(40) Alright, Alright, Alright - Mungo Jerry
It's strange that the only Mungo Jerry song that seems to have survived in popular culture is 'In the summertime'. It's a great song but this one's better and just as feel good. This reached number 3 for two weeks. Lead singer Ray Dorset wrote the song 'Feels like I'm in love', intending it to be sung by Elvis. But for a misadventure with a cheeseburger, Kelly Marie, jump suit and all, may never have topped the chart with it in 1980.
(39) Amoureuse - Kiki Dee
I'd be surprised is Kate Bush and Suzanne Vega weren't in some way influenced by this track. Kiki Dee was a very underrated vocalist, known for more upbeat songs like 'Don't go breaking my heart' with Elton John, but could have probably sang in any genre. This only got to number 13 (which matched her other big hits 'Star' and 'Loving & Free' but stayed in the chart longer) and she should have had much more success with that voice than she did. Amoureuse was a french language song written and recorded by Veronique Sanson in 1972. It was translated (loosely) into English and picked up by Kiki's record label who suggested she give it a go.
(38) The Ballroom Blitz - Sweet
This sounds like it could have been in the Rocky Horror Picture Show - which came out two years later in 1975. That alone puts me off the song, that and it's overly dramatic vocals in places. The song doesn't really suit a ballroom and I'm not sure if the word Blitz (German for 'lightning') was perhaps still a little raw for people who had seen the 1940s come and go. Still a brilliant single though hence it's chart placing (number 2). Sweet ended up having five singles that got to number 2 and only Blockbuster which got to number 1 - how frustrating!!
(37) Feel the Need in Me - The Detroit Emeralds
I remember Shakin' Stevens on Top of the Pops jiving around in his jeans, standing on his toes and doing a double point into the audience around 1988 when his quirky 50s tribute act had worn thin. It ruined this song for me somewhat. Still, I love the Motown strings and the fat snare drum on this. It's like a warm blanket. Just lovely. I still wonder why so many lyrics tell us that something is better than Cherry pie. Isn't everything? Cherry pie is vile. This was The Detroit Emeralds' first hit and reached number 4.
(36) C Moon - Wings
I've always been baffled why some songs were released as 'Wings' and some as 'Paul McCartney and Wings'. McCartney was the master of the singable song though. Forget Raffi. After two listens of this, it's in your head for the entire day. Exactly what makes a great single. The other A-side to this was 'Hi Hi Hi' which the radio stations thought was about drugs so they did't play it. This got to number 5.
(35) Sweet Illusion - Junior Campbell
This guy's passion drives this song along. Another one of those violin punctuated soul songs which sweep you along. It's a brilliant single and his voice doesn't match his face (which matters, believe me). It hit number 15 and was his last hit. He was a member of Marmalade who had a hit in the 60s with Ob-la-di-ob-bla-de-hell. His true claim to fame however is that he went on to compose the theme tune for Thomas the Tank Engine and listening to this, you can sort of tell!
(34) I'm doin' fine now - New York City
A really nice song but lacks a little bit of the urgency the Pasadenas managed to inject. The groove is infectious and it's just a shame groups like this were considered also-rans, they could and probably should have had a string of hits. The song's got bongos in it. Any song with bongos is enhanced by about 34%. This reached number 20 and was their only hit.
(33) Our last song together - Neil Sedaka
Very melancholy this - Like Neil realised his brand of chirpy music was quickly getting out of date. This song addresses his glory years and his parting from a longtime songwriting partner Howard Greenfield who he'd been with since the 50s. I like this a lot. It only got to number 31 which is a damn shame! He did have further number 1 singles in the US all the way up to the 80s but not here.
(32) Roll away the stone - Mott the Hoople
The guitar intro reminds me of 'I close my eyes' by Dusty Springfield and 'Tragedy' by the Bee Gees. It's hooky! I like the transition from that (pentatonic?) minor motif into the major key verse. There's a lot of familiarity in the vocal melody too but it's catchy, sing-a-longy and has plenty of sha-na-na-nas. The speaking part in the middle was a bit of a mistake mind - although when he tells us there's a rock-a-billy party on Saturday night, you realise this song isn't their attempt at a Jesus themed Easter hit. This wasn't their highest charting song but they managed a decent number 8 with this and it remained on the chart longer than any of their other hits.
