Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1981

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1981

 (If the videos aren't working below you can go direct to the playlist here : 1981)

Having a number 1 single doesn't really mean what you think it means. Yes, it's a number 1 and blah blah blah, history, awards etc. But when you think about it, you've just had the most popular song of that moment in time. There have been some awful number 1 singles but they got there because they hit at the correct moment in time. If Ultravox had released Vienna three weeks later than they did, it would have been number 1 without a problem. However, Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap your face' was the right record at the right time. It must have been a nightmare for artists who knew they had a brilliant single, working out when best to release it. However, Human League had absolutley no expectations for 'Don't you want me' to the point Phil Oakey didn't want to release it as a single.

In the end though, chart positions don't matter. 'Vienna' ended up being a song for the ages whilst 'Shaddap your face' was a song for the moment. Number one or number two doesn't really matter; it's almost arbitrary, a lot like my personal top 40 of 1981 in fact. However, this is definitely the strongest list of songs I've complied since starting in 1973 so sit back, stick the playlist on and read along...

(40) Duran Duran - Planet Earth

Duran Duran were a little bit ridiculous at the start. They fully embraced the New Romantic look of frilly pirate blouses, long floppy foppish hair and that weird dancing people did when Visage came on the radio.  However decent this song was, it didn't suggest the band would be crashing into the chart at number 1 in two years time, nor did we think they'd still be releasing records and touring right into 2021! (They've had some terrible moments in that time sprinkled with gems of genius). I've seen them live four times, twice when the original line-up got back together for the Astronaut Album in 2004. This got to number 12 and they even managed to get on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Which was an acheivement for a band such as this back then.

Some cynics would say they nicked the sound on their first album from Roxy Music.

(39) Dramatis - Love Needs No Disguise

For a Gary Numan fan, this was great. Dramatis were his former backing band who got together after Numan announced he was retiring from touring (a decision he reversed two years later). Maybe I'm biased but I adore this song, the atmosphere is electric - probably not the 39th best single of 1981 but it's my chart so I can do what I like. It spent two weeks at number 33 and then fell out.

(38) Four Tops - When She Was My Girl

This was their first top ten hit since "Simple Game" had reached number three in 1971. This got to number 3 also. There was something formulaic about this sort of music - but no more than that churned out by Stock, Aitken and Waterman or even Swain and Jolley - if it works, it works and when it works well, it's brilliant.

This could well have been a B-Side for one of Michael Jackson's singles from 'Off the Wall'. He would probably have done it better too.

(37) Barry Manilow - Let's Hang On

Nobody gets in the chart these days with a cover version of something first released in the last ten years.  They all have to go back to the 80s or 90s. Back in the day you could have three versions of the same song by different people in the top 40.  The Four Seasons and Johnny Johnson And The Bandwagon had both had hits with this song in the '60s. Then Darts had their very last hit with this song in 1980 when they took it to number 11. 18 months later, Barry Manilow took it to number 12 and gave us the definitive version even though I picture Frankie Valli's face whenever I hear this version.

(36) Sheena Easton - For Your Eyes Only

Nobody had heard of her 12 months ago but Sheena was given the honour of recording the title song for the latest 'James Bond' film. Since being on a kind of documentary about starting in the music industry, she'd had five top 40 hits and one near miss in a year. This number eight peaking single had a good chart run lasting ten weeks, but was her last top ten hit ever. She even performed this at the Oscars. Then Prince got his claws into her and made her into something else entirely...

(35) Ottowan - Hands Up

After dislocating your arms trying to spell out 'D.I.S.C.O.' in the style of 'Y.M.C.A.', Ottowan decided to release a song that would put further strain on your arms. Putting your hands up every time the chorus came around got very tiring. This was a fun Pan Pipe-led tune that no doubt had all the Nannas up on the dancefloor in Benidorm at the time. It spent two weeks at number three.





(34) Hazel O'Connor - Will You

This was Hazel's third and final hit. I remember thinking at the time that this was a very mature song - I didn't know what was going on in it but knew that I didn't know what was going on because it had mature themes. It surprised me that Hazel stopped having hits, especially with her starring in Breaking Glass, from which "Will You" was taken.  It got to number eight.

(33) Abba - Lay All Your Love On Me

This only came out as a 12" single. Odd that it sold so well but this was Abba on the slide. Still a great song but quite removed from the style they'd had so many hits with. Erasure covered this and three other ABBA songs for their "Abba-esque E.P" which got to number 1 in 1992. Andy Bell worshipped ABBA and even got the usually retiscent Vince Clarke to dress up in a blue satin jump suit and dance along on stage when they performed it live.

(32) Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough

Speaking of Vince Clarke, he wrote this little ditty. It was like 'Twinkle Twinkle little star' to my young ears and sounded so simplistic, it gave me ideas of grandeur that buying one of those bleepy boxes would mean I could write a simple little bloopy tune and get into the top 10.  Turns out no matter how simple it sounds, it's not simple in the slightest.  This peaked at number eight, Vince left to form Yazoo and thirty years later, Depeche Mode were still having hit singles.

(31) Cliff Richard - Wired for Sound

Cliff likes tall speakers and Cliff like small speakers but he also likes roller skating in a sports hall wearing a walkman with orange sponge ear protectors.  It's a bit table-chair this track but it's decent enough and the video made it memorable enough to endure a decent chart run and end up at number 4.

(30) Rolling Stones - Start Me Up

I used to ask the guitarist in our band to play this for me before each rehearsal - just the intro - cos I loved it. He'd oblige with a sigh and then I'd leave him alone for the rest of the night.  The only thing wrong with this is that Mick Jagger totally over-jaggers the vocal and it's quite repetative and it's quite repetative.  It reached number seven and it's quite repetative.

(29) Adam and the Ants - Prince Charming

I still want to be Adam Ant. The 80s one - not the one now. This entered the chart at number two on the strength of his popularity, then took the tiny step up to number 1 where it remained for four weeks. I loved the Pantomime video with Diana Dors as the Fairy Godmother (one of her last onscreen performances) and Adam as the Prince assuming the Cinderella role. He then dresses up as Alice Cooper and Lawrence of Arabia for some reason.

(28) Linx - Intuition

If you've ever played the arcade game 'Out Run' then you might have thought it was an odd choice to use this song as one of those accompanying you on your hurtle through tropical lands in a Ferrari. However, it wasn't this song, just an 'homage' (by 'homage' I mean CTRL+C then CTRL+V).  It was Linx's highest charting single in reaching number 7.

(27) Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You

This is one of those songs that has loads of potential and you think it's going to be great and then it doesn't quite go where you thought it was going to.  Also, I've always had an issue with the line 'a girl like you'. Surely, you should be telling her you've been waiting for her - actually her - not a girl like her.  That's not going to go down well on your first date.

They'd managed a number 24 with 'Cold as Ice'. This got to number 8 and made sure the parent album 'Foreigner 4' sold oodles.



(26) Abba - One Of Us

ABBA's 19th and last top twenty hit in their own right. This was like a song from a musical - which is where Benny and Bjorn went next of course. This song also seems to have inspired Ace of Base quite a lot.

(25) Linx - So This Is Romance

Lovely but very much like their other hits. It reached number 15 and was the last time that Linx featured in the top forty.

(24) Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

Easily one of the greatest songs of all time but not a 'single' for me.  It got to number 4 and remains laced with plenty of metaphorical or is that actual literal commentary about an 'incident' that may or may not have happened. I love songs with a mythology. It might have been scribbled on the back of a tab packet in a cafe on a rainy thursday but the atmosphere turns it into something that will live forever. This should have been one of the songs catapulted into space for aliens to find. Unless it already has been, in which case, as you were.

(23) Alvin Stardust - Pretend

My judgement of this song is clouded by the fact it reminds me of a thoroughly enjoyable holiday in Great Yarmouth, in which, was an adventure playground the likes of which I'd never seen, nor even dared to dream ever existed!  Anyway, this song is very jolly but I don't think I would have noticed it much without that association. It was Alvin's biggest hit since his March 1974 number one "Jealous Mind", and his first hit of any description since the Summer of 1975. This number four peaking hit, had reached number two for Nat King Cole in 1953.

(22) Bucks Fizz - Piece Of The Action

So obsessed was I by Bucks Fizz at the time, I could be heard singing this in the local supermarket whilst the cashier was checking out our groceries.  Only much later did I realise what 'action' the Fizzers wanted a 'piece' of and I was far too young for those sorts of shenanigans. It reached number 12.

(21) Teardrop Explodes - Reward

I was and still am scared of Julian Cope. He looked like the kind of kid at school who would smash your art project and laugh about it right in your face. It was the only single by the band to reach the top ten, and peaked at number six.

(20) Soft Cell - Tainted Love

I know this is supposed to be a kind of classic or whatever but I just don't think Marc Almond has a very nice voice. Obviously the 'doo doo' hook of the song is probably what dragged most listeners in to start with but when Marc starts to 'soul', he misses notes all over the place and starts shouting and going all over the top. If he'd just calm down for a minute, it might have sounded quite nice.

Having said that, it was the biggest selling single of 1981 so I'll move on.

(19) Adam And The Ants - Stand And Deliver

Not content with glamorising pirates, he was now doing it with Highway men. Neither have what you'd call balanced morals. This song's five week stay at number one was the longest for a single in 1981. It was also the third single to enter the chart at number one in just over a year.

(18) Shakin' Stevens - This Ole House

The biggest selling male vocalist of the 80s. Bigger than Sir Michael of Jacksonville. He was in an Elvis stage show when he was discovered and didn't release his first single until he was into his thirties but he mixed it with the young'uns and taught them a thing or two about standing on their toes and pointing into the middle distance. It smashed straight to the top of the chart, naturally, and the video was very literal - dancing about in a delapidated old house that needed it's shingles fixed. Maybe antibiotics would have helped?

(17) Human League - Love Action (I Believe In Love)


You know that 'action' Bucks Fizz wanted a 'piece' of? Well, this actual 'love action' was a little different if not related to the same subject area.  I'll let you google it.  Anyway, Human League were starting to get the recognition they deserved. They had been trying for three years before they had a number 12 hit with "Sound Of The Crowd" earlier in 1981. They had even got a mention in someone else's hit the previous year when the Undertones referred to them in "My Perfect Cousin". It reached number three and spent 11 weeks in the top 40.

(16) Dollar - Mirror Mirror

What a single this is mind. I just don't understand why David van Day became so obsessed with being in Bucks Fizz, then stealing the name when he finally managed to become an official member (despite never being in the original line-up) and then even re-recorded all their hits with his voice on them and releasing an album of 'greatest hits'. He had several perfectly good Dollar songs to tout around the holiday camps.  If you ever manage to catch an interview with Cheryl Baker where van Day's name is mentioned, you can actually see her teeth turn to spikes and her eyes turn red. She detests the man.  This was a number four hit!

(15) Toyah - Thunder In The Mountains

I used to sing this in my head in order to get to sleep when I was 6. Odd I know, but I loved this song so much. She did a Mad Max impression in the video too. It got to number 4 and all but ended her career as a top 10 artist.

(14) Madness - Grey Day

I never thought a madness song could be so deep. I'll say this for it, it got me through some really bad times when I was much older (the song passed me by at the time) and that's not the sort of thing you'd ever say about the throw-away comedy-esque stuff Madness were doing in and around this period.  It's a song with a real finger on the button of what it feels like to look out of your window in the morning and forget what happiness is.  This reached number four.

(13) Jacksons - Can You Feel It

This took nine weeks to reach number six, and totalled 13 weeks in the chart.  This was 'sampled' in 1998 and got to number one. The myth goes that the ironically named 'Tamperer' used this track without permission but knew they'd make more money than the copyright lawsuit would cost so went ahead anyway.

(12) Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime

I'm a bit slow admittedly, but I'm not entirely sure what the message of this record is. To me it seems the narrator is saying, he lived his life to a script - getting married, getting a car and a house and couldn't remember really how it all happened. Regardless, it's a superb track co-written with Brian Eno and with a video choreographed by Toni Basil. It reached number 14.

(11) Altered Images - I Could Be Happy

A song doesn't have to be serious or have a hugely deep message to touch part of you. This song is deceptively deep however and tinged with more than a little sadness.  Claire Grogan's chirpy voice hides the message that she'd rather climb a really tall tree or go to Skye on her holidays just to get away from this awful person she's with.  'I could be happy', she sings, 'run away, get away, far away, how do I escape from you?' - meaning that she's probably trapped in a loveless relationship or worse. It doesn't bear thinking about really but the music is suitably jaunty to hide the horror of what's really going on behind the fun vocal so all's well. I think?



(10) Kiki Dee - Star

I first heard this when it was used as the theme tune to New Faces or Opportunity Knocks or even some other talent show I've forgotten the name of.  Kiki Dee was a fabulous singer and with the right material, could have been massive. It's all about who you know though and she wasn't obviously in league with any good songwriters or Elton John any more.

(9) Randy Crawford - You Might Need Somebody

Randy Crawford has one of those voices. Doesn't matter what she's singing, you just want to listen. She has such a unique vibrato that doesn't do that thing they do on X-Factor or The Voice in order to sound like they can sing, but only to people who don't know what a good singer actually sounds like.  Anyway, Shola Ama did a decent job of this in the 90s but Randy's version is pure liquid gold to the lug holes.

(8) Roxy Music - Jealous Guy

This was more of a Bryan Ferry solo effort than a Roxy track, but it gave them the only number one single of their career. It spent two weeks on top. I was never really a fan of John Lennon's voice and thought most covers of his songs were better than his versions of them. Bryan Ferry knocks this one out of the park to the point I can't even remember what John Lennon's original sounds like any more.

(7) Human League - Open Your Heart

This was the third single from the 'Dare' album. It peaked at number six. I love the line about 'you know your worst is better than their best'.  Human League embraced the Arpeggiator and most of their tracks in this era were heavily based on it. I'm still using mine and thirty years later, I'm still trying to sound 1% like Human League. I'll probably give up in about twenty years.

(6) Kim Wilde - Kids In America

Talking of the arpeggiator, this track begins with the most 80s one of all time.  Kim told a story about how this song was written.  Her brother Marty was in his bedroom next door playing that thumping bass arpeggio over and over - she was banging on the wall telling him to stop.  She didn't know he was busy writing the song that would launch her career.

Kim spent two weeks at number two with this and followed it with a further 16 top 40 hits before the decade ended, more than any other British female soloist in the eighties. Her most recent album 'Here come the aliens' was superb and at least five songs on it would have hit the top 10 were today 1984. Which it is... in my mind.

(5) Bucks Fizz - Land Of Make Believe

I was genuinely terrified of this song. It had the word 'ghosties' in it, which I totally believed in at the time (I did a class project on ghosts when I was nine years old and read sooooo many books about them I was convinced they had to be real - that's a story for another time however). The song sounded haunted too, as did the video and right at the end, a creepy girl's voice starts telling us about an imaginary friend that comes to tea that only she can see. That was it - I spent the next three months under the covers!!

It was number five over Christmas, and had made it to the top by the middle of January 1982, spending two weeks there.

(4) Madness - It Must Be Love

The Ninth successive top ten hit for Madness was a cover version of Labi Siffre's 1971 number 14 hit. They even persuaded Labi to appear in the video. It was one of the first things I learned to play on the piano (the bit at the beginning) and started a life long love affair with Madness. It reached number four in 1981, and then number six ten years later.

(3) Specials - Ghost Town

I don't know that this really reflected what was going on in the summer of 1981. I think it was actually about unemployment and lack of government attention to the working class - and something about the lack of music venues or something. Anyway, this was the seventh and last hit for the Specials, of which all seven made the top ten. As a piece of pop production, it needs to go in a museum - like a proper one, not this on-line one.

(2) Ultravox - Vienna

How devastating. Ultravox didn't do much for me until later in the 80s but this was a bona fide classic that will still stand up to scrutiny in 673858 years time.  As I said right at the top, it doesn't matter that it didn't get to number 1, everyone knows it's infinitely better than anything Joe Dolce could do with his ukelele.

(1) Human League - Don't You Want Me

Where do I start with this? Well, it was the first 30 seconds of this record that turned me into a fan of synthesizers. I didn't know it was a synth at the time, I'm not sure I even knew what a synth was per se, but I knew that bass line intro would embed itself in my soul for eternity. The song had a story that you wanted to know more about. The video was mesmerising. Everything about this song is perfect.

It was the fourth track taken from Dare as a single and it was completely unheard of for a fourth single from one album to be this successful. Five weeks at number 1 and it caused sales of the album to rocket again too. Phil Oakey had one of the best voices of the 80s and still sounds great - they're still touring in 2021!


If you want to see my blog about 1980 click here, or if you'd like to dip into the 70s, click here


For other stuff, notifications and updates on future posts, follow here:


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1980

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1980

(If the videos aren't showing below, you can see the playlist here : 1980)

The way in which music reached people was the key to how well your single would sell. Disco singles sold because people heard them out dancing. They were the type of songs you could dance to and listen to in the house without dancing. Live music was very popular. People weren't just going to big gigs at big venues for £40 a ticket , they were going to small venues for free to see bands like Madness, The Specials, The Jam - when they were all unknowns of course, and this was where A&R people would go to spot new chart talent.

The following 40 singles are mostly by those who'd worked very hard for years playing souless venues without anyone really listening before selling any records at all. 1980 was right at the edge of a lot of innovations in music, not all of them reaching the mainstream.

(40) Wednesday Week - Undertones

I'm not a fan of songs with one dimension. You know, they start, do the same thing all the way through and then stop. You forget about it immediately. Wednesday Week isn't one of those - it comes straight in, the chorus is a pause and the guitar riff is a lead back into the main part. Stuff like this makes a song memorable. This is one of the first three singles my sister bought (that I used to sneak into her room to play when she was out). This song takes me right back to being five years old and having those first real feelings of excitement about music. It's construction. The words. The emotion. And, wondering what a 'Wednesday week' was - finally deciding it was a week where it was Wednesday for an entire week. These days, I feel really sad when I hear it because I know what it's about now. Back then I felt happy. This is the power of a song. It's both happy and sad, it can make you feel both so powerfully, which is what makes it a great single.

The Undertones were following their best and biggest hit "My Perfect Cousin" with this , and it peaked at number eleven.

(39) Paul McCartney - Coming Up

Paul McCartney was having his biggest hit since Mull Of Kintyre in 1977. It got to number 2 and to my eyes, featured all the people who were in Wings (including Linda on Keyboards) but the song was credited to Paul McCartney. It has been reported that this song prompted John Lennon to return to recording as Paul had finally "done something good".

This is another example of what Paul did so well; he wrote songs with very simple repeating sections and made you think you'd heard them before. The chorus is just 'Coming up, (like a flower)' repeated over and over but somehow, it never outstays its welcome.

(38) UB40 - Food for Thought

I liked a lot of what UB40 did, but a lot of it was a bit samey. The first track I heard by them was the brilliant 'Red Red Wine' and every now and then they'd release something magical. This was their first hit and a bit of a classic. It just has such a nice vibe and atmosphere.  Largely because of 2-tone, sidestick drums, bongos, brass, scratchy percussion, moseying bass guitar and pseudo-reggae was the prevailing sound of the early 80s.  UB40 got to number 4 and stayed there for two weeks. I don't know if I'll reach 1995 with these lists but if I don't, I highly recommend Ali Campbell's 'That look in your eye' which is a beautiful summer song which is largely ignored by all the retro radio stations. (I'm talking to you Absolute 90s)

(37) Styx - Babe

Not my cup of Matcha this, but a superb single all the same.  The Mark One electric piano is a bit much but very very '80s ballad'.

It had taken over seven years and eight albums, but Styx were finally having their first UK hit. Formed in 1964 as 'The Tradewinds', this got to number 6 in the UK.  There was a lot of 'this sort of ballad' about at the time, most notably by REO Speedwagon, Chicago and Foreigner.

(36) Adam and the Ants - AntMusic

Just look at this beautiful, beautiful man.  I wanted to be him when I was 5 and even stole some makeup from my sister to draw a white stripe across my nose and do a dance for my assembled family one Sunday afternoon to this song. I'm not even embarassed about it; I do it again tomorrow! I love Adam Ant. Who doesn't?  Anyway, this got to number 2 (behind John Lennon's 'Imagine').

I've still got my Adam Ant ruler somewhere.

(35) The Tide is High - Blondie

Two years Blondie were in the charts. Just two years!  Hanging on the Telephone charted in 1978 and this slow reggae cover version got to number one (their 5th) in 1980. They didn't chart again until 1999.  See the commentary for UB40's Food for Thought. This had plenty of sidestick, bongo and brass.

I think Atomic Kitten covered this - more about them later.




(34) Split Enz - I got you

This was their only hit and six is too many in a band isn't it, even if you are wearing differnt coloured shirts.

After a long climb the song eventually peaked at number twelve and showed just what the world was in store for when the Finn brothers went on to form Crowded House. I had the privelege of seeing Crowded House live in 2005 and they were amazing.

(33) Blondie - Atomic

I've heard countless people banging on about how 'Union City Blue' was Blondie's best single. I've never found anything special about it, especially as this song was full of all the ingredients of a hit single and the former wasn't. Atomic spent two weeks at number one.

