This page features year-by-year snapshots of what was happening in the world of Top 40 music in the 1970s. Written by radio and music industry veteran Ed Osborne, each overview highlights the important trends and some of the representative songs and artists that shaped the music landscape and occupied the Top 40 charts that year,
This music impacted our lives in many ways and Top40weekly hopes that you find these commentaries informative and enjoyable.
Table of Contents
- A Year in Music 1970
- A Year in Music 1971
- A Year in Music 1972
- A Year in Music 1973
- A Year in Music 1974
- A Year in Music 1975
- A Year in Music 1976
- A Year in Music 1977
- A Year in Music 1978
- A Year in Music 1979
- More 1970s Content
A Year in Music – 1970
The Top 40 at the beginning of 1970 was a hodgepodge of genres and sounds; from the easy listening “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (which was ultimately the #1 single of the year) to the hard rockin’ “Whole Lotta Love” and the soft rock of “Leaving On A Jet Plane.”
By far the standout entry in the Top 10 was an explosive debut single by The Jackson 5. It roared out of an AM radio speaker, with an exciting piano glissando, guitar riff, and bass run intro that perfectly slid into the opening lead vocals of Michael and his backing brothers. It was the first of four chart-toppers for them in the first six months of 1970.
The first #1 of 1970 was the aforementioned “Raindrops.” Sung by B.J. Thomas and written by hit song writers Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it had been featured in the top-grossing movie of 1969: Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Thomas was brought to the songwriters’ attention by their main singer Dionne Warwick, whose recording of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” was a 1970 Top 10. The songwriting duo also scored that year with “One Less bell To Answer” (The 5th Dimension) and another #1 “(They Long To Be) Close To You” (Carpenters).
These Bacharach and David songs were part of a developing wave of soft-rock records, many of which fit into the singer/songwriter movement, which included ones by Bread (with lead singer and chief composer David Gates) and James Taylor.
Another pop sub-genre was jazz-rock which started with Blood, Sweat & Tears the year before, and now had its most successful proponent in Chicago, which racked up its first two Top 10 singles and set them on the path to monstrous multi-platinum album sales throughout the decade.
Despite the influx of mellower music, 1970 did have its share of good ole rock ’n’ roll and edgier fare. Creedence Clearwater Revival continued its gold record run with three more double-sided Top 5 smashes, and a new, harder sound joined them on the charts, courtesy of Led Zeppelin, Free (“All Right Now”), and The Guess Who (“American Woman”).
Nineteen seventy saw a number of the performers at Woodstock the previous year reap the benefits of their participation, thanks to release of the documentary film in March and its soundtrack in May. Among them were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (“Woodstock”), Santana (“Evil Ways”), and Joe Cocker (“Cry Me A River”).
On the soul side, Sly & The Family Stone and The Temptations continued to mine the funky groove, while other Motown label mates of The Tempts — including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Rare Earth, and The Supremes — sold strongly, as well.
But Motown’s hottest 45 after “I Want You Back” was the incendiary protest anthem “War” by Edwin Starr.
“War” caught the mood of anti-war protesters who were stunned and angered by the ongoing escalation of America’s involvement in Vietnam and specifically the killing of four college students by US National Guardsmen at Kent State University on May 4. One month after the shooting, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young responded with their heartfelt “Ohio,” which quickly became a protest anthem.
In direct contrast to the turmoil roiling America came four pure pop hits from England. Three of the “groups” were session musicians backing up singer Tony Burrows: (Edison Lighthouse (“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)),” Brotherhood Of Man (“United We Stand”), and White Plains (“My Baby Loves Lovin’”). The fourth — Vanity Fare — was a real working band who reached the Top 5 with “Hitchin’ A Ride.”
The biggest band in the world, of course, was still The Beatles, who had a #1 single in April: the month that Paul McCartney announced that the Fab Four were breaking up. John Lennon had already released his first solo single “Instant Karma,” which sat one spot below “Let It Be” that month. George Harrison also struck out on his own later that year, becoming the first former Beatle to have a #1 on his own with “My Sweet Lord.”
Beatles fans around the world were shocked and shaken. In June John, Paul, George, and Ringo bowed out with a final majestic chart-topper: “The Long And Winding Road.”
Another consistent hit-making group — Simon & Garfunkel (who at four-and-a-half years of releasing smash singles and albums were ancient by Top 40 standards) — kicked off 1970 with their biggest 45 to date, the Grammy Award winning “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
On radio and on the album chart, the gap between AM and FM and singles and LPs that began in 1968 continued to widen. In 1970 the #1 LPs all fell into the rock category. In addition to the artists who delivered hit singles as well as best-selling albums — such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival — others were most successful as LP acts that year. Among them were Grand Funk Railroad, The Moody Blues, The Band, The Who, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones (who didn’t ever release a single in 1970).
The year closed out in much the same way as it had begun, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that in the Top 10. There was some Motown soul (“The Tears Of A Clown”), some Adult Contemporary (“One Less Bell To Answer”), some FM album cuts (“Black Magic Woman” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”), and a pair of tunes for the teens and tweens (“Knock Three Times” and “I Think I Love You”). Most notable was how few of the tracks in the Top 40 rocked: at year’s end the beat was definitely not going on.
Nineteen seventy had also seen significant losses in the world of rock ’n’ roll: the most since the death of Buddy Holly in 1959 and Eddie Cochran in 1960. In September Jimi Hendrix passed away followed by Janis Joplin a month later. Both were 27 and both died of a drug overdose.
On New Year’s Eve, Paul McCartney began proceedings in London’s High Court of Justice to dissolve The Beatles, marking the end of an exciting era in popular music and culture.
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
Record of the Year – Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon And Garfunkel
Album of the Year – Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon And Garfunkel
Song of the Year – Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon
Best New Artist – Carpenters
Top Songs of 1970 based on the Nolan Method
1. Raindrop Keep Fallin’ on My Head by B.J. Thomas
2. Let It Be by The Beatles
3. (They Long to Be) Close to You by The Carpenters
4. I Want You Back by The Jackson 5
5. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon And Garfunkel
A Year in Music – 1971
By 1971, the migration from the single to the album as the go-to source for rock ’n’ roll was pretty much complete. Even The Beatles were gone, at least as a collective foursome.
