Ten worst number-one hits of the 1970s

The 1970s did produce some excellent music, of course, but these songs had no business hitting the top of the charts.
Paul Anka in concert
Paul Anka in concert / United Archives/GettyImages
1 of 6

On Rolling Stone’s list of 500 best rock songs, a plurality of the selections come from the decade of the 1970s. Out of the ten decades represented, it is the only one with more than 25 percent of the songs. I know this because I grew up in that decade. Consequently, many of my social media contacts also came of age in the ‘70s. And for some reason, they feel the need to continually brag about how great the ‘70s were.

Personally, I love ‘70s music. There were plenty of awesome tunes. But I don’t really subscribe to any theory that is predicated on the argument that culture was better when I was young. It was different. And I was different. Certainly, rock and roll was better than it is today, but that’s because rock and roll was younger. There was an excitement about it that time has eroded.

So if you just want to say rock and roll was better in the 1970s, OK. I won’t argue. The thing is, I suspect a lot of people who make this case are really saying that popular music was better in the 1970s, and that’s a different animal.

10 songs that had no business being number-one hits in the 1970s

It all depends on how you define things. Rock has become a catchall. It is the style of music that bridged the gap from the jazz of the first half of the twentieth century to hip hop as the millennium flipped. At times, it sucked other key genres like soul and country into its orbit.

I don’t really put my fingertip to the keyboard today to take issue with Rolling Stone’s preference for ‘70s rock. I just want to make sure we don’t confuse rock and roll with all music in that post-Viet Nam/pre-Reagan cultural landscape. Because even though there was a lot of good stuff, there was also plenty of godawful tripe that found huge audiences amongst me and my cohorts.

To prove it, I give you the ten worst songs to top the Billboard charts in the 1970s.

Though, before I do, let me just quickly run through some (dis)honorable mentions. Yep, amazing as it may seem, these songs weren't quite bad enough to make the top ten.

“Go Away, Little Girl” by Donny Osmond (1971) – makes Michael Jackson’s love song to a rat – “Ben” – sound like high art. Gives teeny-bopper a bad name.
“Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks (1974) – This was one of the first songs I thought of but when I listened again, I realized it isn’t a terrible song. It’s just that Terry Jacks can’t sing to save his life. But there were several worse tunes that came out in ’74.
“Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John (1975) – I know some people like this song. I tend not to go to concerts with those people. But Elton was capable of far worse.
“Still” by The Commodores (1979) – Pop music doesn’t get much more boring than this, but at least it had Lionel Richie’s voice. Maybe he should have sung “Seasons in the Sun.”
“Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (1979) – That’s right, the song that I use as a go-to when I want to suggest something is maudlin, and isn’t even bad enough to crack my ten-worst list. I  mean, at least it has a melody. A melody better suited for a game show or a jingle perhaps, but a melody nonetheless. Which is more than I can say for some of the songs that did make the cut.

...as we are about to see.