Best 70s Rock Songs (you'll wish you heard earlier)

Best 70s Rock Songs (you’ll wish you heard earlier)

During the 60s many of the top rock bands of the 70s weren’t formed or were in their infancy. By the time we got into the 70s rock music was following many paths. Some of the best and we would say most classic rock songs were produced during the 70s.

There was a great deal of musical experimentation going on in the 70s, music fans were tired of the same old, same old. The mid to late 60s saw the formation of some of the greatest rock bands of all time. Bands like Pink Floyd (1965), Cream (1966), Fleetwood Mac (1967), Black Sabbath (1968), The Who (1964), Deep Purple (1968) , Lynyrd Skynyrd (1964) ZZ Top (1969) Queen (1970), Rolling Stones (1962) and The Doors (1965).

These bands were all experimenting with different genres, amps and effects and creating music that had never been heard before. And the 70s generation were more than happy to hear them.

Table of Contents

The End Of An Era

Mainstream popular music had gone through the Beatles phase and by the start of 1970 they were about to break up. In April of that year it was official, the Beatles were no more. This meant the teenagers had to embrace a new breed of performer and boy, did they have some choices. Theatres and concert halls were rammed with fans rocking to the sounds of these newly formed or newly styled bands.

 Best 70s Rock Songs

In no particular order here’s our list of the best rock songs from the 70s, that’s 10 years of some of the best rock songs ever. If you weren’t around in the 70s, or if you’ve forgotten what the rock scene was like, you’re in for a treat.

Paranoid – Black Sabbath 

From the album of the same name (released in September 1970) comes the title track. The music video for paranoid was filmed in Belgium. Paranoid reached number 4 in the UK charts and number 61 on the hot 100 in the US.

Black Dog – Led Zeppelin

Black Dog was the first track on Zeppelin’s 4th album which was actually untitled but commonly known as Zeppelin IV. Black Dog was released as a single in many countries but not in the UK.

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Free Bird was Skynyrd’s second top 40 hit reaching number 19 in 1975. The single was 4:41 with the album version running for 9:08 with the last words uttered at 4:55 the rest is probably the most famous guitar jam in the history of rock music. Sometimes during live shows, the song went on for more than 14 minutes.

Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple

From the album Machine Head comes probably the most recognised track ever performed by Deep Purple. Smoke on the Water reached number 4 in the Billboard pop singles chart. The single was released a year after the album was released.

Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits

This classic Dire Straits song was released in the UK in May 1978 and in the US in January 1979, it made the top 10 in both countries. Mark Knopfler composed the song on a National Steel Guitar (resonator) and he thought it was dull. He said,  “It just came alive as soon as I played it on that ’61 Strat … the new chord changes just presented themselves and fell into place.”

Hotel California – The Eagles

The title track from the 1977 album of the same name, Hotel California was the fourth Eagles track to make number one on the Billboard pop singles chart. It also earned the Eagles a Grammy award for record of the year.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

From the album A Night At The Opera, this 1975 hit song (number one for nine weeks) catapulted Queen into the limelight. They already had a large following, but this track shot them to fame worldwide. It is the only song ever to reach the Christmas number one spot twice by the same artists.

Money – Pink Floyd

From the album Dark Side Of The Moon, Money was released as a single in 1973 and was the band’s first hit in the US. The opening track on side two of the original album, Money runs for 6:22 on the album and 3:59 as a single.

Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

From the album Morrison Hotel, Roadhouse Blues was released as the B side to the single You Make Me Real. Robby Krieger played all the guitar parts on Roadhouse Blues, Alice Cooper claims he was the inspiration for the line “I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer”.

Schools Out – Alice Cooper

Schools Out is the title track of Alice Cooper’s 5th album, it reached number one in the UK and number 7 on the Billboard hot 100 in the US. Inspired by the feeling he got during the last three minutes of school Alice Cooper said “If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be so big.’ 

Alright Now – Free

From the album, Fire And Water, this was the band’s second single released from this album. Alright Now reached number 2 in the UK charts and number 4 on the BIllboard Hot 100 in the US.

Can’t Get Enough – Bad Company

After Free split, Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke formed Bad Company. Can’t Get Enough was from their self titled album released in 1974. Recorded in open C tuning, guitarist Mick Ralphs said, “It never really sounds right in standard tuning. It needs the open C to have that ring”.

Baba O’Riley – The Who

Taken from the album Who’s Next, Baba O’Riley is often misnamed “Teenage Wasteland” due to the mid eight refrain sung by Pete Townsend. All other lyrics are sung by the Who’s front man, Roger Daltrey.

