Abigail Rine Favale: Into the Deep
The Most Beautiful Phrase In the English Language?

It was not the best of times; it was arguably the worst of times.

I mean the 1970s, especially the mid-to-late '70s, for pop music. Of course there was a great deal of excellent music being made at the time, but most of it didn't make it onto top-40 radio. Because of my circumstances at the time, I didn't hear much else, and for the most part it was pretty grim.

I hated every song in this list, with the partial exception of Ringo's "You're Sixteen." Ringo did not, as the video seems to assume, write the song. It was a hit for somebody or other in the '50s, and it was not the only song of the time that saw nothing wrong with the singer being in love with a sixteen-year-old girl. (See the sweet "Sixteen Candles.") Many or most people got married before they were out of their teens back then. I agree that it's creepy for a middle-aged man to be singing it, but the song itself is not intrinsically awful. 

I may have miscounted but I think there are only nine songs here. 

Here's the Billboard Top 100 of 1976. Without going through it and counting, I'll guess that for me it would be a roughly 50-25-25 split: "strongly dislike," "not bad," and "I like it." Looking ahead to 1978, it might be more like 80-10-10.

I strongly suspect that today's radio pop is worse than ever, but I don't hear enough of it to be confident in that judgment. 

(I was working on a more substantial post, but haven't finished it yet. Later....)


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I think I watched this a few months ago and they had the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star" (which is a great song!) on the list. I just counted 8 songs. The other 2 probably got copyright complaints so they edited them out so they could keep the video up.

As it happens, I watched part of that one too--it's bands and not songs, but same idea. Agreed about that song. And you're probably right about the copyright complaints.

Here's the video I think you're talking about. I recognized several of the songs but had no idea of the names of the bands. Some are the bands responsible for the songs in the other video.


Thank you - I was driving myself crazy trying to find some mention of the Buggles in the comments :).

I can almost see listing Video Killed the Radio star as a most hated song because it was played constantly on MTV (which I fortunately didn't have yet). But to list the band as a most hated band is odd. And not just because they're one of my favorites :) (I just picked their "Age of Plastic" in a Twitter thread listing 4 albums with no bad songs).

I don't think I saw more than a few minutes of MTV until way past its early days. I think I actually heard "Video Killed..." on the radio. But anyway as far as I know I never heard anything else by that band.

I ran down the list for 1978. Boy, yeah, there's a LOT of bad songs in there. Not all of them, but an impressively high percentage.

There are at least a dozen that I don’t recognize by title but would probably make me wince if I heard them.

Lots of disco and disco-related stuff on both lists. That skews things heavily towards "awful."
I can remember around 1978 when some of the punk and new wave stuff started hitting the airwaves -- it was like a breath of fresh air.

Today's pop is horrible. All "beats" and auto-tune.

My favorite political blogger, Neoneocon, has a major thing for the BeeGees. Not just the pre-disco stuff, which I like, but the disco stuff as well. I cannot stand it. I remember very clearly when Stayin Alive was on the radio (it's on the 1978 list) and those "ah-ah-ah-ah" things just grated massively on my nerves. Neo posted somebody's YouTube analysis of the song that broke out some of the song's details. I had to admit there was more to the instrumental part than I thought. But I still cannot stand those vocals.

The other day I saw a headline saying that a new song by Lizzo had a great hook, so out of curiosity I tried. Didn't get more than about halfway. I didn't have quite the visceral distaste that I do for a lot of current pop but it was still pretty awful, and I was really struck by the junk lyrics--just a lot of obnoxious taunting and bragging as far as I could tell. Makes bubblegum pop seem clever.

Yeah, it seems you either get braggy lyrics or whiny ones. Plus it's all just so repetitive.

The only disco I could ever listen to was the stuff that leaned more towards funk/R&B. Couldn't stand straight disco.

There's a funny mashup of 'Stayin' Alive' and 'Another Brick in the Wall' on youtube that's worth a look. Not as classic as the one with Nirvana and Rick Astley, but still pretty humorous.