I've always thought it was inspired by The Shadows (until the singing parts start). Listen for that synth arpeggiator in the background which lifts any song into a disco realm even if it didn't start out as a Disco track. I think that was Giorgio Moroder's doing.

(32) ELO - All over the world

The whole Xanadu project is underated in my opinion; sneered at even.  It's funny what time does to people's attitudes (good and bad). Despite ELO being chart doyens in the 70's, this was the best stuff they ever did and this track in particular was superb. It got to number 11.

The 'ohh-ooh-ooh-ooh' was re-approriated in the song 'Heartache Avenue' by the Maisonettes (another excellent song).

(31) Change - Searching

Sounds a lot like whoever wrote 'When the Going Gets Tough' also wrote this. This is the world's first glimpse at Luther Vandross whose voice is like Galaxy Chocolate mixed with blended clouds and a cup of silk. Should have been a bigger hit than number 11 - I guess the world just wasn't ready for him.

(30) New Musik - Sanctuary

A bit better than their previous minor hit, "This World Of Water", New Muzik fizzled away after this. I wouldn't be surprised if someone in this band was behind Bucks Fizz's early 80s success (and Dollar for that matter). The music has exactly the same sensibilities. It's joyous and that's what you want in an 80s synthpop record after a long day at school learning the four times table and colouring in without going over the lines.

It got to number 31, and they never hit the top 40 again.

P.S. I just did some research (there's a first) and turns out one of the band went on to produce A-Ha and Aztec Camera

(29) Kate Bush - Babooshka

Need to get one thing off my chest about this and that's the awful grammar in the opening verse. She definitely says 'She couldn't have made a worst move' doesn't she? I've heard it thousands of times now and that's all I can hear. Anyway...

Kate's biggest hit since "Wuthering Heights". This was a tale of a woman whose husband had an affair with a woman he didn't know was his wife using a pseudonym in letters to him

This song reminds me of assembly at school where I wasn't in the least bit interested in whatever the Headmaster was droning on about (probably trying to find out who broke the window in the outdoor toilet block) so I was singing this in my head, off in my own world. Then, a few years later, the school announced that they were doing a play called 'Babooshka' and I was so excited until I realised it was about a woman who goes off to find Jesus, gets lost and is never heard of again. What a lovely story that is for Christmas. Idiots. The one about a woman catfishing her husband would have gone down much better with the Mums and Dads.

The Fairlight computer was being used more and more on hit singles around this time and that sound of broken glass you hear at the end of this song is that very computer!

(28) We are Glass - Gary Numan

Talking about Glass, this is one of Gary's best singles.  It got to number 5 and was a cameo for the masterpeice that was the Telekon album. This was the first real glimpse of Mr. Numan that I got and I remember thinking to myself that I should try and hear more of him (I was competely mesmerised) but due to not being old enough to get pocket money, not having anything to play music on anyway and then forgetting about Gary Numan entirely until later in life, I didn't get round to it until the early 90s when the ability to borrow CDs from the library became a thing.

(27) Sad Cafe - Strange Little Girl

'Boys and girls come out to play' is played on a creepy twinkling guitar and then an even creepier voice goes 'lives down the lane' like some kind of weird horror film.  This sounds a lot like late Beatles but I love that bass guitar at the start and the odd construction - which means they spent time on this, it wasn't written in a day like most stuff these days.

It was the follow up to their huge "Everyday Hurts" single and peaked at number 32.


(26) Neil Diamond - Love on the Rocks

This song has been giving mediocre Karaoke singers a way to impress people who don't really know what a good singer should sound like for years, myself included. Taken from "The Jazz Singer", it's probably just better (as a single) than 'America', 'Hello Again', 'Amazed and Confused' and my favourite 'You Baby'. It only got to number 17, which is a surprise given it's broad appeal and genius build to the chorus. Actually, I'm off to listen to the soundtrack album again...

(25) Kool and the Gang - Celebration

Deliberately commercial and quite repetative - it's the perfect single. Doesn't go anywhere and isn't the kind of thing you want to put on in the background whilst you read - but it's played on so many appropriate occasions that it's now part of the fabric of reality. It got to number seven.

(24) Olivia Newton John & ELO - Xanadu

Title tracks to films often found themselves in the upper reaches of the chart and this was no different, especially for Olivia Newton John who'd been there with songs from Grease a year earlier. Xanadu got to number one for two weeks. Odd that this was the only time ELO found themselves in the top spot!

Xanadu has been the subject of a few top 10 hits over the years. Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch had 'The legend of Xanadu' and Frankie goes to Hollywood gave it a namecheck in 'Welcome to the Pleasuredome'.

(23) OMD - Messages

Simple but effective. I went off OMD the later into their career they got but I always appreciated what they were doing. I think the thing that put me off was watching Andy McClusky on Top of the Pops 'dancing' but swinging his massive bass guitar around the stage and looking utterly out of place.  It was even worse when he put his bass down and started flinging his unfathomably long arms around the place. He was like Mr. Tickle on Meow Meow.  Look, there's even a YouTube video calling him out on it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdkMjokbhTI

The song reached number 13. Andy McCluskey was the man behind girl group 'Atomic Kitten'. So you now know who to blame.

(22) Blondie - Call Me

Blondie's forth number one single and more importantly, their third entry on my top 40 singles of 1980! This had a lot of urgency compared to their final number one. It was produced and co-written by Giorgio Moroder (of 'I feel love' fame), and taken from the soundtrack of the film 'American Gigolo' which was terrible by all accounts - not seen it personally.

The solo on this was played on an organ through a flange effect which was another defining sound of the early 80s - effects were becoming more and more elaborate and new sounds were popping up all over the place giving each new single a fresh and unique sound. What a time to be alive!

(21) B.A. Robertson - Kool in the Kaftan

B.A. Robertson was having the smallest of his five hits with "Kool In The Kaftan". This sounds a bit 'throw away' to begin with but it's actually very clever. It's another example of a song which changes gear halfway through (see 'Give me the night' by George Benson) and sends your emotional connection with what's going on, off in another direction. Clever, but not as clever as the same concept (but taken to another dimension) in the song at the top of my count down.

(20) Michael Jackson - Rock with you

The 'Off the Wall' album was already in the shops and this was one of the last tracks released so it didn't get to number one where it deserved to be - it settled for number seven which is definitely not to be sniffed at.  This owed a lot to what Chic were doing in the few years previous but the real genius behind this was Rod Temperton of Heatwave.

The song was first offered to Karen Carpenter! I mean, yeah, she had a voice like liquid gold but, really?  This was probably one of the last big Disco hits as dance floors became filled with people who'd migrated over from Punk into New Romantic. Still with coloured hairsprayed sticky-up hair but with more makeup and better dancing.


(19) Buggles - Living in the plastic age

Was this better than "Video Killed The Radio Star"? If not, it's just as good, just not as Zeitgeisty and therefore, not something to be played beyond it's chart run - which is a shame. I bet nobody born after 1980 who has heard of 'Video killed' has heard 'Plastic age'. That's how it goes I suppose. Trevor Horn went on to have a huge influence on the musical landscape of the 80s with acts such as Dollar and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, so I doubt he's bothered.  I always thought this was by Thomas Dolby and even though I've Googled it and there's even a single cover above with 'Buggles' written on it, I think it still might be.

There's a bit in the break near the end which sounds a lot like 'Pale Shelter' and I wonder if Roland of Tears for Fears might have stored this in his subconscious for later?



(18) Special A.K.A. - Too Much, Too Young

A number one for Terry Hall and the guys at last. It was a speeded up version of a track from their debut album, and caused quite a bit of controversy. Eventually, Radio One chose to play it but cut it just short of the last line. It was all about one of their female friends who'd gotten pregnant in her teens and basically saying 'yo'r life is now over'. A message of some worth but probably delivered in the wrong way.

(17) Roxy Music - The Same old Scene


This sounds like Duran Duran and I'm sure John Taylor and Nick Rhodes would agree that the album this came from would have influenced them hugely at the time. "Same Old Scene" peaked at number 12 and cements Roxy Music as chamelions of the charts, able to hit the top 10 with all sorts of different styles.  This one suited them best though IMO.

(16) Abba - The Winner Takes it All

One of the best singles of the 80's this. Apparently it wasn't about their own divorces but is definitely full of raw personal opinions on the whole subject. You can see where the musical 'Chess' came from when you listen to this. Pity about the video - it was like a bad american soap opera. The song spent two weeks at number one.

(15) Joy Division - Love Will Tear us Apart

Joy Division had released an album and three singles over the previous two years with no mainstream chart success at all. Then, after Ian Curtis took his own life in May 1980, this single was released and made it to number 13. Out of the ashes came New Order who were decidedly hit and miss.  Sometimes they were brilliant and others, baffling.

This single has to go down as one of the greatest of all time however. My first experience of the song was on Paul Young's debut album 'No Parlez' and he does it superbly, even if there was a lot of controversy about him recording it in the first place.  He also did a version of Pale Shelter which he murdered and I'm pleased it remained as a bonus track on the expanded edition only.

(14) Roxy Music - Oh Yeah (On the Radio)

Superb, and as good as four or five other Roxy Music songs I'd quite happily stick in my top 100 of the 80s.

(13) Diana Ross - Upside Down

This was Diana's biggest hit for nine years, and peaked at number two. It was also her first visit to the top twenty for over four years, but she couldn't fail this time. The parent album had been written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers who'd been responsible for all those Chic and Sister Sledge hits of the last couple of years. Listen to that bass guitar man. Just listen.

This was the second of the aforementioned first three singles my sister bought. This was also played to death when she was out.

(12) Olivia Newton John - Magic

Another song from the Xanadu soundtrack, and the best of the lot. It's one of two hits by Olivia that's not on Spotify like she's embarrassed of them. This and 'A little more love' (which got to number 4) are two of my favourite songs ever. Its weird. 'Magic' peaked at number 32 which is criminal.

(11) George Benson - Give me the Night

This always reminds me of Level 42 (even though they didn't chart until 1981). Peaking at number seven, it was one of the big disco hits of the year. He also plays Jazz Guitar in the video whilst on Rollerskates - you know, that perfect combination... like cheese and pickle... Jazz guitar and Rollerskates.

The thing that takes this single into my top 11 for 1980 is the chorus - the way it contradicts everything before it. Only a clever songwriter is able to shift a song's gears like that and there were more examples of this mood-shift in the rest of the chart...


(10) Stevie Wonder - Masterblaster (Jammin)

After entering the chart at number 30, this single made a massive climb to number four. A tribute to Bob Marley, this single peaked at number two a fortnight later. After such a run of superb singles, who knew his most successful would be the awful 'I just called'? I can still hardly believe it.

(9) David Essex - Silver Dream Machine

David Essex was back with his first top ten hit in almost two years with the title song from his latest movie "Silver Dream Racer". This one peaked at number four. It's deceptive in it's simplicity this one. It's got so many great parts to it and the atmosphere of it fading in coupled with David's understated vocal at the start, changing gear at the bridge into the chorus... I told you it was a recipe for success.

Anyone remember that sitcom David was in where he was a lock keeper? I used to like that.

(8) Police - Don't Stand so Close to Me

I'm perrenially disapointed that this song didn't develop into what I thought it was going to develop into with that moody intro. The Chorus spoils it - it's too jolly, especially for such a dark subject.  I also hate the way Sting rhymes 'Nabokov' with 'Shake and cough'.  Also, nobody refers to Lolita as 'that book by Nabokov'. Apart from that, it's brilliant.

This single was the second one this year to debut on the chart at number one. It stayed there for four weeks.

(7) Stacy Lattisaw - Jump to the Beat

The third of the three first singles bought by my sister and the one I played the most (when she was out). Thirteen year old Stacy released one of the finest singles of the disco era with this. She had previously been earmarked to record "Ring My Bell" , but that had instead been given to Anita Ward who took it to number one in 1979. So this was Stacey's debut and she took it to number three. Her follow up single "Dynamite" failed to make it past number 51, and Stacey was never heard of again in the UK. The same can't be said of the song though as Dannii Minogue took it to number eight in 1991. Stacy went on to record with R&B legend and childhood friend, Johnny Gill (from New Edition) who she convinced to have a go at a recording career when he was 16.

(6) Dexy's Midnight Runners - Geno

Dexy's Midnight Runners had been to number 40 in February with their previous single "Dance Stance". This time they made it to the opposite end of the top 40 and spent two weeks there. This is one of those songs that never sounds out of place anywhere. Not as 'Birthday Party' as 'Come on Eileen' but quite timeless and fitting for lots of occasions. It is a tribute to Geno Washington and meant to sound like his Ram Jam Band.

(5) Madness - Baggy Trousers

This was one of the first music videos I remember seeing, largely because someone playing a saxophone starts flying around in the background as the band play on a school field. The lyrics to this song are a pastiche of life in a school (a kind of inverted reality to 'Another brick in the wall'), where I was at the time, and I connected with it immediately - as did six hundred thousand other people who went out a bought it. It went on to spend two weeks at number three and became their biggest hit so far spending 11 weeks in the 40.

(4) David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes

This single was complimented by one of the best video promos ever made and another one I remember sitting glued to whilst watching Top of the Pops (probably the same episode which featured 'Baggy Trousers'). This single also saw a considerable upturn in fortunes for Bowie (whose 70s singles career was a ratio of big hit to minor hit of about 1:5) after his last single "Alabama Song" had only reached number 23. This one spent two weeks at the top and somehow inspired the video producer to plonk David in a clown outfit walking in front of a JCB.

(3) Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach

This is a song which plays in my head a lot when I'm at work. I think most of us feel the same sentiments as the narrator; knowing that even though you're at work right now, one day, you'll be somewhere you can enjoy yourself, switch off from the stresses of life and relax.  Echo Beach is that place and it can be anywhere - the pub on Friday night, The Bahamas, sitting in front of a good movie with a take away - Echo Beach always feels 'far away in time'.  It quickly reached number ten, but only stayed on the top 40 for seven weeks. Toyah covered it in 1987, but failed to make the top 40.

(2) Peter Gabriel - Games without Frontiers

It took a while, but finally reached number four. In turn this helped his third album (titled 'Peter Gabriel', just as the previous two were) to reach number one. He kept singing 'It's a knockout' which was a TV program in which people tried to run obstacle courses dressed as dinosaurs and the like. I think it must have been of continental origin because it was often referred to as 'Jeux sans frontier' (Games without Frontiers) as there were teams taking place from various European countries and Peter Gabriel reappropriates this to give his commentary on war.

The song features frequent collaborator with Gabriel, Kate Bush who provides backing vocals. Also, Atlantic, who had distributed Gabriel's first two albums, hated the third and said he was committing commercial suicide. Then this single started getting traction and Atlantic tried buying the album back but Gabriel told them where to go and allowed Mercury to distribute it.

(1) Genesis - Turn it on Again

It takes someone of real musical skill and rhythmic awareness to write this never mind try and play it. I wonder if the recording of it was as effortless as they make it sound on the record? When Peter Gabriel rejoined Genesis for a tour in 1982, he was going to play drums on 'Turn it on again'. However, after stating 'Yeah, I can play that', according to Tony Banks, Gabriel kept getting lost and hadn't a clue what was going on.  It even baffles the best.

It peaked at number eight, and from here on Genesis were commercially massive right into the early nineties.

To be updated when I post a new Music Year in the museum, follow me here :


Follow Mebuttons


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1979

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1979

If you can name everyone in the above photograph, you'll know everything in my top 40 best singles of 1979.  When I do these lists, I give each song a mark out of 100 and sort them high to low to get my list. As it's completely arbitrary anyway, it seems the best way of doing it. 1979 scored the highest collective score of all the years I've rated so far (1973-1979).  '79 was a very metallic year for me. All the music sounded like it was made on metal instruments - The Police, Gary Numan, Michael Jackson and Dire Straits - all sounded very bleak, tinny and futuristic to me. Back then, each year had it's own sound, usually something brand new with a bit of retro thrown in. '79 had the most innovation of everything I've heard from the 70s. Lots of experimental music and lots of safe dance music too with repetition to really embed that groove in your brain and make you go out and buy the single.

1979 was when I started to pay attention to the charts rather than have music seeping into my head by osmosis. I remember settling down in front of the television with three channels, waiting for Top of the Pops and watching The Boomtown Rats singing 'I don't like Mondays' and feeling an excitement I felt time and time again throughout the 80s and beyond when I heard a song so brilliant, I couldn't believe humans had created it. The art of creating a brilliant single is an art form. Coming up with something nobody has ever heard before to make sure you stand apart from your peers and possibly even invent a genre - it was possible in the late 70s and early 80s to do that. Nobody has done that for thirty years in fact (since Grunge? Garage? Happy to be corrected!) Everything you hear these days sounds like something you've already heard. Even in 1979 however, there were songs that sounded like other songs in the same chart because that was popular, it was what people wanted to listen to, it was going to shift units. It's the whole point of this blog - those people who 'sold their soul' in order to become famous, popular, make money - rather than write the songs your integrity told you to. You can guarantee the people behind 'The Birdy Song' weren't musical purists but those who were, nobody has heard of and they had to work two jobs. Anyone who makes my top 40 of the year managed to keep their integrity and make money (or something).

I might go totally overboard about some of the songs in this countdown but the further into the 80s we get, it's only going to get worse so I'm not even sorry.


(40) Does Your Mother Know - Abba

14 hits in and the boys wanted to have a go on vocals. They'd sung on other songs but not on singles. I guess they thought they'd become popular enough to risk not letting the female half of the group handle the vocals for once. A bit like Roger Taylor singing I'm in love with my car I suppose?
It reached number 14, This was featured on ABBAs best album, "Voulez-Vous" from which it was downhill all the way to them disbanding.

(39) Message To You Rudy - Specials

 Two Tone were a revolutionary record label. Many progressive and charismatic acts recorded for the label and The Specials were probably their greatest exponent.  This was a double A Side (quite a popular trend at the time) and reached number ten.

(38) Wanted - Dooleys

I think (apart from my Dad's copy of 'Pretty Flamingo') that this was the first song I played on Vinyl. I was four years old - my older sister was out somewhere so I snuck into her bedroom and saw the Dooleys album propped up in front of her record player. Looking at the cover (Se above) even then I couldn't understand how this was a good image for a band - terry toweling track suits and roller skates. I knew how to get the disc out of the sleeve, plop it on the turn table, set it spinning and put the needle down at the start of the disc.  'Wanted' was the first track and I loved what came out of the speakers. I've no idea why this album was in my Sister's collection; it wasn't her taste at all. She'd bought the 'Jump to the Beat', 'Upside Down' and 'Wednesday Week' singles, all very energetic, rhythmic upbeat songs. The Dooleys released inoffensive songs, stuff they'd play in supermarkets.  This track was very different though. It got to number 3 and rightly so - it's brilliant (and it's not just misty eyed nostalgia)

(37) Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello

This number two hit was up my alley, regardless of the political commentary which was completely lost on me at the time. It had a catchy chorus so it was always going to appeal to the masses. The piano was very reminiscent of Abba.

(36) Making Plans For Nigel - XTC

I've often thought XTC would have been a good name for one of those bands which emenated from Manchester in the early 90s and sang about mind altering chemicals.  This was late 70s though and you weren't allowed to overtly sing about drugs a la 'Ebeneezer good'. XTC's sixth single was their first hit - the first released copies of the single included a free board game. It got to number 17.  Until I researched this list, I didn't know XTC were responsible for "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" which I always thought was a Crash Test Dummies original.

(35) Another Brick In The Wall - Pink Floyd

This was the last number one of the seventies and the first of the eighties. Pink Floyd weren't a singles type of band - in fact, I always found their over indulgent almost jam-like bloated tedious songs overbearing. This was great however as was the film. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yurr meat??




(34) One Step Beyond - Madness

It was hard for people to take Madness seriously as musicians.  However, they were all masters of their craft, especially Lee Thompson the Saxophonist and Mike Barson on Piano.  Whilst they were the perfect singles band, coming up with catchy earworms, in the late 80s they managed to sound soulful and reflective - probably a sign of growing up.  Their first single was a tribute to Prince Buster whilst this, their second single, was a cover of their favourite Prince Buster composition. The video for this was our first look at them as personalities, which was just as important as the music, especially in the advent of the music video and MTV. This got to number seven and was a staple in school discos across the land.

(33) Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney

None of the artists I love (and own all the albums of) ever did a serious Christmas Single (apart from maybe U2). So I've always wondered what Beatles and Paul McCartney fans thought of this single. I always thought this was from the very early 70s and was surprised to see it was released in 79. The production doesn't sound that fresh but regardless of that, it's wheeled out every Yuletide and I never get sick of it.

(32) Message In A Bottle - Police

This was the first single from the 'Regatta De' Blanc' (White Reggae) album and couldn't be further away from Reggae. This entered the chart at number eight and jumped to number one the following week. The thing that set The Police apart at the time (and ever since I suppose) was the erratic but cracking use of a drum kit, the use of guitar as an orchestra and the bass as both a rhythm section and bolster. Still not convinced by Sting's vocals (preferred him on 'Every Breath' and 'Don't stand' to 'Roxanne' and 'Walking on the moon') but they were signature, instantly recognisable and unique which is something you just don't get these days.

