Top 10 Albums of the 1970s

Was the the 1970’s a good decade? Unfortunately, it’s a decade that’s just as bad, if not worse, than the 2000s. After the 1960’s Hippie Revolution, things came to a turn for the worse where the Cold War gotten more violent, draft was occurring in America, and many bad things were happening that effected the free world countries. For the least tragic stuff, there were a horrible trend of disco music that made all of us not want to go back to this decade. These where truly dark times, but fortunately people were able to fight back with music. As the psychedelic 60s gave way to hippie backlash and high ambitions, one thing was clear: There was something damn funny about peace, love and understanding. Shaking off naturalism, daisy chains and acid tabs came easier than expected, and what resulted was a paradox of both striking diversity and remarkable coherence: From high-concept prog-nerds and high-octane guitar solo to high-heeled glam-rockers and high-ass punks, the 70s saw the rise and dominance of the album-as-unified-statement. TheTopLister now takes the opportunity to present this list of its favorite albums of that decade… minus the fact that this is the top 7 70s albums with the top 3 Pink Floyd Albums.

Number 10.  –  Bat out of Hell – Meat Loaf

‘Bat Out of Hell’ is as much the brainchild of composer Jim Steinman as it is a Meat Loaf solo album. Steinman began working on the songs that would comprise the album in 1974, while he was composing a musical update of ‘Peter Pan’ titled ‘Neverland.’ Steinman and Meat Loaf later toured together as part of a National Lampoon live show, and began collaborating on the three songs they felt were the standouts from that project, with an eye toward developing the material into a cohesive album. Though the album was slow to break, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ eventually sold 43 million copies worldwide, including 14 million in the U.S. alone. It stayed on the charts in the U.K. for 474 weeks, and in true rock and roll fashion, its enormous financial success spawned a number of lawsuits and bad blood between Meat Loaf, Steinman, and various record labels. Meat Loaf and Steinman would continue their difficult working relationship thereafter, and Meat Loaf’s next album, 1981′s ‘Dead Ringer,’ would stiff in America, though it sold respectably in the U.K.Meat Loaf would continue on a downward career and personal trajectory that resulted in drug abuse, losing his voice, a series of poorly received albums and eventual bankruptcy before reuniting with Steinman for ‘Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.’ The album, released in 1993, rocketed Meat Loaf back to the top of the charts and also won him a Grammy. Meat Loaf released ‘Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose’ in 2006, sparking off another legal dispute between he and Steinman.

Number 9.  –  Who’s Next – The Who

Songs that find their way into constant circulation on classic rock radio have a tough row to hoe: How can a tune you’ve heard hundreds, or even thousands, of times still be majestic, much less even enjoyable? And, worse yet, is there even an inkling of hope they can seem fresh? But the truly great ones find a way; Who’s Next is chock full of them.Who’s Next creates a sandwich of its own, two massive rock classics bookending the affair. “Baba O’Reilly” is best known for its organ-based synth-esque intro, but it also stands as the pinnacle of the Townshend’s empathy for — some might say “obsession with” — youth. Partially inspired by the drooling masses at Woodstock, “teenage wasteland” has entered the lexicon in a way that would make T.S. Eliot proud. On the flip side, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” is as striking as ever for its unabashed bravado. After almost all of the nearly nine minutes of drum-bashing, power chord-exploding ferocity have expired, Daltry screams and proclaims, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Driving to work on a Monday morning, could anything still ring more true?

Number 8.  –  Paranoid – Black Sabbath

Paranoid is the album where heavy metal truly began, the Genesis moment for the genre. Sabbath was still in a transitional mode with their debut, shedding their blues skin to become a band that changed history. Paranoid is where Sabbath came into their own and wrote songs for the ages. At points, the band appears to be headed in different directions but it all gloriously comes together; Iommi plays a classic riff; Ward is at his jazzy best; Butler’s bass oozes into the spaces and cracks and Ozzy’s voice sounds ominous. The musicianship, particularly the rhythm section, is awe-inspiring; listen to the interplay between the big three, especially the musical section closing the final two minutes of “War Pigs.” It’s music that still gives me goose bumps decades after I first heard it. Like the early Led Zeppelin albums, he said he’d played it so many times that he couldn’t hear it again. I encouraged him to revisit it. Paranoid is the album where everything happened for Sabbath, all at once. Four decades later, it’s as fresh and relevant as ever, not just the most important Sabbath record but a musical benchmark of the 20th century.

