Pitchfork’s 200 Top Singles Of The 70s

In case you feel like having a completely unproductive day, Pitchfork has created a ranking of their top 200 singles of the 1970s. Lists like these, of course, tend to generate plenty of dissent and arguing and that’s a lot of their fun. Hit the link for factoid-packed capsule reviews and YouTube links to David Bowie, ABBA, Donna Summer, The Clash, Diana Ross, Ramones, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, and a hundred other acts, some of which you’d either forgotten about or never heard of. And pay attention to the “see also” notations at the bottom of each entry. From the list’s opening:

The 1970s was arguably the single decade of the 20th century when recorded music was most central to culture. There were, of course, fewer kinds of media competing for the average consumer’s time—television meant just a handful of channels, video games were the size of refrigerators and could be found in arcades. As the used vinyl bins of the world are still telling us, records were the thing. Labels were flush with cash, sales of LPs and singles were brisk, and record stores were everywhere. Home stereos were a standard part of middle-class culture. Analog recording technology was at its zenith, FM radio was ascendant, and the AM dial still focused on music. The children of the baby boom were coming into their late twenties and thirties—young enough to still be serious music consumers, but old enough to have their own generation of children who were starting to buy music.

  • Joe, if you post one of these for the 80s, i’ll probably get fired, due to being absolutely, totally unproductive.

    • Talisman

      Everyone knows that the 80s killed music.

      • Not everyone apparently.

      • Boy, the way that U2 played,
        Songs that helped get Bono laid,
        Watching films John Candy made,
        Those were the days!

        And you knew where you were then,
        PCs came from IBM!
        Mister, we could use a man like Jon Bon Jovi again!

        Quantum Leap from state to state,
        Then you could watch Cheers at 8!
        Gee, Atari sure ran great.
        Those were THE DAYS!

        • Amanda B. Rekendwith

          Sing out, Edith!

      • The_Wretched

        I spent the 80s thinking everyone was insane.

      • Joe knows who I am.

        Well that’s because Video Killed The Radio Star.

      • Gerry Fisher

        FWIW, college radio in the 80s *rocked*. X, Husker Du, the Replacements, REM, the Throwing Muses, the Pixies, the Cure. Top 40? Not so much.

        • henry o.

          The Smiths, Lush, Dead can Dance, The Art of Noise.

  • Brad Lathem

    I’ve always enjoyed reading Pitchfork, but my girlfriend HATES it.

    • delk

      This was the first year I missed the Pitchfork Music Festival.

  • JoeMyGod

    As for arguing, my first problem is with the first song on the list, which should have been this.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0NxhFn0szc

    • JoeMyGod

      This track got renewed life recently when it was featured on American Horror Story to illustrate the plight of the Liz Taylor character.

      • Brooklyn Joe

        i have to check if broken english or why’d you do what you did? are on the list

    • fuzzybits

      First time I ever heard this song I was sitting in Cafe Flore in San Francisco. Ran out and bought the album.

  • Gustav2

    “The children of the baby boom were coming into their late twenties and thirties…”

    Ack! This is one of my pet peeves, the US census calls folks born between 1946 and 1964 Baby Boomers. More than half the Boomers were under 30 in the 1970’s.

    The youngest would have been 16 in 1980, the oldest 34 years old.

    • medaka

      I hear ya. I was born at the end of the Boomer-thing, so of course I know almost every song on this list. Mowtown, glam, punk, new wave, no wave….the 70s were a smorgasbord of fun and invention.

      • Gustav2

        In the early Aught’s I had younger AA coworkers who looked at me strange when I knew the words to Motown and R&B hits from the 60’s and 70’s.

        They couldn’t get it through their heads we all listened to everything. In their minds white boys and girls from the suburbs were not listening or dancing to the same things their parents were.

        • Chuck in NYC

          CBS-FM in New York still played 50s hits in the 1980s — I was too young to have had those as my childhood soundtrack, but I was so used to 1960s and 1970s Top 40 radio and the broad selection of rock to pop to r&b to country that I loved hearing those oldies. CBS has steadily moved its playlist forward to where you barely hear any Motown classics earlier than 1970, and most of the selections are now from the 80s and later. At this rate I’ll stop listening in a few years because there is no way I’m going to transition to following songs that all have rap breaks.

    • Gerry Fisher

      FWIW, I was born in ’61, and I don’t really identify with the Boomers. I came of age in the 70s with a sense of awe about “what it must have been like” to have come of age in the supposedly much cooler 60s. It took some years to get a less romanticized view of that earlier decade.

      When the first Boomer was elected President–Bill Clinton in ’92–he seemed significantly older than me (though I liked that he chose Fleetwood Mac songs for his campaigning).

      My most intense following of pop music was ’70-ish through ’90-ish.