(31) Spacer - Sheila B. Devotion

This song came courtesy of Chic. There were a few songs around this time that had 'Space' themes, especially after Star Wars had become so massive. 'I lost my heart to a Starship Trooper' springs to mind. It's been copied many times, including this cringe-worthy video for 'Crying at the Discotheque' in 2020 by Sophie Ellis-Bextor (which also has shades of 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdXecuVl7_4

(30) Complex - Gary Numan

My favourite ever Gary Numan song but not a single. Baffled as to how this got to number 6 - probably riding on the fact his first two songs went to number one. It's depressing, slow, full of paranoia and fear of fame. It's one of the best songs ever written. For those who were into this sort of thing, it actually is a great single - just not something you'd ever hear ABBA do.

(29) Bang Bang - B.A. Robertson

The first and biggest of his five hits - I first heard this on one of those K-TEL compilation albums with a large roller skate on the front. I heard a lot of late 70s singles this way, before 'Now That's What I Call Music' came along in 1983.  I've only recently got the point of the song and it's quite clever lyrically (how sexual encounters can destroy dynasties), which puts it just inside the 'novelty single' circle of the Venn Diagram. BA wrote songs for Mike and the Mechanics and co-wrote 'The Living Years'. Next year's 'Kool in the Kaftan' was even better!

(28) Roxanne - The Police

This charted a full year after it's original release and that was down to it being an American top 40 hit after flopping here initially. It reached number 12 and launched them into the stratosphere. It reached number 17 a year later as part of the "Six Pack" release, and the same position when remixed in 1997. It's not my favourite of theirs by any means but a great single nonetheless.

(27) Some Girls - Racey

That familiar singing organ sound which I'd be drawn towards in 'We don't talk any more' and various other hits that year. Barry Manilow had a go at covering this on his "I Wanna Do It With You" album. I had a full blown argument at school with a lad over what it was Barry wanted to do 'with you'. I still don't think I know what it is.


(26) Heart Of Glass - Blondie

Blondie's first number one in the UK, and by the end of 1980, they'd had five! This was the third single from the 'Parallel Lines' album and for a third song from an album that was already out there, it was unusual to get to number 1. I guess they found a whole new audience that didn't already have the album. A fourth single from the album also got to number 1 a few months later. Amazing!!

(25) Lines - Planets

Lots of production on this and sounded a lot like The Specials before they'd hit the charts. A bit of Pseudo-Reggae which was extremely mainstream at the time. This had lots and lots of airplay, the amount of airplay normally reserved for top ten hits. Yet, it only reached number 36!

(24) Bright Eyes - Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel got to number one had the biggest selling single of the year with this. It was about Rabbits with bright eyes. It made me think that Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' was also about Rabbits when they sang 'Turn around bright eyes' and they had laser beam eyes in the video which creeped me out more than anything I'd seen in my I-Spy book of insects.

(23) One Way Ticket - Eruption

This was a cover of a Neil Sedaka song which I discovered when I did a deep-dive into his back catalogue a few years ago. They're both brilliant but this was of it's time, given that it's a Disco treatment that sounds a lot like Boney M or Ottowan (or one of those Disco-ey groups). It reached number nine and that was the last we heard of them.

(22) Hold The Line - Toto

The name of the group came from vocalist Bobby Kimball's real name 'Robert Toteaux'. The first time I heard this was at a Tina Turner gig in 1996 when they opened for her. I thought it was great live and the recorded version (now I can get my hands on it (no Spotify then)) is even better. Strange given the quality of this single that their next top 40 hit was four years in the making. It reached number 14.

(21) Off The Wall - Michael Jackson

I'm not sure why that demonic drug-fuelled laughter happens at the start of the track but the bass line was good enough to make this a great single.  This was Michael at his best - forget Thriller and Bad, this is what his voice suited. It peaked at number seven.

(20) Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson

This went to number three. The video was parodied brilliantly by Leigh Francis (playing his Bo'Selecta version of Michael) with the lyrics changed to 'Don't stop til you get enough Cola Cubes'


(19) Is She Really Going Out With Him - Joe Jackson

This flopped when it was released in September 1978. The world wasn't ready. Also, "Sunday Papers" and "One More Time" flopped after that. But after getting to 21 in the USA, it was released here again and reached number 13. It's typical of that stompy jangly guitar stuff that was happening in the late 70s with Elvis Costello being the leader of the skinny weird looking musical geniuses that littered the top 40 in 1979 (Gary Numan, Trevor Horn, Bob Geldof, Terry Hall, Mark Knopfler et al.)


(18) Boogie Wonderland - Earth Wind And Fire & The Emotions

This peaked at number four and became one of the all time classics. They credited The Emotions on the front of the sleeve this time, giving them the recognition they deserved.

(17) Gimme Gimme Gimme - Abba


This would probably have been their eighth number one if they hadn't released their second greatest hits album at the same time. It actually got to number three. The precise production on this, the spacing of the instruments and the very deliberately (in my opinion) exaggerated accents from Frida and Agnetha made this such a great track to listen to.

(16) Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart

Amii's Mother Miquel Brown made her chart debut in 1984, then her sister 'Sinitta' followed in 1986. This is infectious and has all the ingredients of a hit single which is probably why it was.

(15) Tragedy - Bee Gees

Imagine writing this - you would just know it was a number one single.  It got to number 1 for two weeks but, they must have thought that their work here was done because they didn't hit the top ten again for eight years. Steps took their cover of this song to number one twenty years later and it was played at each of the 26768 birthday parties I went to that year.

(14) Walking On The Moon - Police

A deserved number one for this. I didn't want to believe he was talking about actually walking on the moon. I always thought it was a metaphor for that feeling you get when something good happens. Like 'Walking back from your house, walking on the moon', like he'd been to see his girlfriend and they'd had a lovely evening in with the scrabble board and a pizza and he was walking home on joyful cushions of air, like you do on the moon? No? Just me? Well, you definitely don't want your leg to break if you're on the moon. There aren't any hospitals up there.

(13) Cars - Gary Numan

It reached number one for a week on first release. It's been released about five hundred times since and always hovers around the top 40. I'm a huge Numan fan and have every album he's ever released. It all started with one note. It's the one at 2m 55s in, where the counterpoint synth comes in and plays an augmented ninth. It's beautiful. I was hooked. And over 40 years later, here's him doing today even better than he did back then :

(12) Lost In Music - Sister Sledge

The third and least successful release from the 'We are Family' album became the most successful when it was re-released five years later.  It got to number 17 in 1979. The B-side "Thinking Of You" was released as a single too and got to number 11. They then hit number one with 'Frankie' but to my knowledge, haven't troubled the charts with anything original since.

(11) Angel Eyes / Voulez Vous - Abba

It's like ABBA had an energy factory they used to inject the stuff into their singles. Voulez Vous is a monster of a song and dare I say it, Erasure made it slightly better in 1992? Not convinced about Angel eyes though. This reached number three.


(10) We Don't Talk Anymore - Cliff Richard

It's that metallic singing organ again that imprinted itself on my psyche! This was the first time Cliff had been to number one since the late sixties! It inducted him into the same club as Elvis in having a number 1 in each decade the charts were a thing. He did it in 59 and 79, just creeping into that decade's last opportunity for a chart topper. He went on to hit number 1 in five separate decades too! Nearly six but his Millenium Prayer was knocked off the top in the first chart of 2000. It was a karaoke favourite of mine way back when.

(9) I Don't Like Mondays - Boomtown Rats

It's the first video I remember watching on Top of the Pops. I'm sure it wasn't the first time I'd watched Top of the Pops but it's the first one I can recall because it was stark. The bloke at the piano in the white room and Bob looking all riled up directly into the camera from a few centimeters away.

This was number 1 for four weeks. The song was based on the true story of American schoolgirl Brenda Spencer who shot dead a number of other school children, apparently because she didn't like Mondays. It was banned by many radio stations across the US for fear of it upsetting the victim's families.

(8) We Are Family - Sister Sledge

It reached number eight but I don't think there was a person alive in the 80s who didn't know this song.

(7) Pop Muzik - M

If you were writing a book on how to write a perfect pop song, this would be one of the chapters. This got to number 2 and became one of those on the countdown with Ultravox's Vienna as a 'number 2 that should have been number 1'. It went back to number 15 when re-released ten years later.

The original 12 inch single was released as a special double grooved record. You put the needle down at the beginning of the record and never know whether you'll get "Pop Muzik" or "M Factor". I don't know how that didn't catch on. Maybe it was too expensive or too annoying. I like the mystery of the whole thing personally. Life isn't like a box of chocolates, it's like a 12" single by M.

(6) I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor

I used to use the opening lyrics to this song as a drama workshop. Getting people to act 'Go on now go, walk out the door' as if it was a high tension drama.  This spent four weeks at number one and is another all time classic from 1979.

(5) Angel Eyes - Roxy Music

I refuse to believe that this song was released in 1979 or that it was written by actual humans. It's wa-aa-aay ahead of it's time and too perfect to be something you just sit and knock up on a piano or guitar.  Only got to number four as well.

True Roxy fans won't have liked this or anything the did around 78-82, but it was much more appealing to me; much more commercial, memorable and catchy - isn't that why you release a single? To appeal to the masses?

(4) Dance Away - Roxy Music

For everything I said about 'Angel Eyes', multiply that by 0.25 and you've got another brilliant tune. They'd split up in 1976 so it's a good job Bryan Ferry was struggling with his solo stuff or these two singles might never have happened and that would have been tragic.

(3) Night Owl - Gerry Rafferty

I loved  this when I first heard it in 79 and forgot it existed for about twenty two years until a mate at work reminded me about it. I downloaded it that night and it's been on my playlist ever since.  A street and a half ahead of Baker Street this and full of the type of production and atmosphere other bands could only dream of. Note and lyric perfect.

(2) Video Killed The Radio Star - Buggles

Talking about all time classics coming out of 1979, this was one I first heard on that aforementioned K-TEL compliation alongside 'Bang Bang' and Joy Sarney's 'Naughty Naughty Naughty'.  They were in fact predicting the future and they were sort of correct.  The radio was still quite important way up until the mid 90s I'd say when people started to get all the music channels in their houses and t'internet was cheap enough to access.  Just one week at number 1 strangely.  The Buggles were Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, both of whom were in the re-formed 'Yes' a year later. Geoff went on to be a member of 'Asia' and released at least one solo album, while Trevor went on to some great production work with 'Dollar', 'ABC', 'Art Of Noise' and 'Frankie Goes To Hollywood' amongst many others. Video hadn't killed the radio star at that point, but the video to this single was the first to be shown on 'MTV' and so ironically was part of the process.

(1) Are Friends Electric - Tubeway Army

Superb and a four week stint at number one. As distinctive as it is haunting and as unusual as it got in 1979 save anything John Foxx did. This was about Gary's vision of the future in which robots or androids are used for various things but especially, company.  They all looked the same, like tall grey men. The B-side "We Are So Fragile" was brilliant as was the album 'Replicas'. This was one of those genre defining moments that never happen these days. I'm not sure how many bands followed because of this record but there are hundreds who cite Gary Numan as a huge influence on them. Gary was by no means the first to have a synthesizer based hit but nobody had one this big and the hook in it, the 'der ner' bit, was an accident. It's a musical anomaly which shouldn't work and it doesn't if you write it in dots on a manuscript - but in real life, it does! Happy accident indeed. Gary was hugely influenced by Ultravox before him who were in turn influenced by David Bowie's 'Low' album. Giorgio Moroder was having minor hits prior to this and Kraftwerk had already been in the top 10 but this was the marker. This is what they all had to aspire to.


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1978

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1978

I realised something, listening through every single ever to make the top 40 in 1978. Something I suppose I already knew but didn't really notice to any great degree.  That is the comings and goings of genres. Having started in 1973 with these lists, I've heard the natural evolution of commercial popular music through the improvement in technology, the introduction of production techniques to make sounds not previously heard and the introduction of music and lyrics which represent everyday people. '78 was still a glittering landscape of luscious pop, real people playing real instruments and whistlable melodies but there were a few movements which defined the age. Disco was huge; to the point it had the Beach Boys and Johnny Mathis recording Disco songs in the vain hope of a top ten single. This is called selling out. I had a friend who hated people who sold out - she'd speak about it with this look on her face, like it was dirty and wrong. I don't care much if what they're doing is enjoyable - so what if someone who takes themselves too seriously suddenly appears on Big Brother? If you're about credibility and respect then by all means, continue making music for your diehard fans and missing the top 100 by about 200 places. If you're all about having a career that pays the bills then ring Stock Aitken and Waterman.  By 1979 there was too much Disco around, too much shouty loud punk music.  It was interesting to start with but soon got tedious. I understand that there were people who latched on to it, used it to cement their identity in society and some from that era still dress in ripped T-shirts and leather. It was just that about two in every five records released was either Disco or Punk. Trying to add another pebble to that huge beach and make it sound different was very difficult and only a few succeeded.

When Punk first arrived, as I say, it was interesting. People went and bought it. Two years later and punk wasn't cracking the top twenty any more. Things were changing and getting better - much much better in fact. Some of the tunes released in 78 are superb. You'll find quite a few songs in my top 40 you've never heard before but I urge you to give the playlist a spin - it'll improve your life by several percent.


(40) Dollar - Shooting Star

Before David Van Day was a complete douche, he was a decent popstar. Dollar were often dismissed as lightweight but they were every bit as enjoyable as Abba at times. This song is a wonderful piece of 80s pop, even though it's two years early. It got to number 12 and was the first of their ten hits.


Hello? Hello! A true original, John Lydon.  This was a great single - it did the punk thing with a difference.  John had left the Sex Pistols by this point and formed a collective that could express his bursting creativity.  This got to number nine and in my opinion at least, influenced U2's 'Boy' album. When PiL did stuff you could actually listen to, it was very good.

(38) Racey - Lay Your Love On Me

This first hit for Racey spent three weeks at number three in January. As a tiny person in 1978, I picked up on Racey because their singles had a distinctive sound that stuck in my head. They didn't sound like anything else I was aware of at the time so I gravitated towards it.  They had a track called "Kitty" on their album "Smash And Grab". Toni Basil later picked up on the track, changed a it a bit, renamed it 'Mickey' and had a massive worldwide hit with it in 1982 reaching number 2. I don't much care for their 50's stylings or the girl doing the hand-jive sitting on a piano in the video. Although this has more in common with Showaddywaddy and Darts, it sounds like it has something in common with the 2 tone movement which was just around the corner.


Whoops, how did this get in here? Probably because it's great and my predjudices have been put to one side for the moment.  It's much better than Paranoid yet that's the track everyone associates with Black Sabbath. It has a very heavy Beatles influence (or maybe a John Lennon one?). This was eight years after Paranoid and just as they were getting good, Ozzy left. This only got to number 33 and shows you the difference between a great song and a great single. They're not necessarily the same thing.

(36) Elvis Costello - (I Don't Wanna Go To) Chelsea

Elvis Costello's second hit of four in 1978. This one peaked at number 16, one place short of his previous hit, "Watching The Detectives". I heard somewhere that Elvis had the most weeks on the chart of any artist who'd never had a number 1. He's always been a bit niche; like Squeeze and The Cure. Sort of popular but not really even though most of his music is intelligent and catchy. It just lacked something to make it appeal to the masses - but maybe he didn't really want to. I always felt there was a bit of Buddy Holly in his image but again, maybe that was intentional too?

This song was 'parodied' by 'Graduate' (the band that would become Tears for Fears), in their song 'Elvis should play ska'.



Patti was a pioneer. A bigger influence on the same people as Suzi Quatro had influenced four years previous. A huge influence on the lead singer of X-Ray Spex, who feature later on in the top 40 and you can see why. Written by Bruce Springsteen, this got to number 5 in April.




(34) The Bee Gees - Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever had taken over the consciousness of the parts of the world that had popular music as one if it's main pillars of society.  The Bee Gees had 11 top 40 hits in the 70s but countless others with other artists singing songs they'd written. When you talk about a sound defining an era, the wah-wah guitar was their weapon of choice and they wielded it better than anyone. They managed to create a world through their music in the late 70s which we all felt safe in, felt happy in and wanted to look exactly like John Travolta in.  Talk about 'Racey' coming up with a sound nobody else had managed and capturing my imagination, The Bee Gees made this sound up and anything else that came after it just sounded like a bad parody.

(33) Magazine - Shot By Both Sides

Brilliant!!! Even though the lead singer looks like what Robocop looks like when he takes his mask off near the end of the film.  This only got to number 41... criminally missing out on the top 40 - should have been top 10 at least.  Ignore the TOTP video version - go with the original Spotify one - the TOTP performance was one of those where the band had to come in that day and record a version of the song to mime to. The voice is too loud and he doesn't sing the chorus with the same intonation as the original.  That aside, it's a must have on your playlist for grey monday mornings and is going straight on my personal best of the 70s list I'll do after my 1979 list.


Although every time this song starts it reminds me of the 'Neighbours' theme tune, it's still great. Bloody Foreigner, coming over here, stealing our ice. This got to number 24 and it wasn't until 1981 that they cracked the top 10 with 'Waiting for a girl like you' and then number 1 with 'I want to know what love is'.  Their last hit was in 1985, a number 28 with 'That was yesterday'. Lou Gramm did have a solo career but never troubled the charts.


It's lovely this isn't it? We see a welcome return of the 12/8 beat which has been notably missing in the charts the last few years.  The Earth Band only had three hits but they were all brilliant.  'Joybringer' made my '73 list but their other one 'Blinded by the light' just missed this list. Check out the video on the playlist above; it's live and sounds exactly like the record but with a better keyboard solo and more emotion!

(30) Samantha Sang - Emotion

It's those pesky Bee Gees again! In February 1978, number 31, 32 and 33 were all Bee Gee-penned songs on the way up the chart.  This track featured the Gibbs on backing vocals and was in the top forty for 12 weeks despite only reaching number 11. In fact, it might as well have been sang by the Bee Gees as Samantha's vocals get swamped in the chorus. One of a slew of 70s songs which were either re-relased or covered in the thirty years following.  Just before it fell out of the top 40, there was another version of it in the charts, albeit on the B-Side of 'Too Much, Too Little, Too Late' by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams.


A terrific pop record this, most enjoyable and very very 70s. This got to number 2 and was their only hit. Shame, they were one of the only woman bands around who played guitars, drums, bass, keyboards. Why is a debate for another time but suffice to say, 70s attitudes towards race, gender etc. are something we can quite happily leave in the 70s.


Bits of Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, The Clash and John Lydon here. Entirely original though having said that, and a great single. Just reached 32 which shows what kind of competition there was around at the time.

(27) T.Connection - On Fire

Number 16 for this full force disco track. It's got a lot of Disco Inferno about it but before you think it's going to go there, it veers off and hits you with the synthy backing vocal with which to hook you to the chorus.  Loads of 70s string motifs and plenty of different drum sounds coupled with a wasp synth, it's gonna get you!


(26) Abba - Take A Chance On Me

People wonder why ABBAs chart reign only lasted three years. It's simple enough, people had too much ABBA.  This track was number one for three weeks but it was their last for ages - other things were happening in the pop world and they soon became old hat.  It was two and a half years before they got there again.  I like the Erasure version of this and Erasure's version of Voulez-Vous better than Abba's; no doubting their songwriting, musicianship and vocal performances but by the time we'd had the ABBA annuals, the merch and eventually, The Movie, we were all but done and had started to take notice of The Police and Kate Bush instead.


What a songwriter this bloke was. Everything he released was gold (pardon the pun). This got to number 5 and was his biggest hit. His memory was insulted by the godawful 'band' Undercover who only released covers. They got to number 5 with this song as well!  Gold played on various other songs in the 70s (most notably Linda Ronstadt's) but he went on to form the band 'Wax' who had a number 12 in 1987 with 'Bridge to your heart'.

(24) Earth Wind And Fire - September

A classic in all senses of the word. Sparkly outfits and trombones with all wavy space effects in the video was bound to be a hit. The first of Earth Wind And Fire's three consecutive top five hits and also the biggest with a number three peak.

(23) Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

I've never warmed to this song and I don't know why. I always thought it was a waste of a good sax solo. Listening to it now, I don't even like the sax solo. However, it's a classic that everyone on the planet in 1978 had heard so it's here at 21. It took six weeks in the chart to reach number 3 and after a full 12 weeks in the chart, people were getting sick of it. Strangely, the band I mentioned who covered Andrew Gold's 'Never let her slip away' covered 'Baker Street' in 1992 and managed to get one place higher than Gerry.

(22) Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

I fell in love with Kate Bush in 1978. She was fascinating and this song was just the type of weird I needed in my life. She was a bit unhinged I thought, skitting about in a forest in a floaty dress and flowers on her head. In 1980 I went to one of my school friend's birthday parties and a woman who looked exactly like Kate Bush answered the door. I was convinced it was her; turned out to be my friend's mother. I spent the entire party staring at her and eating the cakes which she'd baked with actual money in them. I went home with about 25p that night. It was more money than I'd ever seen in my entire life. (Wuthering Heights spent four weeks at number one incidentally)


Grease was another omnipresent film in 1978 which also starred John Travolta. It was one of the first Vinyl LPs I 'owned' (it wasn't mine, not sure whose it was actually) and I used to play it over and over. This was just one of the songs from the film which got released as a single. This one got to number 1 in May. Morrissey got to number 19 in 1992 with a song called 'You're the one for me fatty'. Nothing to do with this song, I just wanted to tell you that.

