Dave’s Top Ten List: Worst Songs of the ’70s

I woke up yesterday morning haunted by my dream. Not by the dream itself—that was fairly typical (I was about to teach a course I’m completely unqualified to teach, and for about six hours I couldn’t find the classroom)—but by the soundtrack. Almost all my dreams have soundtracks, and I wake up with the last song in my head, and it’s almost never good; it’s usually from my childhood, one of those songs that stuck in my head no matter how much I hated it, out of sheer repetition.

The song that morning was “Sing a Song,” by the Carpenters, from 1973. (It was the #1 song for that year.) I asked my wife if she would agree that it was the Worst Song Ever, and she said that while it was certainly bad, it may not be the very worst song of all time—in fact, she said, it might not even be the worst song of the ’70s. And that started a conversation that led to this: my list of the worst songs of the ’70s.

As it turns out, there are many, many bad songs from that wonderful decade, and it was painfully difficult to narrow it down to ten. So to make up for such a negative list, I thought I’d try appending a list of the BEST songs from the same decade as well—but that proved to be even harder. My one rule for both lists is that I couldn’t include any obscure songs (e.g. “Mary Queen of Arkansas” from “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle” or any track from the Bay City Rollers second album). Most, if not all of the songs below made the Billboard Top 100 for the years they were released. Without further ado, then: the Worst Songs of the ’70s. And please feel free to debate my selections by way of Comments at the end!

Top Ten Worst Songs of the ’70s

1. “Let ‘Em In (Someone’s Knocking at the Door)”by Wings. As it turns out, Cynthia was right. “Sing a Song” is NOT the worst hit song of that decade. This one is. From its annoying opening to its simply awful base line (one can practically feel the musicians falling asleep) to its trombone solo (trombone solo!) to its stupid flute riff, to its inane lyrics, this song absolutely takes the cake. Side note: Why does everyone love McCartney? More than half of his hits are silly little love songs. (What’s wrong with that? Everything.)

Go ahead, have a listen. See if you disagree.

2.”Muskrat Love”—Willis Alan Ramsey, then Captain and Tenille. You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s as if the ’60s (Dylan? Hendrix?) never happened. (See also “Ben” by Michael Jackson, another rodent love song, this time depicting an inter-species affair with a human.)

Want to throw up? Watch this video:

3. “Sing a Song”—the Carpenters. Pure drivel. Then again, this seemed to be the decade for such saccharine-laden happy-happy songs—see the above selections plus “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., “Everything Is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens, and “Playground in My Mind” by Clint Holmes (“My name is Michael/I got a nickel…”)

4. “Feelings” by Morris Albert. It’s about a noun. It could have been written by a suicidal 14-year-old submitting to her high-school literary magazine in a last-ditch attempt to garner sympathy from the would-be lover who spurned her in front of everyone in the cafeteria. Feelings? Whoa whoa whoa, feelings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q3CZNKgnNE

5. “Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates. The worst thing you could say about a three-minute song is that it feels like a seven-minute song. (Side question: Hall and Oates had SIX #1 hits. Can you name just one that doesn’t suck?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Red3R17FlUQ

6. “Have You Never Been Mellow?” by Olivia Newton John. I couldn’t decide between this song and her other horrible hits of the ’70s (“I Honestly Love You,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “With a Little More Love”), but in the end, the title question itself is what put it over the top.

7. “You’re Sixteen” by Ringo Starr. You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and the 33-year-old guy singing this to you is a pervert.

8.”Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. People should never sing about sex while using their Jesus voices. (Or while wearing a pink jacket and playing air guitar. Please, oh please, watch the first few seconds of this video:)

9. “Don’t Give Up on Us” by David Soul. Soul is the “actor” from the hit TV show, “Starsky and Hutch”. ‘Nuff said.

10. “I Just Want to Stop” by Gino Vanelli. It probably doesn’t deserve to be on this list (he barely eeked out masterpieces by Peaches and Herb and Sean Cassidy), but I have a visceral reaction to this song: every time it comes on, I want to pull my car off the highway and plunge 3,000 feet to my death.