As the year opened, “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison notched its second week at #1. Followup “What Is Life” peaked at #10 in March. Up next was Paul who reached #5 with “Another Day” in April, and who went all the way to #1 in September with “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Ringo delivered “It Don’t Come Easy” in June (#4) and “Imagine” by John wrapped up the Fab Four’s solo Top 10 hits run in November (#3).
All told — including George’s “Bangla-Desh”/“Deep Blue” single (#23) and John’s “Power To The People” (#11) — there was a 45 by at least one former Beatle in the Hot 100 for all but four weeks in 1971!
The demise of The Beatles and the disappearance from the singles charts of most of the rock acts that had driven contemporary music in the mid-late ‘60s left a vacuum which was filled by softer sounds. Additionally, popular music continued to splinter into numerous sub-genres with the most prominent ones in 1970 being bubblegum, singer/ songwriter, and Adult Contemporary pop.
Bubblegum built upon the foundation laid down by the Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and The Archies. Debuting on the January 1 Hot 100 was “One Bad Apple” by The Osmonds, which reached #1 and stayed there for five weeks. The family band released two more hits in ’71 and member Donny had two on his own, including the chart-topping “Go Away Little Girl.”
The fictitious Partridge Family band had scored the million-selling “I Think I Love You” in 1970 and ’71 saw them land two more 45s in the Top 10. Lead singer David Cassidy also covered the 1966 smash “Cherish” and it, too, went gold.
(The Osmonds’s records were obvious knock-offs of The Jackson 5’s sound, who added to their hit streak as a group, while 13-year-old Michael stepped out as a solo artist with “Got To Be There.”)
Meanwhile, the year’s second chart-topper, Dawn’s “Knock Three Times” — more pop than bubblegum, despite its young appeal — went gold, the second of five million sellers for the group.
Unlike bubblegum, which played itself out fairly quickly, the singer/songwriter and soft pop/rock genres grew and thrived as the decade rolled on.
In contrast to the majority of solo artists to-date, singer/songwriters wrote and sang their own material. Nineteen seventy-one saw key players in this genre place singles in or near the Top 10. There was Elton John (“Your Song”), Van Morrison (“Domino”), Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”), Cat Stevens (“Wild World” and “Peace Train”), Carole King (“It’s Too Late”/“I Can Feel The Earth Move”) Carly Simon (“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”), James Taylor (“You’ve Got A Friend”), John Denver (“Take Me Home, Country Roads”), and Melanie (“Brand New Key”). King’s disc spent five weeks at #1 while Taylor and Melanie’s were on top for one week each. (King’s Tapestry LP also reached #1 where it stayed for 15 weeks. It ultimately sold 13 million copies.)
Soft, Adult Contemporary-style pop’s leading proponents that year were Bread, the Bee Gees, and the Carpenters.
Although Bread and the Bee Gees both added two Top 10 hits to their resumes, it was Karen and Richard Carpenter whose soft pop impact was the greatest (not including the Bee Gees later “second” disco era career). They ultimately racked up 12 Top 10’s in five years, 10 of which went gold, three in 1971 alone (“For All We Know,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” and “Superstar”).
Apart from these three sub-genres; soul and R&B, rock, country, and Top 40 pop also enjoyed Top 40 success.
The most notable event on the soul side (and a landmark event period) was Marvin Gaye’s triumphant What’s Going On album, which spun off three smash 45s. Although white artists had previously created concept albums, Gaye was the first Black to do so. His lyrics addressed the state of the world; expressing sadness, confusion, frustration, despair, and then hope. The enveloping jazz-infused melodies made for a powerful work whose importance remains undiminished today.
Joining Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” in the pop Top 10 was Isaac Hayes and “Theme From Shaft,” from the first movie to feature a strong Black hero. Hayes’s pulsating music and slang phrases (“Can you dig it?”) perfectly complemented Shaft’s adventures on the gritty streets of real-life New York City, to which many urban Blacks could relate.
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin added three more gold records to her collection. Four of her five Top 40 chart sides in 1971 were covers of previous hit songs, continuing a trend she began in 1968.
In country, 1971 was the year mainstream America discovered Oxford graduate and commercial helicopter pilot Kris Kristofferson who wrote “Me And Bobby McGee” (a hit for Janis Joplin) and “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Sammi Smith).
Some considered John Denver, one of the top male recording artists of the decade, a country artist. In truth, he was never fully accepted by the Nashville gang, and — despite its title — his first of many Top 10 pop hits, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” stalled at #50 on the country chart.
One casualty of the trend towards soft was rock ’n’ roll, which accounted for only two #1 records: “Brown Sugar” and “Maggie May.” The biggest rock/Top 40 pop act for 1971 was Three Dog Night with three Top 10 discs, including the #1 “Joy To The World.”
And…rock’s best selling band — Creedence Clearwater Revival — wrapped up its career with two final million-selling singles.
Overall, 1971 was similar to 1970 musically as Top 40 fans continued to prefer soothing, rather than exciting, music. And…if there were any doubt that the ‘60s were (apart from the calendar year) truly over, on July 3 Jim Morrison of The Doors died (like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix) at age 27.
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
A Year in Music – 1972
When “American Pie” — Don McLean’s epic homage to rock ’n’ roll — topped the Hot 100 in January of 1972, it became the first of eight #1 pop singles to also reach that peak on Billboard magazine’s Easy Listening (AKA Adult Contemporary) list.
The AC chart was compiled using the weekly playlists of radio stations that programmed more traditional adult fare vs records favored by teenagers which were ranked on the main pop list. Although there was always some overlap, by the late-1960s there were significant differences between the two.
Therefore, in 1972, when eight singles rose to #1 on both charts for a cumulative total of about 30 weeks on each, it was a clear indication of just how much the Top 40 had moved away from rock as its primary genre.
