes, its Browne band member David Lindley (and Rosemary Butler is the female voice).

ericslow#3 – Eric Clapton – “Wonderful Tonight” – (1977)

This is a wonderful slow dance song from Slowhand himself. This charted into the top 20 on the Hot 100 when released and has remained a staple at weddings either as the first dance (for older couples, primarily) or as just a slow dance song. It’s beautiful.

bjstrange#5 – Billy Joel – “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” – (1977)

Man, listen to those opening bits of music. It has a fantastic, underrated groove to it. “Movin’ Out” was also the name of the Broadway play based around the songs of Billy Joel. And it’s one of his best songs. It’s rare to hear songs nowadays that actually tell a story, and Billy Joel was a master at it. This song is very New York, too – and if you don’t know what I mean, I’m afraid I can’t explain it any more than that.

gbweekend#6 – George Benson – “On Broadway” – (1978)

“On Broadway” is a soul classic, originally recorded by The Drifters in 1963. But in 1977, George Benson recorded a live album in L.A. And recorded an awesome jazzy, R&B version of the song. Sure, Weekend in L.A. was released in 1978, but the recording was in ’77, thus it’s  inclusion here (yeah, right, as if I didn’t goof my years when I made my list). The original version really isn’t comparable to this – the arrangements are completely different. And this one is amazing.

emotions#7 – The Emotions – “Best of My Love” – (1977)

This might be the best disco song ever released. It’s a fantastic blend of soul and disco and R&B. It was a Hot 100 #1 hit and if you’ve never seen the opening sequence of the film Boogie Nights, do yourself a favor and watch it as it uses this song in a fantastic way. This song was written by two members of Earth, Wind & Fire, which is perhaps why it is so awesome. It is completely unrelated to The Eagles “Best of My Love” that came three years earlier.

jt#8 – James Taylor – “Your Smiling Face” – (1977)

James Taylor: king of soft rock. But not like 1980s-kinda-sappy-soft-rock. But like actually really good music. He’s a fantastic singer. It only reached #20 on the Hot 100, but peaked at #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Fun fact: James Taylor was the first non-British singer signed to Apple Records. That’s right, to get his first record contract as a solo artist, he had to audition for The Beatles. Also: this song is lovely.

jbuffchangesin#9 – Jimmy Buffett – “Margaritaville” – (1977)

This is Jimmy Buffett’s signature tune. It’s also the name of the many of the Buffett-themed products and restaurants out there. Seriously, when I typed in “Margaritaville” into Amazon, the “Digital Music” category didn’t even appear. Instead, “Home & Kitchen,”  “Appliances,” and “Grocery” were the top results. Cliche or not, this is the perfect song if you’re sitting in white sand and drinking.

#10 – Queen – “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” – (1977)

Whoa – number 10 is actually two songs. Two songs that are often played back to back as a single, uninterrupted track. They were issued as a singe together and flow perfectly between each other. Queen was a wonderful band that made beautiful music. You don’t often hear rock and roll called “beautiful” but that’s exactly what Queen’s music was. These two songs are perfect for sporting events, specifically hockey where they seem to live on forever (thanks to  The Mighty Ducks).

emotionssang#11 – Samantha Sang – “Emotion” – (1977)

When you’re listening to this song, it’s very probable that you’re  thinking “Who is Samantha Sang? This is obviously the Bee Gees.” Well, you’re kinda right. It was written by Barry & Robin Gibb and that is definitely them on backing vocals. And Ms. Sang’s voice itself sounds like she is one of the Gibb brothers. It’s a vocal gem and a was a top three hit for the Australia-born Sang – her only hit.

bookodreams#12 – Steve Miller Band – “Jet Airliner” – (1977)

I once read somewhere that Steve Miller listened to all of his songs over and over and over again to ensure he didn’t get sick of them too quickly – and if they passed the test, he’d release them. Maybe that’s why he’s responsible for some of the catchiest rock songs of the 1970s. This song was actually written by Paul Pena but he didn’t release his version until 2000 and Miller was able to score a top ten hit with his version in 1977. It’s great.

stband#13 – Sanford-Townsend Band – “Smoke From a Distant Fire” – (1977)

John Townsend and Ed Sanford aren’t really household names in the world on rock ‘n’ roll, but they did have a successful single in 1977 with this soft rock hit. In fact, it broke the top ten, peaking at #9. Interesting note: this group was the opening act for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours tour. That would’ve made for a pretty awesome show.

ram jam#14 – Ram Jam – “Black Betty” – (1977)

Not only one of the top songs of 1977, this is one of the best driving tunes ever recorded. “Black Betty” is a traditional song whose true roots are unknown but the first recorded version is usually attributed to Lead Belly. The Ram Jam version is the best version and also the most popular. It was the band’s biggest hit and still shows up everywhere.

IggyPopLustForLife#15 – Iggy Pop – “Lust for Life” – (1977)

Those drums. The beat of this song is amazingly catchy and lends the song to a sort of pop second life as it was originally a punk song. Sure, the lyrics are weird, but it’s just so damned catchy that it could’ve made it on pop radio, I think. Where Iggy Pop failed, Jet succeeded in the early 2000s with a song that eerily mimicked what Pop had done so many years before. It gained a second wind when it was used in Trainspotting in the mid-1990s and later when it was used in a Royal Caribbean commercial. Strange how a song about heroin can sell family cruises.

