Ah the 70s, a decade full of wife-beating, cocaine and good music — what a time to be alive. Don’t worry, we’re only focusing on the music, keep those rose-tinted shades on!
Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (1979)
As previously stated, this sucka was originally gonna top my 80s picks when I found it missed out on the decade by a goshdamned year! Shows how much I know, eh? A fool I am indeed. It’s nothing less than hip-hop’s first mainstream outing, and what an outing it was. Taking one of the most danceable grooves of all time, Chic’s Good Times, and, in my opinion, improving on it massively, The Sugarhill Gang established themselves as three cool cats, even if Grandmaster Caz got fuckin’ robbed and that is a fact that haunts my every waking moment. Oh yeah, and I’m talking about the 14-minute version here, if you’re stopping at 4 minutes, you’re muggin’ yourself, dearly. After everything hip-hop’s been through since, and that is a LOT, this is still my favourite song in the genre — it’s hip-hop in its purest form.
Sweet Leaf – Black Sabbath (1971) – Don’t worry guys, this is not the last time you’ve seen Sabbath here – DON’T WORRY. The original top pick here, one of the band’s signature tracks, Sweet Leaf, in all its plodding, stoner metal goodness, houses perhaps Tony Iommi’s finest performance with the band — a riff that’ll take the paint off ya walls and a solo that’ll rip the skin from ya bones.
Life On Mars? – David Bowie (1971) – My favourite Bowie song, as well as plenty of other people’s favourite Bowie song, this highlight from Hunky Dory is a surrealist delight, with the singer’s Gilliam-esque lyrics rising to a beautiful crescendo at the chorus, reflected in songs like Sweet Thing later on in his career. Instrumentally, we have my favourite piano piece ever in Yes legend Rick Wakeman, striking the key with a reckless virtuosity akin to Bowie himself.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (1979) – Although released as a single in 1980, The Wall came out in ’79 — if you wanna argue, bite me. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you how I’m a massive Pink Floyd fan even though I’m only young and all that jazz, cus it simply ain’t true. Sure, I have my favourites, I’ve listened to an album or four, but I’m by no means a Pink Floyd boy–d. Regardless of this, Comfortably Numb, to anyone’s ears, is an epic piece of music, with the grand string section, cymbal-pounding, slow-tempo and, of course, those WAI-LIN-G guitar solos. What’s there not to like?
Everybody Dance – Chic (1978) – The greatest disco song ever released, I don’t care if you disagree, I reall don’t. Firstly, it’s about dancing and clapping your hands — that’s IT. And that is all you need, fool, ‘cus it’s all in the instrumental. We’ve got that four on the floor beat pounding away, accented by a light sprinkling of low-calorie hi-hat and a dash of handclaps. We’ve got Nile Rodgers, the greatest funk guitarist of all time (sorry Prince, sorry John), flicking out a melody that, like many Nile Rodgers tracks, is dipped in opulence. And MATE, Bernard Edwards lays down the finest basstrack this side of RHCP’s Around The World — so smooth.
Black Sabbath – War Pigs (1970) / Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (1971)
I would like to clarify first that both of these songs are on the cusp of making an appearance in my Best Song of All Time category — that’s how good they are. War Pigs‘ placing here is Milo finally winning. I’m finally convinced. This is the greatest Black Sabbath song. It’s that riff, we’ve all heard it. It’s slow, it’s looming, it’s AWESOME. And those sirens come in, seeping into your very soul as the bass trods all over your chest — something’s coming. There it is, the sudden change of pace. Ozzy brings in his most lazy but BEST EVER rhyme, and the sinister riff starts to become a barnstormer. Then, holy balls, it all explodes, and it lasts about seven minutes. Politically charged, aggressive, dark, hypnotically catchy and easy, every self-proclaimed metalhead should know just about every note, because, ladies and gentlemen, this is the ultimate metal song.