In addition to “American Pie,” there was ‘Without You” (Nilsson), “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack), “The Candy Man” (Sammy Davis, Jr.), “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan), “Black & White” (Three Dog Night), “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (Mac Davis), and “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash).
This ongoing preference for softer sounds fueled the continued popularity of singer/ songwriters. Some of the ones who emerged in 1971 — such as Elton John, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and John Denver — would remain viable as singles artists, while others (Van Morrison, for instance) became predominantly album artists.
New singer/songwriters who made the Top 40 in 1972 included now-solo Paul Simon (“Mother And Child Reunion”), Jackson Browne (“Take It Easy”), and Jim Croce (“You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”). Simon and Browne had long Top 40 careers; sadly, Croce’s was cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in 1973.
Nineteen seventy-two also had its share of singer/songwriters who came and went quickly, yet produced memorable hits of the day; among them Lobo (“I’d Love You To Want Me”) and Danny O’Keefe (“Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues”).
Mention should be also be made of Neil Diamond, who started out as a rocker with songs such as “Cherry, Cherry,” then found massive success as a Top 40 balladeer and ultimately superstardom as an Adult Contemporary artist. Although not an acoustic, neo- folkie like many of the new breed of singer/songwriters, he did write his own songs, such as “Song Sung Blue” (#1 in ’72).
Although singer/songwriters were predominantly white, African-American Bill Withers was a popular and talented exception; writing, singing, and producing “Lean On Me” and “Use Me,” both of which — like “Ain’t No Sunshine” the previous year — earned gold records.
In keeping with the easy sounds of the day, a new form of rock arose. Branded as “soft rock,” it could be heard on such singles as “A Horse With No Name” by the Crosby, Stills & Nash-styled trio America and “Summer Breeze” by one-time rock and rockabilly instrumentalists Seals & Crofts.
Soul, too, was undergoing a general transformation as the psychedelic elements heard in late-‘60s Sly & The Family Stone records gave way to smoother sounds.
Several key players based in Philadelphia made it the new soul capitol: Thom Bell and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Bell — the man behind hits by The Delfonics — was now working his magic with The Spinners and The Stylistics as a songwriter, arranger, and producer.
Under Bell’s tutelage, The Stylistics scored three gold records in 1972: “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” and “I’m Stone In Love With You.” For The Spinners, a Detroit group that released its first 45 in 1961, Bell created “I’ll Be Around,” also a million-seller.
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, with whom Bell sometimes partnered, were also multi- talented music men. They had been around for several years as successful independent record producers and in-house for their own Gamble Records, and its main act The Intruders (“Cowboys To Girls”).
In early 1971 they launched the Philadelphia International label and after a lackluster series of releases, struck gold — literally — in the final quarter of 1972, when “Back Stabbers” (The O’Jays), “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes), and “Me And Mrs.Jones” (Billy Paul) all topped the R&B chart and crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100. (“Mrs. Jones” went all the way to #1; the other two reached #3.)
The other main center of smooth soul was Memphis, Tennessee, where singer/ songwriter Al Green and musician/arranger/producer Willie Mitchell teamed up to create an irresistible laid-back groove that propelled numerous R&B and pop hits for Al. Eight of them became million-sellers, four of them in 1972, including“Let’s Stay Together”: a #1 pop hit and the top R&B single of the year.
However…waiting in the wings was a new breed of funk (heralded by Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead”) which would fill the demand for harder music by Black artists and co- exist with smooth soul in the coming years.
As for rock, apart from the occasional single hit, such as “Roundabout” by Yes or “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, most of its action happened on the album chart. Even mainstream pop rock was — apart from a few hits such as “Black & White,” “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl,” and “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” — largely a non-factor on the Top 40.
Still, as we shall see, there were changes in the wind, as new acts emerged to carry the rock ’n’ roll torch forward into the future. In June, “Take It Easy,” the initial single from the Eagles, debuted on the Hot 100, and was followed by “Witchy Woman,” the band’s first Top 10 hit. And, after three failed attempts, The Doobie Brothers got traction with “Listen To The Music.”
And so went 1972, with soul/R&B making a strong showing with soft and (what would be called) classic rock
This content is protected by the US and international copyright laws. Reproduction and/or distribution without the written permission of the author is prohibited. -Ed Osborne © 2022
A Year in Music – 1973
A rejuvenated Stevie Wonder kicked off an amazing string of hit singles and albums, while the sweet sounds of ‘70s soul continued its strong showing …Disco music broke out of urban clubs and onto the charts for the first time with an instrumental and a vocal hit…and singer/songwriters remained the dominant genre.
Nineteen seventy-three was a good year for singer/songwriters and for solo singers, as the public preference for softer sounds continued.
Carly Simon and Jim Croce reached #1 with the self-composed “You’re So Vain,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” and “Time In A Bottle;” while Roberta Flack, Elton John, Cher, and Helen Reddy all topped the Hot 100 with songs written by others.
It was also a good year for Motown. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” former Temptation Eddie Kendricks’s “Keep On Truckin’ (Part 1),” and Diana Ross’s “Touch Me In The Morning” all reached #1 on the pop chart. Additionally, the first two were R&B #1s and the third did likewise on the Adult Contemporary list.
However, the big Motor City winner was Stevie Wonder. Upon turning 21 in May 1971, he let his original recording contract expire, renegotiated his deal with the label, and returned the following March. Freed from the constraints of Berry Gordy’s hit-making machine, Stevie’s creativity soared and he reeled off five masterpiece albums and a string of astonishing singles. The first — “Superstition” — topped the pop and R&B charts, the second — “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” — peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 and the AC chart, and both won Grammys.
Ex-Motowner’s Gladys Knight & The Pips finally (they recorded their first single in 1956) achieved well-earned success, starting with “Midnight Train To Georgia,” which topped the Hot 100 and R&B charts, plus the group also took home a Grammy. Their one-time Detroit City label mates the Four Tops also moved on and experienced a career revival with a new deal and their first gold record in over six years for “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got).”
