The Top 120 Albums of the 1970s

To me, the 1970s is the canon. Because it’s the decade where I became a music lover as a way of defining who I was, but — until the very end — was mostly about catching up with the past, it feels different from the 1960s (ancient Boomer history) or the 1980s (when I was fully immersed).

So unlike my previous lists for the 1980s, 1990s and (especially) the 2000s, maybe I hold some of this music in awe, because it already existed and was just sitting out there for me to discover. And discover I did. When I was 14-15, a central focus of my life was riding my bike to Tower Records and spending $15 on two records — Love Gun and Foghat Live; Rocket to Russia and Marquee Moon; Who’s next and Aqualung — and listening to those records over and over and over and over. Oh, and over.

Good ones, bad ones, it didn’t matter. It was all about figuring out what I liked, and by extension, who I was. Or maybe the other way around. It was sitting in my room and determining that I loved Quadrophenia but not Tales From Topographic Oceans or that I loved Close to the Edge but not Who Are You.

Then, in 1978 (a year too late) (but still too early for Fresno): punk rock. I’d been resisting — it just seemed like fashion-oriented noise nonsense — but spurred on by that first Cars album and Creem magazine, I took the plunge. Ramones. Television. The Jam. The Clash. Talking Heads. The Sex Pistols. And a host of lesser new wave and power pop and whathaveyou bands. The world was changing, I was on the ground floor, and it was thrilling.

But here’s the thing: there was an either/or mentality about punk rock that I totally rejected. For some reason, in the late 1970s, if you liked punk, you had to reject everything else. Either that, or everything else rejected you. That never made sense to me. Why couldn’t I love Led Zeppelin and The Clash? Why couldn’t I love Aerosmith and the Sex Pistols? Why couldn’t I love Black Sabbath and the Ramones? I could, and I did.

I was with Neil Young: punk rock was the latest extension of the tradition, not a break from it. And I’ve operated that way ever since, as you’ll see from the following list.

And, of course, any similiarities between the following list and the actual best albums of the 1970s is strictly coincidental.

THE TOP 120 ALBUMS OF THE 1970s

  1. The Who – Quadrophenia (1973)
    The difference between this Who concept album and all of the other ones — about the radio, about the messiah, about music as lifeforce — is that the protagonist is just a fucked up kid. Maybe that’s the reason that it’s always seemed like secret knowledge, which I know is insane to think about an peak-period album from the greatest band ever. Hell, they even made a (great) film from it. But it always has, and maybe that’s because it never really had any hit singles, only a couple of songs that got any consistent radio play and was left completely out of The Kids Are Alright. Fine. Let the rest of the world have Tommy and Who’s next. It says here that Quadrophenia is where The Who peaked musically and Pete Townshend wrote his strongest, most literate batch of songs, which used the fucked-up kid — named, to my eternal delight, “Jimmy” — to comment on the search for identity that we all go through. And did I mention the music? Townshend never blended his guitar noise and synth explorations any better, John Entwhistle was as solid as ever, Roger Daltrey & Townshend traded vocals effortlessly. And Keith — OMFFG YOU GUYS, DID YOU HEAR THAT DRUM PART THAT KEITH MOON DID!! NO WAY!!– Moon was never better, sounding like a dozen drummers drumming. And I know that the tour was supposed to be a disaster, but for 30 years, my favorite bootleg ever — The Who at the Philadelphia Spectrum in December of 1973 — shows that it could be even more transcendent than the album. The bottom line is that if you’ve ever claimed The Who as your favorite band, then Quadrophenia is likely your favorite album by The Who.
    Songs to Die For: “The Real Me,” “Cut My Hair,” “I’ve Had Enough” “Bell Boy”
  2. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St. (1972)
    In the end, it’s all about flow: if it was Keith that conceived the sessions and allowed the music to be as thick and dense as the fog that enveloped his brain, then it was Mick who figured out how to stack the songs in precisely the right manner. Because holy shit, does this album flow, with each side starting off and ending with an all-time all-time all-time, building towards and inching away from the more atmospheric ones in the middle. It plays slightly differently on CD, of course, but that’s how you notice that Mick ended the first record with his greatest love song and started the second with Keith’s. Finally, the Amy Winehouses, Peter Dohertys and Lindsay Lohans of the world should note that the Stones made this record while being tabloid fixtures and some of the hugest public fuck-ups on planet Earth.

