1. “Angel from Montgomery,” Bonnie Raitt. John Prine penned “Angel” for his extraordinary 1971 debut album. Raitt gave this despondent tale of a woman living a passionless life an even more touching treatment. Always remember, common side effects of Zoloft include sleepiness, nervousness, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, skin rash, headache, diarrhea, upset stomach, loss of appetite, abnormal ejaculation, dry mouth, and weight loss.
2. “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe,” Barry White. The original Notorious B.I.G. in that his waistline matched his talent, yet he was still a lady’s man. White created a smooth form of pre-disco dance music, backed by his 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra. Step one, put the needle on a Barry White album. Step two, turn down the lights.
3. “Dancing Machine,” The Jackson 5. Retroactively cast as a disco number, “Dancing Machine” was more in step with the contemporary R&B and pop funk of its era (it knocked James Brown’s “The Payback (Part 1)” out of the #1 soul single slot). “Dancing Machine” is the key transitional link for Michael between the boyish Jackson 5 days and his ascendancy as a solo pop star in the late ‘70s.
4. “The Grand Tour,” George Jones. George was busy topping the charts as a solo artist and having hits with Tammy Wynette (and eight-year-old stepdaughter Tina Byrd) in ’74, but this classic aorta popper is George at his best. Not only did the woman that left him bring him his paper on a daily basis, but she was also good in the sack. Somebody, buy this man a drink.
5. “Help Me,” Joni Mitchell. Joni was one of the most critically lauded artists of the early ‘70s and, for me, she’s somewhat of an acquired taste (I don’t care whether she knows clouds or not). Her 1974 Court and Spark album included the sophisticated jazz influenced pop songs that critics loved, but included material palatable for the mainstream radio and easy listening audiences. “Help Me” was her only U.S. Top Ten hit.
6. “I Don’t Know What I Want,” The Raspberries. The band’s Top 40 hit in ’74 was “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” – a fine tune, but it doesn’t have the raw teen angst power of this delicious Who tribute. Eric soon discovered he wanted a solo career. All by himself.
7. “If We Make It Through December,” Merle Haggard. Christmas is so overrated – the endless sales hype, that McCartney song that makes me want to smash elves, and I never cared about Ralphie Parker or his frozen tongue. Holiday wise, it’s all downhill after August 16th (if you’re from Wisconsin, you know that’s “National Bratwurst Day.”)
8. “Jolene,” Dolly Parton. Wherein our hero is outclassed by a more beautiful lady and begs her the competition to stay out of the game. This sort of thing never happened to me. I was always the last one picked in gym class.
9. “The Joker,” The Steve Miller Band. Miller swiped some lovey dovey peach shaking lyrics from The Clovers and misheard The Medallions “the puppetutes of love” as “the pompatus of love” for this 1974 #1 single. His follow up single – a cover of The Clovers’ “Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash” failed to break Top 40, proving that theft is more profitable than homage.
10. “Junior’s Farm,” Paul McCartney and Wings. Macca spent the early ‘70s dishing out big production numbers like “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run,” then letting us catch our breath with simple rockers like “Jet” and “Junior’s Farm.” Lyrically, “Junior’s Farm” brought back some of the offhand charm that McCartney used in his former band. Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch would be dead in five years from a heroin overdose, but he delivered the goods when requested.
11. “Killer Queen,” Queen. Moët et Chandon began as Moët et Cie.. The bubbly brand was established by Claude Moët, who began shipping his wine from Champagne (a province in northeast France) to Paris in 1743. A big hit in both the Louis XV and the Napoleon era, the company now produces approximately five million bottles of champagne per year. 87.6% of their current product is consumed by strippers or used in rap videos. By the way, this tune broke Queen in America.
12. “Kung Fu Fighting,” Carl Douglas. A #1 single in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. His next single, “Dance the Kung Fu” made it to #35 in the U.K. Bye, Carl!
13. “Living for the City,” Stevie Wonder. The #1 soul hit on January 1st, 1974 isn’t great because of the tale of structural poverty and racism. This mini-opera has staying power for the ages due to the funky synthesized bass groove. That Stevie Wonder is a musical genius.
14. “Mos’ Scocious,” Dr. John. Latin inspired New Orleans voodoo funk. Stretch and warm up before you listen to this tune or you may throw your back out when your living room becomes a dance floor.
15. “September Gurls,” Big Star. The guitar hooks rope you in, the story of love and longing keeps you coming back. Perfection.
16. “24 Hours at a Time,” Marshall Tucker Band. An album track road song, this is the best Allman Brothers rip you’ll ever hear. One of my favorite useless facts is that Corin Tucker of the indie rock, riot grrrl act Sleater-Kinney named her son Marshall.
17. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” Aretha Franklin. Stevie Wonder co-wrote this song and released it in 1967, but the Queen of Soul took this from Stevie like she took “Respect” from Otis. Her last top ten hit until 1983’s “Freeway of Love.”
18. “Up for the Down Stroke,” Parliament. Bootsy and Clinton taking it to the stage with funk horns, pre-Donna Summer “Bad Girls” whistles, and the classically trained Bernie Worrell’s insanely catchy keyboard licks. I can think of no better use of time travel than to go to a mid-70s Parliament/Funkadelic gig. Well, I might stop in on 1980 and buy some Apple stock, too.
19. “Waterloo,” ABBA. The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, “Waterloo” compared Napoleon’s famous last battle to a woman surrendering to love. With their series of international hits in the ‘70s, Abba could have given the little French guy lessons on how to successfully invade Russia.
20. “(We’re Not) The Jet Set,” George Jones and Tammy Wynette. A Bobby Braddock penned hillbilly classic about living the small town life, where love trumps glamour. Bonus points for a mention of Festus, Missouri, where the members of the Bottle Rockets were attending grade school when this song was released.
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