(20) Earth Wind And Fire - Fantasy

More Earth Wind and Fire amazingness which only got to number 14. To have so many members, so many instruments to co-ordinate, to sound this good, must have taken such a long time in the studio. Bands these days don't book studio time, they turn up with tracks already mostly complete on their laptops. Just bask in the greatness of this song; music how it was meant to sound before the robots took over...

Black Box took their cover of this to number five in 1990.


Have you ever heard a song called Jilted John by Jilted John? The one that goes 'Gordon is a Moron'? Well, I'm yet to be convinced that the bloke who sang that (the same bloke who played 'John Shuttleworth') wasn't the lead singer of the Buzzcocks. Whilst this song is a bona fide classic, the singer sounds like one of those kids at school who would tell you your parents were poor and he lived in a castle in the country and owned a horse.

It sounded very punk but I don't think it was. It was too commercial. It got to number 12 but each of their next three singles peaked at a lower position than the last. Being an 80s officianado, I'll always prefer the Fine Young Cannibals version, which hit number 9 in 1987, however much the purists scream at me.



I'll tell you why this works. It's the first time a guitar has been used like that on a pop record. The drums are a main instrument, up front and centre and full of personality. The Police embraced their Reggae influence, most notably in the title of their first album. I've never thought Sting was a great vocalist but his voice suits The Police more than it does anything he ever did after that. It was angry and shouty with an edge which he completely lost in later years. I suppose we all calm down and mellow out in later life when we realise we can't fight the system, don't we?

(17) E.L.O. - Mr Blue Sky


A brilliant single from the hairiest pop star on the planet and in the 70s he had some competition.  This was the first of three consecutive number 6 peaking records. The 'Out of the Blue' album spawned four hit singles (this never happened at the time) which showed how popular ELO had become after a slow slow start.

(16) Olivia Newton John - A Little More Love

Criminally missing from Spotify, you'll have to check out the YouTube playlist for this one. Riding on the back of her rise back to popularity through the movie Grease, this got to number 4. The producers employed that multiple voice falsetto that was so popular at the time on the chorus which was probably the best example of this production technique.

She'd been missing from the chart from 1974 until the summer of 77 when she hit number six with "Sam". 'You're the one that I want' had spent nine weeks at number 1 and that was followed by 'Summer Nights' which spent a further 7 weeks on top. Those two were with John Travolta but she had a solo hit with 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' on her own. EMI capitalised on that with 'A little more love' which spent nine weeks in the 40. What was weird about it's chart performance was that it's ninth week was at 16 and the following week it disappeared.

(15) Rod Stewart - Do You Think I'm Sexy

No Rod, I really don't. However, Rod is the original 'move with the times' artist that Madonna proved to be as she jumped feet first into the 90s. From crooning cracked-throat ballads to gale force twelve disco - this was some transformation. Another artist who 'sold out'? Who cares, he looked like he was having fun and so did we with this fun uptempo romp. I actually think he was taking the michael a bit with this song; the lyrics are far from serious, couple that with his performance in those famous leopard print trolleys - I think his tongue was firmly in his cheek. This got to number one unsurprisingly. That lead synth at the beginning is hookier than velcro.


Another song from the Grease soundtrack and another Bee Gees written hit. Just two weeks at number three for this, despite it being the title track to the movie. This was Frankie's most successful solo single though; he never troubled the charts again after this though.

(13) Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive

Talking of the Bee Gees, the brothers Gibb reached number four with this. I've just noticed that they were on the RSO label which also released the 'Grease' soundtrack. The B Side to this single was a song that just three months later was taken to number four by 'Yvonne Elliman' which appears in my top 10 of 1978. This song was made by the bass line, a very popular instrument in the 70s.


Have a listen to the lyrics to this. It's an attempt to legitamise having an affair. Despite the horrible sentiment, this is a wonderful single. The hook here is the screech by the backing singers after each line of the chorus.  It was written by Ray Parker Jr. (of Ghostbusters fame) who was the lead singer. He wrote a reply to this song from the point of view of Jill which had the line 'By the time poor Jack returned up the hill, somebody else had been loving Jill'.

I wonder where the Jacksons got the idea for 'Can you Feel it' though.

(11) Heatwave - The Groove Line

Another band in flares with fancy footwork in the vein of Earth Wind and Fire, but with a song which has so many great elements to it, it had to be a hit. The vocal is excellent, the bass line is sumptuous and the changes of pace, perfectly excecuted. It was written by Rod Temperton of 'Thriller' fame and you can tell. It reached number 12 here and shifted 2 million units in the US.



What a lovely song.  I saw Grease at the pictures when it first came out; we were in the front row - I would have been three and a bit years old but the film was a PG so armed with a Parent, I got in. My two enduring memories of the film when I originally watched it were of the hotdog chasing a bun around on the cinema screen behind John Travolta as he sang 'Sandy'. The metaphor of the hotdog leaping into the bun at the end of the song was lost on me for a good twelve years hence. The other was of Olivia Newton John singing in the garden in just a nightie. I just thought it looked really chilly.   The song itself spent two weeks at number two and was Olivia's biggest solo single.


When I started going to Nightclubs, especially those that had themes (like Tall Trees in Yarm), Disco was always the most popular type of night to have followed by an 80s night the following week.  This was always played along with Dancing Queen and YMCA. We'd all be up doing the actions, making most of them up (I know the action for sunshine, good times and boogie, but not moonlight). This song was in the same chart at the same time by two different artists.  Strangely, the original version by the original writer (Mick Jackson (not Michael Jackson, a completely different Jackson called Mick)) didn't fare very well.  Mick got to 15, The Jacksons got to number 8. Don't feel too sorry for him though, the royalties from this song alone would have made him king of a small country.  The same thing happened a year later; Mick released 'Married Men' the same time as Bonnie Tyler. She got to 35 and he didn't chart at all! The Jackson's version featured the first time I heard Michael do his 'Hee Hee' thing. He was finding his feet after a slow start to his solo career which he'd put on hold for about six years, only to explode in 1979 with Off The Wall.

BTW, we don't talk about Big Fun (RIP Music in 1989).


I'm a sucker for a jolly ditty and this is the jolliest dittiest song in this countdown.  This only got to number 19 but he remains the only Andrew to have a solo top 10 hit.

(7) Chaka Khan - I'm Every Woman

A number eleven placing for Chaka with her first hit. She then had to wait over five years before her next hit. And what a hit - Ain't Nobody was going to be offered to Michael Jackson for the Thriller album (by the writer) if the label didn't release it as a single for Chaka and Rufus. The label relented and it hit number 1 on the Billboard 100.


This was most unexpected. How could the shrieking wailing Kate of Wuthering Heights bring her voice down to a level that cuddled your ears instead of sticking pencils in them, pointy end first? She was 13 when she wrote this. THIRTEEN!! I wrote a song about how much I liked pigeons at 13 which was just 'I like pigeons' repeated four or five times.  She won an Ivor Novello award. I won some funny looks off the people at the bus stop. This got to number 6!


I remember hearing this on the radio sitting in the back of a car. I started looking out of the window at the sky to try and see 'lovers in the air'. I imagined them to be like sacks of flour which could flap like birds wings and fly. I don't see the world much different to the way I did back then if I'm honest.  JPY got to number 5 with this 'disco' song (I don't think it's disco at all but it was touted as such). There were three Paul Youngs knocking about at the time. There was John Paul Young, the Paul Young who was in Sad Cafe (and later, Mike and the Mechanics) and the Paul Young who was in Streetband and the Q-Tips who would go on to be one of the bestselling solo artists of the 80s.


This was taken from the 'Saturday Night Fever' soundtrack, which was naturally written by the brothers Gibb. Her first hit 'Love Me' was gorgeous, and also written by a Gibb (Barry). She was actually earmarked to record 'How deep is your love' because she'd showcased her ability to belt out a ballad. 'How Deep', 'Stayin' Alive' and 'Night Fever' all went to number 1. Elliman's effort was the fourth taken from the soundtrack and hit number 4. Yvonne was very dismissive of the song in later years, giving an indication as to why she didn't 'strike while the iron was hot' with a follow-up single. She didn't much care for Disco (like a lot of people by the time 1979 rolled around) and wanted to sing stuff that suited her husky voice. She didn't release any singles from her subsequent album!  Kim Wilde took her version to number 12 in 1993.


The first contemporary songs I ever remember hearing were in 1978 and this sticks out in my memory. I was with my family in a fish and chip shop somewhere like Scarbrough (or similar seaside town in Yorkshire) and this was on the radio. Again, the Boney's talent for making nursery rhyme-like songs marketable for a chart performance was in full effect here.  Rivers of Babylon was at number 1 for five weeks then started to fall and ended up at number 18. Then, possibly at the behest of the record label, DJs flipped the record and started to play 'Brown Girl in the Ring' (which is actually a nursery rhyme sang by children in the eastern Carribean).  The single went back up into the top 10 for nine weeks, staying at number 2 for a week. The 'Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl in the Ring' single is the sixth best-selling single of all time in the UK with sales of 2 million


Remember Patti Smith? Whatever she did for women in music, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex did in the UK probably twenty fold. John Lydon didn't like anything back then (or at least he would tell us everything was awful) but he was extremely complimentary about this. It's a song about plastic, disposable society, the real world and how evil it is (a long time before Greta Thunberg got involved). Not just that but watch the video in the playlist. Poly has presence, attitude, an identity; she's fascinating, her voice is ridiculous and the song is one you can stick on repeat for as many listens as you can manage. Gives me goosebumps every time. There's a fascinating documentary on Poly here - she sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2011.

(1) Village People - YMCA

No introduction needed; this single had a three week stint at number two to close 1978. It then began 1979 with three weeks at number one. It was the first and biggest hit for the Village People and spent 13 weeks on the 40. It's another song to suffer from overplay, but what the hell, we all love flinging our arms around trying to make the letters 'Y', 'M', 'C' and 'A'. I tried the same thing with D.I.S.C.O. and dislocated both shoulders.


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1977

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1977

To me, a single is something that has to have mass appeal. Before streaming and downloads, a single had to encourage someone to leave their house, go to a shop and pay money for a song on a black plastic disc. Sometimes, you'd get two good songs for the price of one if the artist stuck another of their tracks on the b-side. Some bands put experimental pretentious stuff on the b-side (which I always thought was a cheat) and you'd only get one track to play whenever you wanted. Groups who released so-so singles were only going to sell to their hardcore fans, collectors and the odd member of the public who accidentally caught a snippet on one of John Peel's 'off the chart' shows. He managed to get great singles into the chart which would otherwise have gone unheard. Then there were singles which were played over and over by Terry Wogan which despite their exposure, only reached the lower end of the top 40. My point is, to get someone to physically leave their house and part with money for one song, was a feat. To get into the top 10, you needed to shift at least 100,000 units in a week. If streaming wasn't a thing these days, who knows how many units Ed Sheeran would shift per single so we can't really compare - but, if that many people were paying for your song and not just taping it off the radio, it must have had something going for it.

The biggest selling song of 1977 was Mull of Kintyre. Much maligned, it was deemed 'one for the mums' but I guess people just enjoyed the familiarity of it. Paul McCartney was a master of writing songs you could sing along to by the end of the first listen. So catchy and you weren't sure why you were even listening to it sometimes but it outsold everything else at the time.

A great song can be a great single : a great single isn't always a great song

The best songs can often be found on albums; songs you'd never hear on the radio. The artist's job was to hook you in with a great single and then hope you want to hear nine more songs recorded around the same time. Some artists recorded songs they didn't want to record in order to get a record deal and then changed their genre entirely! Some artists recorded a disco single and then filled their album with middle-of-the-road folk (ok, maybe not, but they had to choose between money and integrity most of the time - unless they really enjoyed writing commercial music). There were some record producers who knew what people wanted to hear and so manipulated their roster. ABBA were massive so The Brotherhood of Man appeared, 2 men, 2 women singing 'Angelo' which was a direct rip of 'Fernando' and even had the piano motif from Dancing Queen. They also entered the Eurovision Song Contest and won.

1977 had 305 new songs in the top 40, I noted 115 which I thought were above average and narrowed that list down to 40 for your viewing, listening and reading pleasure.


(40) If I have to go away - Jigsaw

Despite sounding like he'd just sat down too quickly, this isn't a bad impersonation of The Stylistics. Looking like they'd had the photoshoot for their single cover at the local working man's club after a game of darts and a Ploughmans, Jigsaw were disappointed to learn that their follow up to 'Sky High' (which I put at 35 in the best singles of 1975) only reached 36 and that was the last we saw of them. Shame, this was a lovely song - just needed a nudge onto Top of the Pops and I'm sure it would have been a bit hit.

(39) Ma Baker - Boney M

The 'Ma Baker' in the song is actually 'Ma Barker', the matriarch and supposed mastermind of her sons criminal gang in 1930s Arizona.

A classic Disco track, this got to number 2. As you'll read later, I blame Boney M for my obsession with Pop Music.

(38) Ma Nah Ma Nah - Piero Umiliani

A wonderful pop record if you put your snobbery aside for a moment. People loved Led Zeppelin and people hated them. People bought this record in their droves and lots of people hated it. Make of that philsophy what you will but my older Sister used to sing this to me when I was 3 years old. She'd do the 'Mah Na Mah Na' bit and I'd do the 'Dee deeee de dee dee' bit. You could take or leave 'The Wheels on the Bus' (which I also had on an LP of Nusery Rhymes), this and Boney M's Brown Girl in the Ring were my Nursery Rhymes. This got to number 8 incidentally and I'm aware that the single cover above is the Muppets version not Piero's. They were in the chart at the same time though.  Anyone remember 'Vanilla' and 'No Way No Way' who thought they were going to be the new Spice Girls in 1997? No? Just me? Their song went 'No way, no way, Mah Na Mah Na'. AWFUL.

(37) Greatest Love of All - George Benson

It depends which side of 1980 you grew up on as to whether you think George or Whitney did this better. George is a hero of mine so of course his version is better. This only got to number 27 which wasn't nearly as high as Whitney's attempt in 1986.

(36) Baby Don't Change Your Mind - Gladys Knight and the Pips

One of those songs you know but you don't know you know until you hear it and you definitely don't know it's by Gladys and her pips. This is one of those luscious Philadelphia, Disco, Mowtown cross over things that cheer you right up. It got to number 4 and still sounds as good today as it ever did. Things like this never date.


(35) Oxygene - Jean Michel Jarre

Another instrumental hit, and another single to spend four weeks at a top five peak position, in this instance number four. I only knew this tune (and didn't know the name of or the artist) from science fiction and programs like Tomorrow's World as it sounded like something they'd listen to in Star Wars. It's nice. Not my favourite thing ever but as I'm being objective, it's here at 35.

This is the definitive version here :




(34) Give a Little Bit - Supertramp

How this wasn't a massive hit is a complete mystery. Only reached number 29. It was re-recorded for the ITV Telethon in 1992, but failed to chart.

(33) Year of the Cat - Al Stewart

Most people who know this song consider it a classic.  Nobody else even knows it exists.  It only got to number 29 but that's probably because it's just not commercial enough. It got to 8 in America where musical sensibilities were vastly different to ours until the early 80s. There have been many stories concerning what the song is actually about, but the official story is that it's about a tourist trapped in the 'Casablanca' of the hit film.

(32) No More Heroes - The Stranglers

I didn't warm to the Stranglers until about 1982 - they were the most palatable of the Punk-wave artists. This is probably their best known track pre '80 and got to number eight. This track has that running electric piano motif in the background which was adopted more and more by the New Wave acts emerging over the next twelve months.

(31) Pretty Vacant - The Sex Pistols

A number 7 chart placing by a banned song isn't a bad feat (before the days of Frankie anyway). This was actually very good for a Punk tune which are all generally very loud, angry and shouty. This one is a very melodic loud, angry, shouty song which contains a very immature (but still fun to shout when singing along) Mondegreen.

I'm a huge fan of John Lydon. Every time I see him interviewed I find him to be engaging, intelligent, wise and hilarious. He said once that the most shocking thing about him was that he was a nice bloke!

(30) Boogie Nights - Heatwave

This was Heatwave's first and biggest (of seven) hit. It climbed all the way to number two and had a generation of imitators, not least of which Michael Jackson on his song 'Off the Wall'.  You'd not believe a group from a TV talent show could come up with something so profoundly resonant in popular music but for once, 'New Faces' did its job. Rod Temperton (a member of Heatwave) later penned one of Michael Jackson's most well known songs "Thriller", while vocalist J.D.Douglas later joined the Commodores and featured on their last big hit "Nightshift".

On the day of the shoot for the single cover, they'd forgotten their P.E. kit and all had to do it in 'skins'. Everyone looks up for it except the bloke on the left who looks decidedly awkward with his enforced nakedness.

(29) Love Bug - Tina Charles

Most of you will think this is quite a weak track but it's right up my particular boulevard. Fun, fresh and catchy. I love the synth swirls at the start and the flange guitar riffs. This would have been a fixture on my turntable if I'd had one at the time (and my two-year-old hands could have operated it). It reached number 26. It's something Sophie Ellis Bextor should have covered in the late 90s.

I wonder if Stevie Wonder ever got in touch to contest the similarity to 'Uptight' though...

(28) Easy - Commodores

The Commodores were making a welcome return to the chart after three years away with a song totally out of keeping with the funk they'd been serving up and getting into the lower reaches of the 40 with. It reached number 9 and got a new lease of life eleven years later when it was on an advert for a bank or building society. A cover by Faith No More also got in the chart in the early 90s.

The intro to this is a good example of the difference between someone who can play piano and someone who uses the piano as an instrument. There are dynamics here which give the song and message exactly what it needs. Something modern songwriters ignore with their programming and sequencers.  There's a guitar bit halfway through which is completely out of place though. It just sort of happens and then it's gone again. I always imagine the guitar player during the recording going 'There's this thing I can play. Can I put it in the song?' and they're like, 'not really, it doesn't fit - it's a slow ballad' but then he snuck in to the studio that night and dubbed it in randomly anyway and the song got released before anyone noticed.

(27) Red Light Spells Danger - Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean reached number two with his fourth hit in just over 12 months. But, he would have to wait seven years before he had his next hit. This is up-tempo and full of life - a jaunty ditty too.


(26) Baccara - Yes Sir I Can Boogie

Baccara were Spanish and it always struck me that they were (like a lot of other acts at the time) riding the coat-tails of ABBA who had popularised continental pop music. I first heard this on a 'Roller Disco' compilation album which also contained 'Naughty, Naughty, Naughty' by Joy Sarney (the one with Punch out of Punch and Judy). I was probably four or five at the time and used to wonder who they were talking to and why someone had asked them specifically whether or not they could 'Boogie'.

I'm quite a serious connoisseur of the Karaoke machine. Whenever I happen upon an establishment that has one, I'm very careful about my song choice. I want to sing something I'm able to sing, something I think others would like to hear and something I'm going to enjoy. I usually settle for something deeply 80s. However, I had a mate who was less than serious about his song choices. One night, he got up and sang 'Yes Sir, I can Boogie' in falsetto and brought the house down. I learned quite a valuable lesson that night.

(25) Tom Robinson Band - 2-4-6-8 Motorway

This spent two weeks at number five; easy to see why - it's got all the classic ingredients of a hit single. The lead singer had a very annoying face however.

(24) Elkie Brooks - Sunshine After The Rain

Berri covered this in 1995 and did a really good job of it.  However, this original is far superior, especially with Elkie's voice.  This reached number ten and was Elkie's second hit. The only time I've ever heard someone use the word 'Elkie' is when they're talking about Ms Brooks (apart from that time I thought I saw a large deer which looked a bit Elky).  She started her career in 1964 releasing six singles in two years before joining the 'Humphrey Lyttleton' and then 'Eric Delaney' bands. After a further solo single in 1969 she joined a jazz-fusion rock band called 'Dada', who recorded one album before changing their name to 'Vinegar Joe' as 'Robert Palmer' joined to share lead vocals with Elkie.

The band split in 1974 after three albums, with Robert and Elkie both starting solo careers. Elkie finally got her chart breakthrough in the Summer of '77 with a song about Janis Joplin, called "Pearl's A Singer". From then on, she continued to have hits at varying intervals until her last with "No More The Fool" at the beginning of 1987.

(23) Deniece Williams - That's What Friends Are For

Deniece had some cracking singles in the 70s.  This was the follow up to her number one hit "Free" and got to number 8.

(22) Fleetwood Mac - Dreams

Bafflingly, none of the singles from the Rumours album did much in the UK chart.  Imagine dating someone in your band and then splitting up acrimoniously. You both go ahead and write a song about the other person.  Lindsay Buckingham wrote 'Go your own way' whilst Stevie Nicks had to sing backing, using words which were a scathing attack on her.  She got her own back with 'Dreams' which was a much more subtle but still razor sharp retort.  'Listen carefully to the sound of your lonliness' and 'Women they will come and they will go', she sings, telling him he'll never find a love like hers. Ouch. It climbed to number 24 but had its day in the sun when The Corrs covered it in the late 90s.