Meanwhile, Berry Gordy’s chief soul competitors Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelphia International earned gold records for “The Love I Lost” (Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes) and “Love Train” (The O’Jays), and Philly’s Thom Bell produced “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” (The Spinners) and “Break Up To Make Up” (The Stylistics), also million sellers.
The opening salvo of a genre that would take over the Top 40 to an extent not experienced since the 1960s British Invasion occurred when “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” by Deodato and “Pillow Talk” by Sylvia became the first disco instrumental and vocal respectively to reach the Top 10.
In contrast to these club rhythm records, R&B funksters Ohio Players and War channeled James Brown and Curtis Mayfield into nasty, bass groove discs that also got the gold.
Although not as prominent as dance music in 1973, rock, in its various guises, made a notable impression on the pop chart. Southern rockers The Allman Brothers Band reached #2 with the classic “Ramblin’ Man,” hard rockers Grand Funk scored a #1 million-seller with “We’re An American Band” as did blues rockers The Rolling Stones
with “Angie,” and prog rockers Pink Floyd mined Dark Side Of The Moon — ultimately one of the biggest selling albums of all time — for “Money.”
Country, too, had its moments on top. Charlie Rich, whose first single appeared in 1958, conquered the pop Hot 100, going all the way to #1 with “The Most Beautiful Girl.” Australian Adult Contemporary artist Helen Reddy went country, covering Tanya Tucker’s 1972 hit “Delta Dawn” and taking it to the pop top, as did TV star Vicki Lawrence whose Southern-themed “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” spent two weeks at #1.
As always, good old pop records made their mark on the chart, the most successful of which was based on the true story of a Georgia man who, upon being released from prison, made a special request of his wife. If she still loved him, she was to let him know. Just “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree” (the couple lived in White Oak, Georgia). Although not initially sold on the song, Tony Orlando eventually agreed to record it, and was rewarded with the second most-popular single of the year.
Other easy-on-the-ears discs that did well were Roberta Flack’s Grammy-winning “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” Diana Ross’s “Touch Me In The Morning,” Elton John’s “Daniel” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and the Carpenters three gold records “Sing,” “Yesterday Once More,” and “Top Of The World.”
And so 1973 passed with its Top 40 pot pourri of musical genres, ending much as it had begun, with nary (well, almost) an upsetting ripple to disturb the listeners: a salve for the nightly D.C. Watergate scandal news and gasoline rationing at the pumps.
A Year in Music – 1974
Disco surged with several #1 singles…funk made inroads on the Hot 100…John Denver began his hit run with three Top 10s…Elton John earned three gold records… Soul/R&B accounted for six of the year’s 10 most popular 45s…and the best-selling record of the year was a Grammy award-winning ballad by Barbra Streisand.
Unlike the mid-to-late ‘60s, when envelope-pushing, genre-busting singles were culturally front-and-center, in the early 1970s more groundbreaking releases shared radio airtime and sales dollars with traditional pop, much of it soft sounding and familiar. Singer/songwriter and sweet soul 45s satisfied the AM listeners’ preference for music that soothed rather than excited.
That, plus the splintering of rock ’n’ roll into numerous sub-genres, the fracturing of the mainstream Top 40 radio format into more narrowly defined — musically and demographically — categories, and a station’s universe of songs more-and-more determined by the results of passive research rather than deejays and program directors, meant that AM radio became less-and-less adventurous.
These factors and others resulted in the Top 40 hits of 1974 representing a variety of contemporary music styles, with none dominating.
The new genre on the block was disco. The first two disco records reached the Top 3 in 1973: now they started claiming the top spot. Six of the 35 #1 singles were dance discs: “Love’s Theme,” “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia),” “Rock The Boat,” “Rock Your Baby,” “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe,” and “Kung Fu Fighting.” All were performed by Black artists.
African-Americans also accounted for many other records that peaked in the Hot 100 Top 3. Among them were, Dionne Warwick & The Spinners, Stevie Wonder, Al Wilson, The Jackson 5, The Stylistics, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight & The Pips.
This crossing over of R&B records to pop — and in more than a few cases Adult Contemporary, as well — translated into increased sales, with many soul discs going gold. (Motown head Berry Gordy was one exec who didn’t report complete sales figures to the trade organization that certifies such awards, so that Stevie Wonder, for instance, earned no gold records while he was signed to Gordy’s Tamla label.)
Adult contemporary and soft rock also had solid showings in ’74. Beating all for top single of the year honors was Barbra Streisand with “The Way We Were”: her first #1 single. Roberta Flack scored a trifecta when “Feel Like Makin‘ Love” became her third 45 to top the pop, R&B, and adult contemporary charts, and all three went gold.
The breakout female artist was English-born/Australian-raised Olivia Newton-John, who earned three gold records for “Let Me Be There,” “If You Love Me (Let Me Know),” and “I Honestly Love You.” All were also Top 10 adult contemporary and country hits. Plus, Olivia took home two pop and one country Grammy awards.
Likewise, Anne Murray had a Top 10 pop/#1 adult contemporary hit and a #1 country track, which were the A- and B-sides of the same single release: neither of which crossed over to the other list.
Another artist straddling the pop, adult contemporary, and country genres was John Denver, who hit his stride with the million-sellers “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” and “Back Home Again.” (Despite his success on the country chart, the Nashville music establishment refused to accept Denver as “one of theirs” which would result in an infamous incident on live television in 1975.)
As for singer/songwriters and soft rockers, established performer/composers Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King, and Jim Croce all had hits, while Carly Simon and James teamed up for a revival for Inez Foxx’s 1963 Top 10 45 “Mockingbird.” They were joined by Joni Mitchell who finally — in her seventh year as a recording artist — landed her first (and only) Top 10 single: “Help Me.”
And then there was rock. Although Steve Miller released his first single and album in 1968, it took him five years to break through, when “The Joker” went to #1 on the Hot
- He was 30 years old, as was Randy Bachman, whose band Bachman-Turner Overdrive reached the top with “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” (Randy had a head start on Steve: he’d already scored a #1 as a member of the Guess Who.)