    Songs to Die For: “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Happy,” “Loving Cup”

  3. The Clash – London Calling (1979)
    Initially, their seemingly radical abandonment of the hard rock that had changed my life felt like a compromise, so it took me awhile to figure out what they were on about here: taking everything they’d ever liked and cramming it into a little more than an hour of weird wordy brilliance. Balancing — or battling, really — Mick Jones’ innate musicality and Joe Strummer’s self-conscious primitivism, the whole record was defined by my favorite “who played what” credit ever: “Mick Jones – Piano,” “Joe Strummer – Pianner.” So while Joe was growling, calling, hooting with delight through each style like it was the first time he’d ever heard it, Mick was figuring out how to make that music sound like the first time you’d ever heard it.

    Songs to die for: “Clampdown,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “Death or Glory,” “Train in Vain

  4. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)
    Amazingly enough, this was kinda slagged by when it first came out as being no more than a collection of singles. Maybe. But, of course, to a U.S. kid to whom those singles were still unheard legends, the collective power of Rotten’s otherworldly voice, Matlock’s simple hooks, Cook’s pounding and Jones’ recontextualized Chuck Berry-isms was shocking and beautiful all at the same time. The noise, the politics, the anger, the unrelenting unrelentingness of it all may have been too much for too many people, but to me it’s always been exactly the right type of overwhelming.
    Songs to Die For: “Holidays in the Sun,” “Anarchy in the U.K,” “God Save The Queen,” “Pretty Vacant”
  5. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1975)
    I know that it’s trendy for Dylanologists to pine for the original New York version of this album, but I’ve heard most of that stuff, and with the exception of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” the newer versions are better. Especially his singing. On the re-recorded “You’re a Big Girl Now,” is there any doubt whatsoever that he is fully in moment, living and translating his pain? Had he not re-recorded those songs with the brighter tunes and fuller arrangements — musically tossing a little bit of hope into the equation — then the despair in the words would have overshadowed everything, perhaps making this album a cult item instead of the greatest break-up album of all time.
    Songs to Die For: “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Shelter From The Storm,” “You’re a Big Girl Now” “Idiot Wind”
  6. The Who – Who’s next (1971)
    Pete Townshend was the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of a five-tool player: he could write tunes, write words, sing songs, play several instruments and produce albums. And in 1971, he was so locked into his own vision and talent that even his biggest failure produced an album that I’m STILL not sure isn’t my favorite ever. Sure, it might have been nice to have “Pure and Easy” or even “Naked Eye” on here, but it sure as shit wasn’t necessary: not an a record that is as near-perfect (“Love Ain’t For Keepin,” ugh) as this one. So figure I’m docking it a couple of notches because of chronic overplay, all of the idiots who call the ground-breaking opening track “Teenage Wasteland,” and because the iconic cover shot was taken by a future close personal enemy.
    Songs to Die For: “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Bargain,” “Baba O’ Riley”
  7. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976)
    30+ years down the line, and Jonathan Richman remains a singular entity, one of a kind. And a guy you need to see live at least once in your life. None of which has to do with the derivative music on his debut, as indebted to the Velvets as anybody has ever been. Of course, the Modern Lovers also get firsties on that, while staying fully on-topic. And it doesn’t even matter: recasting the Velvet Underground’s dark drone as joyous and optimistic as the Beatles was a trick probably only Jonathan could pull off. With, of course, a fair amount of help from future Car David Robinson and future Talking Head Jerry Harrison.
    Songs to Die For: “Roadrunner,” “Old World,” “Girlfriend,” “I’m Straight”
  8. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
    If this isn’t the greatest Rolling Stones album ever made, it is certainly the most Rolling Stones album ever made. Everything you could ever want from the Stones — world-beating riffs, sex-and-drug-filled lyrics, not-quite-throwaway genre exercises, and radio-dominating singles — all shoved together into a single decadent-yet-accessible package, just waiting to be unzipped for your pleasure. So while it’s no surprise that my first band covered two songs from Sticky Fingers and my best band covered two more, it’s a bit of a surprise that none of those songs were the album’s best two: “Moonlight Mile” is the saddest and best of all of their ballads, and the Charlie Watts and Mick Taylor driven “Sway” is quite possibly my all-time favorite Rolling Stones song full stop.
    Songs to Die For: “Sway,” “Moonlight Mile,” “Wild Horses,” “Brown Sugar”
  9. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
