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
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4. “SAD EYES” by Robert John (1979)

Still, Elton isn’t the worst John on the list. That honor goes to Robert. He had been a minor child star a couple of decades earlier but by the time Robert John scored his only number-one hit, he had been drifting in and out of the music business for many years.

“Sad Eyes” is a soap bubble that if handled exactly right, might have had a shimmering gossamer quality. But no one involved had the chops to pull that off. The production is subdued, and when it tries to soar on the chorus, it’s a lurching transition. There’s a completely incongruous guitar solo in the middle to try to make it sound contemporary, I suppose.

Most of all, John’s voice just doesn’t register. It’s not that he’s a bad singer. He’s just a forgettable one. His slightly strained falsetto is more annoying than seductive. It’s almost unfair that Darlene Love shows up at the end to add some background vocals because it only proves what a real singer sounds like.

I haven’t mentioned the lyrics of “Sad Eyes” yet. They’re mostly innocuous. It’s a break-up song and those have a tendency to be bathetic. This is no more pathetic than most. In retrospect, the best thing about the song may be that the woman in question will no longer have to put up with that falsetto voice anymore. In a way, he’s doing her a favor.

3. “DON’T GIVE UP ON US” by David Soul (1977)

At least the object of Robert John’s song above is getting out of her relationship. The woman David Soul is singing to is not so lucky. He’s begging for one more try. I’d suggest she ghost him.

David Soul might be the nicest guy in the world, but he has the kind of wimpy tenor that just makes me want to punch something. Not him, necessarily. Maybe a punching bag with his face on it. Maybe you don’t have this reaction, but I find that thin, overly emotive whine to be the vocal equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. Or fingernails with splinters under them. Or fingernails in your bed. I don’t know – just something to do with fingernails. I never get that feeling listening to Bowie.

If you don’t know Soul’s story, he was a failed singer who hit it big on TV in the trendy cop drama Starsky and Hutch (he was Starsky). That let him give singing another try and he scored big right out of the gate with this song. I chalk it up to his matinee idol looks and his celebrity status in the mid-‘70s. I suppose some people back then would have swooned to have him begging for another chance, even if he did sound like the chipmunk Alvin on Valium.

It’s a soft performance of a soft song, and it grows worse as he ups the key and increases the strings in the final verse. The best thing about the song is the fact that Owen Wilson sang it when he played Starsky in the film comedy based on the show. A little animated bird lands on his shoulder at the end.