100 Best Songs of the 1970s 90 – 81

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

90 Madness – ‘One Step Beyond’

Released: October 1979

Originally a B-side from Jamaican artist Prince Buster, ‘One Step Beyond’ was turned into a hit by Madness, who as pioneers of the British ska scene, remade it as a giddy runaround jam. It remains an effervescent festival favourite to this day.

89 The Specials – ‘A Message To You Rudy’

Released: October 1979

It wasn’t all unemployed grimness in ghost towns round The Specials’ way. Their seminal cover of Dandy Livingstone’s 1967 rocksteady track showed they could skank along gaily with the most light-hearted of them, and as one of the key tracks on their 1979 debut album, this was a turning point for the blooming 2Tone label.

88 The Kinks – ‘Lola’

Released: June 1970

Spending the night flirting with and romancing a lady who turned out to be a man in a dress might be something that most men would try to sweep under the carpet. No such luck for The Kinks manager Robert Wace, who had his unfortunate encounter immortalised in what would become one of the band’s most iconic songs.

87 Roxy Music – ‘Virginia Plain’

Released: August 1972

The ’70s can get tarred with being the decade of glam rock by people who think glam rock must always be naff. But this opening salvo from Bryan Ferry’s crew showed how it should be done; swaggering and stylish, suave and incredibly sexy.

86 Leonard Cohen – ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’

Released: August 1974

In which the folkster recounts a sexual encounter at one of the most famous Bohemian hostelries. Rather ungallantly, Cohen revealed that the lady in question had been Janis Joplin, which he lived to regret, saying later, “an indiscretion for which I’m very sorry, and if there is some way of apologising to the ghost, I want to apologise now, for having committed that indiscretion.”

85 Buzzcocks – ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’

Released: September 1978

The sound of caffeine itself, as Manchester’s princes of punk wind themselves up so tightly with panic and sexual frustration that when they finally let it all out, it explodes into one of the most thrilling and anarchic singles in all of punk rock. Just awesome.

84 Joni Mitchell – ‘Big Yellow Taxi

Released: July 1970

The decade’s ultimate hippie song, as Joni looks out across the landscapes of Hawaii and just sees just concrete, and her heart sinks. Yet for all the bleakness and doom of the song’s subject matter, the song sounds warm and optimistic. Which was probably misplaced really. Goodness knows how Joni must be feeling now.

83 Althea & Donna – ‘Uptown Top Ranking’

Released: 1978

Being a one-hit wonder isn’t all that bad when your hit is at classy as this. Jamaican teenagers Althea and Donna, thanks to the championship of John Peel, caused a chart surprise by scoring a number one with this sweet and catchy reggae jam. After which time, their work here was done.

82 Giorgio Moroder – ‘Chase’

Released: October 1978

The pioneer of the synthesiser was wildly ahead of his time when he composed this sleek and pulsating throbber. As the classically-influenced theme from Alan Parker’s Midnight Express, the soundtrack would go on to win an Oscar.

81 Chic – ‘Le Freak

Released: October 1978

The signature tune of disco’s premiere outfit – so, therefore, the ultimate signature tune of disco itself. It is not physically possible to be in the presence of ‘Le Freak’ without dancing on command, which is ironic considering the song is actually about not being able to get into Studio 54 – so having your own party on the street anyway.


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