    Pink Floyd ended making my favorite prog-rock album because unlike nearly all of their brethren, they kept it simple, stupid. Sure, their songs were long and changed a lot, but it never felt like they were trying too hard for the sake of trying too hard. Also, unlike nearly every other British 60s band outside of the Stones, they were funky. All of those qualities came to bear on this album, which had the extra added emotional heft of being about their founder, and the music business that may or may not have contributed to his eventual craziness. That was the other thing: instead of singing about seasons and demons and evil carnivals, Roger Waters wrote words about things that people could relate to. Which is how he came to create a title track that has become a folk-rock standard.
    Songs to Die For: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” “Wish You Were Here,” “Have a Cigar,” “Welcome to the Machine”
  10. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)
    I know that Bruce posed with Clarence Clemons for the famous cover of what is probably the greatest transition record ever made, but it shoulda been Roy Bittan. Because Roy Bittan owns Born to Run. There isn’t a single song on this record without a perfect, memorable piano part. Roy’s piano is practically the first thing you hear in “Thunder Road” and the last thing you hear on “Jungleland.” And it’s just as well, because no major rock record has ever had a worse guitar sound.
    Songs to Die For: “Born to Run,” “Jungleland,” “She’s The One” “Backstreets
  11. The Clash – The Clash (1977 / 1979)
    I think that this is the first import album I ever bought, and while the U.S. version adds two of the greatest singles in human history — “Complete Control” and “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” — the original U.K. version is the one that turned The Clash into a band that I annoyed everybody in high school with. Today, it seems a miracle that album ever got made: raggedy, low-fi as hell and with a pair of guitars that maybe might be in tune, but obviously hate each other. As life-altering music goes, it wasn’t grand and glorious but rough and ready. And real. Not just the words, but the voices: Strummer and Jones used the fact that they sang completely differently to their advantage over and over and over. No band ever sounded more like their name.
    Songs to Die For: “Complete Control,” “White Riot (U.K.),” “Garageland,” “I’m So Bored With the USA”
  12. Big Star – #1 Record (1972)
    Alex Chilton’s essential weirdness as a songwriter is right there in the lyrics for “The Ballad of El Goodo.” In the first verse, he sings “I’ve been trying hard, against unbelievable odds,” but in the last verse, he sings “I’ve been trying hard, against strong odds.” Unlike every other songwriter ever, Chilton lyrically lowers the stakes as the song progresses. That has bugged me for years. And why, perhaps, I think that the Big Star album in which Chris Bell was a full partner is their best: Chilton needed someone to balance his weirdness. Also needed: the most beautiful acoustic guitar sound ever put on vinyl.
    Songs to Die For: “Thirteen,” “In The Street” “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “My Life is Right,”
  13. Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)
    In the very early 1980s, my friend Jim McNew and I had a theory that this album was a musical cousin to Never Mind the Bollocks because of the way that they both incorporated distortion as a basic part of the sound. But that wasn’t all: what made Rocks the very pinnacle of Aerosmith’s career was how song after song had an amazing coda that took it to a completely different place. These boys knew how to end a song. Which, thinking about it, is something else they had in common with the Sex Pistols.
    Songs to Die For: “Sick as a Dog,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Lick and a Promise,” “Rats in the Cellar”
  14. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)
    It was Tim what turned me onto Marley — driving around Fresno in his Chevy Luv listening to a cassette with this on one side and Burnin’ on the other — back when reggae was something that The Clash played and The Police appropriated. At first, however, the real thing seemed like it was beamed in directly from another planet where the instruments couldn’t stay tethered to the songs and the beats were upside down. What eventually grounded all of this weirdness wasn’t the much-derided overdubs, but rather those voices. No three men ever sang as well together as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, and it was the rough beauty of their harmonies that still kills me.
    Songs to Die For: “Concrete Jungle,” “Stir it Up,” “Slave Driver,” “Stop That Train”
  15. The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope (1978)
    I have, of course, already written about “Safe European Home,” and the effect it had on my life. Give ‘Em Enough Rope wasn’t the first punk album I ever bought, or the best, but it’s the one that I mean when I quote Mike Watt’s “Punk Rock changed my life.” It’s also probably the most consistent Clash record on the books — their hardest and tightest rock — which might be at least part of the reason it’s been perpetually underrated.
    Songs to Die For: “Safe European Home,” “Stay Free,” “All The Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts),” “Guns on the Roof”
  16. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
    On one hand, it’s a bit of a odds and sods record, with half of it being leftovers — leftovers! – from their 3 previous records. Of course, none of those songs (with the exception of “The Rover”) would have fit their respective albums, so Jimmy Page was right to wait to use them to fill out a double album featuring perhaps the strongest, most sophisticated batch of songs they ever produced. The combination of “old” and new made Physical Graffiti a veritable primer and summation of everything that made Zeppelin so great, as well the sound of a chapter closing.
