1975: Just A Silly Phase I’m Going Through

I’ve often heard my birth year described as the absolute nadir of the 1970s—just peruse the era’s fashions, architecture and home furnishings. It now appears as an Earth-toned world atoning for the sins of the prior decade’s psychedelic, Technicolor spectacle.

It follows that the music of 1975 would fall right in line with this perspective. After all, the year’s top-selling US single was The Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”, as deathless an encapsulation of mid-seventies kitsch as one could imagine. Easy listening, in addition to prog-rock and earnest singer/songwriter stuff seemed to dominate. Punk and new wave were still a year or two off from creating seismic change (in the UK, at least.)

Still, scanning through this year’s number-one singles, look beyond the likes of Olivia Newton John, John Denver, Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc. and you’ll find imperial phase Elton John (for good (“Philadelphia Freedom”) and for ill (his pointless Beatles cover)), Earth, Wind and Fire (somehow their only Hot 100 number-one) and even David Fucking Bowie (with help from arguably the coolest Beatle.)

You also have The Bee Gees thrillingly reinventing themselves with “Jive Talkin’”, reflecting how disco, not yet entirely dominant, started seeping into the mainstream. This mix’s first third is made for dancing, bouncing between instrumental funk (Average White Band–the number one song when I was born), orchestral splendor (Tavares) and pure camp (Disco Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes). It shows how disco gradually spread across the globe, from Philly (The Spinners) to Miami (KC and the Sunshine Band) and over to Munich, with Silver Convention’s remedial but transcendent simplicity setting the stage for Donna Summer’s 16-minute-long orgasmic aria, truly like nothing preceding it in the clubs or on the charts.

Perhaps another innovative single, 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” evokes the era more vividly, its watery electric piano and overdubbed expressionist vocals suffusing the air like pea soup; both its era-specificity and peculiarity anticipate the weird assortment of songs that follow. On one hand, the artists everyone knows: Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Steely Dan (albeit with an (admittedly catchy) album track about a pedophile!); on the other, the cultish stuff my contemporaries will lionize decades later—mid-period Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but also Sparks and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even some proto-punk/new wave stuff like Patti Smith and Brian Eno.

Visually, yes, 1975 remains a flurry of deep browns, harvest golds and avocado greens; sonically, however, like any other year, it contains a considerably wider spectrum of color.

Click here to listen to my favorite songs from 1975 on Spotify.

  1. Average White Band, “Pick Up The Pieces”
  2. Silver Convention, “Fly Robin Fly”
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire, “Shining Star”
  4. Tavares, “It Only Takes A Minute”
  5. LaBelle, “Lady Marmalade”
  6. Bee Gees, “Jive Talkin’”
  7. The Pointer Sisters, “How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side)”
  8. Disco Tex and His Sex-O-lettes, “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)”
  9. KC & The Sunshine Band, “That’s The Way (I Like It)”
  10. Donna Summer, “Love To Love You Baby”
  11. Electric Light Orchestra, “Evil Woman”
  12. The Spinners, “They Just Can’t Stop It The (Games People Play)”
  13. Dionne Warwick, “Once You Hit The Road”
  14. Elton John, “Philadelphia Freedom”
  15. Shirley & Company, “Shame, Shame, Shame”
  16. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, “Bad Luck”
  17. David Bowie, “Young Americans”
  18. The O’Jays, “I Love Music”
  19. 10cc, “I’m Not In Love”
  20. War, “Low Rider”
  21. Paul Simon, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”
  22. ABBA, “Hey Hey Helen”
  23. Richard & Linda Thompson, “Hokey Pokey”
  24. Fleetwood Mac, “Say You Love Me”
  25. Tim Curry, “Sweet Transvestite”
  26. Sparks, “Looks, Looks, Looks”
  27. Teach In, “Ding-A-Dong”
  28. Al Stewart, “Carol”
  29. Neil Young, “Tonight’s The Night”
  30. Dwight Tilley Band, “I’m On Fire”
  31. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”
  32. Steely Dan, “Everyone’s Gone To The Movies”
  33. Joni Mitchell, “Edith and The Kingpin”
  34. Patti Smith, “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo”
  35. Brian Eno, “The Big Ship”
  36. Heart, “Crazy On You”
  37. Sweet, “Fox On The Run”
  38. Wings, “Call Me Back Again”
  39. Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
  40. ZZ Top, “Tush”
  41. Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir”
  42. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)”
  43. Roxy Music, “Just Another High”
  44. Queen, “Bohemian Rhaspody”
  45. Dickie Goodman, “Mr. Jaws”