100 Best Songs of the 1970s 30 – 21

100 Best Songs of the 1970s | NME.COM.

30 Al Green – ‘Let’s Stay Together’

Released: December 1971

Produced and written with legendary Memphis soul man Willie Mitchell, Al Green’s persuasive soul smoothie slinked to No.1 in the States – his only single to do so – and a dozen years later provided Tina Turner with her big return to the limelight. As with all Green’s tunes from a classic period, lazy horns offer the perfect bed for his keening falsetto, soaking the song with heat and lust.

29 The B52’s – ‘Rock Lobster

Released: April 1978

The song that apparently pushed John Lennon back into the studio after half a decade’s househusbandry, ‘Rock Lobster’ is a ludicrous platter of fish-related silliness, surf guitar and horror movie ticks – like a wacky pop Cramps. Fred Schneider is the man talk-singing over the top, but it’s the inspired mix of spooky 50s rock and new wave that makes this more than a curiosity.

28 Kraftwerk – ‘The Model’

Released: May 1978

For such an unusually catchy tune ‘The Model’ took years to make an impact, starting life as a snappy pop interlude on 1978’s ‘The Man Machine‘ before becoming a single that was largely overlooked until the end of 1981 when it suddenly pelted up the UK charts right to No.1. Creating an actual song, Kraftwerk beat the pop stars at their own game.

27 ABBA – ‘Dancing Queen’

Released: August 1976

Separate it from the weddings, hen parties, endless party showings of Mamma Mia and screeching karaoke versions and – well – here you have one of the greatest pop songs ever. It’s difficult to shake the baggage, sure, but soon you’re swept up by the trilling piano, easy beats and elegant meld of Agnetha and Frida’s voices on the single that gave ABBA their only US No.1.

26 Lou Reed – ‘Walk On The Wild Side’

Released: November 1972

Lou Reed’s one real solo hit was written for the freaks and uniques who visited Andy Warhol’s Factory studio, a hymn to hedonism and shunning the flock. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson it’s also got a woozy sax solo from Bowie’s old teacher Ronnie Ross and that bassline from Herbie Flowers, later to give A Tribe Called Quest their one real hit.

25 David Bowie – ‘Life On Mars?

Released: December 1971

It was a couple of years before this was released as a single in the wake of Ziggymania, but it still had the resonance to make the Top 3 in the UK. Its weird origins bear repeating – Bowie first wrote it to the tune of Claude François’s ‘Comme D’Habitude’ which eventually became the hoary old Sinatra standard ‘My Way’. Prog rock wizard Rick Wakeman plays stately piano.

24 AC/DC – ‘Highway To Hell’

Released: July 1979

AC/DC’s cut-glass rocking terrahawk caused some consternation on release, what with that title and butter-wouldn’t-melt schoolboy Angus Young‘s devil horns and tail on the album cover, but really it was a coded moan about touring. Still, the riff is Keefy dynamite and singer Bon Scott – who would die just a few months later – has just the right Satanic squeal.

23 Tubeway Army – ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’

Released: April 1979

Pale-faced synth pioneer (from Slough) Gary Numan fashioned a high concept around his debut hit, a world where an isolated public communicates with cyber ‘friends’ – oh God, it’s happened. The powerful marching riff took it the top of the hit parade, and did the same for the Sugababes a couple of decades later when Richard X cunningly reworked his mash-up of Adina Howard’s ‘Freak Like Me’.

22 Sugarhill Gang – ‘Rapper’s Delight’

Released: November 1979

Hip hop’s first proper hit was mired in controversy. Sugar Hill label boss Sylvia Robinson had co-opted a trio of obscure rappers to make that pop crossover but they were accused of stealing their rhymes. Still, the track’s bed of Chic’s ‘Good Times’ was a fresh move – and repeated countless times over the years – and whatever their provenance, couplets about Holiday Inn are ludicrous and immortal.

21 Marvin Gaye – ‘Let’s Get It On’

Released: June 1973

After getting all that political conscience stuff out of the way on ‘What’s Going On’, Marvin Gaye went straight for the groin with ‘Let’s Get It On’, soundtracking a million and more trysts with tumbling funk and a begging vocal that would teeter on the edge of “Let it go, Marv” embarrassment if it wasn’t so downright persuasive. Bet it worked too.

