The 1970s is often characterised as being all about punk and disco, but punk songs never quite made it to number one (although The Sex Pistols came close). There is a fair amount of rock, but it’s the fun shiny glam rock by T-Rex, Sweet, Wizzard and Slade. While there are a lot of disco tracks and ones which incorporated elements of disco, it doesn’t appear in the list of number ones as much as you might expect, although there are classics of the genre like ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor and ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer.
What you do get a lot of is pop music that at times gets a bit too cheesy, chirpy, twee and middle of the road. My parents teenage years were the 1970s, and whether distaste for some of these tracks is me unconciously rebelling against that or maybe it’s disappointing after the decade being built up as a golden age, or perhaps some of this stuff is simply not my cup of tea. But the 1970s number ones don’t have the timeless quality of the 1960s ones. That’s not to say that they are bad, but they are unmistakeably 1970s. Some of it has dated badly because it is uncomfortable to listen to nowadays, the Gary Glitter ones for obvious reasons. Others are because they have a couple of lines that are very un-PC nowadays, the Johnny Mathis Christmas number one being an example.
There is a lot of hair and teeth. Big afros, long hair, moustaches, beards, and the teeth come courtesy of The Osmonds. What is surprising is the sheer amount of novelty comedy records. ‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn, ‘Amazing Grace’ on bagpipes, The Wurzels ‘Combine Harvester’, Windsor Davies & Don Estelle, Typically Tropical. ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ by Carl Douglas is pretty good, and Benny Hill’s ‘Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)’ is funny, which is all it was intended to be.
But this decade shouldn’t be mocked. The act with most number ones in was ABBA, who showed everyone just how classy pure pop music can be. There were some seriously subversive songs reach the top spot which broke new grounds in terms of number one singles, such as ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen, ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie, ‘Are Friends Electric’ and ‘Cars’ by Gary Numan, and ‘Another Brick In The Wall Part II’ by Pink Floyd.
My pick of the bunch:
1) Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
2) Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall Part II
3) Blondie – Heart Of Glass
4) David Bowie – Space Oddity
5) ABBA – Dancing Queen
6) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
7) Jimmi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child
8) Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
9) Barry White – You’re The First, The Last, My Everything
10) The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star