A list like that just makes me melancholy for my childhood, Mac. What is that Beatles song doing there? LOL

Growing up in Miami we had sort of a hometown pride for the Bee Gees. While they are originally from Australia, at one time they had houses right next to each other on Star Island, which is located between downtown Miami and Miami Beach in Biscayne Bay. Barry Gibb may still live there.

I don't want to try out the Lizzo song!

Wise choice. You would gain a small amount of knowledge, which, in the eyes of philosophers, is ordinarily a good thing, but which you would probably just as soon not have. I watched a Nicki Minaj video once and my memory unfortunately retained the image.

Some of these songs I can't decide whether I love or hate. Like "Baby, I Love Your Way, "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Evil Woman," "Slow Ride," "Dream On," "Take the Money and Run."

Are these great or terrible? I couldn't say.

Abandoning critical detachment, I can only say that they all get on my nerves to a greater (Baby, I Love Your Ways) or lesser (Dream On) degree. In fact you've listed them in pretty much descending order of unpleasantness for me. I almost half-like Take the Money.

I'm working hard not to blame Maclin for this, but it's a struggle: one of the particularly bad tunes from 1978 has been going through my mind this afternoon. Grr. And I didn't even give it another listen. I just saw the title and that's all it took. It's amazing how deep a piece of music can be stuck in one's brain.

It would be interesting to see what sort of correlation there is between how popular a song is when it first comes out, and how popular it is over the course of decades. (Perhaps a good metric would be this: what percentage of its total plays on the radio are plays that happen in its first year?)

My guess is that this ratio varies rather a lot. Some time periods had a lot of ephemeral stuff in the top 100, and others relatively less ephemeral stuff.

Of course, what we're discussing here is, presumably, all very ephemeral. I predict people will still be listening to Beethoven until our civilization ends, and maybe even after that. But not the Bee Gees. Not even the Beatles.

It's ok to blame me, the same thing is happening to me.

I guess all the songs named by Nathan P still get played on "classic rock" stations. So by that standard they were less ephemeral than, for instance, anything by Pablo Cruise. Whether the disco-oriented stuff still gets played to anyone for whom it isn't nostalgia material, I have my doubts.

I predict the Beatles will still be listened to in 25 years. 50 years, quite possible. 100 years, doubtful.

My current least favorite music to hear anywhere, that is still played a lot in places like restaurants, is Guns N Roses. Ugh. I believe that is the 90s. The 70s songs are just nostalgic and pleasant for me, at least the ones on this Billboard list for the most part. I still don't want to hear Free Bird, or Stairway to Heaven ever again!

Thanks, Stu -- I agree. Always hated GnR -- can't abide the guy's voice and really didn't like their whole skulls-and-flowers vibe.

The only song I like on Nathan's short list is 'Evil Woman.' I am an ELO fan of old. The rest of them I can take or leave (the latter, more likely).

Forgot all about Pablo Cruise! Weren't they sort of a poor man's Steely Dan?

I don't know. I don't think I ever knew anything about them. I don't even recognize the names of their songs on the Billboard chart, though I'd probably recognize the songs if I heard them. I just remember that they were on the radio and I thought they were boring. Not "change the station, now!" annoying, just uninteresting. Who knows, maybe they were really great and I just didn't give them a chance? :-)

The only good thing about Guns N Roses was that they were one of the greatest rock bands ever.

I've always wondered about Slash. Beneath the shades and the hat and all, is he just a nerdy-looking guy?

I had forgotten about this until y'all mentioned it, but once when my children were still pretty young and I was trying to keep rock music at a distance from them, a classical radio program played a string quartet arrangement of Welcome to the Jungle. May have been Peter Schickele's program. And they played at least some part of the original by way of background, or humor, or whatever. One of my children, ten or so at the time, was absolutely fascinated by it. Sigh. A few years later he was learning Nirvana songs on guitar.

"they were one of the greatest rock bands ever"

Not if the lead singer's voice made you cringe, they weren't!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)