Paul McCartney rocked out on “Band On The Run,” before moving over to more adult contemporary music for the rest of the decade. Paul’s Liverpool buddy John matched his peak performance when “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” also hit #1.
Singing backup on Lennon’s track was Elton John, who had a banner year of his own, picking up two more gold records plus a platinum award for “Bennie And The Jets.”
Early jazz rockers Chicago settled into an easy listening style which brought them further success, while legendary blues rock guitarist Eric Clapton went reggae, covering the Bob Marley classic “I Shot The Sheriff.”
With all the slicing and dicing categorizing of popular music, one band didn’t quite belong to any specific camp. Was Steely Dan jazz? Rock? Adult contemporary? Their genre-defying style would bring them long term critical acclaim and success, including a Top 10 single in ’74: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”
The final pop chart of 1974 found three disco records in the Top 10. On the surface that wasn’t an auspicious event; however, a significant grass roots movement born in New York City clubs was making enough noise for Billboard magazine to begin publishing a dedicated Disco Action chart in October. The stage was set for an imminent dance explosion.
A Year in Music – 1975
Linda Ronstadt placed three in the Top 5, including her only #1…and Elton John added four more gold discs to his collection, three of which hit #1. The Eagles, one of rock’s all-time best selling bands, landed three singles on top…while the Bee Gees switched to dance music and began the most successful phase of their career.
Nineteen seventy-five was another all bets are off, free-for-all year on the Top 40: just about any artist in any genre could have a hit record. One beneficiary of this democratization was country music, in which country artists crossed over to pop and pop artists crossed over to country, and many were winners on both charts.
A prime example of this was Glen Campbell, whose “Rhinestone Cowboy” was the Hot 100 top record of the year and would have performed likewise on the country list, had he not been beaten out beaten out by C.W. McCall and “Convoy.”
Although Glen was no stranger to pop fans — he’d had two gold records in 1969 plus his Goodtime Hour television show placed in the Nielsen ratings Top 20 — just three of his records had made the pop Top 40 thus far in the 1970s. By contrast, he’d had nine Top 20 country hits during that same period and by 1975 was considered more country than pop..
Crossing over in the reverse direction was B.J. Thomas and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Although B.J.’s first Hot 100 Top 10 was a cover of a song written and originally recorded by Hank Williams — the acknowledged father of modern country music — he stayed in the pure pop lane after that until 1975 when his done somebody wrong disc also topped the Hot Country Singles list.
Freddy Fender was another notable pop and country success. His “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” landed in the pop and country year-end Top 10s and sold gold, as did a song Freddy first recorded in 1959 “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights.”
And Olivia Newton-John continued her crossover career by landing two pop and country Top 5’s plus three adult contemporary #1s.
The country-flavored music by the Eagles also found favor, giving the LA band two #1s and a #2, of which “Lyin’ Eyes” made an impression on the country chart, too.
The artist with the most — and most controversial — crossover success was John Denver, who placed four 45s in the pop Top 10, two of which reached #1 on the country chart, as well. When John was named the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year over traditionalist “outlaw” Waylon Jennings, well…that was too much for (the obviously drunk) presenter Charlie Rich. Rich whipped out a lighter and burned Denver’s award card on live national television.
Another noteworthy trend involved the surprising number of artists who made a comeback in 1975. Neil Sedaka — whose last #1 was in 1962 — scored two as a singer (“Laughter In The Rain” and “Bad Blood,” both of which he co-wrote) and another as a co-composer (“Love Will Keep Us Together,” which took home a Record of the Year Grammy).
Patti LaBelle, who first had a hit in 1962, grabbed a gold disc for her #1 “Lady Marmalade.” Ben E. King returned to the Top 10 after 14 years. Jefferson Starship — fronted by former Jefferson Airplane members — made it again after eight years. And, after a four year drought, the Bee Gees entered the second, and most successful, phase of their remarkable career with the chart-topping “Jive Talkin’.”
Rock was well represented by a breakout and a veteran artist: Linda Ronstadt.and Elton John. After Ronstadt’s initial hit entry “Different Drum,” her recording career stalled until the release of the #1 album Heart Like A Wheel that included the #1 single “You’re No Good,” originally recorded by Betty Everett. Linda’s other two Top 10 hits were also revivals of oldies: “When Will I Be Loved” (The Everly Brothers) and “Heat Wave” (Martha & The Vandellas).
Elton John’s four gold or platinum singles made him the year’s top artist, one of which
— “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” — featured (appropriately) John Lennon on guitar. Lennon also co-wrote and sang backup on David Bowie’s “Fame,” and made his last Top 10 appearance as an artist until 1980 with “#9 Dream.”
Two other former Beatles matched John’s chart performance when Paul McCartney’s new band Wings and Ringo Starr reached the Top 10 with “Listen To What The Man Said” and “No No Song.”
The prominent breakout singer was former jingle writer Barry Manilow whose sixth single release went to #1 pop: the first of 13 adult contemporary chart toppers. R&B funk band Earth, Wind & Fire also finally got some Hot 100 traction and a Grammy to boot with its twelfth 45 “Shining Star.”
And then there was disco. What had seemed imminent, or at least probable, at the end of 1974 — the ascendance of disco as a major genre on the Top 40 — had not happened. There were only five #1 dance-style singles: “Pick Up The Pieces,” “The Hustle,” Get Down Tonight,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” and “Fly, Robin, Fly,” plus a handful of others which peaked in the Top 20.
Perhaps the attraction of disco was a mere passing fancy rather than a full-blown love affair. Only time would tell.
A Year in Music – 1976
Disco had its best year to-date as dance discs dominated the Top 40…rock also had its best year in a long time with artists such as the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Boz Scaggs leading the charge…and Adult Contemporary and Soft Rock continued to capture a solid share of chart action.
Although 1976 continued the several-years trend in which a diversified mix of genres had Top 40 success, several stood out: disco, rock, and soft rock/pop.