Dishonorable Mention: “You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone. I originally had it on the list, but my wife didn’t think it should be on it, and then I remembered singing along to it the first seventeen or eighteen times I heard it. But still.

Bad Songs that Probably Could Have Made This List But I Couldn’t Help Loving Them Because I Was Young and Stupid At the Time: “Precious and Few” by Climax, “Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” by the Fifth Dimension, “Day After Day” by Badfinger (yes, Badfinger), “Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim, and “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. But none more embarrassing than “Shannon” by Henry Gross, which I absolutely loved, and sang along to in my expert falsetto while alone in my room. (It’s about a dead dog. Not even the songwriter’s own dead dog. Someone else‘s dead dog.)

Other Songs I Sang Along to in My Expert Falsetto: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “Stone in Love” by the Stylistics, and “Have You Seen Her?” by the Chi-lites. Also early Michael Jackson songs, and of course Smokey Robinson.

Other Bad Songs About Death That Were Indeed Quite Catchy: “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks and “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

Most Popular Awful ’70s Song: “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. And because I hate it so much, I seemed doomed to hear it at every beach town I visit.

Glaring Omission: “Havin’ My Baby,” by Paul Anka. Really, one of the Worst Songs Ever. Thanks to my cuz-in-law Kelly Ciravalo for calling this egregious error to my attention.

And now, just because you stayed with me this long, here’s my list of the Top TEN Best Songs of the ’70s (along with the links to their studio versions, so you may crank them through your headphones when compelled to do so).

Warning: Before you get all up in arms at my selections, I would advise you to try this at home. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to pick ten songs from this decade and not leave out DOZENS that you love. And remember: This is NOT my list of what are (objectively) the “BEST” songs; it’s my list of MY favorite songs. So there.

1. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (Go ahead, name a better rock and roll song. I dare you.)

2. “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips

3. “Baba O’Riley (Teenage Wasteland)” by the Who

4. “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-5c5o85SGo

5. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by the Looking Glass

6. Tie: “Rocket Man” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John

7. “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac

8. “Shambala” by Three Dog Night

9. “Sweet Jane” by the Velvet Underground

10. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. (Tough to choose between this and “Take Me to the River”)

{youtube}COiIC3A0ROM{/youtube}

(Bonus Track)

11. “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzG64syKHA

Someday We’ll Be Together,” by Diana Ross and the Supremes would have made the list had it been released just two weeks later. As it is, I’ll save it for my list of the Best Songs of the 60s:

And because no Best Of list is compete without the Rolling Stones, here’s my favorite single of theirs from the ’70s, “Happy

And here’s the best late-’70s song that nobody knew about until the 80s: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles:

Most Heinous Omissions from this List: London Calling” by the Clash, “Roundabout” by Yes, and “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith.

Most Interesting Hit Songs: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

’70s Song I’m Most Embarrassed to Love:Sister Golden Hair” by America.

Best ’70s songs featured in car scenes from 21st-century films: “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire (in the French film “The Intouchables”) and “Heroes” by David Bowie (in “Perks of Being a Wallflower”)

Best ’70s song title: (Tie)”Pop That Thang,” by the Isley Brothers and Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls

Best Song with Least Lyrical Effort: “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang (total number of words: 4)

Worst line from a great song: “I am, I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair” (Neil Diamond).

Song I Sang Along Quite Loudly to in My Car: “Lido Shuffle,” by Boz Scaggs.

’70s Song Most Obsessed Over by Half the Nation for No Apparent Reason: “American Pie” by Don McClean

The Most Painfully Neglected Genres on this List: punk (the Ramones came this close, I swear) and disco (Donna Summer! Michael Jackson!).

Well, as Casey Kasem used to say, “There you have it”—the best and worst of that wonderful decade we call the ’70s. This was so much fun that I think I’ll take on the ’60s—or maybe the ’80s—next.

Feel free to comment below!

