Monday, October 31, 2011

Forgotten # 1's: US Edition (The 1970's)

If we couldn't include the fab four in the previous post, then there is definitely room for their solo success in the decadent decade that followed the tumultuous 60's. While people who lived through the period might remember this top ten fondly, those of us born in the post-70's era have had to discover these songs through our parent's record collection or the formerly prevalent 70's nostalgia merchants like 8-Track Flashback and newer dealers like the 70's on 7. Regardless, these tracks explain that for my money, the pop music charts were never more diverse, strange or terrible (depending on your taste) than they were during the decade that gave us Disney World, Jimmy Carter and The Godfather.

1.) Song Sung Blue - Neil Diamond (July 1, 1972)

Diamond would soon leave Uni Records for the greener pastures of Columbia, where he would go on to make soundtrack albums for films about Seagulls and songs about ET. But before that, he released the brilliant Moods album, which showed an artist who knew how to craft a perfect pop slab. Although the first single from the disc, "Play Me", is one of my favorite slow jams of all time, it's follow-up made it to the top of the US charts. You can't really blame the record buying public for this ascension. This song's kinda perfect in its way, thanks to the wordplay, melody and the Jewish Elvis' own inimitable voice.

2.) You're Sixteen - Ringo Starr (January 26, 1974)

Even after the messy breakup the Beatles experienced in 1970, you could always count on Billy Shears himself to bring the boys back together! Ringo's self-titled solo album featured all of The Beatles on the same disc again (just not on the same tracks!). It featured two number-one hits as well, the beautiful "Photograph" and a cover of Johnny Burnette's Sherman Brothers-penned oldies classic.

And Paul McCartney plays a kazoo solo!!!

And Harry Nilsson sings backing vocals!!!

And Princess Leia is in the video!!!

That Ringo knows how to have a good time!!!

3.) Rise - Herb Albert (October 20, 1979)

How thug is the Tijuana Brass? Well, Biggie and Diddy bounced to this jam so much, they included it in The Notorious One's posthumous number one "Hypnotize". And it's easy to see why: This slinky jam was made to be sampled in a 90's hip hop classic!

4.) Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) - George Harrison (June 30, 1973)

How hot were the early Beatles' solo discs? This Harrison tune from his second album Living In the Material World (one of the most underrated in his oeuvre) replaced McCartney and Wing's "My Love" at the top of the charts. In turn, it was replaced by Billy Preston's "Will It Go 'Round In Circles?", who of course played Keyboard on the Let It Be album and was referred to for a time as the TRUE "Fifth Beatle.

Oh, and this song is the essence of eastern philosophy wrapped up into a beautiful pop single (and I think Paul had it in mind almost 40 years later, mimicking the rhythm guitar intro on mandolin for his single "Dance Tonight"). BEST FORGOTTEN NUMBER ONE OF THE DECADE!!!!!!!

The solo fabs released some fabulous B-sides with their monumental hits. Check out "Miss O' Dell"!

5.) Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot  (June 29, 1974)

Mr. Lightfoot's ode to a treacherous love affair is made all the better by how sparse the instrumentation is is, with delicious multi-tracked harmony vocals provided by the man himself. It's a modern blues classic, often forgotten about like most of this songwriter's work. It's really time for a late-career reevaluation of Gordon. For starter's, pick up Gord's Gold, one of the finest greatest hits albums of all time (and get it on vinyl, it comes with an extra track!).

6.) Silly Love Songs - Wings (June 12, 1976)

As I've grown older, and the angry young man syndrome has subsided, my outlook on the Beatles has changed as well. When I was a teenager, no one spoke to me in popular music (besides Dylan) like John Lennon. His music still moves me, and my favorite solo album by Liverpool's finest is still Plastic Ono Band, but that catchy little Paul has taken over my top spot aboard the Flaming Pie. I don't think there has been anyone since Cole Porter who has written better pop songs than Mr. McCartney. His Wings years, much maligned until recently, are a gold mine of confection, with the album tracks reaching the heights of the singles. This number one, however, is pure fluffy goodness, a response to critics who said he'd gone soft. "You Want Soft?", Sir Paul said, "Here's the best soft you've ever heard!".

And he was right.

And it holds up like gangbusters (and it's even slightly proggy in composition and length!)!!! 

Look how mad Paul Shaffer gets when Dave Pirner picks up a trumpet to play "Silly Love Songs" at the end of "Misery" on Letterman back in '95!

7.) McArthur Park - Donna Summer (November 11, 1978)

How do you bring a freak hit performed by Professor Dumbledore back to the charts, ascend it to the top and let it sit there comfortably during the height of disco?


Let the queen have a go at it.

Originally part of an 18-minute "McArthur Park Suite", it really should be appreciated in its original form!

8.) Whatever Gets You Through The Night - John Lennon & Elton John (November 16, 1974)

Boy meets girl.
Boy loves girl.
Boy marries girl.
Boy leaves most successful band of all time.
Boy goes off the deep end with pal Harry Nilsson.
Boy loses girl.
Boy makes song with huge pop star.
Boy promises to perform live with pop star if song hits number one.
Boy fulfills his promise when song does just that.

Girl is in the audience.
Boy spends the rest of his short life in harmony with his muse.

The power of pop music.

9.) Star Wars Theme/ Cantina Band - Meco (October 1, 1977)

Let's just say for tie-in pop hits, it's way better than "Pac Man Fever"!

10.) Black Water - The Doobie Brothers (March 15, 1975)

My favorite track by these AOR giants, it's been bringing rock fans to Bluegrass and A Cappella singing since 1975.

And Michael McDonald doesn't sing it, which is both sad and awesome at the same time! It covers the emotions spectrum!!!

All classic music videos next week, as the US exposes it's 80's pop hits that might have slipped into a slight bit of a nostalgia based nation's idea of obscurity! See ya then!

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