20+ of the Worst Songs of the 1970s

It’s easy to criticize the songs of today, especially if we compare them to some of the best songs of the 1970s. But it’s also easy to forget that some of the songs released in the 1970s were real stinkers. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the worst songs of the 1970s.

1

Make it With You, Bread, 1970

Ah, yes. A tender love ballad, sung in an overly sweet falsetto, about wanting to have sex. The song starts simply with a mellow acoustic guitar strumming, but it quickly turns into an overly saccharine love song that many people find cheesy and awkward.

“Make it With You” was covered by a surprisingly large group of artists. Aretha Franklin belts out a powerful version proving that Aretha can make anything sound good. During the 1960s and 1970s, a large number of albums were released featuring popular artists such as Ray Coniff covering hit songs of the day, and it was on these albums that most of the cover versions appeared.

Cringiest Lyric

Hey, have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But baby, here goes

I Wanna Make it With You, David Gates

2

A Horse with No Name, America, 1972

America’s 1971 track “Horse with No Name” might have been a big hit, but that only shows that there’s really no accounting for taste. The song’s arrangement, with light guitar and simple drum beat, provides no real excitement for listeners. Instead, we’re bored by the plodding pace of the song.

Cringiest Lyric

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

Horse with No Name, Dewey Bunnell

3

Seasons in the Sun, Terry Jacks, 1972

I bet you would be shocked to know that Seasons in the Sun began its life as a 1961 hit by Jacques Brel, “Le Moribond.” The song’s premise remains a dying man saying goodbye to his loved ones. But, Brel sings the song with an upbeat tempo and scenery-chewing zest; his performance transports it into the “so bad it’s good” category.

Sadly, poet Rod McKeuen decided the lyrics (sample line: “Goodbye Emile, I really liked you”) needed a little refresh and wrote new, even more maudlin, lyrics for the song. Not to be outdone, Terry Jacks added his own spin on the lyrics when he recorded the song in 1973.

Jacks also slows down the song’s tempo to a dirgelike pace and sings like, well, a man who is about to die. How fun to hear on Top 40 radio!

Fun fact: The Beach Boys also recorded a version of this song but declined to release it because “it was so wimpy we had to throw it out.” You can find the Beach Boys’ version of Seasons in the Sun on YouTube.

Cringiest Lyric

Goodbye, papa, please pray for me
I was the black sheep of the family
You tried to teach me right from wrong
Too much wine and too much song
Wonder how I got along

Seasons in the Sun, Jacques Brel, Rod McKuen

4

Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O’Sullivan, 1972

I used to get “Alone Again (Naturally)” mixed up with “Seasons in the Sun,” and I’m sure you can understand why. They’re both self-pitying pop songs about death and were both on the charts in 1972. What happened to our world in 1972 when we needed two songs about death?

In “Seasons in the Sun,” Jacks is noncommital about how he will die, but O’Sullivan is happy to fill us in on how he will go, “I promise myself to treat myself, And visit a nearby tower. And climbing to the top, Will throw myself off.”

The whole song is a downer. Over an almost peppy, soft rock melody, O’Sullivan tells us of being suicidal because he was left at the alter, asks why God deserted him, and mourns the death of his parents.

Of course, it was a big hit, spending six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also covered extensively by 1970s middle-of-the-road singers like Andy Williams, Ray Coniff, Jim Nabors, and Anita Bryant.

Cringiest Lyric

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to who wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces

Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O’Sullivan

5

Playground in My Mind, Clint Holmes, 1972

Who could forget this cloyingly sweet song? (If you could forget it, I apologize for bringing it to your attention again.) The song’s chorus features a young boy singing lyrics like, “My name is Michael, I’ve got a nickel, I’ve got a nickel shiny and new” in a sing-songy nursery rhyme manner.

“Playground in My Mind” was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. Vance’s seven-year-old son, Phillip, sang the chorus. Vance would later inflict more of his children’s singing on an unsuspecting public. His daughter sang the girl’s part on another 70s stinker, “Run Joey Run.”

