**NOTE: This is an article I wrote 7 years ago and which has been reposted and reconstituted by other sites over and over again. I found it the other day on my old laptop and thought it was worth reposting (with some corrections and updated links). Though my musical tastes are constantly evolving and ever-expanding, I still feel the same way about these amazing songs from one of my favorite decades.
Forget about your traditional Top Ten Songs of the ’70s. I’m going to use this blog post to tell you about MY personal favorites from the ’70s. Everyone has their own musical favorites, and usually there is a memory associated with each one. I’m not sure if any of my all-time favorites ever made the “The Top 100 Seventies Singles”, but these songs sound as magical today as they did when I spent hours listening to my parents’ 8-track tapes looking through the latest issues of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat.
1. Year of the Cat – Al Stewart (1976)
On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat…
I had to include the first couple stanzas here, because the lyrics of this song are genius. All you need to do is close your eyes and be transported to Casablanca, or the city and time of your choice. The music is truly magical, haunting. Close your eyes and climb on-board and see where this song takes you. This performance, with a beautiful piano intro, is one of my favorites:
2. Strange Magic – ELO (1976)
In my opinion ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) is one of the greatest groups of all (my) time. It was a tough decision for me to decide between nominating Strange Magic or Can’t Get It Out of My Head. Ultimately, I went with Strange Magic because my 8-year-old son heard me playing the song and asked nonchalantly if I knew that this was one of Selena Gomez’s songs and that he thought it was pretty good. I informed him that this song was NOT Selena Gomez’s. I didn’t go into my heart-felt sentiments about the true strange magic of this song, its lyrics, the memories it brings back, or my allegiance to a band that combined my love for classical music (Chopin, Wagner) with my love of rock-n-roll.
3. Poetry Man – Phoebe Snow (1974)
Honestly I can’t comprise the proper paragraph to promote this song (a good listen will do the trick). I would be interested in hearing memories of those who were teens at this time . I have faint ones of this song as a backdrop and watching my aunt descend the stairs and join her date in the foyer for senior prom. I was a little girl then, and this song stamped such an impression on my life on that night some time in early 1975, that I still love it today.
4. Good Girls Don’t (But I Do) – The Knack (1979)
She’s your adolescent dream, schoolboy stuff, a sticky sweet romance, and she makes you want to scream, wishing you could…
Hmmm…That harmonica and those honest lyrics straight from a teen-aged boy’s mind…
Maybe they don’t stand up to time, but this one is a keeper in my book. Biased to the male gender or not, this song is one of my all-time unforgettables. My parents had the 8-track “The Knack – Get the Knack” and I can’t remember how many times I hit the 2 to replay “Good Girls Don’t”.
5. Hello It’s Me – Todd Rundgren (1974)
All I know is that when I hear this song now I become a little kid again. Back then it was just a popular song that I could fall asleep to in the back of my parents’ car, feeling safe and protected and so very… immortal. Now when I hear it I really listen to the words and I can imagine what it would have been like to be 25 (like my parents) at that point in time. The simple words and yet complex meaning mesh with that memory of youth, the feeling that the “here and now” are forever and solid and immovable.
6. Strawberry Letter 23 – Brothers Johnson (1977)
This is one of those songs I had completely forgotten about until about a month ago when it played on a ’70s music channel. All the sudden I was in 3rd grade again. Jimmy Carter was president, I was proud of my bell-bottom jeans with the flowers my mom had embroidered on to the back pocket, I bought “Tiger Beat” regularly to see pics of Lief Garrett and Shawn Cassidy, and loved Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie. Saturday mornings were filled with Schoolhouse Rock, American Bandstand, and Land of the Lost. Entertainment was riding my skateboard, roller skating (on 4 wheels) in the street, playing in the woods and creek in our neighborhood, drawing and dreaming.
7. Main Street – Bob Seger (1977)
Clearly, if this list were in any kind of order of importance, this song should be Number One. My young 20-something parents brought home this 8-track and my mom played it on 8-track over and over again, forever engraving its words into my brain, into my very being. This song is smoky, it’s haunting, it’s that kind of romance/obsession that can’t be replicated. It draws to mind a movie all my own that I’ve played over and over.
In the pool halls, the hustlers and the losers
I used to watch ’em through the glass
Well I’d stand outside at closing time
Just to watch her walk on past
Unlike all the other ladies, she looked so young and sweet
As she made her way alone down that empty street
Down on Main Street, Down on Main Street…
8. Lady – Styx (1973)
With each of my favorites that I’ve recorded here, I go to a different place. I can’t believe this song was released as early as 1973, but then again, it was always there, throughout my childhood, and I count it as one of the all-time greats of the decade. The piano acoustic, the simple yet stirring words ( lady of the morning, love shines in your eyes, sparkling, clear and lovely, you’re my lady). There are few songs that can woo the unwooable…but this one, I think, is a contender.
9. On the Radio – Donna Summer (1979)
Ha! Just when you thought I was sticking to the classic rock genre! Remember, this is coming from a “child of the ’70s”. One of the most memorable “movie” songs from one of the greatest movies ever “Foxes” (1979). Okay, so maybe by today’s standards it’s dorky and the chicks aren’t finely chiseled and honed by plastic surgeons, but I believe this movie and this song personified all the teenage angst of that time. That’s the only way I know to squeeze all of my experience with this song into a paragraph. I guess you just “had to be there”.
10. I’m In You – Peter Frampton (1977)
I’ve saved the best ’til last. At one time this song was just a pretty tune that rose to favor with me because it came to personify those surreal days of my youth, like so many of the others I’ve listed here. But later in my life, as I’ve often gone to YouTube for comfort and memories, I’ve searched for this song and listened with the ears and life experience of more than four decades. “I’m in you, you’re in me…I’m in you…you’re in me…”. Most people will never experience a love they can liken to this song, or even a memory. You just have to “get it”. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.