      • CanuckDon

        I was born in ’61 as well but with three older sisters, I got the full realm of music from late ’50s and throughout the ’60s although definitely on the very pop side which influenced my tastes in the ’70s.

        It was actually disco that swayed me away from the radio. I loved seeing individuals choosing unknown and obscure music to play to their audiences rather than the money-grubbing corporate establishment.

  • sherman

    Scrolling down the first dozen songs on the list and not having heard of any of them, I’ll assume the list is for the people who were too cool to actually listen to music that was popular.

    • Personally, I only listen to music nobody else has heard! If someone else has listened to it, it’s too mainstream for me!

      That makes my personal playlist kinda short, admittedly. :p

    • JoeMyGod

      This is #199, which was absolutely inescapable at t-dances of the day.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz67Pcqe9WY

      • JoeMyGod

        These days Patrice Rushen is a music professor at USC.

        • medaka

          I had no idea. How cool is that?

        • Brooklyn Joe

          Wow

    • DaddyRay

      The list starts at 200 and counts down to 1
      You could always go to page 10 and work your way backwards

      • sherman

        Already tried that. Not impressed.

  • BeaverTales

    Wow, unbelievably Motown oriented…thanks!…probably not top 40, but as an average black American, lots of songs I grew up with!

    • TuuxKabin

      Haven’t listened yet, but reading your comment will do it now while reading the rest of the comments. Thanks.

  • DaddyRay

    And I am now late for work
    Thanks Joe

    • Smokey

      No, thanks Obama! /s

      • TuuxKabin

        ‘Round here, it’s thanks MTA!

  • Do Something Nice

    It would be interesting to bump this list against Billboard.

    • CanuckDon

      Just glancing through it, there would be very few that would hit a Billboard Top 200 Singles of the ’70s. Quickly glancing thru, less than 20 of these hit #1 on the pop chart, most never hit the top 10, and many weren’t actually released as singles.

  • Jeffg166

    If it wasn’t played in a gay bar I probably didn’t hear it. What I heard I never really knew the song’s name or performers who performed.

    • CanuckDon

      That’s my comment about the 1980s.

  • bryan

    I hadn’t heard Loretta Lynn singing ‘The Pill’ before…. radical. Something for all those nice christian ladies to sing along to…

  • Steve

    Looking through the list I am convinced of what I always thought. The music in the ’70’s was schizo. You had the folk music coming out of the ’60’s, the rise of Disco, British glam, and ‘rock’ like Kiss all in the same decade. Plus the Beatles, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and David Bowie.

    • CanuckDon

      In my eyes, it was a brilliant, vibrant decade. Pop charts filled with rock, soul, country, and easy listening too. It meshed our tastes and helped mesh individual cultures. What other ten year party had musical guests like Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk, Aerosmith and Queen, Al Green and Marvin Gaye, Olivia Newton-John and Barry Manilow, the Carpenters and ABBA, Roberta Flack and Carole King, disco galore, with Charlie Rich and Freddy Fender!

  • Oh’behr

    I’m bad, I’m starting at #1 and going backwards. I like the UK show based on #1. That TV series was excellent. I otherwise won’t spoil #1 for people who are going down the list from #200 to #199 and so on.

  • CanuckDon

    Haven’t scrolled thru them all but is “Torn Between Two Lovers” on there? (asking for a friend)

    • Chuck in NYC

      Probably sandwiched between “Which Way You Goin’, Billy?” and “I’ve Never Been to Me.”

      • CanuckDon

        I loved the Poppy Family! (well…they were Canadians eh)

  • Oh’behr

    I’m glad to see Kate Bush in the list. Great for her. The music industry wasn’t always easy for a woman to make it in. Nor for anyone who was offbeat and not mainstream. She made me happy to be different in my own way and not in a disco way.

    • delk
      • Oh’behr

        As a former San Franciscan, I like Bombing Down That Hill or named something similar. The picture of her and the cable car. Thanks for sharing the link.

        • delk

          Heh… It’s one of those sites I look at every now and then when I need a smile.

        • TuuxKabin

          Ditto.

    • greenmanTN

      Love her! Favorites from the early albums: “Wow” “Breathing” and “The Man With A Child In His Eyes.”

  • JoeMyGod

    I was especially pleased to see Cerrone, Giorgio Moroder, and Kraftwerk on the list.

    • TuuxKabin

      Giorgio Moroder’s sound track to Midnight Express was a favorite.

      • CanuckDon

        It was all about “Evolution” for me…not a year has gone by in the last 38 since it was released that I haven’t played this at least a few times…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzj-GlRLZFU

        • TuuxKabin

          Oh yeah. Hypnotic. The aerial shots. Didn’t know this one. Thanks. I’m glad I mention Giorgio Moroder. There’s going to be a lot of music downloaded from today’s link.

