The mid-70s were a time of great change. #1 hits were a hyper-paced revolving door. Like the great philosopher Heidi Klum once said, one week you're in, the next week you're out!
When you compare this list to those of the 1960s and early '70s, it becomes apparent that advancing studio technology does not guarantee anything but more "professional" sounding recordings. The inspiration is still an independent agent. "Afternoon Delight" is a cheeky number, but many of these are more of the afternoon blahs type, where the carb coma has you fighting to stay awake.
Once again, these are the #1 hits of the summertime for the years 1974 through 1976, a measly three years in time. Some great tunes here. Some not so hot. The problem is getting people to agree. One woman's heartfelt treasure is another woman's divorce song. I like to think there was a reason for the Ramones.
27) The Streak -- Ray Stevens (1974):
For those who love novelty songs, Ray Stevens is apparently one of your men. Most interesting is that the song only made it to #3 on the Country Music charts but spent three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 Pop Charts. As a serious person, I don't find anything funny. Ever.
26) Band On The Run -- Paul McCartney and Wings (1974): Paul McCartney knows that music, like comedy, is all about timing. Not just with how you write and perform the song, but when you release it. Rarely did a summer go by without Paul McCartney taking his court-appointed position at #1 with some sort of new song-thing to impress the people. Most of them were pretty decent and this one made people believe for a few years that McCartney and the Wings could be the answer to The Beatles. Hey, let's not get carried away!
25) Billy Don't Be A Hero -- Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (1974):
In a moment of rock/pop orthodoxy upheaval, Bo Donaldson, despite top billing, was not the lead singer of the group, but merely the keyboardist.
24) Sundown -- Gordon Lightfoot (1974): On the surface it sounds like a pleasant mid-tempo with the kind of measured angst that reasonable adults bring to a conversation about adult relationships. But that little cry in Lightfoot's voice is no random utterance. He wrote the tune about Cathy Smith, a woman who'd spent much of her life around musicians and who confessed to the National Enquirer that she'd been the one to give John Belushi his fatal shot of speedballs. Her book Chasing The Dragon fetches $79.99 used at Amazon and she once looked fast in her faded jeans!
23) Rock the Boat -- Hues Corporation (1974):
Chances are if you attended a wedding of a certain vintage, you are well-acquainted with this spiffy little number. Do hipsters have this song played ironically? And, if so, does it sound differently when they have it played?
22) Rock Your Baby -- George McCrae (1974): As the disco era gets moving, it's songs like this that give the movement credibility. (Lesson: always pay attention to the early hits of a movement before the decadence, useless imitations and general rot seep through). Members of KC and the Sunshine Band were looking for his wife to sing the high notes, but by the time she'd arrived at the studio, George had already nailed the song.
21) Annie's Song -- John Denver (1974):
Yet, while disco was making serious imprints on the pop charts, an undeniably white bread performer like John Denver was being played side by side with this easy listening classic he wrote while riding the ski-lift on Ajax Mountain in Aspen, Colorado.
20) Feel Like Makin' Love -- Roberta Flack (1974): If you can't feel the plush velvet couch and the wall-to-wall shag carpet while sitting in that egg-shaped chair playing an 8-track of this tune while the multi-colors from the stereo's lightbox swirl and flicker around the room, then you did the 1970s completely wrong!
19) The Night Chicago Died -- Paper Lace (1974):
This song was written by the same team who'd written "Billy Don't Be A Hero." That team had gotten their start in the Merseybeat scene of yore! So, if you sniff out a certain British "bounciness" to the tune, just imagine the guy who wrote "How Do You Do It?" (Mitch Murray) all growed up. Due to the fact that neither songwriter had actually been to Chicago, they invented an "East Side" that along with the South Detroit in Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" has frustrated out-of-town sightseers everywhere. Though Detroit is happy you thought enough to visit.
18) (You're) Having My Baby -- Paul Anka and Odia Coates (1974): Though the song frequently shows up these days on those "Worst Songs of All-Time" lists alongside Starship's "We Built This City," there were three weeks at the end of the summer of 1974 when this song was the most loved, bought and listened to song in the country! Next time you think the American People should directly decide anything, keep this in mind. Personally, I think it sounds wonderful in the supermarket when you're deciding which brand of flaxseed oil to purchase.
17) Before The Next Teardrop Falls -- Freddy Fender (1975):
Baldemar Garza Huerta legally changed his name to Freddy Fender in 1958 and in 1959 recorded "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." In 1975, he busted through to the mainstream with "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" and a re-recorded version of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." The country hits flowed and he introduced the Spanish tongue to an English-speaking music audience not often known for its interest in becoming bilingual.
16) Thank God I'm A Country Boy -- John Denver (1975): Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. recorded this John Martin Sommers composition for his 1974 album Back Home Again. Yet, it was a live version from Los Angeles that appeared on his album An Evening With John Denver that captured the "American imagination." Audience handclaps and applause alerted fans who were on the fence about the song that it was indeed well-liked and OK to admit so, publicly. Tricked ya!