Number 7.  –  This Years Model – Elvis Costello

Costello’s debut, My Aim Is True, had been brilliant enough, suffering only slightly from the impersonal and occasionally perfunctory work of his for-hire backing band. For his second album, he set out to solve that problem and put together the Attractions, which more than did the trick. From the muscular opening of the brilliant “No Action” it is apparent that we are in the presence of a true musical powerhouse, every bit the equal of their contemporaries the Clash. The result is a blitzkrieg of biting, flawless rock and roll, veritably spilling over with biting putdowns, harassing come-ons, and a kind of clear-eyed paranoia about the truth and consequences of impending stardom. This is Costello as both fearful talent and tactless bully: “If I’m going to go down/ You’re gonna go with me,” he taunts on “Hand In Hand” – and that is arguably one of the record’s love songs. On the cruelly baiting “This Year’s Girl,” he mocks the vapidity of the fashion industry, even while confessing his desire to have a pin-up model all to himself: “broken/ with her mouth wide open.” One of the rock tradition’s most bitter heel turns, This Year’s Model is an incredible display of focused talent and the unique capacity for a genius to make unpalatable vulgarities go down like so much poisoned sugar. Number 6.  –  Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash  A year after The Clash bursted onto the scene with their acclaimed self-titled debut and gave punk the much needed political drive it needed, they followed it up with a record that tends to go under the radar since it is sandwiched between their furious debut and their masterpiece, London Calling. Released in 1978, Give ‘Em Enough Rope was The Clash sustaining their new found following with much more social and political songs about pissed off British youth. Songs like “Safe European Home, “English Civil War,” “Drug Stabbing Time, “Tommy Gun,” were audio documents as to what was going on in London and beyond at that time. With its original title as Rent-A-Riot, The Clash were on the verge of stirring up something big. Yet, while the album reached number 2 on the British charts and number 128 on the US charts and was actually the first album of the band to be released in the U.S. After the release and buzz about The Clash, CBS Records then went and finally released the band’s self-titled debut with an alternate cover and tracklisting, taking out the song “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” Yet, all these years later and with all of the global conflicts going on now, Give ‘Em Enough Rope is just as much as a document of today’s music as it was in 1978.

Number 5.  –  The Wall – Pink Floyd 

The last Pink Floyd album to feature all four integral members, The Wall has for many fans and critics been a point of as much contention as the album that would follow it, The Final Cut. A magnum opus by any standards, the album is seen as much the work of an egomaniacal, self-obsessed Waters as it is the “true” final statement of one of rock and roll’s greatest bands. Both claims are somewhat justified in light of the album’s visionary focus coming almost solely from the intensely personal experiences and emotional perspective of Waters, and also with regards to the album’s inclusion of the classic lineup, as Wright would be fired by Waters two years after its release. Over the course of the album’s hour and twenty-odd minutes, Waters uses his already well-polished metaphorical skill set to eviscerate everything from the recording industry to the educational system to the patriarchal (and yes, even matriarchal) corruption and villainy of the British government. From start to finish, The Wall is an overture to the perils of rock stardom and the inevitable betrayals of self it brings to those artists who achieve it. What might have otherwise lent itself handily to epic-scale self-loathing for virtually any other band served a different purpose for Pink Floyd with The Wall as the songs and overall storyline speak to the most viscerally human commonalities of fear, regret, and grief. Channeled through what are some of the band’s most powerfully enduring songs, The Wall allowed Pink Floyd the rarity to write an album about the introspective struggle of their celebrity without sacrificing its merits to self-important posturing of the highest order.

Number 4.  –  Never Mind the Bollocks – Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols created an uproar with this album, simply for using the word “Bollocks” (a common British slang term for testicles). Getting banned from a number of shops for just their title speaks to how powerful this cut-up album cover is. Iconic for its design (or lack of it), Never Mind the Bollocks has been emulated countless times. A gorgeously packaged catchall, Never Mind the Bollocks documents the most infamous gang of teenage nihilists to ever pick up a guitar. Built around three culture-shock top 10 singles and the Sex Pistols’ glorious top 40 debut “Anarchy in the U.K.”, the November 1977 release of Never Mind the Bollocks was actually derided as a greatest hits cash-in by many critics (“Anarchy” was a year old, “God Save the Queen” more than six months). By the time the album came out in late ’77, it was the only way to hear the Sex Pistols, who were banned from performing in England. When the clock struck 1978 the Silver Jubilee was over and so were the Pistols, who self-destructed after a brief American tour in January. The Sex Pistols were one band who lived up to the hype and didn’t linger!