          Thanks JOE! Thanks CanuckDon.

          Still watching. I figured it was L.A. traffic. Unbelievable.

          Went to the youtube link to enlarge the screen.

          Thanks.

  • HandyAndy

    Just what I needed this morning. The husbear insisted on watching a documentary on PBS last night about The Mamas and the Papas. 60’s folk music is fine, although not really my thing, but listening to an hour of it last night gave me a bad case of earworm this morning. ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” did the trick to cancel out the endless loop of Mama Cass stuck in my head.

    • Hank

      Stars shining bright above you…. There you go back in the loop!!! 😉

      • HandyAndy

        Still an improvement. The song stuck in my head was “Creeque Alley” and the line that was looping was, “No one’s getting fat except Mama Cass.”

        • CanuckDon

          I don’t know if it was at the time but I think “Make Your Own Kinda Music” should have been a huge anthem for our movement.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbSM02_1k34

        • David Milley

          Makes a fine earworm, that song!

    • Gerry Fisher

      Interesting note. I know that the 60s were supposed to be a golden era for folk music, but I actually find the folk of the 70s through the early 90s to be much more listenable. Suzanne Vega, Patty Larkin, Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin, Tracy Chapman.

      I was just listening to Jonathan Edward’s “Sunshine” the other day, and it still sounds soooo good. Very HAPPY music, even though the lyrics have some sadness in them. My fixation with the pic of Jim Croce shirtless and in overalls on an album cover was an early clue that I might be a friend of Dorothy. 😉 And that porn stache! 😉

      Here’s a little Croce…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf-8wVMnfXQ

      • Gerry Fisher
        • AndyinChicago

          A protest song about Nixon: What could be more 70’s? I love that song so much. Nixon might have been a bit of a monster, but he inspired some of the best protest songs. Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin” is another great one.

      • Brian in Valdosta

        Jim Croce was one of the very few that I knew of and appreciated at the time. Him and the Mamas & the Papas.

      • Disqusdmnj

        “Sunshine” was one of the first songs I… um… “downloaded” from Napster!

        I was a child of the 70’s who hated punk and disco, and a teen of the 80’s who hated new wave – just give me good classic rock/AOR, funk, and power pop any day of the week.

    • AndyinChicago

      I love “Mr. Blue Sky”, but I wish that they had picked “Telephone Line” instead to represent ELO. It’s so over the top it always cheers me up a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77R1Wp6Y_5Y

      • Brian in Valdosta

        I REMEMBER THIS ONE!!
        ELO was so cool.

    • Acronym Jim

      Of course, even the folk singers didn’t limit themselves to enjoying folk music. Cass Elliot loved multiple genres of music. Here she is getting wowed by Janis Joplin singing “Ball and Chain” at the Monterey Pop Festival.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bld_-7gzJ-o

      • TuuxKabin

        A classic. I must have lived in the movie house when this movie was released. Mama Cass’s expression, so blown away. I sure as hell was.

      • TuuxKabin

        Gonna trade you some Otis Redding at Monterey Festival for this one. Thanks.

        • TuuxKabin
        • Acronym Jim

          Thanks, Tuuxy!

          • TuuxKabin

            Always a pleasure, swapping. Not partners, tho.

            Did it with comic books, toys, books, 45rpm’s. Loaded up our Radio Flyer, my older brother would pull that sucker up and down the block while I rang the cow bell to alert the neighborhood kids to “bring out your old toys”.

    • Deacon Phreque

      But no ELO on that list. Boo!

  • Oh’behr

    Lou Reed in 1973, Walk on the Wild Side. That song spoke to me in 9th grade. Wow.

    • CanuckDon

      Fly Robin Fly spoke to me in 9th grade…lol

    • perversatile

      ‘Transformer’ was played constantly at home during my wee laddie years, (thanks Mom) I listened to it again a while back, it’s still amazing.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAHRAKQMfzA

      • medaka

        There is an amazing documentary about the Transformer album. Friends in the USSA tell me they can’t see it in their country, but there are ways around that.

        This is the best bit, imo

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMLUb-Za1Lo

        • TuuxKabin

          ‘This video contains content from Eagle Rock. It is not available in your countreee.FUCK OFF.

        • perversatile

          I will check it out. Thanks. Have you seen this?
          Entry #87 Cries during TV comercials.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfddYDRIFGY

          • medaka

            I LOVE that one. Tom Jones rules. If you want to see some great videos, just search YouTube for “Tom Jones and” and be sure to use the quotation marks. The one with CSNY is incredible….

          • perversatile

            Tom is the Bomb- Consistently cool.
            Have you seen this? Bloomers on fire-
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhojfORobHs

  • ken

    We all have our personal faves but I must say I’m pretty okay with their list.