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

Taken from their 1976 album, Agents Of Fortune, Don’t Fear The Reaper was the band’s biggest hit, reaching number 12 on the Hot 100. Don’t Fear The Reaper was written and sung by guitarist Buck Dharma. It’s first time of release in the UK failed to chart but the unedited version released in 1978 reached number 16 in the UK.

Let It Be – The Beatles

The title track of their last ever album, Let It Be was The Beatles highest debut track on the Hot 100 entering the chart at number 6 before eventually reaching number one.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain? – Creedence Clearwater Revival

From the album Pendulum, this track was released in 1971 and reached number 3 in the UK, number 8 in the US and number one in Canada. Written and produced by John Fogarty about rising tensions within the band.

More Than A Feeling – Boston

From their debut album entitled Boston in 1976, More Than A Feeling reached number 22 in the UK and number 5 on the Hot 100. It was included in the Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame’s list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

Anarchy In The UK – The Sex Pistols

Taken from the album Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols and released in 1976 this track is also listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

All The Young Dudes – Mott The Hoople

Written and produced by David Bowie, All The Young Dudes was recorded and released by Mott The Hoople in 1972. This track is also in the rock and roll hall of fame’s 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

The Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy

From the album Jailbreak and released in 1976 this track reached number 8 in the UK and number 87 in the Hot 100. Re-released in 1991 after the death of frontman Phil Lynott.

Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones

Taken from the Sticky Fingers album and released in 1971, Brown sugar was their first single released on Rolling Stones Records. Brown Sugar reached number 2 in the UK and number 18 in the Hot 100.

Message In A Bottle – The Police

From the album Reggatta De Blanc and written by Sting the lead singer and bassist with the Police, Message In A Bottle was their first number one in the UK and reached number 74 in the Hot 100. 

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

From the album Toys In The Attic, Walk This Way reached number 10 on the Hot 100 . It was also covered by Run DMC in 1986.

American Pie – Don McClean

Written and recorded by Don McClean, American Pie taken from the album of the same name, was at number one in the US for 4 weeks in 1972 and reached number 2 in the UK. “The day the music died” refers to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in 1959.

Highway To Hell – AC/DC

From the album of the same name, Highway To Hell was released in 1979. The song is about how tough the life of a touring rockstar is. This track got to number 4 in the UK and number 47 in the Hot 100.

Layla – Derek And The Dominos

Written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon and released in 1970, Layla was inspired by a love story from the 12th century entitled The Story Of Layla And Majnun written by Nizami Ganjavi. Apparently Eric was inspired after reading the book and the rest is history.

 Knocking On Heavens Door – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan wrote this track for the soundtrack of the film Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973). It reached the top 10 in many countries worldwide. This is one of the most covered songs by Bob Dylan.

Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin

Another track from Zeppelin IV, Stairway To Heaven was released in 1971. This track reached number 37 in the UK charts. Parodied in Wayne’s World as banned from being played in guitar shops. 

Heroes – David Bowie

Written, produced and sung by David Bowie, Heroes was released in 1977. This track never really reached chart recognition until after David’s death in 2016.

Samba Pa Ti – Santana

From the album Abraxas, Samba Pa Ti is a Santana classic. Released in 1973 and translates to samba for you, written by Carlos Santana after watching a drunk saxophonist outside his apartment in New York city.

London Calling – The Clash

The title track from the third studio album by the Clash. Released in 1979 in the UK it was a top 20 single for the band with the album in the top 10 of the album charts.

Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band

From the album Brothers And Sisters, Ramblin’ Man was released in 1973. Inspired by the song of the same title by Hank Williams it became the Allman Brothers only top 10 single.

Lola – The Kinks

Written by the Kinks frontman Ray Davis, Lola reached number 2 in the UK singles chart and number 9 in the Hot 100 in 1970. Lola tells the story of a young man and a trans woman he meets in Soho. It includes the line “walked like a woman but talked like a man”.

Into The Mystic – Van Morrison

Written and performed by George Van Morrison, Into The Mystic comes from the 1970 album Moondance. Originally entitled Into The Misty, the name eventually became Into The Mystic.

Maggie May – Rod Stewart

From the album Every Picture Tells A Story, Maggie May was released in 1971. This track was at number one in the UK singles charts for 5 weeks and was also number one on the Hot 100.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

From the album Not Fragile and released in 1974 this track reached number 2 in the UK singles chart and number one in the Hot 100.

I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick

Taken from their second album, In Color and released in 1977 this track was the band’s most successful reaching number one in Japan, number 29 in the UK  and number 7 in the US.

Do It Again – Steely Dan

Taken from their debut album Can’t Buy A Thrill and released in 1972, Do It Again reached number 6 in the US charts and number 39 in the UK.

Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel

Written and performed by Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty with their band Stealers Wheel, Stuck In The Middle With You, was a top ten hit for the band on both sides of the Atlantic. Gerry provided main vocals with Joe singing the harmony.