From 1973 through 1975, the only consistent Hot 100 disco artist had been — with five Top 10 hits and four gold records — Barry White. As Barry’s star waned, other dance disc artists, both genre specific and mainstream pop acts anxious to cash in on the new rhythm-driven sound, moved to the fore.
Stepping into Barry’s shoes as the reigning king of disco was KC and The Sunshine Band. Having co-written, arranged, and produced George McCrae’s seminal “Rock Your Baby” in 1974, Harry Wayne “KC” Carey was no stranger to dance floor music. As a recording artist, he’d been experimenting with funky rhythms since 1973, before scoring two #1s in ’75 and another in ’76: the infectious “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty.”
Joining him on the boogie train were The Sylvers (“Boogie Fever”), Silver Convention (“Get Up And Boogie”), and — performing an aural horizontal boogie — Donna Summer with her super-sexy “Love To Love You Baby.”
Several veteran pop acts also hopped on the boogie bandwagon, including The Four Seasons, The Miracles, and Johnnie Taylor, whose “Disco Lady” became the first platinum-certified single, selling in excess of one million copies.
The Bee Gees stayed in their new groove with another chart-topper “You Should Be Dancing.”
And…for the first time, disco claimed top single of the year honors: a mash-up of rhythm and classical called “A Fifth Of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band.
Rock also turned in a strong showing with some of the genre’s most popular artists releasing classic albums (which is where, along with FM AOR-formatted radio stations, rock now lived) and singles.
Fleetwood Mac, which started out as a British blues band in 1967, hit its stride with a reconstituted LA-based lineup and a mainstream pop, self-titled album, that yielded three hit singles: “Over My Head,” “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win),” and “Say You Love Me.”
Peter Frampton’s chart debut occurred in 1967, as a member of The Herd, followed by further success with Humble Pie in 1969. He formed his own band in ’71 and went solo three years later. Peter finally struck platinum with Frampton Comes Alive! which spun off three hits, including “Show Me The Way.”
Likewise, Gary Wright had been a member of a ‘60s band (Spooky Tooth) before succeeding as a solo (on his second attempt) with two #2 singles in 1976: “Dream Weaver” and ”Love Is Alive.”
Boz Scaggs had waited even longer for a hit. He released his first album in 1966 and then banged around the music business for 10 years until Silk Degrees and its ultra smooth, funky track “Lowdown” charted pop, adult contemporary, and r&b; and took home a Song of the Year Grammy in the latter category.
While awaiting his breakthrough, Boz played in school boy buddy Steve Miller’s band. Success had proved elusive for Miller, too. After a promising start in 1968, Steve finally landed a #1 single in 1974 and another in 1967: “Rock’n Me,” taken from his multi- platinum LP Fly Like An Eagle.
Queen was luckier. Its first album in 1973 broke into the album Top 100 and the fourth
— containing the iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody” — made Freddie Mercury & company superstars.
Electric Light Orchestra also cracked Billboard’s Top 100 LP chart in ’73 with its sophomore effort and reached the singles Top 10 in 1975. In 1976 it racked up two more hits with “Livin’ Thing” and the gold-selling “Telephone Line.”
Then there was former Beatle Paul McCartney, a super superstar twice-over, who continued his run with “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In.” (Paul and his Fab Four mates also returned to the Top 10 with a 1966 recording which he had written called “Got To Get You Into My Life.”)
Joining these musical veterans were newcomers Heart (“Magic Man”) and Boston (“More Than A Feeling”).
The softer side of rock and pop was also on display in the Top 40. There were England Dan & John Ford Coley, Firefall, and Orleans — each of which had several hit singles — and one-hit wonders Starbuck and Starland Vocal Band: all of whom made memorable music.
Nineteen seventy-six found former folkie Paul Simon getting his first solo #1 “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”…jazz guitarist George Benson taking home a Record of the Year Grammy for “This Masquerade”: the only vocal track on Breezin’ which also won a Grammy for Pop Instrumental Album…and Barry Manilow winning the Song of the Year award for “I Write The Songs” (which was actually composed by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston).
As 1976 slid into 1977, the Top 40 was made up of its now-common variety of pop genres, a trend which would continue until the end of the new year and the arrival of Saturday Night Fever.
A Year in Music – 1977
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album stayed at #1 for 31 weeks and spun off four Top 10 singes…the Bee Gees began their run of six consecutive #1 singles…and Adult Contemporary/Soft Rock continued its strong showing. Elvis Presley died on August 16, the week his 28th (and final) platinum-selling single was in the Top 40.
Nineteen seventy-seven marked the beginning of rock ’n’ roll’s third decade: its 20 years as contemporary music’s dominant genre easily eclipsing the popular lifespan of any previous mainstream form of music.
Sadly, the man responsible for kicking it into the mainstream — Elvis Presley — passed away at age 42 on August 16. He was then the top artist of the rock ’n’ roll era to-date with his 157th (!!) side on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
Coincidentally, rock was enjoying a midlife renaissance, ruling the album charts for all but seven weeks. The #1 spot for the other 45 was held by just two titles — Hotel California (Eagles) and Rumours (Fleetwood Mac) — which, as of this writing, are both in the best-selling album Top 10, with a total tally of 60 million certified copies. Hotel California yielded two million-selling #1s (“New Kid In Town” and the title track) while Rumours spun off four Top 10s (“Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” Don’t Stop,” and “You Make Loving Fun”).
Other successful rock artists that year were Steve Miller, whose “Fly Like An Eagle” soared to #1: Linda Ronstadt, who racked up Top 5 singles with covers of the oldies “Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy;” and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band which scored its first chart-topper in over 12 years, with a version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light.” And, after 10 years of releasing singles, Bob Seger finally broke through with his autobiographical “Night Moves.”
Joining these veteran artists were acts new to the singles Top 40: Kansas (“Carry On Wayward Son”) and Foreigner (“Feels Like The First Time” and “Cold As Ice”).
If you didn’t want to rock in 1977, there were plenty of records to which one could roll (sensually, that is), including “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright),” “I’m In You,” and “Right Time Of The Night.”