(21) Leo Sayer - How Much Love

Leo Sayer was following up his only UK number one with the number ten peaking "How Much Love". A perfect example of someone stamping his personality on a song. If you watch the video and see him dancing along with that cheeky hamster-faced enthusiasm, you realise this song is just Leo Sayer in musical form. Joyful and triumphant.

(20) Emotions - Best Of My Love

This was written by Earth, Wind and Fire and reached a peak of number four. The Emotions only managed one minor hit afterwards, apart from their "Boogie Wonderland" collaboration with the aforementioned EWF for which they're probably best remembered. C.J. Lewis decided to take a steaming number 2 all over this song in 1994 so it's best we move on.

(19) Boney M - Sunny

Another Boney M song in my top 40 you say? Too right! They were the best thing about 1977 for me. This was the second of nine consecutive top ten hits and peaked at number three.  I love their voices, they mix so well with each other and have such rich depth.  They had transformed this Bobby Hebb hit "Sunny" into a disco tune and for that we thank them - it's easy to forget that Boney M were a disco act before they started making religious and nursery rhyme songs.


(18) Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love

The he-be Beegees spent five weeks at number three with this record. If you can write something this amazing and not get to number one, you must first have a little sit down in a cupboard with your head in your hands and then realise you must have been kept from the top spot by something pretty special? Well, at number 2 was 'The Floral Dance' by 'Brighouse and Raistrick Brass Band' and at number one... Mull of ***kin'tyre.

(17) Boz Scaggs - Hollywood


I consider this to be the first 80s song. Yeah, we're just over 2 years away but this was at least five years ahead of it's time.  A brilliant song in all respects, it only reached number 33 and Boz never made the top forty again.

(16) Leo Sayer - Thunder In My Heart

Yeah, Leo is in my top 40 a few times and I'm not even sorry.  Not only had he recently had his first UK number one, but he'd also broken the USA!  Sadly for Leo, this was his first hit not to make the top ten, as it stalled at number 22. This song was resurrected in the 2000s and got to number one for two weeks.  Irene Cara of 'Fame' fame also covered this.

(15) Deniece Williams - Free

As masterpieces go, this is up there with the best vocal performances of the century.  This got to number one and was Deniece Williams' first hit.

Though I can't find any reference online, I'm sure I heard someone like En Vogue singing this - probably just a live non-album version for the hell of it. Dina Carroll brought back all of Deniece's vocal sensibilities in 1993; all homage and no irony.

(14) Leo Sayer - When I Need You

After reaching number two three times, Leo Sayer finally reached the top with his sixth hit single, the only one of the six not written by him! In America this was his second consecutive number one. "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" had already been to number one and spent 17 weeks in the top 40. The Barron Knights then did their own version :

(13) Queen - We Are The Champions

This was a massive hit and spent three weeks at number two. It's endured throughout the years too. It's also part of that annoying Mandela effect thing people keep going on about where they say you believe something happened that didn't. Then try and prove it's a real thing by going 'You think the last part of the song is 'we are the champions of the world' when in fact it's 'we are the champions...' and then it ends.  Next time someone says this, they want to hope I don't have access to a pointy stick.

(12) Thelma Houston - Don't Leave Me This Way

Harold Melvin got to number five with his version and a couple of weeks later, Thelma released the definitive version. She only got to number 13 and there were many people who bought both versions rather than just picked their favourite and stuck with it. If you were a buyer of singles, you'd probably pick up five or six in one go.  Over nine years later the battle in the UK was belatedly won by the Communards who hit number one and had the biggest selling single of 1986. The Communards version takes elements of Thelma's version which are missing from Harold's (most noteably, the bass guitar motif in the chorus which they transpose to brass).

(11) Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

As previously mentioned, none of the singles from Rumours got above 29.  This only managed to place at 38! If you want to hear some raw emotion, give this isolated vocal version a whirl :


(10) Trammps - Disco Inferno

This song has such a mood to it. Even people who don't know anything about the construction and appreciation of music will understand the emotion of this immediately. This is a proper Disco record and probably one of the best ever.  It only got to number 16. I guess this adds weight to the argument that the pop charts back in the day represented everyone's musical tastes and not just those of the under 30s.

(9) Andrew Gold - Lonely Boy

An extraordinary songwriter, Andrew Gold had his very first hit with "Lonely Boy", and peaked at number 11. His grasp of melody, chord progressions and instrumentation tells you this bloke was born a musician. Great song and a wonderful greatest hits album! Watch out for more gems in 1978!

(8) Althia And Donna - Uptown Top Ranking

It always felt to me like these two had written this in their bedroom and performed it at a school talent show (that's what their appearance no Top of the Pops looked like anyway).  Whilst their stage presence and charisma was completely missing, this brilliant song spent a week at number one. The best thing about this song though was that it kicked Mull of ***kin'tyre off number one after nine weeks of ear-bleeding inanity.

(7) Donna Summer - Love's Unkind

No apologies for sticking this in my top 10. It's a brilliant single and another I would have spent several week's pocket money on. She spent three weeks at number three in January 1978 (released in '77) with this and stayed in the 40 for 13 weeks.

(6) Abba - Name Of The Game

Another number 1 for Abba which stayed there for four weeks. For the second year running, they spent more weeks on top than anyone else. I'm not a massive fan of this - I prefer their uptempo stuff but it's something of a classic.

(5) Rod Stewart - I Don't Want To Talk About It

This was Rod Stewart's fourth number one. "I Don't Want To Talk About It" was taken from his 1975 album "Atlantic Crossing", while "First Cut Is The Deepest" was from his most recent "A Night On The Town" album. This was one of Rod's many covers, as he usually did other people's songs a lot better than they did. It was originally recorded by 'Crazy Horse', written by band vocalist Danny Whitten who didn't live to see his song taken to the top. He died of a drug overdose and was the subject of Neil Young's song 'The needle and the damage done'.

(4) Donna Summer - I Feel Love

She's here again! This time using all those futuristic space noises and swirling synths to produce something which, sonically at least, influenced a whole raft of musicians. A lot of whom started breaking into the charts the following year.  The fact this went to number 1 was a bit of a surprise at the time - Donna had only had one single before this in the top 10 and this sounded nothing like anything else she'd done. After this record, she just had hit after hit!

(3) Rita Coolidge - We're All Alone

The song was written by Boz Scaggs and originally recorded by him for his "Silk Degrees" album.  Enter Rita Coolidge with the first of her two hits which was also the biggest, peaking at number six.  It's got hints of 'Greatest love of all' about it but thankfully, it stands on it's own two feet.

(2) Abba - Knowing Me Knowing You

This single is a masterclass in production. It sounds wonderful - all that analogue seventies muddiness along with the primitive flange and phaser on the keyboards. The vocal treatments are spot on too - and for those who don't waffle on pretentiously about the construct of the song, it's got enough lightness and drama to lift it above most other songs of its type to the point where there should be a statue built for ABBA somewhere if there already isn't. It spent five weeks at number one.

(1) Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill

Words can't begin to describe what this song means to me. If I could somehow bring up a list of the songs I've listened to the most in my life along with the number of times I've listened to them, this would be in the top five.  Lyrically it takes you there and back, musically it's convoluted and interesting, and Gabriel's voice is a joy to behold. Check out his version of 'Book of Love' and you'll know what I mean.  This was his first hit since leaving Genesis (the song in fact was partly about leaving Genesis, that feeling of letting go of something you've got for the possibility of something better), and got as high as number 13. The fact it's on every single movie trailer has tainted its legacy a little.


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1976

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1976

1976 was a kind of no-mans-land for the singles chart. I struggled to choose 40 best singles because although there were some crackers, the general overall quality was nowhere near as high as the previous three years.  Things got turgid; ballads and country music dominated, and if you're into high energy uptempo pop singles, then you probably started ignoring the charts for a while.  Not only that but 1976 was the year of the orgasm. Donna Summer put one in her hit 'Love to love you' and all the record producers who realised there was a market full of people with the sensibilities of a 13-year-old boy, started putting orgasms in other songs - often at completely inappropriate times. It was Major Harris in the classic soul tune 'Love won't let me wait' who started it all.  I always turn that song off just before the end because it's just embarrassing for everyone.

Whoever was managing Donna Summer decided that the success of 'Love to love you' could be repeated by putting more embarrassing groaning in 'Could it be Magic'. Her version was vastly superior to Barry Manilow's and the future 'Take That' version. However, Radio One didn't playlist it because of the aforementioned groaning and it only got to number 40. Talk about being hoisted on your own petard! Diana Ross had one in 'Love Hangover', Rod Stewart paid Britt Eckland to have one in 'Tonight's the night' and Johnny Taylor had an album called 'Eargasm'. I'd say it was a different time but the lyrics and videos of some R&B singles these days would have caused people in the 70s to pass out.

Then there was the Phenomenon (his words, not mine) of Demis Roussos who sounded like he recorded all his vocals whilst sitting on a washing machine.  Frankie Valli's 'Fallen Angel' which was a direct rip off of Barry Manilow's 'Mandy'.  The terrible 'Dr.Kiss Kiss' which featured the fabulous vocals of Linda Kelly (it's worth listening to that song just for her vocal performance!).  'Falling apart at the seams' by Marmalade has the beginning of the Eastenders theme tune in it (which was written about ten years later with no plagiarism lawsuit) and Sweet's 'Lies in your eyes' which rips off 'I can't get no satisfaction'. There's a song that manages to sound like three other songs at the same time too; 'Breakaway' by Gallagher and Lyle sounds like 'Star' by Kiki Dee, 'Everlasting love' by Howard Jones and 'Scullery' by Clifford T. Ward. David Essex's fake crying in 'City Lights' made sure he didn't make my top 40 and neither did T.Rex with 'London Boys' because Marc Bolan sounds like a sheep recording it's vocals whilst sitting on a washing machine. There's an abomination in the 1976 chart too. It's called 'Reggae like it used to be' by Paul Nicholas. The song isn't a reggae song, it's a rip off of 'Feel the need in me' and if you take a look at the clip of him singing it on top of the pops, you'd probably have to buy a new television.

Then there's the outdated, never acceptable yet somehow accepted racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny in some of the tracks that were even played on radio (a lot were banned but still got in the chart). A parody of 'Convoy' by CW McCall which was huge at the time called 'Convoy GB' by Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks (which I believe was fronted by Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis) was trying to be humorous but missed the mark spectacularly by being sexist, racist, homophobic and mentioning Jimmy Savile (albeit before we knew what we know now).

The worst aberration of the year was definitely 'The Winkle Man' by Judge Dread. The entire thing is like a carry-on film. Sexist, Misogynist, glamorises sexual assault, full of homophobic slurs and he even attacks a man for being homosexual. People bought this. It got in the chart. But then they also bought the Billy Paul single 'Let's make a baby' and 'Jeans on' by David Dundas. Taste in 1976 was at an all time low.

I've narrowed the 307 songs released in 1976 that reached the top 40, down to 127 that I like, a dozen or so which were re-releases after being hits in previous years (Sailing by Rod Stewart was a hit again in 1976 and The Beatles re-released six singles), 27 of which aren't on Spotify but that's understandable as they're mainly parodies, boring instrumentals and Gary Glitter. Also, Steve Harley's version of 'Here comes the sun' which almost made me never want to listen to music ever again!

Enough soap box, on with the best 40 singles of 1976...


(40) You Should Be Dancing - Bee Gees

The song that launched a thousand ships. Disco had kicked off in 1975 but this brought it to the attention of many who'd not previously heard it or had ignored it and dismissed it as trashy. If ever a group left a legacy it's the Bee Gees. Contrary to popular belief, this song wasn't written for the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. It was used on the soundtrack but first appeared on the 'Children Of The World ' album and got to number 5.

(39) You're My Everything - Lee Garret

This entered the chart the same week that Real Thing's "You To Me Are Everything" entered. It might have been bought in error by people thinking they were buying the other one. Remember going into record shops and going, 'Have you got the one that goes dod od o odo odo do'. I had a mate who worked in HMV in the early 2000s and she said even though she totally knew what song a customer wanted, she'd make them sing it before going 'ah, you mean this one?', just to help pass the day.  This was a great single though and got to number 15.

(38) When A Child Is Born - Johnny Mathis

Is it a Christmas song? It's wheeled out every year at Christmas and I suppose it's about Jesus. I just love Johnny's voice and the bit where he tells us there could be peace and harmony everywhere then smashes the illusion by going 'It's just a dream!'.  It was the Christmas number one in 1976. He does ask whether the child being born will be black, white or yellow. Just another sprinkling of ignorance from this weird year for public attitudes.

(37) Money Money Money - Abba

Lyrics aside, this is a very well crafted pop song. The bass in particular is great and the harmonies are brilliant which ABBA always did so well. This didn't manage to reach the top of the chart but it was probably their popularity alone that pushed this up to number 3. If this had gone to number 1 they would have managed seven in a row! (the Beatles hold the record with 10). I remember Madness doing a cover of this on one of those TV shows they used to do in tribute to ABBA where loads of contemporary groups and singers each did their own version of an ABBA song. It was brilliant.

(36) Love Me - Yvonne Elliman

This starts off sounding like one of those sleazy Barry White tunes but then Yvonne starts singing and you're dragged in to a soulful world of loveliness. It wouldn't surprise you to know it was written by the Bee Gees and also featured on their 'Children Of The World' album. Yvonne peaked at number six, but bettered that position with another Bee Gees song 'If I Can't Have You' in 1978.

(35) Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel - Tavares

Just a week after Jonathan King's 'One Hundred Ton And A Feather' debuted with their cover of Tavares' "It Only Takes A Minute", the Tavares themselves entered the top 40 for the first time ever. This was also their biggest ever hit.  This is still a staple at wedding receptions up and down the land.  They got to number 4 with this.


(34) Let The Music Play - Barry White

I loved Barry White's hair when it looked like a Judge's wig.  This really showcases his voice and isn't his usual tepid fare. This was his fourth top ten hit in under 18 months. It got to number nine.

(33) Daddy Cool - Boney M

This sums up the word 'Groovy'. This was Boney M's first hit. This got to number six and spent 12 weeks in the top 40.  The music press called them 'More plastic than the records themselves', which meant they were being a proper pop chart act with great singles and entertaining videos. The bloke in Boney M wasn't actually the singer - the voice on the records was the producer. Much like Milli Vanilli!

(32) Under The Moon Of Love - Showaddywaddy

Who thought the 50s would be popular in the 70s? Showaddywaddy did and they built their entire career around writing original 50s sounding songs and covering Rock and Roll songs dressed like the 50s. They also used Timpanis in this song which I loved. They always reminded me of Butlins entertainers; must have been the jackets.

(31) You Are My Love - Liverpool Express

Because the singles chart was such a huge part of the fabric of how society operated in the 70s and 80s, having a number 11 hit single was massive! Especially when it's your first single as it was for this band. Current hit singles were everywhere back then; TV, radio, over the tannoys in shops. We didn't have entertainment beyond the TV and radio apart from the cinema, and as you'll see in the following few years, a lot of songs entered the singles chart because of their association with films.  In fact, the theme from Jaws was in the chart in 1976. That would never happen these days. Being in a band which had been in the charts was a huge deal back then. How society has changed! Anyway, this is a beautiful single - it's got summer written all over it.

(30) Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry

Wow! All these instruments are played by people! I won't keep banging on about the lack of humans in the charts these days but just stick this on, lie back and let it tickle your ear drums.

(29) Young Hearts Run Free - Candi Staton

Probably one of my favourite vocalists with one of the best singles of the 70s.  The start always reminds me of 'Play your Cards Right'. How it only got to number 2 is a mystery. 'You got the love' is also great even though when it was released in 1986 she couldn't remember having recorded it!

(28) Fooled Around And Fell In Love - Elvin Bishop

Elvin Bishop reached number 34 with this. He was a guitarist and passed vocal duties to Mickey Thomas who later sang with Starship '(Nothings gonna stop us now' et al.) This is classic easy listening at its best.

(27) I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me - Jimmy James

Jimmy James And The Vagabonds were having their first hit, since their debut with "Red Red Wine" in 1968. They would only reach number 23 this time, but better times were coming for the band. I almost got to see them at a theatre in Skegness whilst there on a family holiday but I think we went to see Duncan Norvelle instead. Good times.


(26) Silver Star - Four Seasons

This was the Four Seasons' last big hit. It had an odd chart performance; entered at 27, up to 16 then 6, dropped to 9, climbed to 3, dropped to 21, went back up to 16, dropped to 31, 39 then out. I try to ignore the fact it's about a sheriff in the wild west.

(25) Can't Get By Without You - Real Thing

This got to number 2. The 1986 remix got to number 6 and I remember David 'Kid' Jensen introducing the song on his chart run down asking the question, 'Will Argentina beat England tonight?' and then played the song which went 'No way, no way, no way'.  England lost. Cheers Dave.

(24) You See The Trouble With Me - Barry White

I think I've said this before but there's a phenomenon where you believe a song is a great song because somewhere deep down, you have an emotional connection with it. It reminds you of something good or of a great summer etc.  There's another where you like a bit of a song - not the entire thing, just one bit. Like when Faithless' Insomnia kicks in around the middle bit.  This Barry White tune is one of those.  I absolutely love the time signature change just after he goes 'craz-eehhhh'.  Brilliant. Maybe the song isn't that great but I love that part so it's here number 24.

Barry's second biggest hit this.  Hit number 2 and was his last top ten hit.

(23) Evil Woman - E.L.O.

SIgnature E.L.O. sound here. One they used on the Xanadu soundtrack. This was their first hit for two years and it got to number 10. Their other hits this year 'Livin' thing' and 'Strange Magic' were great too.

(22) You Make Me Feel Like Dancing - Leo Sayer

Leo had disappeared since hitting number two with "Moonlighting" a year earlier.  This became his third number 2 single in five releases however. I'm always a little disappointed when the brilliant 'I'm in a spin you know' comes in and it's followed by the gentle chorus. After that bridge, it had the potential for a huge chorus, Queen style. Still, it works after a few listens and you get used to it.  I heard Leo a few weeks ago in an interview saying that all his old master tapes were taken and burnt by his ex-manager after a fall out.

(21) I Love To Love - Tina Charles

Catchy. Danceable. This was Tina Charles first hit, at least the first with her name on the record; she'd sung lead vocal on the 5000 Volts number four hit "I'm On Fire" the previous year. This as at number 1 for three weeks. There's a great use of delay on the 'stop-op-op-op' part. Well played to the engineers.

(20) If You Leave Me Now - Chicago

Chicago's entry to the 'most recognisable intro of all time' competition.  What a song to comeback from five years in the chart wilderness. Three weeks at number one. The key change is the thing that lifts this from being a lovely song to an achingly brilliant song. The bit where the strings kick in and he sings 'A love like ours ... how could we let it slip away'.

(19) Life Is Too Short Girl - Sheer Elegance

This starts like it's going to be one of those novelty songs by a French singer like Charles Aznavour. They reached number nine, but was the last hit for the band who found fame via the 'New Faces' talent show. It's got a sense of Phil Spector about this, in my opinion anyway.


(18) Anarchy In The UK - Sex Pistols

This was the kick the charts needed in late 76. The amount of great bands that followed and were influenced by the anger, the sentiment, the sound and the sheer entertainment value of John Lydon was amazing.  The Police, The Jam, The Stranglers, The Clash... the list goes on. This only got to number 38 but there was a huge buzz around the band itself because of the controversy, the way it was put together and then them swearing on TV and the overdose of one of it's members which was made into a film. It's a bit of a paradox really, them singing about anarchy yet conforming to the methods of ensuring the single was chart eligible and then paying tax on the royalties.

(17) Don't Take Away The Music - Tavares


This hit number 4, as did Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel. Simple, effective, lovely.

(16) Wake Up Everybody - Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes

I've become a secret Harold Melvin fan since doing these best single countdowns. This is superb. It was also the last single before Teddy Pendergrass went solo. I've also since discovered that it was these what wrote 'Don't leave me this way'.

(15) Arms Of Mary - Sutherland Brothers And Quiver

See, all you needed back then was skill with an instrument, a good voice or the ability to pen a nice tune. It didn't matter that you looked like a Science Technician in a Comprehensive School wearing a pleather jacket.  This got to number five. They wrote Rod Stewart's 'Sailing' of course but couldn't reach the chart with their own version.

(14) Never Gonna Fall In Love Again - Dana

This was a cover of an Eric Carmen song which was a 'homage' to Rachmaninoff. However, the original single had all the sensibilities of the type of song you'd see on an early evening Saturday night entertainment show back then. Lovely melody, albeit by Rach-man (as I call him). There isn't a version of this on Spotify but Dana re-recorded it in 1996 (which is the version on my playlist above) and I'm positive it would have been a hit in this form for Whitney or Mariah or Celine. She might have had a hit with it herself if it had been released as a single.

(13) It Should Have Been Me - Yvonne Fair

Good grief Yvonne! Hold something back! This cover of Gladys Knight's 1968 hit is far superior to the original.  If only Tina Turner had done a version of this.  Yvonne sent this to number 5 and my most enduring memory of this song is when it was used in an episode of 'Vicar of Dibley' with Dawn French lip-syncing.

