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.
The Top 10 Worst Songs of the 1970s
- 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.
- 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.
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?
© 2012 John C Thomas