    Songs to Die For: “Ten Years Gone,” “In My Time of Dying,” “The Rover,” “In The Light
  17. Elvis Costello and the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978)
    Had he not hooked up with The Attractions — who enliven every single song on this record with killer bass hooks, iconic organ riffs and drum beats that fuck you up — Elvis Costello would have been remembered as a very talented and prolific songwriter who never quite lived up to the promise of his debut. Instead, with Nick Lowe making every song as hard and bright as diamonds, Elvis gave us this transcendent blast of anger, wit and power.
    Songs to Die For: “No Action,” “Lipstick Vogue,” “Radio Radio” “Pump It Up”
  18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
    Always linked in my head with the film of the same name that parallels the live album with a different name, Neil declares which side he’s on of the burn out / fade away question, and caps a decade where he made more good music than anybody else with the best record of his career. Formally dividing the record into acoustic folk and heavy rock, he then bridges the styles with the ancient folksong original “Powderfinger,” which could have been equally powerful no matter how it was done. After this it was a decade-long trip into the wilderness, a stunning comeback, and finally good records and not as good records. But not once has he ever been in danger of fading away.
    Songs to Die For: “Powderfinger,” “Welfare Mothers,” “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black),” “Sedan Delivery”
  19. Television – Marquee Moon (1977)
    The first side has always seemed more essential: easily digestible yet still revolutionary riffs — duets, really — climaxing in what may be the the greatest guitar solo ever produced by a mortal man. The second side was trickier: the riffs less meaty, the rhythms slightly askew, and the guitars . . . well the guitars kill throughout, don’t they? Unlike any other duo in history save maybe Clapton & Allman, the dueling liquid-crystal guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd gave us a battle of two leads, two equals, only with one being slightly more equal than the other.
    Songs to Die For: “Marquee Moon,” “See No Evil,” “Venus,” “Friction”
  20. The Kinks – Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970)
    The last in the run of Kinks Albums As Great As Anything Anyone’s Ever Done (Face to Face & Muswell Hillbillies just miss), this is a concept album in name only, thus the long and convoluted title. Sure, the first side works somewhat as a Van Morrison-style screed against the same music business which kept that run of KAAGAAAEDs from selling like they deserved, but even that’s disrupted by Dave’s greatest love song and the appearance of the titular. On the second half of the album, it’s just one killer folk-rock song after another: odes to lost friends, ugly animal metaphors and a plea for personal/artistic freedom which kinda sorta circles back to the concept. 40 years on, and Part Two hasn’t yet surfaced.
    Songs to Die For: “This Time Tomorrow,” “A Long Way From Home,” “Strangers,” “Lola
  21. The Cars – The Cars (1978)
    My beloved gateway drug. One of the first “New Wave” records to make it huge on U.S. radio, this wasn’t the record that changed my life forever, but it sure as shit was John the Baptist. (If this was “New Wave,” then gimme more. Hell, might well as try some of that “Punk Rock” I’d been reading about.) Front-loaded with three hit singles and featuring a second side song suite that ranks with Western Civilization’s greatest achievements (pop music division), Ric Ocasek engineered a record that sounded like nothing else at the time, and was obviously built to last.
    Songs to Die For: “All Mixed Up,” “Moving in Stereo,” “Just What I Needed,” “Good Times Roll”
  22. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
    Coming at the end of Zep’s prolific early period (four albums in slightly less than three years, after which it took them nearly eight years to produce four more), Jimmy Page finally put it all together for the first time. The big riffs, bigger voice and biggest drum sound fill every inch of the stereo on tracks like “Four Sticks” and “When the Levee Breaks.” And you know what is a fucking great, amazingly well-constructed song? “Stairway to Heaven.” That is, if you can ever bear to hear it again.
    Songs to Die For: “When The Levee Breaks,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Rock and Roll,” “Four Sticks
  23. Ramones – Rocket to Russia (1977)
    Along with Marquee Moon, which really wasn’t, this was the first punk rock album I ever bought. And so it goes: I loved the cartoon iconography, and the sophisticated stupidity of their words. And of course, I loved Johnny’s guitar: so simple, so clean, so obviously revolutionary in a way that didn’t seem to know or care exactly how revolutionary it really was. Most of all, I loved that the Ramones were the musical definition of how the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
    Songs to Die For: “Rockaway Beach,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” “I Don’t Care,” “Cretin Hop”
  24. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
    Maybe it was Eno’s slippery production techniques or something, but it took me for fucking ever to figure this record out. I knew that I liked it more than the slightly fey ’77, but I had trouble identifying individual songs after it was over. It was so far away from my normal framework, I guess, that I could listen to it over and over without quite grasping it. By the time I grasped it, I realized that I also loved it. Tricky bastards.