100 Best Songs of the 1970s 40 – 31

100 Best Songs of the 1970s | NME.COM.

40 The Knack – ‘My Sharona

Released: June 1979

Well, it deserves its place if only for – allegedly – inspiring Girls Aloud’s second single ‘No Good Advice‘. Otherwise LA band The Knack’s debut single is the one memorable note of an on-off 30-year career, a Mike Chapman (of Blondie fame) production with a spiky riff that punkifies the power pop and pushed the track all the way to a Billboard No.1.

39 Bee Gees – ‘Stayin’ Alive’

Released: November 1977

It’s unlikely you can listen to this without seeing the brothers Gibb swinging fearlessly around a building site or John Travolta strutting down the urban catwalk, but at a few decades’ remove ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is an astonishing record even without the iconography. A peerless piece of disco drama that almost sent a career into parody – but hey, they sure got rich.

38 Sex Pistols – ‘Anarchy In The UK

Released: November 1976

The Sex Pistols‘ first single was bundled out within weeks of their signing by an EMI keen to strike while the phlegm was flying. ‘Anarchy In The UK’ was – and is – an incendiary blast of noise, spite and fury, a suitable overture and a sneering threat to a quaking establishment. It wasn’t long before they were drafted onto Thames Television’s Today show, just in time to swear at Bill Grundy.

37 Iggy And The Stooges – ‘Search And Destroy’

Released: February 1973

In which we learned Iggy Pop was “a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm”. To be honest, we had a hunch. The Bowie-sponsored Stooges were on a hiding to nothing as far as cold hard cash was concerned but with sweaty, steely rawk like ‘Search And Destroy’ they would reveal their hand as dodgy uncles of punk.

36 Sly And The Family Stone – ‘Family Affair’

Released: November 1971

A supergroup on the (ahem) sly, this, as Stone ditched the Family and drafted in soul legends Bobby Womack and Billy Preston on guitar and Rhodes piano respectively. Sly’s sister Rose sticks around for some counterpoint vocals but this is the great man’s own show – most memorable for his purring lead, least memorable for being sampled on Deacon Blue’s 1991 single ‘Closing Time’.

35 Gladys Knight And The Pips – ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’

Released: August 1973

“Woo-woo!” The Pips’ deathless contribution to one of Gladys Knight’s best loved tunes is an impression of a steam train. All the rest of the song’s swinging soul power is down to Knight’s convincing devotion to a man whose dreams of LA stardom have gone tits up, and Jim Weatherly‘s less-is-more lyric: “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine”. Devastating.

34 Rod Stewart – ‘Maggie May’

Released: May 1971

Rod the Mod’s first solo No.1 wasn’t even supposed to be an A-side but it only took a fortnight for it to elbow ‘Reason To Believe’ off the front of the disc. The mandolin – played by Ray Jackson, not John Peel who mimed on Top Of The Pops – was a big factor, but it’s Rod’s throaty rasp and bawdy tale of a young chap mixed up with an older woman that give the song its lasting character.

33 Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Going On’

Released: January 1971

The title track to Marvin Gaye’s conscious-soul masterpiece was nothing less than a gamechanger. Marking a shocking desertion of his more trad Motown work, it gave label boss Berry Gordy the heebee-geebees, but commercially speaking, worked a treat. The single went to No.2 in the States, the album to the top of NME’s all-time albums list in 1985.

32 Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’

Released: August 1970

Back when heavy metal could make the Top 5 in the UK, Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ cemented itself in the national psyche and became an anthem Ozzy Osbourne’s never quite been able to shake off. With good reason: Ozzy’s on fine – albeit incomprehensible – form, Tony Iommi sets the riff to ‘bludgeon’ and Geezer Butler and Bill Ward keep that rhythm section galloping. Heads down, everyone.

31 Television – ‘Marquee Moon’

Released: February 1977

Television didn’t quite have the punk knack. A 10-minute single? That’s the short sharp shock defined. Still, they brought something new the table with their muso chops and – specifically – the spellbinding guitar interplay between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. First they fire off taut licks at each other, later they solo all over the joint, and ‘Marquee Moon’ never gets boring.