15) Sister Golden Hair -- America (1975):
Produced by George Martin, written by Gerry Beckley and inspired by Jackson Browne (truth!), "Sister Golden Hair" is what happens when the band in question is aiming their songs not at the critical respect end of the equation but at pop audiences and chart potential. Hooks are tightened, details are cheered up and everything happens in less than three and a half minutes. Don't mess with it!
14) Love Will Keep Us Together -- The Captain and Tennille (1975): Chances are if you were sitting in the sun during the summer of 1975, you heard this song repeatedly, whether by choice or by osmosis. It was everywhere, with a kitsch factor that made it more formidable than other top hits by other artists. Though written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, it was the first single and title track to The Captain and Tennille's debut album. The song now makes frequent appearances on "Worst Song" lists.
13) Listen To What The Man Said -- Wings (1975):
Another summer. Another Paul McCartney hit.
12) The Hustle -- Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony (1975): Instrumentals have an almost subliminal place in our culture. We like words, but every once in a while a melody just nails it. McCoy died just four summers later of a heart attack at the age of 39. He had nearly 700 song copyrights to his name and was involved in the making of many classic songs.
11) One of These Nights -- Eagles (1975):
The Eagles were savvy musicians who heard what was on the airwaves and while their country-rock had served them well in previous years, it was time to jump-start into the disco era without getting crazy about it. They could do falsetto voices (where have you gone, Randy Meisner?). They had Don Henley. Don Felder gave them a guitar solo that screamed sophistication.
10) Jive Talkin' -- Bee Gees (1975): The Bee Gees had no idea it was an expression, they thought they were imitating the sound their car made while crossing the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami. With that, the Bee Gees hit the disco era running. Had they been hustling their butts across the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey their career could have gone very differently.
9) Fallin' In Love -- Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (1975):
Before you go thinking, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds were some kind of one-hit wonder with "Don't Pull Your Love," be aware that "Fallin' In Love" was their only #1 pop hit. ("Don't Pull Your Love" went to #4 in 1971). The fact that this song is less interesting than their first hit is something we all have to live with.
8) Get Down Tonight -- KC and the Sunshine Band (1975): I think at least half the songs on this list became fodder for Dickie Goodman's "Mr. Jaws" comedy single, which most kids of a certain age all heard repeatedly. The three-minute pop single version got the point across to radio audiences, but clubs clearly demanded the five-minute version.
7) Rhinestone Cowboy -- Glen Campbell (1975):
Here I offer you evidence that the charts were clearly more diversified back in 1975. Bookending this summer, we have Freddy Fender at Memorial Day and Glen Campbell at Labor Day. Eleven songs held the #1 spot. That's either a sign of no one song being captivating enough to hold the public's undivided attention or of many great songs all competing at the same time. Me? I prefer to blame payola, allegedly, of course!
6) Love Hangover -- Diana Ross (1976): In 1976, Billboard magazine prematurely named Diana Ross 'The Female Entertainer of the Century.' (Somewhere in Michigan, Madonna planned her move to NYC.) It's said that Ross didn't initially care for the current musical styles and was reluctant to cut the vocal. Just like that, she was a disco queen!
5) Silly Love Songs -- Wings (1976):
He knew very well that the world hadn't had enough of "Silly Love Songs," but to rub it in our faces like that? Mr. People Pleaser can tell us over and over about how it was he who listened to Stockhausen, but he's still going to be remembered as the puppy dog eyed pop composer and the "Cute" Beatle for all eternity!
4) Afternoon Delight -- Starland Vocal Band (1976): Somewhere there's a hardcore fan telling someone that "California Day" and "Liberated Woman" were better tunes and the entire Rear View Mirror album is sorely underrated, but most people are content enjoying this little ditty that's gone on to have a serious second and third and fourth life as it shows up repeatedly as a pop reference in other kitschy pop referencing vehicles.
3) Kiss and Say Goodbye -- The Manhattans (1976):
The narration is key, adding a "personal" touch to a tune that's pretty much a common story in many popular songs. Which means the "single" version isn't nearly as good as the four-and-a-half minute version where there's MORE narration!
2) Don't Go Breaking My Heart -- Elton John and Kiki Dee (1976): MacKenzie Phillips' character on One Day At A Time loved Elton John and modeled herself to look like Kiki Dee. Imagine how heartbroken "Julie" was when she saw Elton perform the song on The Muppets not with Kiki Dee but with Miss Piggy!!
1) You Should Be Dancing -- Bee Gees (1976):
Even more so than last year's "Jive Talkin'," "You Should Be Dancing" makes it clear that the Bee Gees are going to be Disco Kings. Barry boosts his voice yet another octave and obviously the concern with one's dancing status is a dead giveaway that their records are being aimed at the dancefloor where a song's success is determined by the amount of people moving to the beat.