    Songs to Die For: “Take Me to The River,” “I’m Not in Love,” “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel,” “Artists Only”
  25. Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1979)
    Has there ever been a better greatest hits album? Possibly. But a better greatest hits album that also doubled as a U.S. debut? And that is stylistically of such a piece? Not a chance. Credit Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle’s commitment to the 7″ 45-RPM single as the catalyst, and punk rock as the reason for this to exist. Or maybe, the other way around. All I know for sure is that every band that has ever wanted to combine singable hooks with buzzsaw guitar needs to come through this record.
    Songs to Die For: “Why Can’t I Touch It?” “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays,” “Ever Fallen in Love?,” “Harmony in My Head”
  26. Derek and the Dominoes – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)
    Despair, smack and great session men. That was the recipe for what is still the only thing I’ve ever truly loved with Eric Clapton’s name on it. (Even most of my favorite Yardbirds songs were Jeff Beck, and don’t even get me started on Cream.) The two-fold title track dominated FM radio for at least a decade (and underscores a key scene in Goodfellas), and the rest of it is white-hot white blues spurred by Duane Allman, who obviously didn’t give a fuck who God might be.
    Songs to Die For: “Layla,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Little Wing,” “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?
  27. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “The True Wheel,” “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More,” “Third Uncle,” “The Great Pretender”
  28. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmos Factory (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Ramble Tamble,” “Run Through The Jungle,” “Up Around The Bend,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain”
  29. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live Rust (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “The Needle and the Damage Done,” “After The Gold Rush,” “Tonight’s The Night,” “Cortez The Killer”
  30. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burnin’ (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Put it On,” “Small Axe,” “Burnin’ and Lootin,” “I Shot The Sheriff”
  31. Led Zeppelin – Presence (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Achilles Last Stand,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “For Your Life,” “Hots on For Nowhere”
  32. Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Borrowed Tune,” “Tired Eyes,” “Come on Baby, Let’s Go Downtown,” “Tonight’s The Night – Part II”
  33. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Some Girls,” “Imagination,” “When The Whip Comes Down,” “Shattered”
  34. The Who – Live at Leeds (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Young Man Blues,” “Summertime Blues,” “Shaking All Over,” “Heaven and Hell”
  35. Sly & The Family Stone – Greatest Hits (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Everyday People,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falettine Me Be Mice Elf)”
  36. Black Sabbath – We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “War Pigs,” “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Paranoid,” “Iron Man”
  37. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Stroke It, Noel,” “Kangaroo,” “Nighttime,” “Jesus Christ”
  38. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)
    Songs to Die For: “Every Picture Tells a Story,” “Maggie May,” “Mandolin Wind,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You”
  39. Deep Purple – Made in Japan (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Highway Star,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Lazy,” “Strange Kind of Woman”
  40. Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Life During Wartime,” “Heaven,” “Cities,” “Mind”
  41. Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Sweet Emotion,” “Toys in the Attic,” “No More No More,” “Adam’s Apple”
  42. Roxy Music – Greatest Hits (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Editions of You,” “All I Want is You,” “The Thrill of It All,” “Virginia Plain”
  43. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Into the Mystic,” “Caravan,” “Crazy Love,” “Glad Tidings”
  44. Neil Young – Decade (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Like a Hurricane,” “Helpless,” “Ohio,” “Cortez The Killer”
  45. The Who – Tales From The Who (Philadelphia 12-3-1973) (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Drowned,” “Sea and Sand,” “Bell Boy,” “The Real Me”
  46. The Velvet Underground – Loaded (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Rock n Roll,” “Oh, Sweet Nuthin,” “Head Held High,” “Sweet Jane”
  47. Mott the Hoople – Mott (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “I Wish I Was Your Mother,” “All The Way From Memphis,” “Violence,” “Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zürich)”
  48. Black Sabbath – Sabotage (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Symptom of the Universe,” “Megalomania,” “Am I Going Insane (Radio), “Hole in the Sky”
  49. Ramones – Road to Ruin (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “I Just Want To Have Something to Do,” “I’m Against It,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Go Mental”
  50. Deep Purple – In Rock (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Child in Time,” “Flight of the Rat,” “Hard Lovin’ Man,” “Speed King”