By |2017-07-11T18:02:08+00:00August 7th, 2013|Blog|

45 Comments

  1. ken March 3, 2015 at 3:18 am - Reply

    Great lists – and you are correct, it is an impossible task to condense a list like this, so shame on you for even trying (but it sure was fun to read). A clarification on the worst songs: in my opinion, they are so bad that they actually cross back into awesomeness for their sheer suckitude. Put another way, any of those songs come on in the car and I am wailing along.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks April 1, 2015 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I know what you mean, Ken. I’ve belted out all kinds of crap in the car, making sure first that the windows are closed. 🙂

  2. steve March 10, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

    Not sure which is funnier your list of worst songs or some you included in your best songs. Ha, ha, ha!

  3. Rich Connelly March 11, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    When it comes to the best, there’s a couple you’re forgetting.
    Best rock song from the 70s?
    Toss-up between Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky” and “Bang a Gong” by T. Rex.
    Each way ahead of ts time..
    And as far as a pure pop masterpiece is concerned?
    “Dancing In The Moonlight”, by King Harvest.
    I have never once played that song on a jukebox and subsequently had someone object to it.

  4. Rich Connelly March 12, 2015 at 8:36 am - Reply

    When it comes to the worst, always remember and never forget…
    “Run, Joey,Run” by David Geddes.
    If you’re ever throwing a party, and there are people straggling at the end of the night who won’t leave,spin that one.
    They’ll be asking fort their hats and coats in no time flat.

  5. Terrence Martin January 2, 2016 at 2:06 am - Reply

    If you want a nominee from the disco category, try “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees. Also, I would have included “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace as one of the worst ’70s songs. Overall, good job. Some of the ones you have on this list made my own “Sixty Songs I Love to Hate” list.

    • Jeff Cody February 14, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Don’t forget Paper Lace’s other gem Billy Don’t Be A Hero.

    • zooeyhall February 16, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

      I couldn’t agree more about “The Night Chicago Died”. Truly gadawful! The music sounds like it was played by a band of demons from hell. The lyrics make no sense. I know most bands were stoned out of their heads during the 70’s, but the people who wrote and performed this song must have been on some experimental CIA drug.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks February 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      Aargh! How could I forget “Disco Duck”?? Probably because I don’t even consider it a song. And yet it is. Thank you, Terrence.

    • Louise April 14, 2017 at 4:00 am - Reply

      Obviously we all have songs we love the most and some we hate but The Night Chicago Died is one I love. Some of his favs are not my favs and some of his worst are not to me. One of his worst songs I never even hear of. I find that the 70’s had the best music overall. I love the oldies. Music started to suck in the 80’s but there were still some goodies. Music got progressively worse since then. Now most of it sucks and rap is crap.

  6. Karie January 17, 2016 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Some of those songs are pretty corny, but Sara Smile should not be on a list of bad songs! I also happen to really like Olivia Newton John. Variety’s the spice of life, as they say.

  7. zooeyhall November 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    I came of age in the 70’s. And even I have to admit it was a decade where popular music reached a low point of saccharine over-sweetness, and empty headed feel-good songs. Truly the decade of the “smiley face”.

    If you want to know why punk rock needed to come along, just listen to some of these songs.

  8. GB February 3, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    “Brandy” was drivel and should have been on the worst list.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks February 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Well of COURSE it’s drivel. If you’re never found yourself singing along at the top of your voice to a pop song that’s absolute drivel, then you haven’t lived, my friend.

  9. Bob February 19, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    No Lovin You by Minnie Ripperton? Okay, credit where credit is due. It’s impressive in a technical sense vocally. Ripperton takes the human voice to places the human voice was never intended to go. Of course, it turns out there’s a reason the human voice was forbidden from going there in the first place.

    “Loving you is easy cause you’re beautiful, Doot en doot en doo, AAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaah” That last … noise …. starts somewhere up in the piccolo register and descends from there like Lucifer being thrown from heaven.

    Knowing that it was written for/to her infant daughter somewhat forgives the utter vapidity of the lyrics, but nothing excuses that screech.

