The Top 50 Most Annoying Songs of the 1970s

Sometime in the late 1960s, annoying music scientists managed to isolate some of the key components of musical irritation to distill their essence into a formula which could be reproduced on a barbaric, industrial scale. The evil breakthroughs made by these men of science—supported by a highly mechanized and well-financed infrastructure-- facilitated a slew of unlistenable dreck that populated the radio airwaves for most of the ensuing decade.

The 1970s was a particularly virulent decade for musical annoyance, because the toxicity of terrible music was exponentially amplified by schlock-filled TV musical variety shows, the peak of the teen heartthrob magazine industry, and a general malaise in contemporary music creativity.

The dedicated men and women at E-Five Laboratories, Inc. have managed to deconstruct some of the methods used to foist these abominations on society and use the information to issue a scientific ranking to warn unsuspecting listeners about the potential toxicity of these songs. The results are ranked in the table below.

Methodology: No researcher was allowed to hear complete songs for their own protection. Each researcher was protected from exposure to toxic elements of each song’s legacy. The airplay and sales levels were calculated from Billboard Hot 100 information and tabulated in a formula with other factors: rate of parody, ridicule, longevity, television promotion, retrospective value as a musical composition, and opinion rankings of professionals in the music industry.

Federally-mandated Environmental Protection Agency warning: Guard your eyes and ears against potential serious, long-term damage from what you are about to experience. Children under the age of 14 should not be subjected to the following without direct parental supervision; severe and lasting effects may occur, including brain damage, psychotropic hallucinations, heart failure, loss of the will to live, depression, aggression, insanity, projectile vomiting, catastrophic organ failure, and anti-social behavior.

In Memoriam: E-Five Laboratories, Inc. would like to recognize the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in researching this article: Joseph L. Stevens (1971-2012), Sarah S. Brighton (1981-2012), Andrew M. Margolis (1969-2012), and Michael Romanger (1974-2012). They leave behind loving families and dedicated co-workers in mission to chronicle the most toxic songs in American history. They will be indeed be missed.

With a title like "The Best of CW McCall," one would think this record would have nothing on it at all.. BUT THAT'S NOT THE CASE!!
With a title like "The Best of CW McCall," one would think this record would have nothing on it at all.. BUT THAT'S NOT THE CASE!!

The Top 10 Worst Songs of the 1970s

1. C.W. McCall “Convoy” William Fries, an executive for an Omaha ad agency, created the persona of C.W. McCall—singer of outlaw country songs. The result was “Convoy,” capitalizing on the CB radio fad of the mid-1970s. The song reached #1 in January 1976, selling two million copies and spawning a 1978 movie directed by Sam Peckinpah (not coincidentally, known particularly for his over-the-top film violence). The song—actually something more like an extended advertising jingle-- has been mocked relentlessly in the ensuing three and a half decades as a quintessential expression of mid-70s dreck and low-brow inanity.

2. Ray Stevens “The Streak” Ray Stevens was actually a talented songwriter, producer, and music executive with a dark side. In spite of his obvious talent, he insisted on writing and recording distinctly offensive or idiotic low-brow novelty songs for most of his career, including “Ahab the Arab” (“humorously” pronounced “Aay-rabb”—get it?), “Guitarzan,” and "Harry The Hairy Ape." In 1969, Stevens became a regular on The Andy Williams Show, and in the summer of 1970 he got his own summer replacement show, The Ray Stevens Show. “The Streak” played on the 1970s prank of running naked through a public place. Released in late March 1974, the song hit #1 on the Billboard charts for three weeks in May 1974, and its insidious presence was all but inescapable for most of the American public.

3. Maureen McGovern “The Morning After” Featured as a song on the doomed ocean liner in the film The Poseidon Adventure, Maureen McGovern’s schlocktacular effort (penned by 20th Century Fox songwriting hacks Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn) was released a year after the film and climbed to #1 for two weeks in August 1974. The song won best original song Academy Award, and led the trio to team up again for another Oscar-winning debacle, “We May Never Love Like This Again,” in 1974’s The Towering Inferno. Few efforts better encapsulate the way that musical expression and creativity was cynically packaged for commercial consumption throughout most of the 1970s.

