Treble’s Top 200 Songs of the ’70s

best songs of the 70s Can140. Can
Spoon
(1972; United Artists)
Available on Ege Bamyasi

For as abstract and weird as Can got, the German progressive rockers had a handful of straight-up jams in their repertoire. “Spoon” is one of the best of them, a psychedelic pop tune with a rhythmic pulse and an organ intro that sends the listener deep into some Teutonic paisley underworld. It’s a characteristic bit of krautrock surrealism made fun and funky, and even landed as high as No. 6 on the German charts, thanks in large part to being the theme song to TV show “Das Messer.” Coming a year after an album marked by three massive 10+ minute art-rock demons, that’s not too shabby. – Jeff Terich


best songs of the 70s Marianne Faithfull139. Marianne Faithfull
Broken English
(1979; Island)
Available on Broken English

Few pop artists who want to endure past their own zeitgeist model their careers after Ms. Faithfull despite the obvious temptations. Perhaps this is for the better, however. Cher Lloyd shouldn’t compound on her awfulness with Faithfull’s rough-voiced melancholy and Adele would be unconvincing performing a topical song inspired by infamous German journalist-turned-terrorist Ulrike Meinhoff, or some modern equivalent. Territory explored. Territory conquered. – Chris Morgan


best songs of the 70s Plastic Bertrand138. Plastic Bertrand
Ça Plane Pour Moi
(1977; Sire)
Available on An 1

Born Roger Allen François Jouret, Plastic Bertrand began his musical career with this infectious, boppy goofball punk single that ranks as one of the most joyfully strange to come out of the new wave era. Interesting point of trivia, though: Jouret isn’t actually the vocalist on the song — Lou Deprijck is. Identity of true vocalists aside (and for that matter somewhat irrelevant), “Ça Plane Pour Moi” is a joyously surreal island to itself, its French-sung lyrics indecipherable to English-speaking audiences, and even more confusing when translated back into English. But none of that really matters when its Beach Boys-style “ooh-ooh-ooh-oohs” come in and guitar riffs start blazing. It’s a party, and as Homer Simpson once wisely suggested, it doesn’t have to make sense. – Jeff Terich


best songs of the 70s Judas Priest137. Judas Priest
The Ripper
(1976; Gull)
Available on Sad Wings of Destiny

Judas Priest are awesome for so many reasons, chiefly that they’re bald-headed, spiked-leather, smoke machine-fueled heavy metal. And they’re fronted by the first openly gay (not to mention badass) frontman that metal culture knew. “The Ripper,” their first true metal single, from second album Sad Wings of Destiny, essentially mapped out the template for three decades of metal to follow: operatic lead vocals, blazing guitar riffs and cheeky tales of murder and mayhem. Tune in, crank it up and get that fist in the air. – A.T. Bossenger


best songs of the 70s Prince136. Prince
I Wanna Be Your Lover
(1979; Warner Bros.)
Available on Prince

Prince’s first major top 40 hit was a much more straightforward disco-funk track than many of the big, booming and sometimes groundbreaking productions he released in the ’80s, but it’s classic Prince through and through. And as the best of Prince’s classic tracks do, its central focus is on the sweet, physical act of love. “I ain’t got no money,” the man born Prince Rogers Nelson confesses, but that’s not getting in the way of his ambition, as he later sings, “I wanna be the only one you come for.” If the past 30 years have taught us nothing, it’s that Prince has a way with the opposite sex, all recent religious transformations notwithstanding, and the righteous grooves contained herein speak volumes. – Jeff Terich


135. Neil Young
On the Beach
(1974; Reprise)
Available on On the Beach

The records Neil Young released after Harvest made it quite clear that he had no intention of getting caught up in the trappings of fame. As he put it himself, famously, “Heart of Gold” left him square in the middle of the road, so he decided it was time to head for the ditch. As it turns out, sometimes the ditch is just an isolated beach and flower-patterned garden furniture, on the edge of nowhere, at sea on shore. The title track of On the Beach is meditative and maligned, blues for the end, the end of what remaining in question. It drifts along on a slow pulse of fragility, on so many “honey sliders,” desolate but warm, Neil never ceasing to resist being shattered altogether, his guitar playing as singular and exploratory as ever, cruising atop and diving beneath the mild waves of Graham Nash’s Wurlitzer chords. – Tyler Parks


best songs of the 70s134. Dire Straits
Sultans of Swing
(1978; Warner Bros.)
Available on Dire Straits

I never equate Dire Straits with Dad Rock, even though they totally are. Something about the combination of Mark Knopfler’s sweet licks and melancholy vocals separate the group from their more bombastic `70s guitar rock peers. Nowhere is this more evident than on the band’s first single, “Sultans of Swing.” Written about a jazz band playing beautifully to a sparse and unreceptive pub, it combines wry English humor, directionless working class longing, and one of the decade’s most recognizable riffs. Knopfler is a musician’s musician, but one who can translate his obsession for the rest of us mere mortals. – Liz Malloy


133. Jimmy Cliff
The Harder They Come
(1972; Island)
Available on The Harder They Come

Reggae has countless anthems of positivity and rebellion, songs celebrating the little guy persevering over bigger, stronger forces. Jimmy Cliff’s laid-back warning, the soundtrack on which it rested, and the film in which he starred were all gateway drugs to Jamaica’s national sound for people not on or from the island. These came out in an eight-month period before Bob Marley’s first big success, Catch a Fire, hit shelves in 1973. So while Cliff’s lyrics here could suggest he’s up against either cops or criminals, the song also encapsulates the one moment where he encountered the dominant lion of the genre and beat him at his own game, or at least beat him to market. – Adam Blyweiss


132. Pink Floyd
One of These Days
(1971; Harvest)
Available on Meddle

“One of These Days” isn’t the best-known Floyd song of the post-Barrett era but it is one of its most definitive. Meddle generally is Pink Floyd’s final shaking off of the previous decade with the opening instrumental serving as the post-psychedelic answer to “Interstellar Overdrive” with the same rollercoaster composition but faster, leaner and colder, Syd Barrett’s sense-shattering guitar superseded by Roger Waters’ unsettling but entrancing racing pulse bass. – Chris Morgan


131. Roxy Music
Virginia Plain
(1972; Reprise)
Available on Roxy Music

Released on the heels of their first album, Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” didn’t even need a chorus to dig its hooks in deep, Bryan Ferry doing a Dylan approximation dance with his intonation, transforming a painting he made of a “Virginia Plain” cigarette packet into images of flamingos, Robert E. Lee, Warhol superstar, Baby Jane Holzer, and a pale horizon. The build-up to the final chorus is a thrill made in the patience and waiting, Eno’s synthesizer turning spasmodic, centrifugal circles until everything finally rushes over the edge and down and into the dead, silent air beyond, happily. – Tyler Parks

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