    You’re Sixteen is actually kinda catchy, and if it’s a guilty pleasure with only the age-inappropriate factor bothering you, it may help to know that it wasn’t really a “70s song”. Ringo’s version did come out in late 1973 when Ringo was as you point out in his early 30s, but it was first released in fall 1960, when Ringo was only 20 himself. Nostalgically deciding to do a cover without stopping to consider “hey,at my age, these lyrics are kinda skeevy” is … okay, yes unfortunate implications, but it seems more like “I maybe didn’t think about this as much as I should have” than “I am a total perv.”

    @David Hicks: There’s a scene in the movie Tommy Boy where Chris Farley and David Spade are having a fight about what to play on the radio. They change channels a couple of times, and the Carpenters’ “Superstar” comes on. They look at each other uncomfortably muttering about how lame it is, Farley says “You can change it if you want”, Spade says “I don’t care, it’s up to you”, Farley says “I can live with it if you can” … Gilligan cut and they’re rolling down the highway, both of them belting out “Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby” at the top of their lungs.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks February 20, 2017 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Killer comment. The Ripperton song made me tear my hair out, I agree with everything else you say, even your criticism of the Ringo song. (And I love the Carpenters song too.) Thanks Bob, whoever you are!

  10. gin12 February 22, 2017 at 5:57 am - Reply

    You left out Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks and Billy Dont Be A Hero by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods n the top worst list.. among many other worst of 70’s. Dont think Mccartneys Let Em In deserves number 1, others are more deserving. Dont think Sara Smile is the worst but to each his own.

  11. Phillip Gangale March 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Streisand and Summer “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough). Those two women were at the pinnacle of their popularity and as such could take a hot steamy turd on a piece of wax and it would be a hit. A boring pop/disco record. Play that record at a retro disco club and they will run for the exits. There is a reason you always find that record in used record store bargin bins right next to Engelbert Humperdinck LPs.

  12. andy December 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Am I the only one who hates Alone again, naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan?

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks December 22, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

      No, you are certainly not! Man, that song was SO overplayed… Great, and now it’s in my head. Thanks a lot! 🙂

  13. Mike December 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    “Playgrounds of my mind” and “run Joey run” should be on the list of worst seventies songs also. I admit there are quite a few though.

  14. Mons December 16, 2017 at 4:46 am - Reply

    I’d like to suggest “Save All Your Kisses For Me” by the Brotherhood of Man as one of the worst songs of the 70s, with that godawful closing line..”even though you’re only threee…” that had the DJ saying “Ahhh!” every time it was played.
    And let’s take a moment to ponder the wonderfully 70s naffness of the name “Brotherhood of Man”.

  15. Chuck Zak January 16, 2018 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Wildly uneven list, but ok. But no one ever mentions Chicago when singling out the worst 70s music. I know they had some decent hits, and that they wouldn’t truly hit rock bottom until the 80s, but I just wanted to complain about how dull they are, Terry Kath or not

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      I confess to absolutely loving “Feeling Stronger Every Day.” There, I said it.

  16. Bob April 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe you put Brandy on your top 10 list. That song is right up with Muskrat Love if you ask me.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      I know. It’s an emotional choice. While I’m at it, I should say that I also love Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” Same category.

  17. Jack Myers April 15, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

    What about “Get up and boogie” by the Sylvers, or “Who’s in the strawberry patch with Sally?” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.
    “Una palomo blanca” is surely worse than anything Olivia Newton John did. Debbie Boone’s “You light up my life” certainly is more awful than “Sara Smile” And what about Helen Reddy’s “Ruby red dress (leave me alone)”?

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Those are truly stinkers that I didn’t consider. “Leave Me Alone” was insufferable. But I did sing along (while alone in my car) to the first few dozen plays of “You Light Up My Life,” so I couldn’t include it, much to my embarrassment.

  18. RxCowboy May 6, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    How can “Mandy” not be in any list of worst songs of the seventies?

