My Top Twenty, 1970 Edition, by Rich Paschall
It was a year of firsts and lasts in Rock and Roll history. Black Sabbath put out their first album, which many now see as the beginning of heavy metal music. The Grateful Dead made their first British appearance at Hollywood Festival, Newcastle. Other notable groups were on the bill but an unknown group, Mungo Jerry, stole the show. Their hit “In The Summertime” made our list of “One Hit Wonders,” 1970 Edition.
Casey Kasem started counting down the hits as American Top 40 hit the airwaves in July. Ryan Seacrest now hosts the show. The Isle of Wight Festival drew approximately 600,000 people, the biggest concert up to that point in time. Derek and the Dominos released their only album, which included the hit “Layla.”
Diana Ross and the Supremes gave their final performance together. The Doors played their last performance together too. Janis Joplin made her last television appearance in August and died two months later. Jimi Hendrix gave his last performance on September 17 and died the following day. Both Joplin and Hendrix were 27.
Simon and Garfunkel released their last album together, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The Beatles’ last album was “Let It Be.” Certain artists retired but unretired in the following years. There were groups that broke up, and some eventually got back together. Four thousand albums and 5700 singles were released in the US.
My shortlist was not too short, but my Top Twenty hits of 1970 have been selected and it is time for a golden anniversary party for these Golden Oldies. If you look at your watch (or your cell phone), you will see it is the hour for the “Travellin’ Band” to start the music. “Lola,” says “I’ll Be There,” and she longs to be “Close To You.” She will jump in a “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Ride, Captain, Ride.” If “Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head,” we will just have to ask “Who’ll Stop The Rain?” We are hoping for a Shocking Blue sky. “Maybe I Am Amazed” that all of you are on the way. Just come down the “Long And Winding Road” and take the Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I will be “Looking Out My Back Door” for you. “No Matter What” our playlist is just “Up Around The Bend.” “If You Could Read My Mind,” there would be no need to continue. But let’s not have a “Ball of Confusion.”
This long-distance dedication goes out to all the Boomers who say “Make Me Smile.” Now on with the countdown:
20. Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel. The song either calls on St. Cecilia the patron saint of music, or is a lament about an unfaithful lover. You decide. That’s the fun part. It’s one of several hit singles off the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album.
19. Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Released on my birthday in 1970, it was a song I could actually play on my guitar. That was then. Lead singer and composer John Fogerty is still singing it.
18. Green Eyed Lady, Sugarloaf. It was the band’s first hit. There was the album version at 5:58 and the radio edit at 2:58. When the song started to become popular it was re-edited to 3:33 which is the version you are most likely to hear on the radio now.
17. Everything is Beautiful, Ray Stevens. “There is none so blind, As he who will not see. We must not close our minds. We must let our thoughts be free.” Stevens was well known for his comedy songs but picked up a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for this serious and somewhat spiritual tune.
16. I Just Can’t Help Believing, B. J. Thomas. Written by the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, it was recorded by a number of artists before becoming a hit for Thomas. Elvis Presley recorded it later in the year and it appears on the album, “That’s The Way It Is,” and was released as a single in the U.K.
15. Fire and Rain, James Taylor. Written by Taylor, the song refers to various episodes in his life. Carole King is playing the piano on the recording. Later she wrote “You’ve Got A Friend” as a response to “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,” a line from the “Fire and Rain” lyric.
14. Woodstock, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Joni Mitchell wrote the song in 1969 and recorded it in 1970. It was on the B-side of her hit “Big Yellow Taxi.” She had not actually been at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival of 1969 but based the lyrics on the experiences she heard about from Graham Nash. The CSN&Y version was a more up-tempo rock than the folk music version by Mitchell.
13. American Woman, The Guess Who. Recorded at the RCA Mid-America Recording Center in Chicago in August of 1969, it was released in 1970 and made it all the way to number one. The meaning of the lyrics, originally improvised live, has often been debated, even among the band members who wrote it.
12. Cracklin’ Rosie, Neil Diamond. This was the first American number 1 hit for the Canadian singer-songwriter. Some may have that that “a store-bought woman” was a lady of the night, but it actually referred to a bottle of wine.
11. Spill the Wine, Eric Burdon & War. Yes, it is more wine and you are admonished not to spill any. It was the first song to hit the charts for the group War. This was allegedly inspired by an accident of one of the musicians spilling wine on a mixing board.
I see you have been dancing a lot but you did not spill the wine. We can hardly see the time on the corner of your laptop, and we don’t know if it is 25 or 6 to 4. Since the hour is late, we will have to bring you the Top 10 next time. Until then you can listen to all of these songs on our 1970’s YouTube playlist here. You might want to bookmark that playlist because will be adding the rest of the songs throughout the week.
See also: “This Magic Moment, The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1969,” SERENDIPITY, February 1, 2019.
“Those Were The Days, My Friend, The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1968,” SERENDIPITY, April 29, 2018.