4. Paul Anka “(You’re) Having My Baby” This annoying, sexist duet with singer Odia Coates (who luckily did not receive credit on the label) hit #1 for three weeks in August 1974, the first #1 song for Anka since his teen idol days in 1959. In the early 1970s, one could get away with cloying, chauvinistic lyrics a lot more easily than today—a 2006 CNN Online survey rated “(You’re) Having My Baby” the #1 worst song of all time.

Four of the acts that make up The Annoying Top 10 had their own television shows:  Tony Orlando and Dawn, Starland Vocal Band, Helen Reddy, and Ray Stevens. Coincidence?
Four of the acts that make up The Annoying Top 10 had their own television shows: Tony Orlando and Dawn, Starland Vocal Band, Helen Reddy, and Ray Stevens. Coincidence?

5. Terry Jacks “Seasons in the Sun” Like #2 and #4 above, “Seasons in the Sun” hit #1 for three weeks in 1974, making 1974 perhaps the worst year ever for popular music. In fact, of the 50 songs on this list, 12 of them peaked in airplay during 1974, 10 of which reached the #1 spot on the Billboard chart. 1974 was such a hideous year for music that popular radio station WLS in Chicago dropped their weekly ranking of their 40 top songs down to a weekly ranking of only 15 records per week. Still, even with only 15 records, most of them were virtually unlistenable, as in this example.

6. Starland Vocal Band “Afternoon Delight” “Delight” was anything but for suffering radio listeners in the summer of 1976. Compounding the agony of mid-70s music lovers was the bizarre adulation for the record by some folks who otherwise appeared perfectly sane on the surface—it hit #1 on the Billboard charts in July 1976, won two Grammys (Best New Artist—beating out Boston-- and Vocal by a Group), and resulted in a the group getting a CBS TV variety show in the summer of 1977. By 1981, the group hadn’t had another hit, the couples were divorced, and the group broke up.

7. Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots “Disco Duck” According to Billboard magazine, the #1 song in the United States of America on October 16, 1976 was a disco song describing a new dance, performed by a Memphis disc jockey singing with a Donald Duck voice. The record sold six million copies in 1976. That is all you need to know.

8. Helen Reddy “Angie Baby” Written by Alan O’Day (who wrote and performed 1977’s annoying “Undercover Angel”), Helen Reddy’s creepy song about an insane girl killing a malicious boy from the neighborhood is yet another #1 song from 1974, the worst year for music in history. Were Americans so traumatized by Watergate, Vietnam, and stagflation that they sought out particularly disturbing music to match their mood of despair?

9. Tony Orlando & Dawn “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” 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.

10. Rupert Holmes “Escape (The Piña Colada Song) The last #1 song of the 1970s—what an appropriate way to end the decade—is a contemporary musical version of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around The Corner , with a husband and wife looking to cheat on each other accidentally answering each others’ superficial personal ads.

The Rest of the Top 50

11. Mary McGreggor, "Torn Between Two Lovers" (1977)
12. Harry Chapin, "Cat's In The Cradle" (1974)
13. Bobby Goldsboro, "Watchin' Scottie Grow" (1971)
14. Debbie Boone, "You Light Up My Life" (1977)
15. Blue Swede, "Hooked on a Feeling" (1974)
16. George Baker Selection, "Paloma Blanca" (1976)

17. Morris Albert, "Feelings" (1975)
18. Helen Reddy, "You and Me Against The World" (1974)
19. Maria Muldaur, "Midnight at the Oasis" (1974)
20. Chuck Berry, "My Ding-A-Ling" (1972)
21. Captain & Tenille, "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975)
22. Frankie Valli, "Grease" (1978)
23. Three Dog Night, "Joy To The World" (1971)
24. Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" (1974)
25. Captain & Tenille, "Muskrat Love" (1976)
26. The Partridge Family, "I Think I Love You" (1970)
27. David Geddes, "Run, Joey, Run" (1975)