(31) Rock a doodle do - Linda Lewis
They don't write them like this any more. It sounds like it's going to be a novelty song but then it's not. I'm not entirely sure that's not Michael Jackson helping out in the chorus. If it's Linda singing both the verse and the chorus then I'm really impressed. The shift in tempo makes you feel a little uneasy but keeps you interested. This was Linda's first hit and reached number 15.
(30) Wishing Well - Free
What makes this a joy to listen to these days is you know everyone is actually playing musical instruments. Listen to how crisp the sounds are in that iconic intro. The drumming is tight, the guitars are chunky, the vocals are precise. Ah remember when music was this pure? Free had one hit per year from 1970 (Alright now), 1971 (My brother Jake), 1972 (Little bit of love) and then this in 1973 which was their last original release to chart and it got to number 7. Listen to that repeating high note over the main riff. That's used a lot in songs and you probably didn't notice. It's almost always used as a rhythmic device to pull away from using overfamiliar percussion like tambourines and triangles and the like. There's a subtle and clever use of it here.
(29) Lay Down - Strawbs
Brilliant single overshadowed by the less good 'Part of the Union' which was popular for different reasons, not all of them to do with pop music per se. The singer sounds like Bob Dylan has had singing lessons and made his music easier to listen to. This is the kind of track that would have inspired kids to pick up guitars, learn a few riffs and sing along. There were plenty of songs with great guitar parts in the charts around this period but very few that would have made kids want to sing along too! This was the first of their 3 hits before they split up, made other bands and had other hits separately. The B-side was called 'backside' which I'm assuming wasn't a song about bums. This was technically from 1972 when it had hit number 11 in November. However, the charts were funny in those days; they only compiled a top 30 some weeks and even repeated the previous week's chart over the Christmas period because the people counting the sales wanted to be at home with their families (during which time this song vanished from the countdown) so when it re-entered in January 1973, it was a bit of a surprise to everyone but then it disappeared again and qualified for my personal top 40 of the year. I bet they're thrilled!
(28) That's when the Music takes me - Neil Sedaka
Whenever I hear this number 18 peaking single, I can see the Albert Hall full of people up clapping along, full of pure joy. Neil Sedaka is great isn't he? He'll tell you he's great himself too! This song can't fail to lift you on the greyest of days. Sounds quite a lot like 'Love will keep us together' but who cares, they're both great.
(27) Caroline - Status Quo
Quo had finally evolved into the Quo everyone would remember they ever were. Who were they before that? I don't think they even knew. For them to last from here until 1985 to open Live Aid, still selling over half a million albums with each release really was a feat. One of the greatest thrills for a young musician picking up a guitar or a synthesizer was to be able to sound like something you heard on a record. I was always trying to sound like Nick Rhodes but I can imagine those who'd got a guitar and amp for Christmas along with a copy of this single found it quite simple to sound and play like Quo. Simple but effective. This got to number 5.
(26) The Jean Genie - David Bowie
I hear quite a lot of John Lennon in this (and other Bowie singles of the time). It got to number 2 and was replaced by 'Sweet' with Blockbuster which had almost the exact same introduction. I'm not sure who came up with that guitar riff at the beginning but it was totally overused by the end of the 70s. It probably began with Bo Diddley? Also, is a Jean Genie one that pops out of your Jeans if you rub them, giving you three trouser-based wishes? It's actually a pun on Jean Genet, the French novelist. Fun fact, the lyric 'He's so simple minded' gave the band Simple Minds their name!
(25) 20th Century Boy - T.Rex
You can't deny the power of the introduction to this song. INXS always reminded me of T. Rex - or maybe Marc Bolan and Michael Hutchence reminded me of each other? This entered the chart at number 3 but got no higher thanks to Donny Osmond and Slade.