(12) Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band

A number 10 hit for this one hit wonder. Brilliant production on this and a great voice captured on vinyl perfectly.  This is an absolute cracking single.  I'd have bought this with my pocket money if I was old enough to start getting pocket money. (I was a year old in 1976)

(11) Devil Woman - Cliff Richard

A bit of a turning point for Cliffy - and I liked quite a lot of his records from the early 80s onwards. This is his own favourite of his songs - which reached number 9 and was referenced endlessly by Rik Mayall in the Young Ones. Saying the Devil woman is going to get you from behind is a little out of character for Cliff, don't you think?


(10) Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - Elton John

One of Elton's best. Not a fan of most of his 70s stuff I have to admit, but this is timeless. It only got to number 11 which tells you a story about how many other good songs were around at the time. This was Elton's last hit for two years.

(9) Harvest For The World - Isley Brothers

I don't know why the Isley Brothers aren't held in higher esteem. Their singles always stood out - all infectious in their own way.  This was brilliant too - with a poignant message more valid today than ever I think.  It got to number 10 and then number 8 when it was covered by The Christians in 1988.

(8) Fernando - Abba

1976 was probably ABBAs biggest year. Fernando spent four weeks at number one. What was unique about ABBA at the time was that all their singles sounded so different to each other. This was the second of three number 1 singles in 76 and was totally different sounding to Dancing Queen or Mamma Mia.  I love the intro to this, with the flutes and guitars and snare drum giving it an ethereal military feel.  Loads of atmosphere.

(7) Ships In The Night - Be-Bop Deluxe

This takes some getting used to - maybe it was a bit ahead of its time - it only reached 23. It's kind of a pseudo-reggae-ska record.  It definitely follows the lead set the previous year by Sparks, with the panning flanging keyboard and weird rhythmic syncopation.  Its ska root maybe partially influenced a future member of Madness, The Specials or one of the other two-tone bands who were only a few years away...

(6) December '63 (Oh What A Night) - Four Seasons

Best piano intro ever?  Frankie Valli takes a back seat with drummer Gerry Polci taking main vocals and Frankie singing the bridges.  There's a great keyboard solo in this which was a mark of sounds to come from the singles chart in 1977.  The Four Seasons had been totally hitless for eight years before Valli had a solo hit with 'My eyes adored you'.  Tamla Motown re-released 'The Night' and it became a top ten hit prompting a comback with 'Who loves you'. This track was their first number 1 in 13 years as a group. They only had one more hit before disappearing from the face of the planet.

(5) I Wanna Stay With You - Gallagher & Lyle

Gallagher And Lyle hit the chart for the first time with this song. It got to number six. It's at 5 in my personal countdown because of the chorus. Catchy and respectful.

(4) Let Your Love Flow - Bellamy Brothers

Wow, wow, wow. Yes, yes, yes. Wow. Yes. etc. Bit of a country crossover this, which got to number seven.  It's everything a perfect single should be. If you don't tap your toe when this is on, you've got no toes.

(3) Love Really Hurts Without You - Billy Ocean

Sugar pie, honey bunch. Eh? This was Billy Ocean's first hit and got to number two. Artists didn't seem to be that litigious in 76. There are so many songs that are blatantly other songs.  Never mind, this is great. He had three more hits during the next 12 months, before vanishing forever. That was until he leapt out of a cupboard with 'When the going gets tough' and became a huge star all over again.

(2) Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John & Kiki Dee

Quite simply a brilliant single. A karaoke favourite too. Stayed at number 1 for six weeks and you can hear why. I always got the sense that Kiki Dee wasn't Elton's biggest fan in the video. She looks at him suspiciously at times.  It was Elton's first number 1. It was Kiki's first top ten hit, which is weird as she'd had some great songs out.

(1) Dancing Queen - Abba

This song would top any list I ever did of any 'best singles' count down in any year, era, decade - anything. It's flawless from start to finish. Every single box is ticked on the 'how to make a good single' questionairre.  This peice of pop perfection will never ever be bettered by anyone anywhere ever.

Unsurprisingly, this was ABBAs biggest ever hit. 6 weeks at number 1. It was called Dancing Queen but it baffles me when people call it a 'disco' record. It's definitely not a disco record - save the fact it was played in discos.  Voulez Vous was a disco record. This wasn't though.

Tell me that there's a better single ever released.


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1975

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1975

The charts are dead. Long live the charts.

Downloads and streaming killed sunday nights in front of the radio (or whatever the equivalent was in the early 2000s). Music can be accessed in so many ways now, it's pointless to keep a chart. The quality of music has suffered because it's being made by people who aren't musicians. They're dragging beats from a folder on their computer to a digital studio on their laptops and grunting over the top of them.  You'd be hard pressed to find a band in the charts these days who formed less than ten years ago and have found success touring the clubs and building up a fan base, then sending a demo tape to an A&R person. I know times change but musicians have been all but excluded from the industry they created in the first place.  Also, as you'll see from some of the single covers below, you didn't have to have perfect teeth, your hair could be rediculous and nobody had to know what your bottom looked like to be famous. I'm compiling these lists mainly because I miss the days of exciting new music with depth and real instruments. However...

By no means was 1975 collectively the best year for music, but I had a real job narrowing down all the great songs into a 40. This is why there's such a long 'Honorable Mentions' section at the bottom. If you're looking for some great new music to listen to because there's no contemporary music which will ever give you goosebumps, then check out the spotify playlist at the top, the collection of videos in the YouTube playlist (also above) and find out a little bit about each below. My personal top 40 isn't predjudiced by my own likes and dislikes - I'm trying to remain as objective as possible. This is one of the reasons Bohemian Rhapsody isn't the number 1 single of 1975 in my list. Shocking eh?  Let's kick off with the 40th best single of 1975...


(40) Highwire  - Linda Carr And The Love Squad

One Night! Whoo-hoo... One night in heaven.  *ahem* excuse me, I mean 'Highwire'. M people's 'One night in heaven' sounds spookily similar to this song.  Got to number 15 this, and was Linda's only hit.

(39) Love Games - Drifters

This only got to number 33, which is weird. It's a great tune. Maybe people were getting sick of similar sounding Mowtown stuff at the time? A lot of other Mowtown stuff was being covered in the mid to late 80s; this should have been one of them!

(38) Goodbye My Love - Glitter Band

This doesn't seem like it's going anywhere until we get to the hook in the chorus. That's what got it all the way up to number 2. They were doing a lot better than their previous 'leader' at the time too. But let's not go into that too much right now.

(37) January - Pilot

Most fans of popular music will have heard their hit 'Magic'.  There's a phenomenon in music chart history where a band have a hit, they're known for that hit, then they have a bigger hit but years later nobody remembers the bigger hit.  It was the case here; 'January' was number 1 for three weeks.  Funnily enough, the first of those weeks was in the week ending 1st February.  In those days, a song that went to number 1 almost always stayed there for a second week.  This was the third new number 1 in as many weeks knocking Ms.Grace by the Tymes off the top spot which had in turn knocked Status Quo's Down Down off number 1 after just a week.

(36) Holy Roller - Nazareth

Nazareth were brilliant.  Their music doesn't seem to have traveled well into subsequent decades. Not as much as their contemporaries Bad Company's did anyway. It might have had something to do with their name - it wasn't very RAWK. They'd just changed record label before releasing this song - but for some reason, probably promotional, it only got to number 36. There's gold to be found in them thar 30-40 in the chart.

(35) This Old Heart Of Mine - Rod Stewart

I knew I'd heard this before.  Rod updated it and made it all 90s production. The original is much better because it's so raw and he's one of a handful of singers who was able to make songs that other people had taken into the chart first, his own.  This was an Isley brothers classic. It's not their song any longer. This was the follow up to ;sailing and got to number 4.


(34) Sky High - Jigsaw

Another cop show theme tune that wasn't one. That first verse though! It should have been used in a more dramatic song. However, it was pleasant enough and the chorus makes up for the sin of trying to make this a disco single.  They hit number nine with this and spent a total of ten weeks in the top 40. Jigsaw had to wait almost two years for their only other hit.

(33) Mandy - Barry Manilow

Oh Barry! You came and stopped without waiting... (or something). This was his first British hit and it hit number 11. It took him four years for another top 40 hit and almost eight years before his first (and only) top ten single. "Mandy" was originally a hit for Scott English when it hit number 12 under it's original title of "Brandy" in 1971.

(32) I'm Stone In Love With You - Johnny Mathis

I always remember thinking how friendly Johnny looked.  Along with Neil Diamond, Johnny had the most recognisable voice to me at a very young age. This was a surprise hit because the Stylistics had only just had a hit with it two years before. The original hit number 9; Johnny got to number 10.  People liked to hear songs sung by their favourite singers in the 50s so there'd be like three or four versions of the same song in the charts by different people. Seems that trend was still sort of true.  Even in 1974 and 1975, there were instances of the same song in the chart twice by different people. Significantly, this was Johnny's first hit since 1960. He followed with another three hits before the seventies were out.

(31) Right Back Where We Started From - Maxine Nightingale

I don't know how but this song was almost an exact copy of "Goodbye Nothing To Say" by the Javells from 1974. I can't find anything on the internet about it being borrowed or licenced or by the same writer or anything. So, they must have just got away with it and got to number eight during a seven week chart run.

(30) The Hustle - Van McCoy

I'm not sure if this is a novelty single like the Macarena and Mambo Number 5 or not.  It's superb regardless. Van was behind lots of other hits for different artists over the previous few years but had a go on his own and spent two weeks at number three.

(29) Imagine Me Imagine You - Fox

It wouldn't surprise me if the lead singer of Fox was also the lead singer of Goldfrapp.  Definitely odd before Kate Bush's time.  She had such a distinctive voice and vocal style, this was bound to be a hit.  A lot of Fox hits featured time signature changes mid-verse, which only added to non-musical people's intrigue. They only got to number 15 with this. Lead singer Noosha Fox's stage name is a sort of anagram of her real first name, Susan (Nussa).

(28) Listen To What The Man Said - Wings

How do you follow an album like 'Band on the Run'? Well, Paul McCartney could write songs in his sleep and not just that, ones that were pleasant rather than spectacular. This is one of those songs which plods along and is very nice to listen to but was never going to be one of the songs mentioned in the same breath as other 70s classics in 40 years time.  He did cover the Crossroads theme tune on the 'Venus and Mars' album but we forgive him for that.  This song hit number six but neither of the next two singles got into the top 40. It was a full year before he did that again.  Listen to the McCartney version and then have a go of this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx6WuGfOV0Q (I dare you)

(27) Shame Shame Shame - Shirley And Company

Look at their little faces on the single cover.  That's Shirley on the left and I guess the guy on the right is company.  This is pretty funky for a bloke who looks like a Geography teacher.  This was their one and only hit single. The bloke's screaming is a little bit annoying but doesn't spoil it too much.  Research leads me to discover that Sinitta covered this in 1992. I hope to the sweet lord above that I never accidentally hear that version.  This song is a bit like Lord of the Rings (Return of the King) in that it fades out and you think it's over and then it fades back in and it goes on for another minute.


(26) Harmour Love - Syreeta

This is the ex-Mrs. Stevie Wonder with a lovely tune. It peaked at number 32, before she endured a four year absence from the chart.  Not entirely sure what Harmour love is but I want some.

(25) Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) - Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

I hate this. Well, not the song, just the vocal performance.  I personally can't stand his voice and I'm judging this as the 25th best single of 1975 purely on the catchy single-ness of it all.  I don't know who told him he could sing but to add insult to my personal injury - I went to see Phantom of the Opera in London in the early 90s and who should be unexpectedly playing the Phantom?  Steve EFFING Harley.  I mean WHY? How?  Anyway, this song got to number 1 not surprisingly.  I knew of this song only because it was the B-side of Duran Duran's Number 1 hit 'The Reflex'.  It was recorded live at one of the Duranies concerts if memory serves and they murdered it.

(24) I Only Have Eyes For You - Art Garfunkel

When Simon And Garfunkel went their separate ways, most expected Paul Simon to be the most successful of the two. Many think he has been. But, the UK singles chart tell a different tale. Paul has had seven minor hits along with three top ten hits, the biggest being the number four placing of "You Can Call Me Al" in 1986. Art Garfunkel on the other hand hit number one with his first two releases. "I Only Have Eyes For You" would eventually knock David Essex off the top and spend two weeks in pole position before rapidly plummeting down the chart. The song had been originally recorded by 'The Flamingos'.

(23) Fox On The Run - Sweet

Someone got a Synthesizer for Christmas didn't they?  This was loud! They'd changed their style a bit from their previous hits and they were about to go into full Queen mode with their next single.  The single before this, 'Turn it down' hadn't been playlisted by the BBC because it had the word 'bum' in the lyrics.  It only reached 41 but this single shot up to number 2.

(22) How Does It Feel - Slade

I might have said this before but, how good were Slade?  It's a surprise to me that I had to go digging to hear most of their 70s hits and that they didn't just naturally progress out into the 80s and beyond on radio and television.  Like what David Bowie and Queen did.  This was the first Slade single in ten releases not to make the top three. In fact it didn't go higher than number 15; Criminal.  Oh for something this good to be released these days!!

(21) Three Steps To Heaven - Showaddywaddy

This was the first cover version hit single of Showaddywaddy's career, and it was such a success (number 2), that when they later stopped having big hits with their own original songs they went back to the covers and re-activated their hit career.

(20) There's A Whole Lot Of Loving - Guys And Dolls

You might recognise David Van Day and Theresa Bazaar from Dollar at the bottom of the single cover.  This was 'Guys And Dolls' first and biggest hit, reaching number two. Bruce Forsyth's daughter was in the group too.  If you get a chance, have a look at the David Van Day - Bucks Fizz saga on Wikipedia. It deserves its own film. He wasn't an original member but after joining as a replacement temporarily, he contested the ownership of the band name and then went and recorded a lot of old Bucks Fizz songs so that his voice was on them, and released it as a Bucks Fizz album. It's just weird.   This song is great though.

(19) Your Kiss Is Sweet - Syreeta

This is in my countdown simply for the verse alone; its such a lovely song.  This was her first time in the top 40, and also her biggest solo hit. It reached number 12. She didn't have a price sticker on her head in real life.


(18) Jive Talkin' - Bee Gees

This was the first hit for the Gibb brothers since 1972, and also the beginning of their involvement in disco music. It spent two weeks at number five. The song was taken to number seven in 1987 when it was covered by Boogie Box High. At the time, nobody could confirm who the lead vocalist was, even though everyone knew it was George Michael (something about his contract with a record label and royalties or something).  Boogie Box High was a musical project of Andros Georgiou's (George's Cousin) that also featured Nick Heyward!

(17) Action - Sweet


I'm not sure if this was written by Queen, performed by Queen or whether the ghosts of Queen inhabited Sweet's bodies during the writing and recording of this but, it's basically Queen.  Using the same Synthesizer as previous (Fox on the run), they also layered some huge orchestral strings with power guitars straight out of Brian May's repertoire.  The layered vocals were straight from Freddie Mercury's too. Great song however which proves bands were doing what The Darkness were doing, and better, thirty years before they were.  This only got to number 15. Maybe the public weren't ready?

Def Leppard covered this in 1994 and got to number 14. Maybe the public still weren't ready?  The band on the single cover look like their manager has just asked them all to get haircuts.

(16) Mama Mia - ABBA

If anyone was worthy of knocking Bohemian Rhapsody off Number 1 it was this - and they both had the words 'Mamma Mia' in them!

Abba had released a few singles after 'Waterloo' but nobody thought they were going to be anything special.  However, SOS got to number 6 in October 1975 and then Number 1 with this.  They then had another five number 1's from the next six singles! It spent two weeks at number 1 and catapulted the band to international stardom that endures to this very day.

(15) That's The Way (I Like It) - K.C. And The Sunshine Band

Love it or hate it, this is infectious and remains a staple of wedding receptions up and down the land.  This was their 4th and biggest hit. They'd already defined disco with George McCrae's 'Rock your baby', which they wrote, and further defined it here.  It was the song that sparked the Media into a 'Disco is here' frenzy.  I can imagine it was impossible to escape this song at the time. It would have been on TV, radio and fair grounds the entire time.  It does go on a bit!

(14) Lady Marmalade - Labelle

This song has been murdered a fair few times over the years.  All Saints did a version in 1998 which wasn't awful but then Missy Elliot and P!nk and some others got their hands on it in 2000 and completely missed the point.   It didn't set the world alight at the time; it only got to number 17 but it's considered a classic these days.  Even the Happy Monday's borrowed the chorus for their hit 'Kinky Afro'. I'll bet they did it unconsciously - Shaun Ryder did most things unconsciously in them days.

(13) Get Down Tonight - K.C. And The Sunshine Band

If 'That's the way' didn't make you want to tear your ears off, here's another from KC and the SB.  This one was better though because it wasn't as repetitive but still an impossibly catchy single.  I've never been sure how that voice came out of that bloke.  My favourite by them is still 'Give it up' however.  Get down tonight got to 21 in the chart but has been used in numerous TV commercials and films so it never went away. It's probably been sampled dozens of times too.

(12) Ding-A-Dong - Teach In

OK so, hear me out before you switch off the playlist and never listen to anything I recommend ever again.  Eurovision is full of brilliant songs. Songs which are so sadly laughed at and forgotten far too easily.  I first heard this song when Erasure sang the chorus in between songs at a concert I went to in 1991.  I had no idea what it was but just that 5 second blast stayed in my head for years until I was researching this list.  The song is pure Eurovision!! This won the competition that year and got to number 13. The song was parodied in the recent Will Ferrell film about Eurovision which actually spawned an unbelievable song called 'Husavik (My Hometown)'.  I urge you to listen to it.... here in fact : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21c3duHlFAc

(11) I Believe In Father Christmas - Greg Lake

In almost any other year, this would have been the Christmas number one. But it had to settle for three weeks at number two behind Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. It would have been better if it wasn't actually about Christmas but then, it gets played every single year so maybe it's for the best. Not sure why the single cover says Emerson Lake and Palmer... this was just by Greg Lake.


(10) All Around My Hat - Steelye Span

I love this song. This group remind me of Fairground Attraction and All About Eve, both of which were New Age folk types. I remember singing this a lot when I was young. In fact, I think this and Boney M's 'Rivers of Babylon' are the two songs I have the earliest memories of.   If a three year old is skipping around the house singing it after a  few listens it's probably catchy enough to be a hit.  This song whizzed up to number five within 2 weeks of entering the top 40 and looked a likely Christmas number one. But it took a nosedive and ended up at number 19 by Christmas.

(9) Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

Yes, it's only at number 9.  And that's because it's a great song but only a good single.  What I mean by that is, it's two songs mashed together which makes for an epic 8 minutes but it's not something I like to sit and listen to as much as the eight songs ahead of it in my countdown.  A single needs to make you engage, and probably only for about three minutes before you put the needle back to the start and listen again. You can't do any of that with BoRap. Bay City Rollers' "Bye Bye Baby" was the longest running number 1 for four years when it hit the top in '75. Queen entered at 17, climbed to number nine the following week and then to number one for nine weeks.  This was the longest number 1 placing since Paul Anka managed it with "Diana" in 1957.

Only "Cara Mia" by David Whitfield & "Rose Marie" by Slim Whitman had spent more time at the top. BoRap returned to the top spot in 1991 following Freddie Mercury's death.  In fact, it hit the top at the end of 1975 and was still there in 1976, then at the end of 1991 and was still there in 1992 meaning the song was number one in four different years! There's a quiz question for you!

There was something fishy going on with Kenny Everett at the time of release - Everett got his hands on an early pressing of the song with strict instructions not to broadcast it. Somehow, by accident, he played the song 14 times over the course of two days. Despite my lowly ranking in this singles run down, Bohemian Rhapsody regularly comes out on top of polls as the best song of all time. Maybe it's because a lot of people voting for it weren't around in 1975 and haven't had the joy of hearing the other 8 songs ahead of it in my countdown? Maybe?

(8) I'm Not In Love - 10CC

Atmosphere, that's what this song is all about. It spent two weeks at number 1 and Kevin Godley had far too much hair.

(7) Your Mama Won't Like Me - Suzi Quatro

I could never work out if I liked Suzi Quatro or not. She definitely had character and there was no denying her prowess with a bass guitar but there was something about her that I couldn't get on board with. I still don't know what that is but this is a cracking track.  She'd had six consecutive top twenty hits but moved away from her usual style with this song.  It only reached number 31, and was followed by a run of singles that failed to even reach the top 50. She only hit the top ten twice more with 'If you can't give me love' in 1978 and 'She's in love with you' in 1979.

(6) Feel Like Makin' Love - Bad Company

All of Bad Company's 70s hits were great. This only got to number 20, proving there was a market for heavier guitars but it wasn't a mainstream one. There's not a lot wrong with this single if you're into that kind of thing. Which I'm not as it goes. Judging by their faces on the single sleeve, it doesn't look like any of them feel line makin' love.

(5) Send In The Clowns - Judy Collins

Adele might have thought she'd cornered the market in heartbreaking ballads a few years ago but she's just a pale imitation of all the greats that have gone before her. That's not to say that there aren't great exponents of the pop ballad these days, but the art of songwriting doesn't seem as well honed as it did back then.  This song is one of the true classics. This got to number six.