  51. Tom Verlaine – Tom Verlaine (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Breakin’ in My Heart,” “Grip of Love,” “Kingdom Come,” “Last Night”
  52. Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Skin Deep,” “American Squirm,” “Cruel to Be Kind,” “Cracking Up”
  53. Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Dogs,” “Sheep,” “Pigs,” “Pigs on the Wing”
  54. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “After the Gold Rush,” “Oh, Lonesome Me,” “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” “When You Dance, I Can Really Love”
  55. The Kinks – The Kink Kronikles (1972)
    Songs to Die For: “Mindless Child of Motherhood,” “God’s Children,” “Days, “Dead End Street”
  56. Waylon Jennings – Greatest Hits (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way,” “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean,” “Amanda,” “I’ve Always Been Crazy”
  57. Bob Dylan & The Band – Planet Waves (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Never Say Goodbye,” “Something There Is About You,” “Dirge,” “Wedding Song”
  58. Ramones – Ramones (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Blitzkreig Bop,” “Beat on the Brat,” “Listen to My Heart,” “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”
  59. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)
    Songs to Die For:”Panic in Detroit,” “Cracked Actor,” “The Jean Genie,” “Watch That Man”
  60. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (1971)
    Songs to Die For: “Tupelo Honey,” “Moonshine Whiskey,” “When That Evening Sun Goes Down,” “Wild Night”
  61. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love,” “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Feel Your Love Tonight,” “Jamie’s Cryin”
  62. The Jam – This is the Modern World (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “All Around The World,” “This is the Modern World,” “Standards,” “The Combine”
  63. Foghat – Foghat Live (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Slow Ride,” “Fool For The City,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” “Honey Hush”
  64. The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy! (1975)<
    Songs to Die For: “Two Tub Man,” “Master Race Rock,” “The Next Big Thing,” “Weekend”
  65. Toots & the Maytals – Funky Kingston (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Funky Kingston,” “Pressure Drop,” “Time Tough,” “Pomp and Pride”
  66. Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972)
    Songs to Die For: “Saint Dominic’s Preview,” “Listen to the Lion,” “Almost Independence Day,” “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”
  67. Big Star – Radio City (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “September Gurls,” “Back of a Car,” “Way Out West,” “You Get What You Deserve”
  68. Neil Young – On the Beach (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Ambulance Blues,” “On The Beach,” “For The Turnstiles,” “Revolution Blues”
  69. Peter Tosh – Equal Rights (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Stepping Razor,” “Equal Rights,” “I Am That I Am,” “Downpressor Man”
  70. Yes – Close to the Edge (1972)
    Songs to Die For: “Close to the Edge,” “And You and I,” “Siberian Khatru”
  71. The Who – Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1971)
    Songs to Die For: “I Can’t Explain,” “Substitute,” “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” “Pictures of Lily”
  72. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Immigrant Song,” “Out on the Tiles,” “Friends,” “Gallows Pole”
  73. War – Greatest Hits (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Summer,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Gypsy Man”
  74. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces
    Songs to Die For: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” “Party Girl,” “Accidents Will Happen,” “Goon Squad” (1979)
  75. Boston – Boston (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “More Than A Feeling,” “Foreplay/Long Time,” “Hitch a Ride,” “Rock & Roll Band”
  76. The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies (1971)
    Songs to Die For: “20th Century Man,” “Alcohol,” “Complicated Life,” “Skin and Bone”
  77. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Go Your Own Way,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “The Chain,” “Gold Dust Woman”
  78. Shoes – Black Vinyl Shoes (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Not Me,” “Boys Don’t Lie,” “Writing a Postcard,” “Fatal”
  79. Ramones – It’s Alive! (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “Commando, “Pinhead,” “Glad to See You Go”
  80. Al Green – Greatest Hits (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Let’s Stay Together,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “I’m Still In Love With You,” “Tired of Being Alone”
  81. Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Cindy Tells Me,” “Baby’s On Fire,” “Needles in the Camel’s Eye,” “On Some Faraway Beach”
  82. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Even The Losers,” “Century City”
  83. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Jocko Homo,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Space Junk,” “Gut Feeling / Slap Your Mammy”
  84. The Who – The Who by Numbers (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Slip Kid,” “Dreaming From the Waist,” “How Many Friends,” “However Much I Booze”
  85. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “So It Goes,” “Heart of the City,” “Marie Provost,” “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass”
