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.
The Jaggerz – The Rapper – 1970
“The Rapper” is a song by The Jaggerz, written by band member Dominic Ierace, better known as Donnie Iris. Released as a single, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, behind Simon & Garfunkel‘s smash “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and it was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1970 (see 1970 in music) for selling over a million copies. (Iris later launched a solo career; his biggest hit was “Ah! Leah!“)
The song is addressed to a girl or girls in general; it describes the method of a man who seduces women with untruths (“rapping”.) The singer says, “You know what he’s after”; he concludes by saying there comes a point at which the man has his target where he wants her. The girl has to “face reality.” The record ends with a small group of applause heard in the studio. (Which is probably the only applause this tune ever got!)
The “rapper” of the title and “rappin'” in the lyrics have only some coincidental resemblance to the vocal style of rapping.
It resembles something to be flushed.
Ray Stevens – Everything is Beautiful – 1970
If there’s any song from the past that epitomizes shooting for the stars and failing miserably, it’s this one. Ray Stevens, a guy known for unfunny comedy songs, decided to get serious and made Everything Is Beautiful, which became his first number-one single. Let’s just call this song for what it is: it’s religious propaganda. It has the presentation of Sunday school and it’s barf-inducingly sappy and disingenuous at heart. This is the music that would get played at some Republican convention somewhere in the country. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the message. Be more tolerant to others who look different from you? Fine. But there’s an issue with the messenger. As I said, Ray Stevens made a career out of comedy songs. If he wants to be serious, fine, but be consistent, dude. Let me remind you that this guy made a song called Ahab The Arab. I won’t put up a link, you go listen to it yourself. And in the 21st century, he made some hack political songs, including one in 2010 called God Bless Arizona where he defended the state when they proposed a law that would allow more racial profiling against Latinos. What I’m trying to say here is that Ray Stevens is a flaming hypocrite. And this won’t be the last time we’ll hear from him on this series. Congratulations to Everything Is Beautiful for being one of the worst songs of 1970.
Demis Roussos – Forever and Ever – 1973
The song was written by Alec R. Costandinos and Stélios Vlavianós. The recording was produced by Demis Roussos.
There is also a Spanish-language version, titled “Eternamente”.
What Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western did this guy crawl out of? Just a horrible warbling song I never want to hear again. Painful to endure.
Charlene – I’ve Never Been To Me – 1977
“I’ve Never Been to Me” is a ballad, written and composed by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch and made popular via a recording by American singer Charlene. Although its original release in 1977 barely registered on the Billboard Hot 100, its re-release in 1982 hit number three in the US and earned her a Gold certification in Australia, where it held the number one spot for six weeks. In addition, the song topped the charts in Canada (4 weeks), Ireland (3 weeks), and the United Kingdom. It was also a Top Ten triumph in Norway, Belgium, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, and became Motown‘s first Top Ten hit by a white female solo singer.
When I hear this song all I can think about doing is grabbing a serrated hunting knife and sawing through my corroded artery and ending it all in a bloodbath of horror. This song and video are an absolute disaster.
Listen to those dreadful lyrics!
Oh, and wait until she starts talking. I defy you not to find a brick wall and just smash your head into it over and over until you lose consciousness to escape this nightmare of a song. This song is so bad it actually makes me angry when I hear it.
Bobby Gentry – Ode to Billy Joe – 1967
“Ode to Billie Joe” is a song written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry, a singer-songwriter from Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The single, released on July 10, 1967, was a number-one hit in the US within three weeks of release and a big international seller. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 3 song of the year. The recording remained on the Billboard chart for 20 weeks and was the Number 1 song for four weeks.
It generated eight Grammy nominations, resulting in three wins for Gentry and one for arranger Jimmie Haskell. “Ode to Billie Joe” has since made Rolling Stone‘s lists of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and the “100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time” and Pitchfork‘s “200 Best Songs of the 1960s”.
The song takes the form of a first-person narrative performed over sparse acoustic accompaniment, though with strings in the background. It tells of a rural Mississippi family’s reaction to the news of the suicide of Billie Joe McAllister, a local boy to whom the daughter (and narrator) is connected. Hearsay around the “Tallahatchie Bridge” forms the narrative and musical hook. The song concludes with the demise of the father and the lingering, singular effects of the two deaths on the family. According to Gentry, the song is about “basic indifference, the casualness of people in moments of tragedy”
Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe”
Why does this weird song make me think about the song, Harper Valley PTA? It’s just one of those endless story songs that you have to sit through to try to find the meaning. Halfway through it, I was like… Who cares, Bobby? Nobody wants to hear you describe this dull story in a lame song.