(4) Imagine - John Lennon

Just because it's John Lennon. Just because it's one of the most famous songs of all time.  This was actually on his 1971 album "Imagine" and hadn't been released as a single.  It was released in '75 to promote his last album before taking a five year break to raise his son Sean. It entered the chart at number 25, climbed to number six and stayed there for another two weeks. It then dropped to number ten and out of the chart.  It's amazing that it's held in such high esteem despite its modest chart activity.  The record buying public of the time bought more copies of 'Love Hurts' by Jim Capaldi and D.I.V.O.R.C.E by Billy Connolly.  The B side, "Working Class Hero" might actually have been a better choice of single and climbed higher up the chart had it been radio friendly. Maybe Imagine didn't do so well because all his fans had the record already?

(3) Sailing - Rod Stewart

I loathed this song growing up. I thought it was tedious. I'm much more mature now and realise it's actually very very good.  It was number one for four weeks. It fell out of the chart and then re-entered a year later climbing back to number three in another 14 week top 40 run.  I think it was because it was used as the theme tune on some BBC drama or such. The song wasn't Rod's however, it was originally recorded by the Sutherland Brothers. Bet they were gutted it wasn't them having the chart success - but when they looked at their royalty cheque, it probably helped.

(2) S.O.S. - Abba

Something of a comeback for Abba. After having a number one with the Eurovision winner "Waterloo" they had struggled with their next three singles not rising above number 32. Their days looked numbered until this release which was the third from their 'Abba' album. It went on to reach number six and became the first of 18 consecutive top ten hits. Check out the B side of this "Man In The Middle" (also available on the album 'Abba').

(1) Highfly - John Miles

John appeared from nowhere, climbed to number 17, and was gone within five weeks.  This epitomises my definition of a single. As I said all the way at the beginning of this blog journey, I'm looking for three minutes of pure joy. Something I want to listen to a number of times in a row. The thing that separates this song from the rest of the 1975 pack for me is the musicianship and the changes in pace. Whether he was influenced by Queen (as a lot of people were beginning to be around then) or not is debatable but there are elements of 10CC and Roy Wood here but they were contemporaries so I'm going to give John 'Music' Miles the benefit of the doubt. Please listen to this if you haven't before.




Honourable Mentions

Glass of Champagne - Sailor

This song challenged Bohemian Rhapsody for the top spot at the end of the year but didn't climb any higher than number 2. There was a lot of 'Sparks' about this. Quite original for it's time but I'm afraid Sparks got there first.

You Can Have It All - George McCrae

This only managed 23 in the chart. Great voice and a very nice song to have on in the background.

You Sexy Thing - Hot Chocolate

This hit the top ten in three separate decades. Their biggest hit was "So You Win Again", a number 1 in 1977 but this is probably their best known song. It spent three weeks at number two.

Crying Over You - Ken Boothe

The follow up to the big number one hit "Everything I Own" spent two weeks at number 11. We didn't see him in the chart again.

Bye Bye Baby - Bay City Rollers

The Bay City Rollers finally achieved a number one single with the release of this cover of a song that was a complete flop in the UK for the Four Seasons ten years earlier. They didn't just hit the top, they spent six weeks there and had the biggest selling single of the year with it.

Roll Over Lay Down - Status Quo

Status Quo were following their number one single "Down Down", with a live recording of a track from their 1973 album 'Hello'. "Roll Over Lay Down" would peak at number nine.

Only You Can - Fox

Goldfrapp, I mean, Fox hit number three with this. It was another song with time signature changes in it and a sing-a-long-a bit with the oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh oh-nly you can.

Shoorah Shoorah - Betty Wright

This wan't played very often on the radio and not a lot of people got to hear it so it barely reached the top 40. I think there was a lot of that going on. You were never going to hear every single song released and the only ones you did hear were on the radio or the local disco (if you were of that age). John Peel sorted that out though; he used to play loads of obscure stuff and kickstarted a lot of bands' careers who might have existed for a couple of singles max otherwise.  This was a lovely little record though and deserved better even though it was quite retro for it's time.

We Love Each Other - Charlie Rich

Just lovely. If Elvis had lived to his 60s he might have sounded like this. More great background music but worth a spin if you've got a couple of minutes spare.

What Am I Gonna Do With You - Barry White

A number five hit for Bazza.  If you've heard any Barry White single, you'll know what this sounds like. Lots of talking over the intro and then the build and then the chorus. It was a formula, but it worked.

Good Loving Gone Bad - Bad Company

This only got to number 31. Shocking. I'm not great on the facts here but everything about this song screams AC/DC, KISS and Iron Maiden. Were they influenced by Bad Company? Or did all those bands already exist and they were in the same stable. Whichever, it's very distinctive. Maybe they were all influenced by Free?

Sing A Happy Song - George McCrae

This criminally only spent one week in the top 40. Look at his face... of course he's singing a happy song.

Where Is The Love - Betty Wright

This reached number 25. Despite Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway having the original hit version of this song back in 1972, it was Betty who wrote the song. She had no more hits despite a couple of near misses in the late 80's. If you're familiar with early 80s pop, then you can imagine Kid Creole or Modern Romance having a hit with a cover of this.

Once Bitten Twice Shy - Ian Hunter

'ellaw! Ex 'Mott The Hoople' vocalist Ian Hunter was having his first and only solo hit with this number 14. This felt a lot like he was trying to sound like Steve Harley or an extra on Eastenders.

Tears On My Pillow - Johnny Nash

This was Johnny's first hit single in almost three years, and also his only number one (one week at the top). Absolutely gorgeous song this. 1975 was full of really great ballads. Probably the best year for ballads ever?

Take Me In Your Arms - Doobie Brothers

I don't know why the Doobie Brothers aren't regarded more highly than they are. (see my commentary on Slade)  They were massive in the USA but the UK just didn't want to know.  Their 1972 single "Listen To The Music" made a small dent in the chart when re-issued in 1974 (a truly timeless song which sounds great even today!) by reaching number 29. Then came this much less memorable single which also peaked at number 29. It would be over 18 years before they bettered number 29, and that was with a re-issue of a 20 year old track called "Long Train Running" which surprisingly reached number seven.

My White Bicycle - Nazareth

I like unusual songs and this is as unusual as it comes. It was a cover of a song previously recorded by Tomorrow and it rose to number 14.

I Don't Love You But I Think I Like You - Gilbert O'Sullivan

He was the king of the bland single was Gilbert. This very nice song peaked at number 14 however, but he had to wait five years for his next and final hit.


Fancy Pants - Kenny

Kenny were following up "The Bump" with this upbeat Bay City Rollers-sounding romp. It reached number four, and was their last top five single. Terrible name for a band by the way.

In Dulci Jubilo - Mike Oldfield

After 3 weeks just outside the top 20, this took a surprising jump up the chart to number 4 in the middle of January. This is rolled out every Christmas on the radio and those 'top 20288 songs of Christmas' documentaries.  It's a traditional Christmas carol that Bach used loads in his chorales. You'll just have to take my word for that though.

Swing Your Daddy - Jim Gilstrap

Jim Gilstrap went to number four with his only hit. He sings 'Your love Jones out of control' which is probably accurate? I'm not sure how to swing your daddy but it probably involves a system of weights and pulleys. (he also had a song called 'Take your daddy for a ride'. Maybe he took him to Alton Towers for the day?)

Blue Guitar - Justin Hayward & John Lodge

This might as well have been released as a Moody Blues single despite only two of them being on the song. It probably would have got to number one but I assume most people didn't know who these fellas were by their real life names. It got to number eight.

I Can Do It - Rubettes

The Rubettes were having their fourth hit and reached number seven. This was a proper school disco song - even though the lead singer spends most of the song whinging about when he was born and how he's too old for this and too young for that.  However, he can really rock so he doesn't seem too cut up about things.

Please Mr. Postman - Carpenters

This final top five single for the Carpenters was a cover of a song that was, in it's original form by the 'Marvelettes', Motown Records first Billboard number one (and it featured the drumming talents of Marvin Gaye). This cover was also a Billboard number one, but settled for number two in the UK. The Beatles also recorded it for their 1964 album 'With The Beatles'. This doesn't really suit the Carpenters very well but it's a decent effort.

Now I'm Here - Queen

Freddie with his signature call and response followed by swirling vocals and some pretty nifty studio trickery. Queen were all about the art of the music weren't they? Not just catchy tunes but real craft.


Do It Again - Steely Dan

Steely Dan were not very successful over here, and this number 39 peaking single was their second biggest hit. 'Go back.... Jack.... Do it again!' If you've never heard this, give it a listen.

Hold Me Close - David Essex

David reached number one for the second time in just under a year with this. Just like "Gonna Make You A Star", this would spend three weeks on top. This was the second single taken from the album 'All The Fun Of The Fair'. The album was quite unique in that three singles were released from it (rare back then), and all three made the top 20.

Who Loves You - Four Seasons

The Four Seasons revival continued with the help of Disco music. This got to number six and became their biggest hit in 10 years. You've probably heard this but if you haven't, you'll feel like you have.

Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell had one of the biggest hits of his career with this and peaked at number four before disappearing from the top ten forever.

Love Is The Drug - Roxy Music

Hard core Roxy fans would argue that the band sold out with this single but the people buying the records didn't care and this quasi-disco song went all the way to number two to become their biggest hit to date. It later gave Grace Jones a minor hit in 1986.

Hold Back The Night - Trammps

This got to number 5 and as you can see on the single cover (as with a lot of the single covers on here) it's billed as a 'top hit in England'. This must have been how they sold British hit singles to the American market.  Just 16 months later, Graham Parker took his cover of the song to number 24. Then, in 1992, The Trammps guested on the cover by KWS that reached number 30.

This Will Be - Natalie Cole

Natalie's very first British hit wasn't a huge success, it only reached number 32. She got to number 6 in the USA however.  Maybe they should have put 'Top USA hit' on the front. She had to wait until the Spring of 1988 for her next hit in the UK. I somehow knew this song before digging into the 1975 archives but I'm not sure how if it wasn't a big hit...

I Ain't Lyin' - George McCrae

Another hit for George which reached number 12, but only spent six weeks in the top 40.


How the music charts began

The inception of the pop charts and the 1960’s

The popular music charts began in 1940 when the popularity of a song was gauged by sales of sheet music.  We can all agree there’s plenty of sheet music around these days but it all seems to get in the charts somehow.  The music magazine Billboard had the idea of compiling a chart based on sales which was then updated in 1952 when someone decided the best way to listen to music was to get someone else to play it and sing it and put it on a kind of plastic disc so you could listen to it whenever you liked instead of having the band come round and perform the song in your front room.

Hello? Dean Martin? Are you in there?

Back then it was called the Top 12! Twelve songs complied by ringing twenty record shops to find out what the best-selling songs that week were.  ‘Here in my heart’ by Al Martino was awarded the very first top spot, a song about ventricles, and began the tradition of listing things for no reason.  Other magazines got involved by 1955 basing their charts on postal returns or telephone polls.  Then album charts started somehow and the NME, Record Mirror and Melody Maker were all getting involved.  The upshot was, people were being told what everyone else thought was good music, namely the public, the radio stations and the record stores, but mainly the latter two.  It didn’t seem to matter what the singers were waffling on about, songs about how love hurts or how love is the greatest thing ever using lyrics written with crayons were flying up the charts and making songwriters stupidly rich. 

Chart topping cutting edge wailing

The 60’s is probably best known for the twangy guitars and tinny production of rock and roll, beat and pop music.  The Beatles were the forerunners of course, making monk’s haircuts fashionable for the first time since the Vikings invaded. The Monkees tried to copy but only two of them had a monk’s haircut and so were doomed to failure.

"We're not allowed to play our own instruments! Ha ha ha ha."

“We’re not allowed to play our own instruments! Ha ha ha ha.”

Skiffle became a novel way of utilising old kitchen equipment and brought success for the likes of Lonnie Donegan. Liverpool was a hotbed of music with over two bands touring the local clubs and ballrooms, using Buddy Holly as inspiration. The Beatles got good in 1962 and allowed other bands who wanted to be them, but weren’t quite as good, to get into the charts too such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers and the Swinging Blue Jeans (getting their band name from the contents of their washing line on a windy day). 

Some bands were better than the Beatles but for whatever reason, didn’t have as much success; bands such as The Kinks and the Yardbirds.  The Rolling Stones emerged as a rival, sporting different but equally silly haircuts. Barber shops up and down the country had never been so busy. “I want to hold your hand” was a lovely title for a song and a very respectful thing to say to a lady.  Towards the end of the 60’s, out went Fats Domino to start a pizza shop, Chubby Checker (who despite his name, never checked chubby people) and even Elvis began to struggle in this new rock and roll tidal wave.

Elvis, contemplating a white jump suit, massive sunglasses and a cheeseburger

Rock music began to splinter by the mid-decade into various genres.  Psychedelia was one of those, based on making your mind ignore reality with or without the help of chemicals.  Sitars and surreal lyrics became the identity of the genre as well as weird noises, hidden messages and atmospheric effects.

This is all Bob Dylan could see for the entire decade

Folk music came back to life for a moment and gave people like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot a reason to get out of bed in the morning. ‘Protest songs’ were the in-thing even though people also protested against protest songs although I’m not sure if they wrote songs about their protests against protest songs as that would have been hypocritical.

The sound on The Byrds’ ‘Mr Tambourine man’ was obtained with a 12 string guitar, which in my opinion is far too many strings. Folk rock reached the peak of its popularity in 1968 before it tailed off into country rock and various other denominations of rock music. The first psychedelic rock song was called ‘hesitation blues’ and it was a song nobody was sure when to start playing.  The Doors became popular and opened for many acts, they also closed for some too; sometimes however, they were just ‘ajar’. Psychedelia had its last hurrah at Woodstock in 1969 and was never heard of again.

Worst Drive-in Movie Ever!

The music we associate most with American teenagers in the early 1960s is surf rock; something that usually results in your surf board being broken in two and you upside down in a rock pool. ‘Movin’ and Groovin’’ by Duane Eddy was one of the first surf rock songs and despite many other Californian surf rock bands popping up, the Beach Boys not only played the music, they named themselves after somewhere you can actually surf! Genius. 

Pop music was as superficial as ever with hits like ‘The Twist’ and the ‘Locomotion’ getting us all on the dance floor to do weird angular upper body movements and songs such as ‘Sugar Sugar’ which sparked the term ‘Bubble-gum pop’. Motown emerged as a pop answer to soul music and one of the greatest genres of music was born. A never ending string of number one singles followed for The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and the Jackson Five

The sad thing about Motown is that there’ll never be anything as good ever again

Sam Cooke was flying the flag for soul and James Brown was bringing funk to the masses. The beginnings of disco music can be heard in the Supremes song ‘You keep me hanging on’.

Television brought country music into people’s homes and raised its popularity. Records by Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell and Tammy Wynette were flying off shelves in local record stores. Marty Robbins managed hits in country, western, pop, blues and Hawaiian (that’s straight pop whilst eating some  ham and a pineapple). Johnny Cash became one of the most influential musicians of the decade (and most other decades for that matter) recording in many styles, genres and prisons. Dolly Parton came down from the mountains in Tennessee to capture the hearts of a nation with her biographies set to music.

And then, it was over.  1970 came along and changed everything…


Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1974

Open in Spotify


YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1974

Even if you were into music in a big way in 1974, I doubt you could have heard every single song that reached the top 40. Before the internet became a household thing, I loved listening to the chart rundown on a sunday night, Razzamatazz, Top of the Pops, whatever childrens saturday morning show had pop stars of the day being interviewed - but a lot of stuff that made the top 10 in the 80s passed me by just because it wasn't on the radio or TV decided it wasn't appropriate to hear. Now the internet is everywhere and in particular Spotify and YouTube, I can listen to everything - ever! It's like Christmas every day (Roy Wood got his wish!) and here I am, listening to everything and helping you, dear reader, discover songs you'd never have known existed.

Why the 70s? Well, it's where my musical heroes drew their inspiration. Duran Duran, U2, Tears for Fears, Nik Kershaw... and to some who grew up in the 70s, loving the musical landscape, it must have been quite a disappointment when Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and Kajagoogoo were the biggest things around and not Slade or David Essex.  Music evolved so far in the mid-80s that it was quite unrecognisable from that in the early to mid-70s and even towards the latter end of the 80s, the chart became so rich with different genres (brand new ones too, including Acid House) that it would have been hard to keep up and let one's musical tastes evlove along with it to stay interested in 2 Unlimited and Scatman John when you'd grown up listening to Queen and Stevie Wonder.  It was easier in the 60s and 70s to like most of what was in the chart, because the diversity wasn't massive. It was mostly 12/8 rock blues, ballads or soul (with a few exceptions). For a 70s child, the late 80s into the 90s must have been an affront to their earholes.  Much like myself - I loved the 80s, almost all of it in fact. The 90s were great, not that I ever got on board with Brit Pop, and then in the 2000s, I started to like less and less of what was happening. The 2010s onward didn't speak to me much; there's very little adult contemporary around now (rock music has disappeared altogether) - it seems it's all aimed at a very young demographic (25 and under) whereas the 70s was swimming with music for the over 30s. No mention of a booty-drop or other mildly veiled gratuitous sexual reference.

Back to this particular year though:

1974 was all about the chorus.  Brilliant catchy memorable choruses. Often, the songs released in 1974 had forgettable verses but exploded into a hooky chorus that would have you running out to Woolworths and parting with your 29p.  There's a lot of purity in this countdown - by which I mean, the messages are clear and the song structures conform to the accepted standards. There's nothing wrong with that however; it makes for good singles. Familiarity is always going to appeal more to the listener than something completely different or weird.  However, among the pure songs, there were shoots of odd appearing.

The main culprit was Peter Gabriel as frontman of Genesis - crowds gathering to watch his bizarre on-stage antics just as much as the music.  Sparks with their irregular time signatures, The Rubettes, Eddie Holman and the Stylistics with their soaring falsettos and Rupie Edwards bringing his brand of Reggae into a largely Reggae-less top 40. The general music buying public were getting tired of David Cassidy ballads and started buying Showaddywaddy, Drifters and ABBA instead.

This was the year before I was born so again, I'm not compling this list from any place of authority but I have listened to all 264 top 40 songs released in 1974 several times over and ranked the songs based on how good a single they are rather than how good a song they were. A single needs to sell - a song can mature over time and in some ways, act like a piece of art. Something you want to listen to for the textures and layers rather than a quick 3 minute blast of catchy joy.  That's not to devalue the art of the single as 'throw-away' - as you'll see from the list, a great single can also be a great song!

On with the Chart...

(40) Then  came  you  - Dionne Warwick  and  The  Detroit  Spinners

I love Dionne's voice. It's so distinctive and complemented this Philadelphia track perfectly.  This was her first real success of the 70s after her career had dwindled a bit. The Detroit Spinners were one of the most successful groups of the 70s so this was a marriage made in heaven. The swagger in this track is great - so infectious.

(39) Goodbye, Nothing to say - Javells and Nosmo King

I was enraged when I first heard this.  "That's 'Right back where we started from'", I yelled. Then read the Wiki - it was actually written first and 'right back' was a remake using a sample from this track. I calmed down to realised that it was vastly superior to the version by Sinitta! And anyway, it was Maxine Nightingale who had the first hit with it in 1976.

(38) Tiger Feet - Mud

It spent four weeks on top and became the best selling single of 1974. It would be six years before another best selling single of the year spent so few weeks on top. I have no idea what tiger feet are. I thought tigers had paws? Regardless, there was a production technique around this period of the 70s where the voice was doubled with another which sang an octave above but in a weird sort of parody fashion. Racey used this too later in the 70s (and there are numerous other examples) but these days, it seems fashionable to sound as much like Alvin and the chipmunks as possible and forget the art of vocal performance altogether. Kids these days eh?

(37) Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot

I first heard of Gordon when Johnny Cash covered If you could read my mind.  I'd call this country but I'm not sure if it is? It reminds me a lot of Sheryl Crow so I'm going to stick my neck out and say she's one his fans. I grew up in a household that played a lot of Country and Western - Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton et al.  I don't remember Gordon's pipes warbling though so maybe he wasn't part of that stable. This is a great single though.

(36) Magic - Pilot

This is a riot isn't it?  It's got such a raw 70s sound. 'Magic' was coining a phrase being used a lot at the time courtesy of the popular sitcom 'Oh No It's Selwyn Froggett'. Reached number 11 and paved the way for an even bigger hit the following year.

(35) (Hey There) Lonely Girl - Eddie Holman

One of the many songs this year featuring soaring falsetto - a voice you couldn't imagine coming out of the bloke who sang it. This is such a classic single, originally a hit in 1963 for Ruby and the Romantics under the title 'Lonely Boy'.  Eddie's version is quite forlorn and really gets you where it matters when he says 'Hey there lonely girl, don't you know this lonely boy loves you?'.  *sniff*


(34) Hey Rock and Roll - Showaddywaddy 

This first hit for Showaddywaddy reached number two.  I'm all for borrowing from bygone eras, especially if you can do something fresh.  This is in danger of being a bit dull but the chorus it catchy enough to prop the rest of it up.  What I know of them from the later 70s when I started watching Top of the Pops, I thought they had a really good look (not knowing anything about Teddy Boys etc.) and was fascinated by the lead singer (Dave Bartram) who I thought of as an ideal front man for band. I also liked the name of the band, which definitely appealed to a four year old. It was fun to say.






