Try Some, Buy Some : Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 1


Last May, my fellow blog & DJ colleague, Dr. William Harris of The Music Of My Life fame were discussing a list of ranked #1 songs from the 80s from a columnist. As we discussed which songs should be higher and lower, we realized that our basis was not on any sort of defined criteria, but rather what they meant to us. To tell someone which music is good or bad as a matter of fact is a fruitless endeavor. It’s why the term guilty pleasures exists, as a code for “I like it, even if I’m not supposed to.”

We knew that a similar graded list for the Me Decade would be forthcoming, so we tried to come up with our own personal twenty-five list. I tried to create my list based on how much they meant to me at their time of release, how deeply I felt when I heard them and how their place in my childhood shaped who I am today. These are not “desert island” choices, for if I was ever stranded, I’d rather listen to the ocean waves and slowly go insane.

William and I will share five random 1970s chart-toppers (based on Billboard magazine) at a time simultaneously on our blogs with a quick comment by the other for good measure.

P.S. You may not see Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together or Hall & Oates’ Rich Girl or Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, for example, on these posts. That doesn’t mean I love them any less than the ones I write about, which made this exercise challenging for me. Hell, I’d take all 253 of them home with me, if I had the chance.

Andy Gibb- I Just Want To Be Your Everything [4 weeks, 1977]

EM: When the youngest Gibb made his debut during the summer of ‘77, I first remember hanging out with my step-sister. She was an Andy Gibb fanatic and would constantly sing this song to herself as if no one was listening. But I was, watching and hoping she could be a more significant part of my life. It didn’t happen. And that’s why the line of “finding each for so long” still resonates today.

WH: I picked a different Andy Gibb song, but that’s not meant as a slight—this single had a home in my collection and received frequent spins on my record player that summer.

When this slotted in at the top of the 7/30/77 Billboard chart, it became the twenty-fourth different #1 song over the thirty weeks of the year to date. Right then, it seemed that 1977 had a chance to break the record for most #1s in a calendar year. Instead, only four more songs followed Andy to the top through the end of December. We didn’t know it then, but (Debby Boone aside) the ascension of “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” marked the beginning of a full year of Gibb Brother-mania.

Carole King – It’s Too Late [5 weeks, 1971]

EM: Tapestry is one of those albums I listened to so much growing up that it’s part of my emotional fabric. Carole’s voice is like a dose of Arrestin to the heart. No matter how full of regret and sadness she is or how tormented she feels, she shoulders most of the blame and still wants to be friends. Kinda like “it’s not you, it’s me” but with deep hugs. Ok, maybe “it’s not them, it’s us.”

Also, you got a bonus when you bought the 45 as I Feel The Earth Move was on the B-side. Sounds like someone may have moved on…

WH: I gave “It’s Too Late” consideration for inclusion on my list—it certainly would make my “25 Best #1 Songs of the 70s.” It is an intelligent, mature song about the end of a long relationship, but what makes the song for me now is the extended semi-jazzy instrumental bridge before the third verse.

I can easily imagine Dad buying Tapestry—the album cover has always felt familiar—though its songs aren’t part of any hazy memory I have from the early 70s.

Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough [3 weeks, 1970]

EM: Diana pulled out every stop to let the world know she was much more than a Supreme, creating a twelve-layer cake that never quite topples no matter how much frosting gets added. At the same time, she bulldozes any evocation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell from your mind. This is where she went from superstar to diva. Of course, Berry Gordy hated it, like everything else that would be good from Motown in the 70s. The genius is in the production by songwriters Ashford & Simpson as they change the hook to a wordless ahhh while burying the chorus to the end of the song just before they take it up twenty more notches and blow the doors off.

Also, do not mess with the single edit. Go for the album version and have your heart ripped out of your chest.

WH: When you limit yourself to twenty-five songs, you’re going to leave out artists more than worthy of inclusion, and I do have some regret over not picking a Ross song (had I done so, it’d likely be “Touch Me in the Morning,” but the #1 song on my first AT40 chart, “Love Hangover,” may have won out instead). I concur—how can I not?—that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a stunner. One of my favorite bits of 70s pop trivia is that Ross’s four #1 songs were also the only times she made it to the Top 10 over the entire decade. How that could happen is mystifying.

Stories – Brother Louie [2 weeks, 1973]

EM: Hearing this song gave me anxiety as a little kid. The ominous vibe from the sparse arrangement heightened by those cheesy wah-wahs kept my head on a nervous swivel. The string stabs were tiny needles into my skin up until they started sawing away into my brain like one of those messed-up German nursery rhymes, haunting my burnt sienna dreams. Singer Ian Lloyd sounded like he was telling the “story” after someone just tried to strangle him, probably Louie’s racist dad.

WH: I was nine when “Brother Louie” was a hit, so I doubt I understood what it was about at the time. What I don’t doubt is that I enjoyed going around singing “Louie, Louie, Louie, Lou-eye” when it came on the radio.

M – Pop Muzik [1 week, 1979]

EM: The most disposable pop song about disposable pop songs. It sounded like something from outer space and a white-labeled can of food from a no-frills supermarket line all the same time. Its popularity signified the direction pop music would take in the 80s, way more than The Knack, especially during the New Wave era. And it’s boogie in a suitcase.

WH: This is another song I absolutely loved, picking up the 45 early on in its chart run. I agree there was nothing else like it on the radio at the time. I know now how much I would have enjoyed exploring more of what was coming out of the British pop scene in the late 70s; missing out on that in real-time is a source of chagrin.

I’m pretty sure I remember Casey highlighting the line, “Listen to the countdown—they’re playing our song again,” during the outro on a late 1979 AT40.

EM: Now go over to WM’s blog to hear his first five.

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