  86. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Born to Lose,” “One Track Mind,” “Chinese Rocks,” “All By Myself”
  87. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More For From the Road (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Free Bird,” “Working for MCA,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Call Me The Breeze”
  88. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It! (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “When The Time Comes,” “Listen to Her Heart,” “I Need to Know,” “Hurt”
  89. Bob Dylan – Desire (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Isis,” “Hurricane,” “Sara,” “Mozambique”
  90. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Badlands,” “The Promised Land,” “Candy’s Room,” “Prove it All Night”
  91. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Surrender,” “Auf Wiedersehen,” “How Are You?,” “Stiff Competition”
  92. Patti Smith Group – Horses (1975)
    Songs to Die For: “Land: Horses / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer (De), ” “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo / Gloria (version), ” “Birdland,” “Break it Up”
  93. Yes – Yessongs (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Yours is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout”
  94. Cheap Trick – In Color (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Southern Girls,” “Downed,” “Hello There,” Clock Strikes Ten”
  95. UFO – Strangers in the Night (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Rock Bottom,” “Lights Out,” “Cherry, “Too Hot to Handle”
  96. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Truckin’,” “Ripple”
  97. Bob Marley & The Wailers – African Herbsman (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Brain Washing,” “Trenchtown Rock” “Keep on Moving,” “Duppy Conqueror”
  98. The Jam – In The City (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Away From The Numbers,” “I’ve Changed My Address,” “Bricks and Mortar,” “In The City
  99. Generation X – Generation X (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Your Generation,” “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Ready Steady Go!,” “One Hundred Punks”
  100. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Shadowplay,” “Disorder,” “New Dawn Fades,” “She’s Lost Control”
  101. Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Precious Angel,” “When He Returns,” “Slow Train,” “When You Gonna Wake Up?”
  102. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Over The Hills and Far Away,” “Dancing Days,” “The Ocean,” “The Song Remains The Same”
  103. Culture – Two Sevens Clash (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Calling Rastafari,” “Two Sevens Clash,” “I’m Not Ashamed,” “Pirate Days”
  104. New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Human Being,” “Stranded in the Jungle,” “Puss N Boots,” “Who Are the Mystery Girls?”
  105. Elton John – Greatest Hits (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna Be a Long Long Time)” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” “Daniel,” “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me
  106. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
    Songs to Die For: “Suffragette City,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Starman,” “Moonage Daydream”
  107. Bruce Springsteen – Piece de Resistance (Passaic 9-19-1978) (1978)
    Songs to Die For: “Not Fade Away / She’s The One,” “Prove It All Night,” “Backstreets,” “Racing in the Street”
  108. Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Tusk,” “That’s All For Everyone,” “Not That Funny,” “Angel”
  109. Various Artists – “That Summer” Soundtrack (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” “Blank Generation,” “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” ” Another Girl, Another Planet”
  110. New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Trash,” “Personality Crisis,” “Frankenstein,” “Pills”
  111. The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue (1976)
    Songs to Die For: “Hand of Fate,” “Memory Motel,” “Fool to Cry,” “Crazy Mama”
  112. Funkadelic – Best of the Early Years, Vol 1 (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Can You Get to That,” “Funky Dollar Bill,” “Cosmic Slop,” “Super Stupid”
  113. XTC – Drums and Wires (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Life Begins at the Hop,” “Reel By Reel,” “Ten Feet Tall”
  114. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973)
    Songs to Die For: “Band on the Run,” “Ninteen Hundred and Eighty Five” “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It”
  115. John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “God,” “Mother,” “Working Class Hero,” “Remember”
  116. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)
    Songs to Die For: “What is Life” “Isn’t It a Pity,” “Awaiting on You All,” “Wah Wah”
  117. Ramones – Leave Home (1977)
    Songs to Die For: “Carbona Not Glue,” “Pinhead,” “Glad to See You Go,” “Swallow My Pride”
  118. Dave Edmunds – Repeat When Necessary (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Girls Talk,” “Take Me For a Little While,” “Creature From The Black Lagoon,” “Queen of Hearts”
  119. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “Living For The City,” “Higher Ground,” “Don’tcha Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” “He’s Misstra Know It All”
  120. The Gang of Four – Entertainment! (1979)
    Songs to Die For: “Damaged Goods,” “I Found That Essence Rare,” “Anthrax,” “Natural’s Not In It”
  121. Alice Cooper – Greatest Hits (1974)
    Songs to Die For: “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Teenage Lament ’74”

