Best of the Rest of the Top 40: 1974

It’s that time once again, boys and girls. Our survey brings us now to 1974, which, just like the year before it, was a banner year for #1s - I had to go all the way to #53 this year to fill in the 25 spots for our poll.

What’s your favorite of this motley bunch of jams?

Previous polls: 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973

Best #1 single polls: 1955-56 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s All-time

“Jungle Boogie.” I liked it before Pulp Fiction, I swear! :wink:

“Living for the City” is great, too. “New York City…just like I pictured it!”

Not as much cheesy schlock on this list as one might have feared.

I voted for “Living for the City.” “Waterloo” was my second choice.

I’ll go with “The Air That I Breathe” both here and for the 1998 cover by Simply Red.

I had to go with Midnight at the Oasis. That song was the summer of 1974 for me. Each time I hear it I can still smell the suntan lotion and hear the waves at Lake Michigan.

I’m voting for “Waterloo,” dammit, because all the other choices suck even harder!

For me it came down to the 3 finalists, “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “Help Me,” and “Rock On.”

“I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” - the song is a good one, but Joan Osborne’s cover of it turned out better, I thought. Joan slowed the tempo to what feels appropriate—smoky R&B verging on funk, with a healthy pulse but comfortable and unhurried like good sex—compared to which Gladys’s original arrangement sounds rushed, like the oomph didn’t keep up with the beat. Joan recorded its oomph with a tighter backing track also. Joan Osborne, let it be noted, has a solid history of making covers that outdo the originals.

“Help Me” was fun to revisit and remember why it made such an impression in 1974 and onwards, didn’t it feel good? You dance with the lady with the hole in her stocking, didn’t it feel good?

“Rock On” was a radically original hit record, one of the first to explore the possibilities of texture and to give texture a prominent role in the song. I went back and listened to Essex’s original, which broke no new ground in terms of melody, harmony, or rhythm, but as was typical of the unique burst of creativeness in the first half of the 1970s, it was a revolutionary experiment into a new musical dimension when it appeared. I tried to compare it with the Blondie cover that I have. Essex clearly provided a fascinating example of what can be done with texture. Blondie’s cover had the better vocal delivery, and the original texture was overlaid with hard rock. I want to give points to Essex for the cool textural experiment, but I enjoy Blondie’s hard rock remake even better, according to my hips.

So after considering all that I made up my mind to give the nod to Joni.

Several good choices. I liked ‘Rock on’ the best, followed by Steely Dan and the Hollies.

Some I like but I want to give some of the others a listen and see what I find.

The ones I could vote for are Red Bone, Kool and the Gang, Maria Muldaur, Eddie Kendricks and Steely Dan.

I voted for Redbone. It was hard not to vote for Stevie but I knew he would be would be getting votes. Same for ABBA and Steely Dan.

I was in the middle of college in 1974. Not only wasn’t I listening to top-40 music, I’m not sure I even knew anyone who was. It was all albums, all the time.

So I recognize about eight of the songs on this list - songs that either showed up on albums that friends were playing then or later, or songs that had some staying power on the radio - and went with Steely Dan.

Yeah, I still love that song for its guitar work. Muldaur sang a lot of sexually suggestive songs. I’m sure that it was a surprise to her that this became a hit.

I’d never heard this until now. Sounds like a Dave Matthews Band song!

You take that back!

I’m not much of a DMB fan, but I think I’d rather hear a random DMB song than “Midnight at the Oasis.”

Easy. “Living For The City” is the best Stevie Wonder song, and one of the best songs of the 1970s, single or not.

I picked ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ for the same reason. Amos Garrett with his special stringbending technique. He did some great guitar work with Great Speckled Bird, too.

Listening through the list besides the ones I already like, the Aretha Franklin song is also pretty good. It came down to her and Eddie Kendrick, I gave Eddie the vote since no one had done so till I did.

Others I like got even more votes.

Oh my. This was the period when I worked as a Top 40 disc jockey. I had hoped to never even see some of these titles ever again. Even if I can tell you their exact lengths and how many seconds of intro there is to talk over.

Plan to see I was into FM Album rock in 74. There’s only 8 on the list I can remember from then. And 2 that I only know from the movies The Sting and Pulp Fiction.