(24) The Look of Love - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Gladys means every word of this Burt Bacharach / Hal David song first sung by Dusty Springfield. I'm a little bit scared of Gladys here if I'm honest. Don't listen to this alone is all I'm going to say. It criminally only reached number 21.
(23) I saw the light - Todd Rundgren
This is one of those singles you'd put on repeat, listen to about 20 times, get sick of and then never listen to again. I could see this being a hit in the 80s or the 90s if it had been recorded by someone like Kylie or even Take That… Maybe I'm stretching it a bit. I'm not sure how many people remember Maggie Moone? She used to sing in the middle of a TV show called 'Name that tune' and she'd do a cover of something popular a few years back (from where she was in time). This was the sort of song she'd do. Lots of fun she was! This song only spent 4 weeks on the chart and peaked at 36. He never bothered the top 40 ever again because he went all psychedelic and released albums 'to be listened to in context' so no singles were released. Incidentally, he was Liv Tyler's adoptive father! Now, look at his eyes on this single cover. You'll never sleep again.
(22) Can the Can - Suzi Quatro
12/8 was a popular time signature in the 70s. Not always as obvious as Simple Minds' 'Waterfront' or 'Everybody wants to rule the world' but there were a lot of songs with dotted crotchets about. Intros were getting more and more dramatic and you don't get many better examples of either than this. Suzi was a bit of a legend without really getting as massive as I think she could have been. I think a lot of men would have been confused by Suzi in those days - she wasn't sitting on a stool in a big floaty dress singing about flowers and trees. She was playing guitar. Bass guitar! She was singing about the menopause and opening the door for female led rock groups (or Females in Rock altogether). Women were sorely under represented in the charts in 1973 - something I think Suzi did a lot to change. The charting of this single epitomised that - as if people were 'getting used' to her. It entered at 34, climbed to 5, then 2 and then 1. She never sold many albums though for whatever reason... apparently 'can the can' means something you can't do; like you can't put a can in side another can if they're the same size. Or something.
(21) Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Stevie was so distinctive. The groove on this is infectious. Stevie wrote this with Jeff Beck on Drums but played the clavinet riff and Moog bass himself. "Very superstitious, the devil's on his way"; sends chills up your spine. You can hear echoes of this song throughout the next twenty, even thirty years. Listen to those horns near the end of the song - you know you've heard those in twenty other songs since. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel springs to mind. This was Stevie's 16th hit single and got to number 11.
(20) Love Train - The O'Jays
Not much to say on this apart from it's a bona fide classic. A song which has travelled well throughout the years. If you haven't heard this before, you probably think Billie Eilish is a musical genius. This was their second and biggest hit, peaking at number 9.
(19) Armed and extremely dangerous - First Choice
If this wasn't the theme tune to a cop show on a Saturday night, somebody missed a trick. Is this funk? Not sure; regardless, it's got jangly guitars and a driving bass line coupled with sweeping strings which is a winning formula in my book. This only reached number 16. Come on people of 1973, get it together!
(18) Life on Mars? - David Bowie
Bowie was probably the only artist of the era capable of this even though I can hear so much Lennon in this song (sorry everyone, I hear Lennon in Bowie a lot) I wonder how much of this came from the part of Bowie that wasn't deliberately drawing on his influences. It's still brilliant though. It was a few years old when it got released in 1973 and spent three weeks at number three.
(17) Joybringer - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
I'm not saying by any means that this is the first obvious synth in a charting pop song but it was a very risky gambit from whoever produced this song to use a sound as defining as this. There definitely weren't many synth solos in songs at this point in pop history. The energy is spot on here though and it feels like they're at the front of a queue to the future trying to egg everyone else on to catch up - but nobody seems ready for it, like they actually want to go off into space. This is a great track and should really have been covered in the early 80s by Ultravox or someone of that ilk. It was adapted from Holst's 'The Planet suite' (Jupiter in particular) and hit number 9. Look at the single cover; why did everyone in the 70s look like they could have presented Playschool?