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7 Responses to “The Top 120 Albums of the 1970s”

  1. Tim says:

    Great list as usual. Some easy drops, for me anyway, like Black and Blue and Some Girls, and Elton’s Captain Fantastic would replace Greatest Hits…I would add Blue Oyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation and Delaney & Bonnie’s On Tour with Eric Clapton (the best thing with his name actually on it.)

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    Tim,

    I get how Black and Blue can seem arbitrary, but Some Girls is universally acknowledged as a classic.

    And if I was going to go with an EJ full-length, it would have been Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road or Honky Chateau, but in the end, he was a singles monster. Still, Greatest Hits is missing “The Bitch is Back.”

    And you know that I haven’t had time to process the Delaney & Bonnie. I mean, besides the 40 years where it was off of our radar . . .

  3. Tim says:

    I love how this list keeps creeping upwards…now 121. Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits is one of my favorite albums ever, and certainly there are few albums that can claim the mantle of “greatest hits” as that one does.

    And yes, it’s hard to retrofit a new discovery like D&B onto a list you’ve had in your head for 30-odd years. One other discovery for me recently, and it completes the Clapton/Layla/D&B recording cycle, is his first solo album. Same musicians, same vibe, all good.

    For me, I would certainly have to add to this list Genesis-Selling England by the Pound, and Peter Gabriel’s first solo album. But not much else I could drop from this list, except a few albums I have little experience with, like Generation X.

  4. Doc says:

    I’d dump everything by Yes and add Malpractice by Dr. Feelgood and Secret Treaties and the first Blue Oyster Cult album…

  5. Mark says:

    listing the same band 3,4,5 times or more does not qualify as a best album list. This is ridiculous. How about you limit yourself to no more than 2 albums from the same band (for a 10 year period no less!) and try to come up with a new best 100 list. You will discover a lot of other “best” albums, and the list will have some meaning.

  6. Jim Connelly says:

    Hey Mark,

    Howz about you make your own list with your own rules?

    If a great band makes more than one great album in a ten year period, why short that band for some arbitrary rule that sacrifices depth for breadth? If Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers are both A+ records (which I believe that they are), I’m doing a disservice not to list both of them just because they happened to be made by The Rolling Stones.

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