#16 – Electric Light Orchestra – “Mr. Blue Sky” – (1977)

ELO has some great, lesser-played songs – “Mr. Blue Sky” the best amongst them. It might be my favorite ELO song because it’s just so upbeat and happy sounding. It is very similar in structure to “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles… I think that every time I hear it. It’s like a fresh take on that song (and a happier one at that). Anyone who doesn’t consider Jeff Lynne a master song-crafter needs to re-evaluate. Also, this track features what sounds like a talk box but is really a vocoder, which is pretty cool.

#17 – Randy Newman – “Short People” – (1977)

Gotta love Randy Newman. Sort of like Warren Zevon, his songs never featured the typical subjects (love, etc.) – instead, they feature offbeat things like… well, short people. What’s funnier is that this album is called Little Criminals which sounds like he’s levying an even greater insult at people that are short. This actually made it to #2 on the Hot 100 but was largely considered a novelty song, which sucks because it’s a pretty good song that has long been misinterpreted as a song about Newman’s hate for short people. It’s not his view, it’s a song. Fun fact: three of the Eagles perform background vocals on this track.

#18 – Peter Gabriel – “Solsbury Hill” – (1977)

I always forget this song actually came out in 1977. It could’ve come out during the 80s at any point and been right at home (maybe that’s because it charted in 1977 and in 1983 on the Hot 100… which is odd because it wasn’t because of a movie). This was Gabriel’s first single after he left Genesis. It only reached #68 on the Hot 100 (in ’77 – it was #84 in ’83), but it’s one of his most famous songs and it’s a really good one at that.

#19 – Eddie Money – “Two Tickets to Paradise” – (1977)

I don’t know that I could pick out one Eddie Money “signature song,” but this would be near the top of the list. It only peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 but it has been a mainstay on the radio for over 30 years. This song pops up all over the place in TV and film and has an abrupt chorus that makes you want to yell along with Eddie: “I’ve got. Two tickets to Paradise…”

#20 – Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” – (1977)

Well disco was alive and well in 1977, thanks to Saturday Night Fever – the most disco-y of all disco films. This soundtrack was a powerhouse, though, churning out seven #1 hits, including this one. It’s like a disco greatest hits compilation and almost like the Bee Gees greatest hits album. This is the Bee Gees signature song and it was featured at the beginning of the movie. It wasn’t even supposed to be a single, but the movie created demand for it and boom, four weeks atop the charts. Also: you just have to love the Bee Gees and the way they sing. That accent and high pitch is so unique. This is a classic and perhaps the greatest disco hit of all time.

#21 – Cheap Trick – “I Want You To Want Me” – (1977)

This is a weird one. I know we’re counting down 1977, the year this song was originally released, but the album cover to the right is not Cheap Trick’s In Color, but rather Cheap Trick at Budokan which was released in Japan in 1978 and in the U.S. in 1979, the year that the live version of this song actually became a hit (the album version was not). They differ in tempo, the live version being faster (and better). The live version ended up becoming a top ten hit in the U.S. and a #1 in Japan, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Cheap Trick is a band that was apparently huge, but they didn’t really have that many major hits. I guess I don’t get it. And as a rock band, this song is more or less straight pop… it’s funny how bands want to be known as “X” but find the biggest success with “Y.”

#7 – Player – “Baby Come Back” – (1977)

Oops. I’m already so far into this countdown, that I can’t do anything about it now, but this song is actually from 1977. Color me embarrassed. I guess I should’ve done my homework (I would bet that this isn’t the last time this happens as we have so many more years to cover… I hope it is, but it’s probably not)… on the plus side, this hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1978, so there! The term “Oldies” gets thrown around a lot and that kind of music is missing from modern radio, but I consider this one of the last “oldies” songs. It’s not true 1950s music, but it was the newest song our local oldies station would play. It’s soft rock, really – and good soft rock at that. This was Player’s lone big hit – and it was their first single.

#7 – Carly Simon – “Nobody Does it Better” – (1977)

One thing that makes a theme song great other than (or opposite of) the instant recognition and association with a film, is the song’s ability to stand on its own as a song. I remember hearing this long ago and had no idea it came from this movie. Another thing: it was co-written by the late, great Marvin Hamlisch – and you can tell, because that piano is brilliant. It was a #2 hit and was the first theme song (other than Dr. No) to be titled differently than the film. It did win an Oscar too.

Astor Piazzolla – “Golazo” – (1977)

Astor Piazzolla is a very important figure in tango music. An Argentine by birth, he studied in Paris in the 1950s (and you can hear it in his music). But in the second half of the 1950s, after the “Golden Age” of tango had come and gone, Piazzolla started putting together his orchestra and by the time it was all said and done, he had revolutionized the sound. Nuevo Tango was born out of his work. As you’ll see from the next two days, tango would still have a lot more “Nuevo” to get.