(16) Gudbuy T'Jane - Slade
You'd be forgiven for thinking this was classic Rolling Stones before Noddy starts warbling. (Everyone says Oasis were a rip off of the Beatles, and I totally agree, apart from the fact they're more of a rip off of Slade. Just listen to this - it could have fit nicely on 'Definitely, Maybe'). A track with plenty of energy and laced with catchy hooks. Whereas all of Wizzard's hits in 1973 sounded almost exactly the same, Slade sounded nothing like their Xmas 1973 number 1 'Merry Xmas Everybody' here. This reached number 2 and was kept off Number 1 by the quite ridiculous 'My Ding-a-ling' by Chuck Berry. How to destroy your own legend.
(15) Summer (The first time) Bobby Goldsboro
There's no shortage of beautiful songs in 1973. As soon as he says "She was 31, I was 17", you really get into the haunting atmosphere of the song. At the end when he says he saw the sunrise as a man, it's nowhere near as creepy as Heaven 17's 'Come live with me' which is the same song from the other perspective. The electric piano is everything here though and the bass guitar is wonderful. This was Bobby's second hit and reached number 9.
(14) Live and let die - Wings
I think Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody owes a lot to this song. Paul McCartney draws a lot on the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life' in the middle too (and 'Let it Be' and the theme tune to the TV version of Batman from the 60s). I wonder if there's one too many movements in this though - can't deny it's appeal though and it's still a great listen these days. This was the theme tune to Roger Moore's first outing as Bond. There's a curious use of grammar in the song when he says 'in this world in which we live in'. Someone should have been proofreading surely? This has since been covered by Guns and Roses when they were 'cool' and Geri Halliwell. Don't ask. Also, are they camels on the single cover?
(13) Nutbush City Limits - Ike & Tina Turner
This is just so different to the first version I ever heard - the remix in 1991. I think I actually prefer the updated version with the sax solo which sounds like the theme tune from Rainbow. Brilliant vocal performance from Tina on the original with that distinctive fuzz guitar, which was her last chart entry for ten years! This was their first hit for four years as a duo and the biggest since 'River Deep, Mountain High' in 1966. It reached number 4
(12) Do you wanna dance? - Barry Blue
A sublimely constructed song this. From the voice, the vocal treatment, the multi-layered backing vocals, the constant four-four thump of the drums, the dramatic string interlude, the syncopated chorus which stops it all being too repetitive, the breakdown in the middle which aims to get the gathered imaginary crowd involved, the delay effect at the end which was in it's infancy and definitely not in mainstream usage in studios, the key change for the outro - then wanting to take the needle back to the start as soon as the song ends. This is exactly what a seven inch single should sound like. This was his last top 10 hit but he has since written for Diana Ross, Celine Dion, The Saturdays, The Wanted and Pixie Lott.
(11) Always on my Mind - Elvis Presley
Not originally an Elvis track but probably one of his greatest performances and the first version of it to chart here reaching number 9. Willie Nelson did something not a lot of artists can do (a bit like Johnny Cash) and made the song his own despite someone else being so strongly associated with the original. A truly heartbreaking song and one which will stand up in any decade even when music has been reduced in the future to people hitting holograms with wifi. (I've deleted the Pet Shop Boys version from my memory files)
(10) You can do magic - Limmie & Family Cookin'
A song you know but you don't know how or where you heard it. Catchy as anything and perfect for 7" vinyl! This got to number 3 and rightly so. The had one more top ten and a minor hit within the following 12 months.
(9) Can't Keep it in - Cat Stevens
Joyous. Cat's first album went top 10 in 1967. He's most famous for writing 'The first cut is the deepest' and 'Father and Son' and has been inducted into various Rock and Roll halls of fame and won Ivor Novello awards and what have you. He got to number 13 with this power-ditty but should have got higher. I love the energy of this. More like this please!
(8) Gaye - Clifford T. Ward
The hair. The 'T' to make sure he's not confused with all the other Clifford Wards. The quotation marks around the title. A beautiful song this and another song out of time. None of the fuzzy analogue production problems most of the stuff in the 70s suffered from. It's so glossy! This got to number 8. He had one more single release called 'Scullery'. It got to 37. It's not the most evocative song title.