Not every artist created music that fit into well-defined categories. The king of multiple styles was Stevie Wonder whose hit singles in ’77 were the funky “I Wish” and his swinging big band tribute to Duke Ellington “Sir Duke.” The Commodores, too, shape- shifted from the jammin’ ode to the female form “Brick House” to the free-as-a-bird ballad “Easy.”
Then there was Jimmy Buffett who released the career- and image-defining “Margaritaville” and Al Stewart and the mysterious “Year Of The Cat:” two artists who followed muses unlike anyone else’s.
On the country side of the street, Kenny Rogers began his remarkable run of crossover pop/adult contemporary singles with the award-winning “Lucille;” as did Dolly Parton, who won a Grammy for “Here You Come Again.” Meanwhile Glen Campbell wrapped up his Top 40 career with a bang as “Southern Nights” went to #1 on all three charts.
Disco expanded beyond its usual rave-up, dance club rhythms into more romantic, laid- back grooves “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show),” and “Undercover Angel.”
For those who preferred more energetic, sweat-inducing music there were tracks such as “Best Of My Love,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Hot Line,” and “I’m Your Boogie Man.”
Despite these successes, disco appeared to be losing momentum on the mainstream Top 40 compared to the previous year, with singles from other genres giving it strong competition. And…although the #1 single for the year — Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” — was considered a disco disc, it was closer to adult contemporary pop one might call “disco-lite.”
Then something unexpected happened that kicked the popularity of dance music well beyond its urban club fan base and into the mainstream stratosphere. On November 15 the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was released and the movie debuted in theaters across America on December 16.
Suddenly — much like the twist phenomenon — everyone wanted to boogie. Chubby Checker had kicked off the dance revolution of 1962; in 1977 and 1978 it was a trio of English brothers who led the disco invasion.
“How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees was released ahead of the movie and became the year’s final #1 record. “More Than A Woman” by Tavares also peaked in 1977. And that was just the beginning. More SNF singles stormed the charts in 1978 and the soundtrack topped the album list for 24 weeks.
The final Top 10 of 1977 included a blockbuster ballad which stayed on top for 10 weeks (“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone), the two aforementioned Linda Ronstadt singles, two country #1s (Dolly’s “Here You Come Again” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”), and a third Nashville act (The Oak Ridge Boys) backing up Paul Simon on his current hit “Slip Slidin’ Away”: all-in-all an eclectic mix.
However, the #1 record that week was by a trio of English brothers who would become the poster children for disco, and by March 1978 would rule the Top 10 as no other act had since The Beatles claimed all of the Top 5 slots 14 years earlier.
A Year in Music – 1978
The Bee Gees were everywhere as their Saturday Night Fever album stayed on top for 24 straight weeks and their successful singles output – as songwriters, singers, and producers – swelled, culminating in a week when they were responsible for four of the Top 5 singles. Rocker Billy Joel had a banner year with four hit 45s but rock still took a back seat to Soft Rock.
Nineteen fifty-six was the year of Elvis Presley and the rock ’n’ roll explosion. Nineteen sixty-four was that of The Beatles and the British Invasion. And in 1978 the Bee Gees and disco fever ruled.
Whereas Elvis and The Beatles were new faces on the national scene, the Bee Gees had already had a run of ballad hits and then faded from the pop scene. Four years passed before they returned to the top of the Hot 100 in 1975 with “Jive Talkin’” and a new sound. They racked up two more #1s in the next two years, however, no one anticipated that they were entering a second and most successful part of their career.
After “How Deep Is Your Love” became the final chart-topper of 1977, “Stayin’ Alive” matched it in February of ’78: the second of six platinum/gold #1 singles. “Alive” was also the first of four consecutive Bee Gees-related #1s. It was replaced by brother Andy’s “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” which was followed by the trio’s own “Night Fever” and Evonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You”: all of which the Gibb’s wrote.
Such dominance by a group hadn’t happened since The Beatles. In April 1964, singles by The Fab Four occupied the top five slots on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100. In March 1978 the Bee Gees were responsible for five of the Top 6: their two singles plus Andy and Yvonne’s mentioned above, along with “Emotion” by Samantha Sang (which Barry co-wrote and co-produced).
In addition, Barry also penned the title tune for the movie Grease, which Four Seasons lead singer Frankie Valli took to the top. (The soundtrack also spun off another #1 — “You’re The One That I Want” by stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John — and two Top 10 singles: “Summer Nights,” also by John and Olivia, and “Hopelessly Devoted To You” by Olivia solo.)
Not surprisingly, dance records by other artists successfully hopped on the dance music bandwagon. Chic — built around songwriter/musician/producers Bernard Edwards and Niles Rodgers — delivered some of the most infectious grooves on hits such “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” and “Le Freak.” Plus, Donna Summer emerged as the “Queen Of Disco” on the strength of hits such as “Last Dance” and a rhythm take on — of all things — the lyrically cryptic “MacArthur Park,” which had been a surprise hit for Irish actor Richard Harris in 1968.
Even classic rockers The Rolling Stones couldn’t resist the call of the club crowd. “Miss You” returned them to the top for the first time in almost five years and landed them in the Top 10 of Billboard’s National Disco Action chart.
Against this disco onslaught rock held its own and then some. The Stones followed “Miss You” with the funky, guitar riff-driven “Beast Of Burden.” Foreigner earned its first two gold records for “Hot Blooded” and “Double Vision.” Queen struck with one of its signature songs “We Will Rock You”/“We Are The Champions,” as did Kansas with “Dust In The Wind” and Styx with “Sail Away.”
The softer side of rock fared well, too, as did singer/songwriters. “Baby Come Back,” “Baker Street,” “How Much I Feel,” and “Reminiscing” all made the Top 3, while Billy Joel, Carly Simon, and Al Stewart reached the Top 10 with “Just The Way You Are,” “You Belong To Me,” and “Time Passages” respectively.