Next, say hello to the ultimate rock song, Stairway to Heaven. Some may say it’s overplayed, we’ve heard it before. Well, I think there’s a damn good reason for that. Pondering and wandering, like a wise old wizard journeying across Middle Earth, it has a truly fantastical sound, and it manages to do so without sounding at all cheesy. It’s pure perfection. The guitar turn from Jimmy Page is beautiful, gargantuan, as his patient, floating chord progressions sound equally as out of this world as his heart-wrenching solo, punctuating Plant’s intimate, poignant vocal performance that sounds as if its truly from the gates of the sky as he calls upon the heavens. I can think of little better to do than put Led Zeppelin IV into my CD player and listen to this song while watching the stars.
Black Sabbath – The Wizard (1970) – I used to call this my favourite Sabbath song. I’m a sucker for harmonica, and the harmonica turns on this instantly grab attention as they sound as if from the depths of hell, carrying along the embryonic power chords and Ozzy’s wailing vocals. It’s an interesting song structurally as it’s such a constant energy, with no real peak or climax, the blues metal here just keeps on giving.
Led Zeppelin – Since I’ve Been Loving You (1970) – For me this is the ultimate blues rock song. Sounding like its straight from a smokey lounge in the heart of an American city, recorded with brandy and a cigarette at hand, it’s a slow mover, and truly, it moves, as the passion in Plant’s damaged screams, the deep perfection of Jones’ bass rumbling through its core and Page’s explosive guitar leads oozes emotion and atmosphere.
Black Sabbath – Snowblind (1972) – THE greatest decade for rock music, for me, really, comes down to a battle between the two true rock and metal behemoths Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and the way I see it it really was a battle and it was a true clash of the titans we’ve not seen since — and seeing as they’re two of my favourite bands of all time, that’s why they’ve dominated so strongly here. I coulda put in Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine, and I was close to, but I couldn’t leave out this gem. Full to the brim with Tony Iommi’s sludgy, chugging guitars and the hi-hat heavy drumwork from Bill Ward, this is the peak of Vol. 4‘s sound, with an interesting mid-pace and varying song structure. But what truly makes this song above the rest is its poignancy, as the instrumentals soften in certain sections (a certain section being one of my favourite moments in music, ever), only to erupt into crashing crescendos — which really makes it feel like a journey.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (1979)
Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin (1971)
Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith (1975)
The bass groove alone owns everything it touches. The sleazyness seeps from the grooves in the vocals and that end solo fades out all too soon. I’m convinced there’s an unreleased outtake of the rest of Joe Perry’s noodling that bends space time itself.
Symptom of the Universe – Black Sabbath (1975) – The ultimate Sabbath song has to have certain key elements. It needs a riff so primeval you could replicate it dragging a car door across gravel. It needs Sci-Fi lyrics about time travel and unicorns. There should be Drums that sound like three people were taking turns in trying to out drum each other. You want Bass strings rattling like the cables on a suspension bridge in a storm and of course, rather essentially, it calls for Ozzy Osbourne going “Yeeeeaaaahhhh!” Every now and then.
Germfree Adolescents – X Ray Spex (1978) – This record is a marvel. A hit single from a life time ago that is like no other record I know. It’s not punk, it’s not new wave, or post punk or anything. It doesn’t fit in anywhere. It’s just in and of itself a brilliant pop record.
You Drive Me Nervous – Alice Cooper (1971) – This occupies the same All American Hinterland as Meatloaf’s Paradise By The Dashboard Light and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
There’s humour and a big dollop of theatre in most of Alice’s best work. You Drive Me Nervous is a spikier version of the formula than most of the hit singles. It’s very catchy though and will always be my go to Cooper Jam.
Another Girl Another Planet – The Only Ones (1978) – One of the finest singles ever released. A timeless dancefloor filler for rock club DJ’s to fall back on. There has never been a time between 1978 and the present day where the song has not been as cool as cool can be.
It’s sung in common English. Not really sung either, just sort of half sneered, half shouted. An easy pastiche of the opening line is to do it in a broad mockney twang.
“Ah always flert wiv def” Kind of thing.
Stay tuned for more Best Thangs of All Time!