(7) If you don't know me by now - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
Listen to the pain in his voice. Simply Red didn't know they were born. "10 long years we been together baby, oooaawwhhhh", gets you right there doesn't it? The choral backing is gorgeous - complete with the 'Stylistics-esque' singing. This was the first of six hit singles for Harold and this got to number 9. Ricky Gervais almost managed to ruin it for me.
(6) Top of the World - Carpenters
Another gem from the Carpenters who had seven top ten hits, each a classic. What a voice and what a fabulous tune. Got to number 5 and stayed in the 40 for 16 weeks. At secondary school, my music teacher was obsessed with this song, making us sing it in a Christmas Concert and paying particular attention to the low note near the end where it goes 'I'm at the top of the world looking DOWN'. In 1973, newspapers would run an advert with a telephone number you could ring and listen to the 'hits' and this was one of those advertised. Not sure if 'streaming' on the phone counted towards the chart position though. Probably not. This was an odd release at the time because the song which charted before it 'Yesterday once more' was taken from their most recent album but 'Top of the world' was taken from the album released before that in 1972. Has that ever happened again?
(5) I wish it could be Christmas everyday - Wizzard
This was 'See my baby Jive' with different words. If you listen to this song in April to September, it doesn't actually sound Christmassy. But listen to it around Christmas time and it's really Christmassy. Weird that. This was the first Christmas single released in 1973, maybe a little too early as it failed to reach the number 1 spot, stalling at number 4.
(4) Could it be I'm falling in love - The Spinners
How absolutely brilliant is this? It didn't chart as well as Jaki Graham and David Grant's cover in the 80s but it's got a lot more soul and is way ahead of it's time. This song was credited to the 'Detroit Spinners' who were nothing to do with the Detroit Emeralds. Their name was actually 'The Spinners' but there was already a band in existence in the UK called that. This only reached 11 for reasons beyond logic; maybe as I say, ahead of it's time? The had some other cracking singles too; 'The Rubberband Man', 'Working my way back to you' and 'Ghetto Child'.
(3) Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
This sounds Christmassy whenever you listen to it. It charted higher than Wizzard's effort and stayed in the chart longer. I think it was just a little bit more accessible and appealed to all demographics whereas Wizzard's was a bit less commercial. There were a lot of songs in 12/8 in 73 (as previously mentioned), this gave a single a quirky feel that one in simple 4/4 wouldn't have, but this one isn't obviously in 12/8, it's subtle - you have to listen to the drums to realise. I think that's one of the reasons it feels a bit 'off' which is a good thing. It entered at number one and stayed there for five weeks. It was the last single to enter at number 1 for six years!
(2) See my baby Jive - Wizzard
Another song in 12/8 and yes, it sounds exactly like 'I wish it could be Xmas every day' but if you've got a formula, why change it? Both songs are great. This is one of the songs of the decade, never mind 1973. I'm also curious to see an actual baby jive - I've checked on YouTube and the best I can find is a computer generated one. Also in this song, look for a nod to The Beatles' 'I'll be back' near the end of each verse. This hit number 1 for four weeks! Roy Wood's 'take' on glam rock was eccentric to say the least. It wasn't just make-up and glitter he wore on his face, it was the entire art supplies aisle of his local hobby craft.
(1) Yesterday once more - Carpenters
There's nothing like this around any more. There's nothing like decent music around any more for that matter. Not for a good ten years now I'd say. What a voice though eh? What a lyric too! What a melody!! If this doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you've either got no eyes or no tear ducts. Not sure why someone gets on a motorbike at the end - maybe yesterday was where they kept their bike? They spent two weeks at number two with this. They never had a number 1 which is absolutely criminal.
Part of the Union - Strawbs
Not a great song this but it hung around in the charts for a long long long long time. It was more like a nursery rhyme than a top 10 hit, but it probably inspired a lot of people to hate the government and the company they worked for even more than they already did. Maybe it was a secret parody of working class people? Who knows? Also, sounds like it inspired the whole 'You can't get better than a Kwik Fit Fitter' thing which is a bad thing. It spent three weeks at number 2 this.