28. Jim Stafford, "Spiders and Snakes" (1973)
29. Vicki Lawrence, "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" (1973)
30. Helen Reddy, "Ruby Red Dress (Leave Me Alone)" (1973)
31. Janis Ian, "At Seventeen" (1975)
32. Cher, "Half Breed" (1973)
33. Neil Sedaka, "Bad Blood" (1975)
34. Glen Campbell, "Rhinestone Cowboy" (1975)
35. Olivia Newton-John, "Have You Never Been Mellow" (1975)
36. Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Alone Again, Naturally" (1972)
37. Disco Tex & The Sexolettes, "Get Dancin'" (1975)
38. Carl Douglas, "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974)
39. Paper Lace, "The Night Chicago Died" (1974)
40. The Bay City Rollers, "Saturday Night" (1976)
41. Lobo, "Me and You & a Dog Named Boo" (1971)
42. Coven, "One Tin Soldier" (1971)
43. David Soul, "Don't Give Up On Us, Baby" (1977)
44. Leif Garrett, "I Was Made For Dancing" (1979)
45. Kenny Rogers, "Coward of the County" (1979)
46. Robert John, "Sad Eyes" (1979 )
47. Five Man Electrical Band, "Signs" (1971)
48. Billy Swan, "I Can Help" (1974)
49. Sean Cassidy, "Da Doo Ron Ron" (1977)
50. John Travolta, "Let Her In" (1976)

What is the worst song of the 1970s?

  • Convoy
  • Having My Baby
  • The Streak
  • Seasons in the Sun
  • You Light Up My Life
  • Run, Joey, Run
  • Other
See results without voting

Comments 25 comments

limpet profile image

limpet 7 months ago from London England

Oh! I recall actor Lee Marvin struggling with 'I was born under a wanderin star'. Did work well in the film Paint your wagon, though!

Bob Smith 0114 profile image

Bob Smith 0114 8 months ago from Plymouth, MI

I agree on a lot of your choices, but I'm not sure why you were so negative about Tie a Yellow Ribbon. It was written and performed with a lot of sincere feeling about veterans returning from the Vietnam War.

limpet profile image

limpet 10 months ago from London England

Yep! What a dismal selection we had for entertainment in those times. But because of the passing in time some of the replays make the modern computer generated noise sound classical.

nmbr1stlrsfn profile image

nmbr1stlrsfn 17 months ago

e-five thank you for the help I greatly appreciate it.

e-five profile image

e-five 17 months ago from Chicago, Illinois, USA Author

nmbr1stlrsfn -- It was a guy named Dickie Goodman. His most popular version of the schtick was a record called "Mr. Jaws." Here is a copy on YouTube.... The humor is very dated. He also had an Energy Crisis '74 record, and some going back into the 50s and 60s.

nmbr1stlrsfn profile image

nmbr1stlrsfn 17 months ago

This is an awesome hub. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I have a question for you or anyone else with the answer.

Growing up I remember listening to a song on the radio and I can't remember the name. The context of the song was a reporter giving a breaking news story. He would describe what he was seeing or ask a question. In response you would hear a snip-it of a song.

For example he reported that King Kong was climbing the Empire State Building and asks Kong, "Hey Kong, what are you doing up there?" Kong replies, "Smokin' cigarettes and writing something nasty on the wall." If I remember correctly that is a Stevie Wonder song.

Any help with the finding the song title is greatly appreciated.

villyvacker profile image

villyvacker 21 months ago from Manchester England

Choose any one of those songs and they are still 10 times better than a lot of the songs that are in the charts today.

e-five profile image

e-five 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois, USA Author

Good point, limpet. The 1970s also featured a spate of television stars trying to make a transition to recording, with almost universally disastrous results: Telly Savalas, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and others. Some of the ranked songs in the Top 50 list include John Travolta, Leif Garrett, and David Soul. Because of the ranking methodology (yes, there was a methodology to this list!), Savalas, Shatner and Nimoy did not make the ranking because of airplay and sales.

limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

What about Telly Kojack Savallas struggling to perform 'If a picture paints a thousand words'?

limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

I'd like to pay tribute to Helen Reddy as a performer who did have to prove Herself to reach being a celebrity. When Ms Reddy first achieved a 'hit song' on the charts it was widely known Ms Reddy had embraced the Women's Liberation movement with enthusiasm and consequently the song Angie Baby possibly predating Goth genre is still a haunting song of a girl's struggle against a malevolent prescence. Still all in all the 70 s didn't not live up to the 60 s and we had to wait a decade for a better sound.

pat07734 profile image

pat07734 2 years ago from Riverton, Utah

Wow, isn't the internet great? Now it's so easy for people like you to cum up with so much bovine excrement and actually pass it off as something other than their own bias oppinion.

Vikinglord 2 years ago

Annoying can be a relative term. While most of these are truly nauseating, there are a few that were good for their time. They just got worn out or are considered cheesy today. All in all, I believe the 1970s was the greatest decade of music in American history. You had SO MANY genres represented, more than any other time. Many retro stations across the country rebroadcast Casey Kasem's Top 40 every Sunday and this decade is the one they use. Oh yeah, the WORST and most HORRIBLE "music" of the 1970s? Those "from the field reporters" with fake interviews with music dubbed in. Remember "Mr. Jaws"? ARGGGGG!!!

Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 3 years ago from California

I agree with many of your picks but certainly not all of them, particularly "At 17," "Midnight at the Oasis" and a couple more. Hey, dude, you obviously don't like pop. You're probably more of a rocker like me, eh? Is the Zep more to your 70s' taste? Anyway, good idea for a hub. Later!

LastRoseofSummer2 profile image

LastRoseofSummer2 3 years ago from Arizona

Ugh! "Feelings"! You know, I think it would be a great discovery if you ever found someone who actually LIKES "Feelings"!

As for "The Morning After" , sorry, but this song is a bit like the love theme from "Titanic": it was great until they started singing it over and over and over again, and then every little girl in every talent show across America wanted to sing it.....

Cool hub!

meetdoctor profile image

meetdoctor 3 years ago from Indonesia

wow... all my irritating songs you have listed here!

CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 3 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

You know, I think you are spot on! I laughed at every song you mentioned and had to agree 100% with....

fun hub!

AlexDrinkH2O profile image

AlexDrinkH2O 3 years ago from Southern New England, USA

Funny! But don't forget K.C.and the Sunshine Band (That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I LIKE it . . . uh huh uh huh --- UGH!) Voted up and shared.

kitkat1141 profile image

kitkat1141 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

You pulled together a great batch of really bad songs from the seventies! Great job. Now if I could only get some of them out of my head!

Mazzy Bolero profile image

Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

Really interesting - I had forgotten quite a few of those songs. Some of them were really dire - but I have to admit I actually liked a couple of your top 50 :)

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Well, thanks VERY MUCH for re-impanting these things in my head. Thanks A LOT. Dagnabbit, it took three decades to forget them and now they're back. Voted up, funny and interesting.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I didn't grow up in the 1970s so I never really considered that an era of bad music- even though there was disco. But I can see your point. Debby Boone's song keeps playing now because of her TV infomercial and every time it comes on I either change the channel or leave the room. That song is to saccharine. Great hub!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great trip through the 70's though I hate to admit I did like some of those songs...I'm not going to tell you which ones so I don't set myself up for mockery ;)

Your hub puts those songs in a nutshell that makes them more understandable and probably less likable!

Voted up and interesting.

Free2writ3 profile image

Free2writ3 4 years ago from Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania

Lol.. Great Hub...

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Great hub - this brought back some memories of the 70s I would prefer to forget :o). Some of these songs also reminded me of TV 'Specials' (contradiction in terms!) by Captain and Teneale, Helen Reddy and The Osmonds among others. Voted up and shared.

theframjak profile image

theframjak 4 years ago from East Coast

Great hub! I grew up and the 1970s and unfortunately have heard all of the songs on the list. It's amazing to think all of these songs were so popular back in the day. What were we thinking?!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article