As for adult contemporary, two iconic singers — Barbara Streisand and Johnny Mathis
— duetted with Neil Diamond and Deniece Williams, and conquered the Top 40. For Mathis “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” was his first #1 since 1957 (“Chances Are”) and for Neil “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” was his first in over six years. For both singers it was their last trip to the top. Robert Flack also had her final Top 40 single, “The Closer I Get To You,” while Anne Murray had her first (and only) #1, “You Needed Me.”
Noticeably absent from the upper reaches of the mainstream pop charts were classic soul records. Of those that reached #1 on the R&B list only one crossed over to the Hot 100 Top 10: “Use Ta Be My Girl” by The O’Jays, which peaked at #4.
As 1978 closed out, the Top 10 contained three archetypal disco discs: “Le Freak,” “ I Love The Nightlife (Disco ‘Round),” and “Y.M.C.A.” It also included rock (“My Life”), soft rock (“Sharing The Night Together”), and adult contemporary (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”).
Still, despite its strength in the Top 10, only a handful of dance discs graced the rest of the Top 40, just one of which would — for better or for worse — leave its mark in pop culture: “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
Would disco continue its hold on radio playlists and trade charts in 1978? On New Year’s Eve 1977 all bets were off.
A Year in Music – 1979
Despite a Disco Sucks event in July, the genre remained red hot, led by Donna Summer and her four gold/platinum singles, including three #1’s…rock fought back against chart dance mania with big hits by The Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Knack, who’s “My Sharona” spent the most weeks at #1…and country’s Kenny Rogers had a good pop crossover year with his award-winning “The Gambler.”
If you loved to “get up and boogie,” then 1978 was your year. From “Night Fever” to “Disco Inferno,” the music was hot and the time was right for dancing. It was a heat that burned into the next year.
The Top 5 songs of 1979 were disco discs: seven of the Top 10. Into August, of the 13 #1 singles, nine had a you-can-dance-to-it beat and they accounted for 22 weeks on top: “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” “I Will Survive,” “Tragedy,” “Knock On Wood,” “Heart Of Glass,” “Hot Stuff,” “Ring My Bell,” “Bad Girls,” and “Good Times.”
(Interestingly, the other two #1 singles by the most the successful disco group — the Bee Gees — were not uptempo; they were a ballad (“Too Much Heaven”) and a funky, slower rhythm record (“Love You Inside Out”).)
The 45 that broke that hot streak of disco chart-toppers was a flat-out, drums/guitar/ bass rocker by LA band The Knack called “My Sharona,” which stayed at #1 for six weeks, longer than any other record that year.
Over the 13 week post “Sharona” period, only five disco singles hit #1, for a total of just six weeks.
Various theories have been floated as to what happened. One: any fad has a finite lifespan and disco had one longer than many previous ones. Two: the music business suits smelled green in them there beat and rushed to cash in, eliminating much of the initial innovation and excitement, and rushing anybody into the studio to record a dance tune. (Example: chanteuse Barbra Streisand who released “The Main Event/Fight.”)
The third reason put forward was the most visible and dramatic. On July 12 a Disco Demolition Night event was held at Comiskey Park in Chicago, between games of a baseball doubleheader. It was hosted by rock radio DJ Steve Dahl, who had been fired on Christmas Eve from WDAI when the station switched formats from rock to disco.
He returned to the airwaves at rocker WLUP-FM and started promoting “Disco Die” events, culminating in July when an over-capacity crowd engaged in a full-scale riot.
Most likely, the demise of disco was a combination of the three. In any case, disco may have been on its way out, but dance music certainly wasn’t. In fact, Beats-Per-Minute- driven tracks eventually came back to dominate the pop music scene. (In a harbinger of things to come, Michael Jackson scored his first solo #1 out of 11 he’d have between 1979 and 1995: “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”)
Meanwhile, rock continued its resurgence in 1979. The harder edges of classic rock ’n’ roll were sanded down a bit, yet the music was still compelling. The Doobie Brothers, fronted by white, soul singer Michael McDonald, reached #1, won a gold record, and took home a Record of the Year Grammy for “What A Fool Believes.” New York native son Billy Joel kicked some butt with “My Life” and “Big Shot.” Orchestral rock band Electric Light Orchestra landed two singles in the Top 10: “Shine A Little Love” and
“Don’t Bring Me Down.” And prog-rock Supertramp delivered “Goodbye Stranger” and “Take The Long Way Home.”
Among the new faces in the Top 10 were Dire Straits — propelled by the silky guitar leads of Mark Knopfler — with “Sultans Of Swing,” and new-wavers Blondie — led by sultry Debbie Harry — with the million-selling #1 “Heart Of Glass.” Both would help define the sound of the early ‘80s, as would The Police, which opened its singles career with “Roxanne.”
(For British bands such as Dire Straits and The Police, their emergence played out against the burgeoning punk scene: characterized by a raw sound whose practitioners rejected (in their eyes) over-indulgent prog rock and inane pop music, in favor of stripped-down, short and simple singles. Chief proponents were the Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Damned, and The Clash. Although punk records sold far fewer singles than mainstream records, the UK bands — along with The Ramones from Brooklyn, NY — were highly influential.)
Nineteen seventy-nine also saw some fine singer/songwriter and country singles make their mark: among them, “Chuck E.’s In Love” and “Gold” by one-hit wonders Rickie Lee Jones and John Stewart, and former psych-rocker-turned-Nashville-star Kenny Rogers who started his years-long run of crossover hits with “The Gambler,” “She Believes In Me,” and “You Decorated My Life.”
Rounding things out: adult contemporary contributed “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes, the latter of which was the final #1 of ’79.
Joining Rupert in that Top 10 were several other softer sounds: “Babe” (Styx), “Send One Your Love” (Stevie Wonder), “Still” (Commodores), “Do That To Me One More Time” (The Captain and Tennille), and “You’re Only Lonely” (J.D. Souther). All were also Top 10 adult contemporary hits.
Would this gentler trend continue into the new decade or would rock ’n’ roll return to prominence on the Top 40? It was anyone’s game as 1979 slid into 1980.
For the complete list of Top 100 songs for 1970, click here.