(33) Kung Fu Fighting - Carl Douglas 

Carl hit number one with this - I was never sure if it was a novelty record or not. It had all the soul disco hallmarks but had Kung Fu noises throughout.  It's a bit of a joke record these days but I'm guessing it was novel at the time and not so derided.  If you get a chance, listen to his follow up 'Dance the Kung Fu'. I mean, they say if something isn't broken, don't fix it.  However, just changing the lyrics and releasing the same song again, wasn't what they meant. He was in danger of being the latter-day Jamiroquai.  The joke about Jay Kay at the time was that they'd been given a five album deal but someone didn't tell them they had to release five different albums.


(32) Highways of my life - Isley brothers

This is pure summer. You'd mix tape this and take it to a field in the middle of nowhere with a picnic. The lyrics are a bit naff but they're sang with pure heart. If I had a time machine and and invisibility machine (or maybe just find some footage online) I'd love to be at the recording sessions of tunes like this and 'Summer Breeze'. Watch Stevie Wonder at work in his studio, laying down tracks; Isaac Hayes, Barry White - what a time to be alive.

(31) Bangin' Man - Slade

This needs more cowbell. But seriously, I had no idea how great Slade were until I started doing these countdowns. This would have charted in any era, especially the mid 80s when Poison, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard were all having their salad days.  Their follow up to this 'Far Far Away' was brilliant too but just missed my top 40 (see honourable mentions).

(30) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) - Genesis

This was the first the world heard from Peter Gabriel.  A lot of music fans find him difficult to understand but if you think of him as an artist, using anything he has at his disposal to tell a story, you're most of the way there.  This got to number 21 where their first five singles didn't chart. Nothing they did was chart friendly - the saving grace of this song was the chorus.  The album 'Selling England by the pound' is great too. 'So', his 1986 effort however, will remain one of the greatest albums of all time.

(29) Too good to be forgotten - The Chi-Lites

I don't know if the line in the opening verse 'one thing led to another' is creepy or not - especially when twinned with the line 'she made me forget my marbles'. Were they the mental kinds of marbles or actual marbles?  Anyway, this was the third hit in less than a year for this wonderful group. I used to frequent pub quizzes in the mid to late 90s and in the music round you could guarantee one of the answers would be The Chi-Lites. It must have been the compare's favourite group. You can see why.  This song gave Amazulu their biggest hit when it reached number five in 1986 - albeit sung from a female perspective.

(28) I won't last a day without you - The Carpenters

I wasn't sure about this when I first heard it but it grew on me. The chorus feels a little bit wasted after that wonderful verse - it doesn't quite lift you like 'Every sh-la-la-la every woah-oh-woah still shines'. But then, maybe when they were writing it, it was too close to that and they had to pare it back. Lovely song though and that voice echoes through the ages - hats off to whoever the engineer on this was; they captured Karen Carpenter's voice so well. It's as pure as a glass bell.

(27) Hot Shot - Barry Blue

Barry is great isn't he? King of the hook - ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly-ly... and the thumping chorus. This would have had everyone up off their seats at wedding receptions across the land. Baffling why stuff like this never made it out of the decade. I might start a mobile disco. Tell the world.

(26) Baby We Can't Go Wrong - Cilla Black

Cilla Black peaked at number 36 with the last of her 19 hits.  Listening to this in the 2020s without prejudice, it's a beautiful little ditty and I'm especially pleased she was using her 'sweet' voice on this and not the grainy one she sometimes cracked out and cracked my ear drums with. It's a sign of the times (1974) that this only just scraped the 40, mainly because she was 'old hat' at the time despite the song being something that would have charted well in the late 90s if done by someone like Moloko or Sixpence None the Richer. Shame on you record buying public of 1974!

(25) The Most Beautiful Girl - Charlie Rich 

This peaked at number two in the UK and number one in the States. I think this might not have made the top 40 of my list were it not for the superb change of atmosphere achieved by the 'Tell her I'm sorry, tell her I need my baby' and that violin... sometimes it's the little touches that add the magic.

(24) Sugar Baby Love - Rubettes 

Wow! This is so 50s it hurts. With the arpeggio vocal opening (which I first heard on Bowie's 'Let's Dance') and the impossibly high falsetto - it drags you through all the emotions. Bop-shoo-waddy-bop-shoo-waddy-waddy, they sang. I don't know if Showaddywaddy got any royalties for this? It sat at the top of the charts for four weeks because it grabbed your attention from the first second to the last.  Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington had created the band from session musicians after quite a few existing acts had rejected this song. But the apparent lead vocalist Alan Williams was miming the vocals to this song when performing. The vocals had actually been recorded by Paul Da Vinci (who later had a hit in his own right with "Your Baby Ain't Your Baby Anymore"). Later, band member Tony Thorpe formed a new band called The Firm in the early '80s, and had hits with Arthur Dayley e's alright in 1982 then in 1987 they reached number one with the godawful Star Trekkin'. It was like Shaddup you Face all over again.

(23) Honey Honey - Sweet Dreams

This is a cover of a track from Abba's 'Waterloo' album. Abba released their own version in America but not in the UK. Sweet Dreams were Polly Brown from Pickettywitch (the best band name of all time) and Ron Roker. This is the only charting track in history I'm aware of that has an actual Tuba playing the bass line. Any others?

(22) Floating in the Wind - Hudson-Ford

This has a lot of Beatles in it. They inspired countless musicians across the decades but when you hear something as nice as this, it makes you even more grateful for George Harrison's existence on this planet. I love the theramin in this (probably a Moog), the middle section is a joy followed by the synth solo which predated Gary Numan by a good few years. Check it out!

(21) W.O.L.D. - Harry Chapin

Proper MOR this. Stuff the Levellers or World Party were releasing in the early 90s.  I guess it's the stuff The Cure and the Charlatans were inspired by - if not directly by this song, definitely the production and soul of the genre - updated for their musical moment in time. I'd never heard this before compiling this list but apparently it's a bit of a classic. There are some songs which seem to have just stayed in the 70s, never creeping out into the other decades like most of ABBA and Queen's stuff.  In the 1974 list, I noted the novel use of delay which nobody seemed to be interested in. Probably thought it was gimmicky.  Is the delay on 'W.O.L.D.D.D.D.D.D.D.D.' gimmicky? Also, I wonder if Kenny Rogers did a version of this...

Harry Chapin died in a road accident in 1981 and his epitaph was taken from his song 'I wonder what would happen to this world' :

Oh if a man tried
To take his time on Earth
And prove before he died
What one man's life could be worth
I wonder what would happen
to this world

(20) Ring Ring - ABBA

Although this is quite raw and basic, it showed how exciting the future of this group was going to be. The tom tom break is quite unique and to reiterate a point of the 70s being the inspiration ground of a lot of my own musical heroes, to think a young Andy Bell of Erasure was playing this over and over in his bedroom, plotting his own meteoric musical career makes me very happy indeed. When I first saw ABBA in the late late 70s, I thought Luke Skywalker was the guitarist. I was very confused.

Did you spill my pint?

Did you spill my pint?

(19) The Poacher - Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance

Don't be put off by the fact this sounds like the introduction to an Open University program on early 80s TV. Also, ignore the line 'his mind upon his tackle'. It only got to 36 which sort of justifies the making of this list. Hardly anyone must have heard this song (unless you were a (small) Faces fan) and it's very jolly! 'How Come' was great too (see honourable mentions)




(18) Summer Breeze - The Isley Brothers

Gorgeous! Listen to those vocals and the response from the guitar in the chorus. I hear a lot of this in Seal's self-titled 1994 album which is also worth a spin. Not sure why they've got Jasmine in their mind. Maybe they like Aladdin?

(17) Sad Sweet Dreamer - Sweet Sensation

It's not often something this gorgeous comes from a TV talent show winner.  It got to number 1 but they only got into the chart one more time before loads of their singles failed to chart and they were dropped by their record company.  They opened the door for groups like Imagination and The Real Thing though.  It sounds like something the Jackson Five would have recorded and not had as big a hit with. Barry Johnson, the bass guitarist, later joined Aswad!



(16) Amateur Hour - Sparks

The first of two songs from this pair in my top 40.  Catchy hooks all over this, like velcro. The notes they use in the verse feel like they sat and planned them all one by one in a big meeting where twenty people get an opinion. It works though. The chorus gets stuck in your head all day too. There's a bit in the middle which sounds like U2 on their 'Boy' album - which was a good few years after this... so I don't know if the two are linked at all. And Yehudi Menuhin gets a cheeky mention in the third verse.

(15) Burn Baby Burn - Hudson-Ford

The stomping anthemic feel of this song is so good isn't it? The double time chorus about things being extremely dry and catching fire is superb too. It only made number 15 for some reason. Imagine buying this and sticking it on repeat all day. This is what singles are meant to sound like.



(14) Kissin' in the back row - The Drifters

A number 2 this - same as their 1960 single 'Save the last dance'.  Surprisingly, their last charting single was in 1976 even though I think they're still touring! It's such a nostalgic sound without sounding old.

(13) Listen to the Music - Doobie Brothers

How did this only get to number 29? Nobody knew who the Doobie Brothers were at the time I suppose but this is such a banging single it belies belief. It paved the way for Dr. Hook and the Bellamy Brothers to sneak into the charts with their folk guitar pop and that was a very good thing. Also, Michael McDonald has one of the best voices in music, a criminally underrated musician too.




(12) You ain't seen nothing yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Pity this is mostly associated with Smashie and Nicey as it's a brilliant song - associating it with a comedy sketch ruins it a bit. However, if you're not aware of that sketch then go treat yourself.  The delay guitar in the solo parts is the best thing about this closely followed by the power chords in the chorus. It only got to number 2 this and they never got as high again. They became B.T.O., split up, got back together and split up again. Randy Bachman left the band and became a songwriter for the Beach Boys.

(11) Rock your baby - George McCrae

Now I've made my chart, I'm thinking this should have been higher up than 11. It's brilliant. I think the opening tom-tom bit must have inspired Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' but I can't back that up.  This song is so smooth and George's voice is nothing other than wonderful. Never intrusive and complements that wobbly electric Mark One piano perfectly. This song is universally accepted as the first disco number one (in the UK at least). It's the bass line that defines it as Disco - even though it's not obvious. It hit number one unsurprisingly - but maybe the BBC strike had something to do with it. It wasn't on the telly so people either heard it on the radio or in their local disco. After recording with his wife Gwen didn't yeild any success, George managed his wife's solo career instead. This didn't go well either so when he heard 'Rock your baby' which was written by KC and the Sunshine Band, he wanted it! He got it. He's now a chart topping legend!

(10) I've got the music in me - The Kiki Dee Band

It took Kiki a year to return to the charts with her second hit. It's incredibly hooky so I'm surprised it only reached number 19. She had a very underrated voice, almost Janis Joplin-like. I reckon she was a bit like Heather Small - great voice but if she was to sing the stuff her voice suited, it wouldn't chart and she'd have no career. This song had huge appeal beyond it's number 19 placing however, it was covered by Thelma Houston, New Seekers, Heart, Tina Turner & Cher, Sheena Easton, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez.



(9) If you're ready (Come go with me) - The Staple Singers

Another number one single here which relies heavily on the 'come go with me' gospel-sounding hook. The breaks in between aren't verses and the little instrumentals are bridges with lucious bass and twangly guitars like a lovely jam around a groove. It feels like one of those sessions I used to have in a random person's student flat on a wednesday afternoon. Playing the same two chords over and over on a DX-7 whilst the one with the long hair played an endless solo and nobody knew when we were done and could go home.  This song is only 5 minutes long but it feels like 20. That's ok though because it's so nice.

(8) Can't get enough - Bad Company

This first hit for Bad Company was also the biggest of the three that they had, peaking at number 15. This song appeared on many of the 'greatest rock songs of all time' compilations I bought in the early '90s.  I can imagine this song not fitting into the landscape of 1974, as it sounds quite late-60s in it's production but it's got such a great guitar and drum sound. For fact fans, the guitar was tuned with an open-C which gives it that 'ring'. The harmony guitars during the solo are great too.

(7) Don't let the sun go down on me - Elton John

Elton is an example of someone way ahead of his time.  In five years, he released 16 singles and only hit the top ten with three of them - two of which were cover versions (Lucy in the Sky and Pinball Wizard).  The other was a collaboration with the much friendlier looking Kiki Dee.  It only reached 16 in 1974 and most of the other songs he released around this era and now considered classics. The music buying public of the time didn't agree however.  The thing that lets this song down is the second verse that doesn't rhyme or scan. This is fine if you're one of those arty bands or singers but Elton was a straight laced pop song maestro so it just came off clunky and off-putting.  That chorus though!   It had it's time in the sun when Elton re-recorded it with the help of George Michael in 1991. That release was a long time coming, as they had first sang it together at Live Aid in 1985.

(6) Waterloo - ABBA

Waterloo was ABBA's debut in the chart following their Eurovision Song Contest win. It went to number one within weeks and became a timeless classic. This is what I mean when I say 'great single'. You're in, you're entertained, you're out. It sweeps you up in it's energy and spits you out the other side. Thank heavens for record players that had the repeat function, sending the needle back to the beginning of the disc to go again.

(5) Living for the city - Stevie Wonder

Stevie peaked at number 15 with this. It's got so much soul, probably because Stevie played all the instruments on it.  It deals with systemic racism, A young black man from Mississippi is looking for work in New York and is framed for a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison for ten years. On a shallower note though, listen out for the T.O.N.T.O. Synthesizer.



(4) This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us - Sparks 

This was the first hit for the Mael brothers, and was also their biggest reaching number two. Rhythmic changes, changing time signatures, wails, gun sounds, tom toms, tacky tigers and a moustache made famous by Dennis the Menace's Dad, Charlie Chaplin and that other Austrian bloke.

(3) Rock the Boat - Hues Corporation

On initial release this song go no airplay at all and looked like it was going to disappear forever. Their first two singles barely touched the top 100. It was suddenly adopted by discos in New York and radio finally cottoned on. It hit number one in the states and top ten in the UK. Probably not the first disco genre hit but if it's not, it was close. It was covered in 1982 by Forrest (reaching number 4), which is where I first heard it but this version is superior. The single cover looks like the time they were all taken hostage.



(2) Laughter in the Rain - Neil Sedaka

When it reached number 15, it became Neil's biggest hit for 12 years. It's a gorgeous song with a sublime hook in the bridge into the chorus.  This song has never aged; even the 'of-the-time' sax solo sounds fresh. Neil's subtle vibrato brought most of what he sang to life and you can just see his smiling little face, grinning at you as you listen to this.

(1) Killer Queen - Queen

The second hit for Queen (the first was 'seven seas of rhye') spent two weeks at number two in November, being blocked from a place at the top by David Essex. The song had a total of 12 weeks in the top 40. The vocal treatments on this are phenominal for the time - all from the mind of Freddie. Brian May's guitar was unique for the time too.  Other pseudo-rock bands were using the sounds he was, but not in such an upfront way - making most of what he was doing, integral to the sound, the rhythm and the fabric of the song.  Hearing this for the first time in 1974 must have given you an indication of how bright this band's future was going to be.  Looking at Freddie on Top of the Pops however, you'd have been forgiven for thinking, maybe not.



Honourable Mentions

Devil Gate Drive - Suzi Quatro

This was Suzi's second number one. She had previously hit the top for one week with Can The Can eight months earlier, and then followed it with the top three hit 48 Crash, and Daytona Demon which sounded a lot like Glad all over. She managed to hold on to the top spot for two weeks with Devil Gate Drive, but it would be over four years before she appeared in the top five again. There's a moment in the middle of the song where she makes you feel like you're part of her biker gang. You really feel like you're in some kind of exclusive group of which she is the lord and master. It's nice.

Far Far Away - Slade

The Bass guitar is what makes this song. Although the song sounds simple, there's an underlying complexity to the structure, chords and melody that belies their rock frontage.  Having 'grown up' in the 80s and 90s, I paid particular attention to the singes and bands that were cited as influences by my heroes of that period. Having delved into the 70s, I'm shocked there weren't more contemporary artists lauding Slade. Maybe it was the Christmas song that overpowered their amazing body of work?

How Come - Ronnie Lane

Ronnie Lane (recently of the Faces) peaked at number 11 with this first of two solo hit singles. His band 'Slim Chance' included the duo of 'Gallagher & Lyle' who went on to have their own couple of hits in 1976. Very 50s skiffle this. I can hear Rod Stewart singing this in my head so it was either written with him in mind or not given to him to sing at all. Either way, it should have been Rod who sang this. It's one of the only songs I'm aware of that has an accordion solo.

Until you come back to me - Aretha Franklin

Stevie Wonder was one of the co-writers, but I don't know whether he ever recorded it. Not that big a hit for Aretha, it only reached number 26 despite making it to number three in the America. Aretha didn't hit the top 40 again until late 1985. At that point in my life, I was completely unaware of her Godess-like status and thought she was some singer from ancient days of yore trying to make a come back. Oops!

Pinball - Brian Protheroe

Brian only ever had this one hit, and he didn't rise any higher than number 22 with it. Brian has since worked as a session musician, and has written many TV themes. This is absolutely brilliant however.

I can help - Billy Swan

The first and only hit for Billy got to number six despite him looking like a darts player. Elvis did a version of this too!



Streets of London - Ralph McTell

Ralph spent two weeks at number two with his tale of the homeless. Look at his angry little face. He looks like someone just interrupted his session at the buskers night.

Spinnin' and Spinnin' - Syreeta

Presented by Stevie Wonder apparently, according to the record sleeve. Didn't sound like a Stevie Wonder song though. I played dizzy ducklings in the playground at junior school once and was violently sick on a dinner nanny. Not sure if it was a similar experience which inspired this song.






Ire Feelings - Rupie Edwards

You have to listen to this. It's brave and bold and fun and funny. I don't know what Skanga is and I have no idea what Ire Feelings are but this is excellent.

You little trustmaker - Tymes

What did you call me? The Tymes had reached number 21 with "So Much In Love" in 1963, and had then had to wait five years and eight months until 1969 for their second hit when "People" hit number 16. Now after a gap of five years and six months they were back again and on their way to number 18. Fortunately, they wouldn't have to wait long for their follow up to this, it hit the chart at the end of December.



Spotify playlist : 1973

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1973

I remember looking through one of those 'greatest hits' books that lists artists A-Z and tells you all the songs they released and what number they reached in the chart. Flicking through, I found Cliff Richard and saw how many songs he had and how few of them I'd ever heard. Made me wonder how he had so many top 20 hits that I'd never heard played anywhere - ever.

His 60s stuff was everywhere; repeats of his films on BB2 on a Saturday afternoon, nostalgia shows, variety shows and even oldies radio. But most of his songs seemed to be released, rocket up the charts to the top 10 and then disappear completely. I'd wager Cliff himself probably forgot he'd recorded most of them yet Living Doll and Summer Holiday hung around like that smell in the kitchen you can't discern the origin of.

In 1973 there were some artists whose songs got into the chart on Merit, not because of who they were (see David Bowie - The Laughing gnome) and the songs actually had something about them. What I mean by this is that the artist had become bigger than their music - it was more a case of, ooh, T-Rex and Slade have released their new songs, let's go and buy them regardless, rather than hearing a catchy tune on the radio, finding out who it was and then going to buy it because of the quality of the song. I'm not saying artists got to number 1 on this basis but there were some definite duffers in the top 20 which really shouldn't have been there and songs which since disappeared without a trace for good reason.

There were a lot of very similar sounding songs in 1973 (and a lot of the 70s actually) - like everyone was influencing each other. Wings released 'Helen Wheels' which was a kind of blues riff made to sound like Status Quo and nothing like Live and Let Die - and lots of the heavy rock and heavy metal bands of the time were using Chuck Berry staples to build songs around. Very simplistic songs which were ideal for singles which were meant to be bought, listened to non-stop for a week and then thrown in the cupboard to be replaced by the next big single. Alvin Stardust's 'My Coo Ca Choo' was just a rehash of 'Singing the Blues' for example but nobody really cared - he was 'cool' and wore leather a lot.

Using tried and tested formulas rather than going for something radical was normal in the early 70s. There was a great deal of innovation however, but it was confined to the darkened corners of places 21 to 40 in the charts. The 'safe' songs were true singles though. Songs that were meant to capture the moment, what people wanted to hear and buy and written specifically to chart highly - especially when The Partridge Family released cover versions of songs their record company knew would sell based on their popularity regardless of the quality of the track.

Often, there wasn't a great deal of care or attention paid to writing something that would echo through the ages except for a quick blast of nostalgia. The Carpenters and Abba managed to write tunes which were truly timeless (Abba weren't a thing in 1973 though). Perry Como had some fantastic songs but they were of the 'Granddad singing you to sleep' type and as music production moved forward and tastes changed (or the demographic of those buying most of the physical vinyl records changed), the charts split off into various subcultures and there was suddenly a place for music which wasn't as accessible as a track by The Sweet or T-Rex.

However, in my top 40 of 1973 you'll see that there were some artists who were getting away with being different and novel and creating something that would shift the musical glacier another inch down the valley towards the explosion (and main-stream acceptance) of weirdness we had in the 1980s. On with the Chart...

(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.





Honourable Mentions

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.