The Logical Song – Supertramp

Taken from the album Breakfast In America, the Logical Song reached top ten positions in the UK and US. It is based on the experiences of Roger Hodgson at boarding school where he spent ten years. The song contains the line “Please tell me who I am” and is probably the reason for its longevity.

Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry

First released in 1976 this track got to number one in the US and number 7 in the UK. It was the band’s only top 40 song in the US.

What A Fool Believes – The Doobie Brothers

Written by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, and performed by the Doobie Brothers, this track was taken from their album Minute By Minute and was released in 1979. It reached number one on the Hot 100 and number 31 in the UK charts.

Cocaine – J.J. Cale

Written and recorded by J.J. Cale and covered famously by Eric Clapton. This original never was a huge hit although it did make number one in New Zealand.

Mississippi Queen – Mountain

This was Mountain’s most successful single reaching number 21 in the Hot 100 and number 4 in Canada.

Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress – The Hollies

From the album Distant Light and released in 1972 Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

Because The Night – The Patti Smith Group

Co Written by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, and first released as a single in 1978 by the Patti Smith Group, this track reached number 5 in the UK, and number 13 on the Hot 100.

The Joker – Steve Miller

This track comes from the album of the same name and was released in 1973 and the following year it topped the Hot 100 chart in the US but it wasn’t until 1990 that it reached number one in the UK after being used in a commercial for Levi’s.

Radar Love – Golden Earring

Radar Love was a top ten hit song for the Dutch band, Golden Earring in many countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Germany. 

Blue Morning Blue Day – Foreigner

From the album Double Vision, Blue Morning Blue Day was the third single released from that album. It reached number 15 in the Hot 100 chart and number 45 in the UK chart in 1978.

My Best Friend’s Girl – The Cars

From the album The Cars, their debut album this track reached number 3 in the UK charts and number 35 on the Hot 100 chart in 1978. 

Spanish Stroll – Mink De Ville

This was their only record to chart in the UK , from the album Cabretta. Spanish Stroll was released in 1977.

Denis – Blondie

Blondie brought out this cover of Denis in 1978 and it was their gateway track into the international music scene. It reached number 2 in the UK and also made the top 20 in many European countries.

Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen

Released from their self named debut album in 1978, this track was the second single released from the album.

Band On The Run – Paul McCartney And Wings

From the album of the same name, this track was released in 1974 and got to number one in the US and number 3 in the UK. This was one of McCartney’s longest singles with three separate sections that span the genres of funk, rock and folk.

Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh

Released in 1973 Rocky Mountain Way reached number 23 in the Hot 100 chart and number 39 in the UK.

Night Moves – Bob Seger

The first single from the album of the same name, Night Moves transformed Bob Seger into an international star.

Fly By Night – Rush

The title track from the band’s second album, released in 1975 the words were written by the drummer Neil Peart about his first trip away from his home in Canada to the UK.

La Grange – ZZ Top

From the album Tres Hombres and released in 1973, La Grange reached number 41 on the Hot 100 and although it never charted in the UK it did sell over 200,000 copies.

Lights – Journey

Released in 1978, Lights was only a minor hit reaching number 68 on the Hot 100 chart. 

Mr.Blue Sky – The Electric Light Orchestra

From the album Out Of The Blue, which was their seventh album released in 1977. Mr. Blue Sky reached number 6 in the UK charts and number 35 in the Hot 100.

Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton

From the album Frampton’s Camel, released in 1976, which was 3 years after the album was released. The song grew in popularity and it was from the live album, Frampton Comes Alive that the track gained so much airplay.

Rock Candy – Montrose

Composed by all four members of the band, this track was released in 1973. Rock Candy has been covered by many artists since its debut in 1973.

Cherry Bomb – The Runaways

The debut single from the Runaways from their self titled album in 1976. Composed by Joan Jett and Kim Fowey and included on the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy. Joan Jett re-recorded this song with her band the Blackhearts in 1984.

Love Is The Drug – Roxy Music

The first single from the album Siren released in 1975, it started life as an instrumental but then Bryan Ferry came up with lyrics. It reached number 2 in the UK singles chart and number 30 on the Hot 100.

Bad, Bad Boy – Nazareth

From the 1973 album Razamanaz, Bad, Bad Boy reached number 10 in the UK singles charts. 

Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf

From the album of the same name released in 1977, which was one of the best selling albums of all time. The single got to number 8 in the UK singles charts.

Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

From the 1972 album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, the single Ziggy Stardust was released as a live track not a studio recording.

Blockbuster – Sweet

This 1972 glam rock hit spent 5 weeks at number one in the UK singles chart. 

Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

From the album Rumours released in 1976, reaching number 38 in the UK singles chart and number 10 on the Hot 100 chart. Like many tracks on Rumours, this track comments on the troubled relationships between the band members.

Renegade – Styx

From the album Pieces Of Eight, Renegade was released in 1979 and reached number 16 on the Hot 100 chart in the US. It never made the charts in the UK.

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

From their second album, Second Helping, this track reached number 8 in the US singles chart in 1974. The song references Neil Young and his two tracks relating to Alabama, Southern Man and Alabama.

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

From the album Talking Book and released in 1972, Superstition reached number one in the Hot 100 and number 11 in the UK singles chart.

 Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen

From the album of the same name, Born To Run was Springsteen’s first international single release. It reached number 23 on the Hot 100 chart in 1975.

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2 – Pink Floyd

From the album The Wall, part 2 was released as a single in 1979. It was a protest song against abusive and rigid schooling and sold over 4 million copies worldwide.

 I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones

From the album Road To Ruin, this track was released in 1978 as a single after being used as a B side to She’s The One. I Wanna Be Sedated sold over 1,000,000 copies.

Roundabout – Yes

Taken from the album Fragile and released as a single in 1972. Apparently inspired by a journey the band made from Aberdeen to Glasgow after someone commented on just how many roundabouts there were on the way. In recent years this song was made popular by the To Be Continued memes on youtube.

My Sharona – The Knack

From the album Get The Knack, this track was the band’s debut single in 1979. It reached number one on the Hot 100 and stayed there for 6 weeks.It reached number 6 in the UK singles chart.

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

Inspired by the 1935 film werewolf of London, this track released in 1978 reached number 21 on the Hot 100 chart. It featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie from Fleetwood Mac as part of the band.

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello

From Elvis Costello and the Attractions third album Armed Forces and released in 1979, Oliver’s army was written as a comment to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Apparently the Oliver in the title refers to Oliver Cromwell who first subjugated Ireland in 1649.

Life In The Fast Lane – The Eagles

Written by Joe Walsh, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Life In The Fast Lane was another single taken from the album Hotel California. Apparently Joe Walsh came up with the opening riff and shouted out something like we have to find a song to put this in.

Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

Released in 1977 and taken from their debut album Talking Heads:77, Psycho Killer was the only song from the album to get into the Hot 100 where it reached number 92.

Pick Up The Pieces – Average White Band

From their second album AWB, this track was first released in 1974 and didn’t chart but after its success in the USA (number one in the singles chart)  it was rereleased and reached number 6 in the UK the following year.

Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull

Inspired by Ian Andersons concern about overpopulation,  he said Locomotive Breath “was  about the runaway train of population growth and capitalism, it was based on those sorts of unstoppable ideas. We’re on this crazy train, we can’t get off it. Where is it going?” Released in 1971 it failed to chart, but the re-release in 1976 reached number 59 on the US charts.

Riders On the Storm – The Doors

From the album LA Woman and released in 1971, Riders On The Storm reached number 22 in the UK singles chart and number 14 in the Hot 100. 

We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions – Queen

From the album News Of The World these two tracks were released together in 1977. The rhythmic clap and foot stomp were recordings of the band over dubbed with delay added. Apparently the delays were in prime numbers, a technique that is now commonly known as non-harmonic reverberation.

Stay With Me – The Faces

Written by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, and taken from the album A Nods As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse, reached number 6 in the UK singles chart and number 17 on the Hot 100.

Hold Your Head Up – Argent

A top 5 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and from their third album All Together Now, this track was released in 1972. 

Black Night – Deep Purple

From the album Deep Purple In Rock first released in 1970. It reached number 2 in the UK singles charts and number 4 in Ireland (their only single ever to chart in Ireland).

Question – The Moody Blues

Written and sung by Justin Hayward, and from the 1970 album A Question Of Balance, Question reached number 2 in the UK singles chart and number 21 in the Hot 100. It’s one of the Moody Blues most popular songs and has been included on many compilation albums.

Black Betty – Ram Jam

Released in 1977 and based on an old Leadbelly song of the same name, Black Betty got to number 7 in the UK singles chart and number 18 on the Hot 100.

Bad Penny – Rory Gallagher

From the album Top Priority released in 1979, Bad Penny is a bluesy rock song and showcases the skillful guitar work of Rory Gallagher.

Hocus Pocus – Focus

From the album Focus II, Hocus Pocus was released in 1971 by the Dutch rock band Focus. After some variations in speed etc, Hocus Pocus eventually reached number 20 in the UK singles chart in 1973 and number 9 in the Hot 100.

What Do You Think?

Have we left out any 70s rock songs? Are there any we’ve included that you don’t agree with? What would be your top 5 rock songs from the 70s? Let us know in the comments.

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