Number 3.  –  The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

While their previous releases had focused on common themes and narratives to the degree of one or two lengthy songs per album, Waters made clear his creative desire to see the band’s new material take on a unified theme with each track working as a compositional complement both musically and lyrically to the whole of the album. As opposed to what had been a largely abstract lyrical disposition for their material up to that point, Waters’ lyrics are more pointed and exacting on the album — an important shift especially given the explicitly topical nature of the band’s later releases and what would eventually prove to be a point of division among the members. From that perspective, The Dark Side Of The Moon remains Pink Floyd’s most important release though not the band’s best. Again highlighting their most compelling and commanding attributes as a collective of vastly talented musicians, The Dark Side Of The Moon succeeds primarily because of the music’s equity and balance. Even with Waters’ exclusive writing credits on the album, Pink Floyd’s eighth album is the definitive result of the band’s near-mythical rarity in being able to perfectly manifest their creative solidarity through every song. In an album featuring the likes of Gilmour’s iconic solo from “Money” or Wright’s beautiful and heart wrenching keyboard work on “Us And Them” as well as the numerous other key moments offered by each track, the fact that no song plays like the characteristic thumbprint of any one member is one of the album’s more subtle but no less powerful traits. The Dark Side Of The Moon was and still remains Pink Floyd’s unparalleled masterpiece in terms of what the band was capable of creating at the zenith of their creative synchronization, though its members would soon discover that their most powerful music was derived from a ruthlessly vulnerable place of imperfection.

Number 2.  –  The Clash – The Clash

Decide if you like London Calling or the debut Clash album, but I say that no other punk band was able to express powerful ideas as eloquently as the Clash and their debut self-entitled album. No other punk outfit was able to assimilate and utilize as relevant and fascinating a collection of influences.The late ’70s weren’t kind to England. The economy was in the pits and the outlook was bleak. Enter three lads from London, who managed to channel the collective anxiety of the country’s disenchanted youth, courtesy of Joe Strummer’s madder-than-hell, politically charged lyrics and Mick Jones’ machine gun guitar riffs. The Clash was a major turning point for punk. For the first time, the establishment had to recognize the genre as a voice for social change. On their eponymous debut they take Junior Murvin’s superlative reggae hit “Police and Theives” and transform it into a punk classic. Their most popular tune, “Complete Control” was produced by Jamaican studio genius Lee “Scratch” Perry, and is one of the most brilliant recordings ever made. In their remarkable statement of purpose, “Clash City Rockers”, they tack on an ending paying tribute to stars of both reggae and glam, while incorporating “Bells of Rhmney”, a folk song about labor unrest in Welsh coal mines in the 1920’s! A punk band with lyrics to rival Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs – it seems incredible. When this album came out in 1977, CBS execs in the U.S. decided not to release it here because they thought it would be over the heads of American audiences. They may have been right, but they finally released an American version after the LP became the biggest selling import in history. If you’re in a record store look carefully and you’ll see that there are two similar looking versions of the CD with somewhat different lineups of songs, the American and British versions. Take your pick, either version is SP’s #1 punk album of all time!

Number 1.  –  Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

One reason why I couldn’t say Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd’s best work is because their follow up turned out to be the best follow-up album of all time, and the best album of the entire 1970s. Wish You Were Here‘s iconic artwork immediately betrays the emptiness and delusion of its subject matter from the mechanical handshake as well as that between the businessmen with one engulfed in the literal and metaphorical flames inextricably linked to the band’s being fully aware by then of the looming threat of creative and even more poignantly mental devastation. As intended as the album was in paying due credence to Barrett, Wish You Were Here works just as adamantly in the compositional and lyrical disenchantment of the remaining members of the band themselves. This is primarily evident on tracks such as “Have A Cigar” and “Welcome To The Machine,” both of which render a scene less focused on the retrospect of the album’s elegiac tone and more on what the band observed in themselves at that present time. The rarity of a perfect album does not afford itself simply to occasion, and much like Barrett himself the brilliance will justifiably be forever debated, but the humanity and fragility of grief poured into each song of Wish You Were Here will remain inarguably captivating and unrivaled. In the year since its release and in the relatively recent death of Barrett himself in 2006, the album has become one decidedly concerned with more than just the fragmented mind of its inspiration. For all its intimately achieved grandeur, it represents one of modern music’s most powerfully relevant introspective views of human fragility as well as the cruel indifference of grief. From that perspective, Wish You Were Here stands as Pink Floyd’s unintended masterpiece, as much an anguished and reluctant farewell to their friend in Barrett as it was to themselves as a band they no longer recognized.