And I love you so - Perry Como
Better than Frank Sinatra and all those over-singers (I hate people who over-sing like every X-Factor finalist). Perry found making a nice noise with his mouth effortless. No gimmicks or drama, just a proper singer singing proper songs. He was probably better than Bing Crosby as well. Probably. This song is really nice. Probably didn't fit into the 70s musical landscape but there were still those around who had turntables, money and a penchant for crooning who were nipping to their local Woolworths to snap up this single. Hard to imagine a song like this hitting number 3 in the charts these days but far from being out of time in 1973, Perry had his longest charting single of all time with this - 35 weeks in the top 50! Fact fans will be excited to know that it was written by Don McClean. I wonder if he ever tried to sue Disney for the whole 'Tale as old as time' thing?
Hello Hooray - Alice Cooper
Catchy, not the most inventive but still a good single with a nice vibe. 3rd consecutive top 10 hit for Alice, 'Schools out' hit number 1, 'Elected' reached number 4 and this one only number 6. Each single he released subsequently, peaked lower and lower until 1989's 'Poison' hit number 2. Surprised this was never covered and made the charts again.
Tie a yellow ribbon round the old Oak Tree - Dawn
This was massive in 1973. People really did love a song with a story - it sounds like a standard doesn't it? Probably why it was so popular. It's jaunty and inspired so many similar sounding songs after it (strangely, it always reminds me of The Wurzels and I'm not sure why). Brotherhood Of Man fashioned an entire career around songs that were almost exact copies of this. Not sure if the tale of a criminal waiting to get out of jail deserves such a jaunty ditty or not. It was on the chart for seven weeks before it hit number 1 and stayed there for four weeks and stayed in the top 40 for 35 weeks in total becoming the biggest selling single of the year.
Hell Raiser - Sweet
Not my cup of tea but it's a great song. I can imagine being 11 years old, searching for an identity and latching on to this. It sounds more punk than glam rock to me and it's a bit over the top too; sounds a bit forced - still, great single. It got to number 2 as did their next two singles. It always reminds me of Butlins this song... or maybe it's Sweet themselves who remind me of Butlins... or the song Hi-Ho Silver lining which wasn't even by Sweet. It was by Jeff Beck. Hang on... what was I talking about again...
Daytona Demon - Suzi Quatro
Loads of drive and energy here. An example of how powerful music can be, you can see the effect it would have had on people in the clubs of the day - it's like a soundtrack to an attitude. After hitting number 1 and 3, Suzi only reached 14 with this. The chorus is a direct rip-off of 'Glad all over' which she covered a few years later.
Forever - Roy Wood
Shades of Del Shannon and the early 60s here but it works somehow. The b-side was called 'music to commit suicide to'; either an indictment of his songwriting or a theme tune for a euthanasia clinic advert - not sure which. Regardless, it was quite jaunty with circus noises and Timpanis. Roy released this around the same time Wizzard released that Christmas song. Not sure what the record company were thinking but this reached number 8.
Daydreamer - David Cassidy
This is the template for 'Can't smile without you' and 'Last Christmas' - which I think Barry Manilow kicked off with Wham about not realising this song was before his. It's nice this… it was number 1 for three weeks
Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues
This is sultry and dramatic. Almost classical and Wagner like (the composer not the X-factor finalist) If this wasn't used in an Old Spice commercial, it should have been. It was originally released in 1967 (hard to believe I know) and only reached number 19 (!). It got to number 9 this time round.
Never, Never, Never - Shirley Bassey
Impressionists were huge in the 70s weren't they? Poor Shirley - she had such pronounced mannerisms that the impressionists used to overplay for such comic effect, you couldn't think of Ms Bassey as anything other than an overly dramatic gurning warbler. Nothing could be further from the truth however as this tune is beautiful and wonderfully sung. Listen to the words too - so sweet. This song reached number 8 and stayed in the chart for ages.