The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child – 1970
O-o-h Child” is a 1970 single recorded by Chicago soul family group the Five Stairsteps and released on the Buddah label. The Five Stairsteps had previous peripheral success recording in Chicago with Curtis Mayfield; when Mayfield’s workload precluded his continuing to work with the group they were reassigned to Stan Vincent, an in-house producer for Buddah Records, who had recently scored a Top Ten hit with the Lou Christie single “I’m Gonna Make You Mine“. The Five Stairsteps’ debut collaboration with Vincent was originally formatted with the group’s rendition of “Dear Prudence” as the A-side with Vincent’s original composition “O-o-h Child” as B-side. However, “O-o-h Child” broke out in the key markets of Philadelphia and Detroit to rise as high as #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1970. The track’s R&B chart impact was more muted with a #14 peak, although “O-o-h Child” is now regarded as a “soft soul” classic. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 21 song of 1970.
I lived with a woman once who was as crazy as a shithouse rat. I would come home from work and she would be having one of her many bi-polar fueled rage-fests at her kids. I would just start to sing this song to annoy her. Because her life was so easy living at my house rent and bill free. She ended up cheating on me and moving out. But whenever I hear this song it makes me think of that time. With its La la la’s…
It’s just an annoying song. Prove me wrong.
Hurricane Smith – Oh Babe, What Would You Say? – 1972
This recording was a demo of a song that Smith had written for a different artist to record. When he played it for Mickie Most, the record producer was impressed enough to tell him to release it as it was.
Smith said about this song: “The melody was happy and simple. It was the producer in me that designed the lyric to recapture the era I grew up in. It’s almost a true story of my life. I would go to a ballroom, but I was so shy I couldn’t even ask someone to dance. I’d walk home imagining a romance when I’d never even reached first base. ‘Oh, Babe’ was about those fantasies.” (Weird)
Born Norman Smith in northern England, he took up the “Hurricane Smith” moniker from a 1952 film. Smith worked as an engineer on all the Beatles’ sessions between 1962 and 1965 when EMI promoted him to producer. The last Beatles album he recorded was Rubber Soul. In the late ’60s, Smith produced Pink Floyd’s early albums and one of the first rock concept albums, The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow. Smith later appeared on albums by Teardrop Explodes and Julian Cope. He died on March 3, 2008.
This clown worked with the Beatles. You’d think he would have learned something or simply stayed out of the game! How the hell did he get on Carson?
His voice sounds like Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show on booze and crack and living in an alley somewhere. Why was vaudevillian music like this still being recorded in the 70s?
And why the hell did he stick his finger in the sax player’s ear? WTF?
Clive Dunn – Grandad – 1970
“Grandad” is a popular song by Herbie Flowers and Kenny Pickett, and recorded by Clive Dunn.
While starring in the long-running BBC situation comedy Dad’s Army, Dunn met bassist Herbie Flowers at a party, and on learning, he was a songwriter challenged him to write a song for him. Flowers wrote “Grandad” with Creation vocalist Kenny Pickett.
The single was released in November 1970, and, aided by promotion such as appearing on children’s shows such as Basil Brush and DJ Tony Blackburn claiming it as his favorite record, in January 1971 it reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks, during which time Dunn celebrated his 51st birthday, and went on to spend a total of 27 weeks on the chart. Dunn never had another hit single but he did release an album which featured “Grandad” and B-Side “I play the Spoons” titled Permission to Sing Sir!
In 1979-1984, Dunn starred as Charlie “Grandad” Quick in a children’s television show named Grandad, although the series did not use the song as the theme tune. (Which is weird) I just added this song to my list because it’s just weird.
The chorus just makes my skin crawl. Just when I think it’s over, another verse begins and I wish my life would end.
Melanie – Brand New Key – 1972
The song is sung from the viewpoint of a girl with roller skates trying to attract the attention of a boy.
In an interview with Examiner.com, Melanie described what she claimed was the inspiration for the song: “I was fasting with a 27-day fast on water. I broke the fast and went back to my life living in New Jersey and we were going to a flea market around six in the morning. On the way back… and I had just broken the fast, from the flea market, we passed a McDonald’s and the aroma hit me, and I had been a vegetarian before the fast. So we pulled into the McDonald’s and I got the whole works… the burger, the shake, and the fries… and no sooner after I finished that last bite of my burger… that song was in my head. The aroma brought back memories of roller skating and learning to ride a bike and the vision of my dad holding the back fender of the tire. And me saying to my dad… ‘You’re holding, you’re holding, you’re holding, right?’ Then I’d look back and he wasn’t holding and I’d fall. So that whole thing came back to me and came out in this song.”
This is an odd song that deserves to be on this list, but that last part about her dad got to me. I promised myself I wouldn’t trash it.