If you were like me in the 1970’s you listened to top 40 radio most of the time. You heard a lot of great songs and instant classics. But among them were many unforgettable songs that were just weird or strange. I’ve tried from memory to remember the ones that stand out in my mind.
For weird reasons they became hits. They either made no sense or having any musical merit. Just a bizarre era of story songs.
Of course, this stuff is all pretty subjective but I did have a few criteria for what should be here. I decided to include a song if it:
- made me sick without even listening to it again
- made me want to break my radio
- made my stomach turn
- brought out violent thoughts of hatred, revenge, etc.
- reminded me how lame the radio and record companies are
- could make me want to break my stereo
- would make me leave a bar or club if they started playing it
- would make me boo a band who started playing it
- suspended my belief in a divine force that governs the universe
I’m not saying that there weren’t ANY good songs during the 70s but there was just a truck-load of waste back then. If anybody’s stupid enough to think that ALL disco sucks, remember that it’s just a bastard son of rhythm & blues just like rock’n’roll is- so they’re related, see? Also, the 1970s definitely didn’t have a monopoly on shitty music- there was tons of crap unleashed on us in the decade before and after and now also (there’s a future article there somewhere). Clothes-pin anyone?
The 70’s was an interesting time for music. There was a lot of experimentation and creativity from that decade, but there was also plenty of crap as well. Here is my list of the worst and most irritating songs of the 70’s.
Tony Orlando & Dawn -Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree – 1973
In the history of ubiquitous music, none are more annoying than Tony Orlando and Dawn’s peppy, 1920s-retro brain worm of a song. In May of 1973, the record sold 3 million copies in three weeks, and the song received three million airplays in 1973. Lounge singers immediately added it to their repertoires, and washed-up crooners like Jim Nabors, Connie Francis, and Bobby Goldsboro recorded their own versions. By the following summer, CBS gave Tony Orlando and Dawn their own TV variety show, replacing The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
My Ding a Ling – Chuck Berry – 1972
“My Ding-a-Ling” is a novelty song written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew. It was covered by Chuck Berry in 1972 and became his only number-one Billboard Hot 100 single in the United States. Later that year, in a longer unedited form, it was included on the album The London Chuck Berry Sessions. Guitarist Onnie McIntyre and drummer Robbie McIntosh who later that year went on to form the Average White Band, played on the single along with Nic Potter of Van der Graaf Generator on bass.
I remember sitting in my friend RJ McMeans’s living room listening to records when somebody put this song on. Chuck Berry is a legendary guitarist and rock ‘n roller and he’s a brilliant artist. But when I heard this song, I was like… what the hell is this? Oh, it’s supposed to be funny. But it’s not. It’s juvenile.
We get it, Chuck. You’re singing a song about your dick.
Half Breed – Cher – 1973
“Half-Breed” is a 1973 song recorded by American singer-actress Cher with instrumental backing by L.A. sessions musicians from the Wrecking Crew. Recorded on May 21, 1973, at Larrabee Sound in Los Angeles. Lyrically, the song describes the life of a biracial girl from a white father and indigenous mother and it contains themes of racism and double standards. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Cher’s second solo number 1 hit in the US. The single was certified Gold in the US for the sales of over 1 million copies.
Cher… you’ve made the list again. We get it. You’re hot, but you’re Armenian, not Native American. Just because your then-husband Sonny Bono used to refer to you as Pocahontas on your TV show, this all seems inappropriate. But as always… we love you and your outfits.