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Because I sang along to that piece of drivel, about 100 times, hand on my heart, full volume. Love that fucking song. I can’t help it.
      WHY IS EVERYONE ACTING LIKE THEY DON’T SECRETLY LOVE SOME GOD-AWFUL POP SONGS THAT EVERYONE WITH AN OUNCE OF COOL IS SUPPOSED TO HATE?

  19. Neil May 9, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately it is only possible to fit 10 songs into the worst 10 songs of the 1970s. But, ”The Way That You Do It” by Pussyfoot (1976) is a true train wreck from start to finish.

    A few other notable mentions:
    ”Single Bed” by Fox (1976)
    “Mississippi” by Pussycat (1976)
    “Moving Out Today” by Carole Bayer Sager (1977).

    1976 was such a cracker of a year lol

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Oh my god, those are awful. Thank you for your excellent contributions.

  20. Neil May 15, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Here is an alternate list of the worst 10 songs of the 1970s (no double ups of either songs or artists from David’s list, but includes some suggestions from the people who have commented above).

    1. ‘Disco Duck’ by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (1978)
    2. ‘Convoy’ by C.W. McCall (1975)
    3. ‘The Way That You Do It’ by Pussyfoot (1976)
    4. ‘The Streak’ by Ray Stevens (1974)
    5. ‘Alone Again, Naturally’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan (1972)
    6. ‘You’re Having My Baby’ by Paul Anka (1974)
    7. ‘Cherish’ by David Cassidy (1972)
    8. ‘Single Bed’ by Fox (1976)
    9. ‘Mississippi’ by Pussycat (1976)
    10. ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ by Melissa Manchester (1978)

    As an added bonus ‘I’ve Been To Paradise But Never Been To Me’ by Charlene – originally released in 1977 but disappeared without trace. It was re-released in 1982 and reached #3 on US Billboard Hot 100. So it might not technically count as a 70’s disaster.

    • David Hicks
      David Hicks June 17, 2018 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      I hate/love this list! You win–those songs are truly awful.

  21. tommyboy August 2, 2018 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks for making this. Found some great songs on your 10 worst list. The ONJ song will be added to my top 500 (seriously, how is it worse than her overplayed monstrosity from Grease?). By the way, what’s the godawful song from either the 60’s or 70’s that goes “ee-oh!” (two beats go by) “WHEE-oh!” The singing is syncopated over a straight quarter-note beat. I think it’s some one hit wonder and the Oldies stations played it a lot about 15-20 years ago and haven’t played it since. I honestly remember that being all there is to the song. Does anybody know the song title or the artist who performs it?

  22. Steve September 9, 2018 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Damn; Havin’ My Baby or Disco Duck? That is a tough choice. At least one had Band of Idiots in the name of his group so they at least acknowledged their suckiness.

    BTW, Jungle Boogie, has eight words, not four.

    Born to Run isn’t even Bruce Springsteen’s best song let alone the #1 rock & roll song. Can’t believe Freebird or Stairway to Heaven aren’t at the top of the list. Yes, both were way overplayed but so was Born to Run.

    Won’t Get Fooled Again was the best song off of Who’s Next

    Shambala??? Are you kidding? Joy to the World was better than that and still sucked.

    This is fun stuff though. Keep it up. As they say, “Opinions are like assholes…..”

  23. Logan Clapp September 10, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Lost in love (Air Supply) & I want you to want me (Cheap Trick): even though both songs have some cheesy qualities and can even be considered guilty-pleasures, the lyrics were some of the most frank, emotional, and relatable I’ve ever heard. These two songs will tempt you to sing-along and share its emotions.

  24. dave November 6, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    If no one commented that “If” by the band Bread belongs on your worst song list than color me shocked.

  25. Grumpy Geezer November 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash? At least you admit to loving it. This is a great up-beat number especially for those with a fondness for reggae.

    We all have our own list – formalised or not. Here’s mine – and we have some common ground:

    https://www.geezerspot.com/single-post/2018/11/19/Shit-List-The-worst-songs-ever

Leave A Comment