The 70s is perhaps, one of musics most golden eras. The age of the hippie was coming to an end and music starting evolving once more. Rock music found its voice and the indie and punk scenes began to flourish. Our writers have picked their favourite song from the 70s and discuss what made this decade so great.
‘Death of a Ladies Man’ – Leonard Cohen
‘Death of a Ladies Man’ may have been Cohen’s least favourite album to produce, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a great one to listen to. Forced to ditch his preferred minimalist arranging style by infamous superstar producer-murderer Phil Spector, instead we got Cohen’s vivid poetry backed by the lush Wall of Sound. The title track and closer is a beautifully written, somewhat steamy, story about an intense romantic affair that destroys a man’s ability to love. Despite hang-ups about the album, this song redeems it in my eyes.
‘What a Fool Believes’ – The Doobie Brothers
This one’s definitely unfair. There’s so much good music from the 70s its next to impossible to pick just one song to write about. Nevertheless, I’ve resisted the pull of Hall & Oates and decided to pick ‘What A Fool Believes’. (1979) Written by Captian Kenny Loggins (legend) himself, the Doobie Brothers version of this song does a good job of distilling everything that made the 70s great for rock into 4 minutes. Released during the twilight of the 70s, you can sense some 80s elements present in a prototypical form, such as the synthy bassline. It’s a fusion that produces a funky-ass sound which paired with Simmons’ unique vocals make for one of the best 70s tracks ever.
‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ -Baccarra
My favourite song from the 70s is a timeless classic. This is a firm favourite within my friendship group, whether it’s to get the party going or to wind down the afters. It’s a fun and quirky disco song, even comical at times; especially as it’s sure to get everybody singing and dancing along like some sort of Spanish Kate Bush figure. So put it on, and show Baccara you can boogie just as much as they could in the 70s.
‘Baba O’Riley’ – The Who
One of the greatest songs by one of the greatest bands, The Who had to feature somewhere in my list and where better than a song from the 70s. ‘Baba O’Riley’ is utter perfection, taken from the album Who’s Next (a fantastic collection of songs), this is the best of the Who in one track. With Pete Townshend providing the iconic guitar riffs and Roger Daltery belting out the recognisable line, “It’s only teenage wasteland…” it’s an impeccable mixture of lyrical genius and flashy guitar and drum solos, ‘Baba O’Riley’ is a musical masterpiece.
‘Le Responsable’ Jaqcques Dutronc
I’ve picked a few 70s artists already and don’t want to repeat artists too much, so I’m going to go with ‘Le Responsable’ by Jacques Dutronc. Dutronc is a huge figure in French music, comparable to The Beatles in his influence on the music that came after him. His music has a cult following in England with musicians like Miles Kane covering his songs. ‘Le Responsable’, released in 1970, is a classic garage rock banger and still sounds fresh and new today. I’m really into 70s music and Jacques Dutronc’s music is amongst my favourite of that era, right up there with Bowie, Waits and Van Morrison.
‘New Dawn Fades’ – Joy Division
From Unknown Pleasures, ‘New Dawn Fades’ was released in 1979, on the cusp of a new decade. Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner battle for centre stage in this track, with bass and guitar pitted against each other, slowly growing into a fierce intensity as the song progresses, before finishing with an incredible guitar solo as the bass slowly fades into the background, bringing the song to a slow end, until only drums and fragments of sound remain.
Ian Curtis told his wife that the lyrics did not relate to him, leaving her questioning herself and her relationship with her husband. The song is seemingly discussing the contemplation of suicide and the scenarios that lead up to the final decision being made. Curtis sings with such a mournful passion it’s hard not to believe that these lyrics didn’t speak true to him. The final words of the song are delivered in a haunting crescendo, ‘ Me seeing me this time, hoping for something else’ leave me almost paralysed after every listen. The pain is his voice is undeniable and it leaves me wishing that more could’ve been done for him. This song is perfect and for me, represents fully the beauty of Joy Division.
‘Go Your Own Way’ – Fleetwood Mac
Most great songs are born out of deep emotion, it just so happens that this song comes from a great anger and spite. Written by Lindsay Buckingham during the break up with Stevie Nicks the song describes the break up and in some ways does attack his fellow bandmate. It can be described as somewhat convenient that the other two members who were married were also going through the end of their marriage as this helped the whole group channel the hatred and necessary bite into the song. I love the song mostly because it is so good a song that you can lose the bitterness of the lyrics.
‘Dreams’ – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac deserves to be on this list. They’re not one of the greatest bands from the 70s, they’re one of the greatest bands of all time. If you disagree with me, listen to Rumours from start to finish. This work of art has some amazing tracks on it, with ‘The Chain’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’ just scratching the surface on this work of art. My personal favourite on the album has to be ‘Dreams’. As much as I love their more upbeat tunes, this mellow anthem, with soft spoken yet emphatic lyrics, is perfect in every way. It’s lyrics epitomise that period of the band’s life, with tensions higher than ever between Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. When I lay back and stick this song on, it makes me feel like I’m in a dream I never want to wake up from.
‘A Message To You Rudy’- The Specials
‘A Message To You Rudy’ is arguably the seminal 2-tone track of the 1970s. The trumpets and drums give this song such a compelling rhythm, helped along by verses and a chorus that are simplistic yet so memorable. This song has not only aged well musically, but also in terms of relatability- we have all known a ‘Rudy’ at some point, someone who, for one reason or another, refuses to “straighten out” and “think of their future”. An undeniably catchy track that remains resonant today, ‘A Message To You Rudy’ is one of The Specials’ greatest releases and a superb song from the ‘70s.
‘Shadowplay’- Joy Division
One of the heavier tracks from Joy Division’s iconic 1979 debut Unknown Pleasures, ‘Shadowplay’ is one of the band’s early masterpieces. Opening with a classic Peter Hook bassline and Bernard Sumner’s aggressive guitar, Ian Curtis delivers some of his best lyrics. Curtis laments how far he will go looking for someone, though I suspect he is referring to himself. The character in the lyrics is used as a puppet by other people and seems to be completely under the thumb of another. What Curtis makes clear in ‘Shadowplay’ is that our lives can sometimes not be our own and that in society our choices may be more scripted than they are unscripted.
baba oriley baccarra death of a ladies man Dreams Fleetwood Mac go your own way jacques dutronc joy division la responsable Leonard Cohen new dawn fades shadowplay the doobie brothers The Who what a fool believes yes sir I can boogie
Last modified: 24th May 2020