Alone Again (Naturally) – Gilbert O’Sullivan – 1972
“Alone Again (Naturally)” is an introspective ballad, starting with the singer contemplating suicide after being left at the altar after his bride deserted him, and then telling about the death of his parents. O’Sullivan has said that the song is not autobiographical, as he did not know his father (who died when O’Sullivan was 11) very well, and that his father had mistreated his mother. Also, his mother was still alive when the song was written. O’Sullivan later commented “Neil Diamond covered “Alone Again (Naturally)” and said he couldn’t believe a 21-year-old wrote it, but for me, it was just one song I had written”. Neil Sedaka was similarly effusive in his praise for the song, stating as he covered the song in 2020 that he wished that he himself had written the song because its complexity was more typical of a man much older than 21. The song is included on O’Sullivan’s The Berry Vest of Gilbert O’Sullivan album (2004) on the EMI record label. Big Jim Sullivan plays the guitar break in the original recorded version of the song.
I remember hearing this song non-stop everywhere I went in 1972-1973. It was a sad song that eventually got on everyone’s nerves. But, I will say this. It’s a very sad, and melancholy song about depression and loss. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life and I always had a place in my heart for this song. Something about the sound of his voice brings forth the story in a compelling way. It belongs on this list not because it’s weird or annoying, but because it’s a very unique work by this artist.
Don’t Give Up On Us – David Soul – 1977
Soul is the “actor” from the hit TV show, “Starsky and Hutch” This is when anybody that was on TV thought they could sing and capitalized on their stardom thinking they could sell records. This clown can’t sing and he allegedly hit women. ‘Nuff said.
Da Do Ron Ron – Shaun Cassidy – 1977
Ahh… I loved his half-brother David in the early 70s. I watched the Partridge Family every Friday night after the Brady Bunch. David was hot and had amazing hair and was a heartthrob for years.
The song is the first collaboration in songwriting by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector. The song was composed over two days in Spector’s office in New York. The title “Da Doo Ron Ron” was initially just nonsense syllables used as dummy lines to separate each stanza and chorus until proper lyrics could be written, but Spector liked it so much that he kept it. Phil Spector did not want lyrics that were too cerebral that would interfere with a simple boy-meets-girl storyline. The rhymes of the opening lines, “I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still … Somebody told me that his name was Bill” was inspired by Bill Walsh, a friend of Spector who happened to visit Spector while the three were writing the song.
If you’ve ever wondered what in the hell “da doo ron ron” means, stop worrying: it means nothing. The phrase was apparently just a filler phrase that songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich put in the lyrics until they could come up with something better, and Phil Spector told them it was perfect as it was. Really, dude?
This clown comes along and decides he wants to be a star, and we have this mess. It’s awful. Somebody realizes David Cassidy has a cute little brother. Let’s make money off of him. He comes running out onto the stage in this clip in what looks like silky pajamas. He has zero stage presence and keeps flipping his hair. Just awful!
I remember my sister met some guy named Chuck who so wanted to be this guy. He even wore a white silk jacket with no shirt. A ridiculous fool that my sister hated. I remember that idiot came sniffing around my house looking for my sister and talking to me. He seemed like a jerk as he gyrated his hips in his dumb jacket thinking he looked like Shaun Cassidy. Please go play in the rip-tide, Chuck.
Oh, one final thing. Listen to how the English guy announces the name of the song at the beginning of the video.
Shdadoo Ran Run?
Let Her In – John Travolta – 1976
This is the 1976 debut single by John Travolta, the first release from his second album. It spent five months on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 10. It also reached number 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart. On the Cash Box chart, the song peaked at number five. In Canada, “Let Her In” reached number seven.
“Let Her In” was released at the end of the first year of the four-year run of Welcome Back, Kotter, in which Travolta starred.
This song was his first and only top-ten hit as a solo artist in the United States, and the biggest hit of his in any country not to be tied to the movie Grease. It was included in his 1978 double-album compilation, Travolta Fever.
Vinnie Barbarino, one of the sweat hogs on Welcome Back, Kotter makes good. John solidified his stardom with that show, Grease and Saturday Night Fever. Travolta was a huge star for a minute back then. He later dissolved into a bunch of forgettable roles, but his career was later resurrected by Quentin Tarantino in 1994.
God… this song is terrible.
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