Sunday, July 3, 2011

Top 40 Music Acts Of The 1970s

Say, you remember this, right? Well, those scheduling conflicts have gone away for the moment, and it's back to AT40: The 70s for me as a result. This weekend's repeat was doubly interesting, as it was a special that sort of addressed the question I asked in that entry.

From July 1, 1978, our AT40 flashback was Top 40 Acts of the 70's. According to Casey Kasem, points were assigned for every single an act had on the Billboard Hot 100 (not just Top 40 entries - he specifically mentioned the Hot 100) from 1970-1978. The results were tabulated and then the Top 40 were listed on the show.

Since that listing I linked is not entirely specific, here are the Top 40 Acts of the 1970s as listed during the program:

40) Earth, Wind, and Fire
39) Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
38) Grand Funk [Railroad]
37) ABBA
36) Steve Miller Band
35) Ringo Starr
34) The Captain and Tennille
33) The Stylistics
32) Carly Simon
31) Donny Osmond
30) Linda Ronstadt
29) Rod Stewart
28) Roberta Flack
27) The Temptations
26) James Taylor
25) Paul Simon
24) War
23) Bread
22) Olivia Newton-John
21) Elvis Presley
20) The Spinners
19) Marvin Gaye
18) Barry Manilow
17) Aretha Franklin
16) Neil Diamond
15) John Denver
14) The Eagles
13) Al Green
12) Diana Ross
11) Tony Orlando and Dawn
10) Helen Reddy
9) Gladys Knight and the Pips
8) Three Dog Night
7) Chicago
6) Jackson Five
5) Stevie Wonder
4) The Carpenters
3) Paul McCartney and Wings
2) The Bee Gees
1) Elton John

Quite the impressive 1970s juggernaut, isn't it? I'm proud to say that I correctly guessed the artists in the Top 5 positions, though I had no idea what order they might take. I DID surmise that Elton John would be the winner, though.

And how about the Bee Gees coming in at #2? I guess that answers the question as to whether they were the band of the decade as far as singles. What makes this showing even MORE impressive (if such a thing is possible) is that they had THREE MORE #1 songs in the 1970s ("Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy", "Love You Inside Out") after this show aired. If the point tabulation had occurred a year later, would they have surpassed Elton John? Seems like it to me.

There were some surprises on the list, too. Part of this came from it encompassing the entire decade. It's a little jarring to see the likes of Ringo Starr, the Temptations, and Three Dog Night so high, but that's a function of knowing now that their Top 40 hits were mostly over when this show was produced. They most definitely belonged when you consider the first half of the decade. So did the Stylistics, though I was not expecting them at all.

Part of the fun in lists like this are the arguments about the omissions. Since the AT40 staff assigned positions by a point system, a case can't necessarily be made that anyone was snubbed. But let's take a look at acts that didn't make the cut and why:

* Premiere Radio Network includes two extras for each AT40 show. For this edition, they were songs by Barbra Streisand and Fleetwood Mac. I can only guess they simply didn't have enough songs to make the Top 40 list. Similarly, Foreigner ran off a string of Top 40 hits in the decade, but only three by the time of this show.

* I jokingly wrote a note to myself during the show that read "No Zep or Floyd LOL", and that was 100% accurate. I didn't expect either Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, two bands active in the 1970s that are still popular across the board, to be on this countdown. Why? Because this was a listing for SINGLES, and both Zeppelin and Floyd really made it count with ALBUMS. Yes, both of them placed singles on the U.S. charts, but it was nothing remarkable. It was their LPs that made them legendary. Same reason KISS is absent, despite making a truckload of money in the 1970s.

* Disco gets some acknowledgment in this list, but perhaps not as much as you would imagine. I think it owes to the fact that disco didn't really have a lot of acts with any kind of staying power. I mean, KC and the Sunshine Band had a fair number of high chart singles compared to most, and they didn't have enough to get on the list. Even Donna Summer, one of the names most associated with disco, had only released a handful of the songs that made her reputation. If you refigured this list to include the rest of '78 and all of 1979, I bet she makes it.

* And lastly, the one act that surprised me by being M.I.A. throughout the show was none other than the Rolling Stones. True, they weren't really in the same ballpark as the 1960s Stones, but they charted a number of songs during the 1970s. They even had three separate #1's. All I can figure is that the others didn't rank highly enough to get the Stones over the hump. Hard to believe, but the Rolling Stones came up just short for the 1970s.

Anything that jumps out at you from this list?

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