  • greenmanTN

    Looks like a great list and it covers a lot of genres instead of just one. I can tell I’m going to spend days listening to the things I’ve never heard.

    There are many artists I love on it, though in some cases I would have picked a different song of theirs.

  • Rebecca Gardner

    I could not buy enough records in the 1970s. I had to get the latest Led Zeppelin album as soon as it came out. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Billy Joel. Then I discovered Punk and I could not get enough Sex Pistols, Ramones, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. That last bit of music formed my musical taste for life and even today you will hear Goth and Industrial being played by me.

    Speaking of Bauhaus, now I can’t get Bela Lugosi’s Dead out of my head.
    https://youtu.be/OKRJfIPiJGY

    • medaka

      This was also used in AHS, I think for an opener, Maybe in the same season they used a bit of Joy Division. Same for the #1, Life on Mars — AHS squeezed every drop out of that one, with Jessica even wearing the same(ish) drag and make-up that Bowie did for the original video-single.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqZSwmA_a-E

  • Oh’behr

    I’m also finding enough songs I’m glad to have left back in the 1970s.

  • Brooklyn Joe

    Well amidst the obscure Pitchfork-y choices (having to always pick the most obscure song off a popular album) – there are amazing dance gems here Soul Makossa (started everything); Girl, You need a change of mind; Don’t Leave me this way; Love Hangover; Supernature – plus all the geeky details!

  • CatApostrophe

    Early in college, I dated a guy who was like the real life version of that dude from High Fidelity. Loved making lists and ranking the stuff he was into. I just can’t do it, I’m too indecisive. The best I can do is say, “That one’s coming to the desert island with me.” That being said, this list is probably gonna eat up my afternoon.

  • Mow

    Groovy list. A shame that half the links are dead.

  • Gerry Fisher

    Oh, what an annoying list. It’s a “critics’ darlings” list. I’d like to see two separate lists. One being the greatest singles that made the top 40 (so people could get a sense of the wildly eclectic stuff we were hearing on top 40 radio back in that era), and another one of singles that never made the top 40 but were *great*!

    For example, yes, the Clash did issue singles in the 70s, but top 40 listeners didn’t hear much about them until “Rock the Casbah” in the 80s (just before they broke up). In the 70s, the Clash was more of an FM, album-oriented band than a band known for their great “singles.” “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is a fondly remembered song of theirs, but I don’t remember it making much of a splash on the singles charts. (“What I Like About You” was another that didn’t do much on the charts, but it became a huge hit when used in commercials in the 90s.)

  • Beagle

    No Carpenters? No Stylistics?
    Where are the great voices?

  • AndyinChicago

    I know everyone has a band they think was left off the list, but I didn’t see the Staples Singers. Neither “Respect Yourself” or “I’ll Take You There” made the cut? For shame!

  • JoeMyGod

    For a much more homo-intensive list, there’s my 500 Gay Disco Classics playlist on Spotify.

    https://open.spotify.com/user/123503520/playlist/4va8Pq8BijxkgKnwd0GvRQ

  • Brian in Valdosta

    Alas, I was a very unhip and outa-touch (some might have said “dreamy”) youth, so I am still familiar with almost none of the music being mentioned in Comments today. Of course I now know the music of Lou Reed but at the time, I was into … well, perhaps that information is best left revealed in the biography of my life. Posthumously.

    In the meantime, I intend to save a link to today’s comments and explore everyone’s suggestions. So keep sharin, My People!!!

  • TuuxKabin

    You got a monster of hits here now, Joe! Thank you for the escape.

  • infmom

    Their list of songs from the 60s is all right, considering that they’re not old enough to have actually been there. 🙂

  • I do miss the days when there would be a whole bunch of radio stations to choose from and nearly all of them had their own unique take on music.

    Now, practically everything is owned by ClearChannel, which either runs hate-talk radio shows or Musak-like song lists which are practically identical from city to city — because they are.

  • Canadian Observer

    I used to wonder what happened to college radio DJs when they finally left college… now I know, they write capsule reviews for Pitchfork. Amazing they can put three Brian Eno pieces in their top 200, and yet no mention of Peter Tosh.
    https://youtu.be/Yd2T3o-Ybow

  • anne marie in philly

    ABBA? AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! (screams and runs away)

  • Michael Rush

    I forgot to post this fascinating thing

    Jobriath on Midnight Special 1974

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXks3Xjydh0

  • ColdCountry

    “Killing me softly….” One of my all time favorite songs.

  • Oh’behr

    Oh, so many 1970s ear worms are coming back to me:

    Here’s one, I was driving too much in the 1970s and it was before FM had totally taken over the airwaves. My tastes would become better over time. Though this song isn’t totally awful. I still love the guitar riffs.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-GkwIRbLw8