Cringiest Lyric

My girl is Cindy,
when we get married
we’re gonna have a baby or two
We’re gonna let them
visit their grandma,
that’s what we’re gonna do

Playground in My Mind, Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss

6

(You’re) Having My Baby, Paul Anka, 1974

“(You’re) Having My Baby” was Paul Anka’s first #1 hit on the Billboard Top 100 since 1959. Maybe it hit big because the song features some of the day’s current events. I’m speaking, of course, to his reference to the recent Supreme Court Ruling in Roe vs. Wade when he says so tenderly:

“You could have swept it from your life,
But you wouldn’t do it, no, you wouldn’t do it”

Paul is one proud papa in this melodramatic potboiler, saying things like,

“What a lovely way of sayin’ what you’re thinkin’ of me”

When someone sends you flowers, this is a fine response, but maybe a little wishy-washy for a pregnancy announcement.

As was typical during the 1970s, a country version of this song was also released. Country Singer Sunday Sharpe released a feminized version of the song “I’m Having Your Baby.” The TV Show Glee, always willing to embrace a bad 70s song, covered the song in Season 1.

The song was a big hit at the time, but the sexist lyrics and maudlin delivery have not aged well. CNN voted it “The Worst Song of All Time” in 2006.

Cringiest Lyric

The need inside you, I see it showin’
Whoa, the seed inside ya, baby, do you feel it growin’?
Are you happy you know it?

(You’re) Having My Baby, Paul Anka

7

Feelings, Morris Albert, 1975

No list of bad songs from the 1970s would be complete without “Feelings,” the song we all loved to hate.

“Feelings,” recorded by Brazilian singer, Morris Albert, peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. That’s quite an accomplishment for a song no one will admit to buying.

“Feelings” is a classic example of the sappy love song we loved to listen to in the 1970s. The song features an acoustic guitar and Albert singing lines like”Trying to forget my feelings of love.” The song is painfully slow, and Albert is so cringingly earnest we all feel second-hand embarrassment for him.

Cringiest Lyric

Teardrops
Rolling down on my face
Trying to forget my feelings of love

Feelings, Morris Albert, Louis Gasté

8

All By Myself, Eric Carmen, 1975

A classic over-the-top power ballad, Eric Carmen’s 1975 hit “All By Myself” is a mash-up of two very different songs. The music for the verse is based on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18, and the music for the chorus from Raspberry’s song, Let’s Pretend (also written by Carmen).

The song has a steel guitar solo, sweeping strings, an emotional piano solo, and histrionic vocals, all under-scoring the self-pitying lyrics. “All by Myself” was later covered by Celine Dion, who has never been one to shy away from a bombastic production.

Cringiest Lyric

Living alone
I think of all the friends I’ve known
But when I dial the telephone
Nobody’s home

All By Myself, Eric Carmen

9

Run, Joey, Run, David Geddes, 1975

We featured “Run, Joey, Run” on our list of the saddest songs of the 1970s, but there’s no reason a sad song can’t also be a bad song. “Run, Joey, Run” is also notable for being the second entry on this list written by Paul Vance (and featuring Vance’s teenage daughter on the vocals).

“Run, Joey, Run” is a classic teenage tragedy song about a girl accidentally killed by her father while protecting her lover from her father’s rage. In Season One of Glee, the cast gave “Run, Joey, Run” the dramatic reenactment we didn’t know we needed.

Cringiest Lyric

Daddy, please don’t
It wasn’t his fault
He means so much to me
Daddy, please don’t
We’re gonna get married
Just you wait and see

Run, Joey, Run, Paul Vance & Jack Perricone (aka Perry Cone)

10

Wildfire, Michael Martin Murphey, 1975

“Wildfire” is a cheery song about a girl who went looking for her horse in a blizzard. The good news: she found her horse! The bad news: she died searching (as, apparently, did her horse), and now they are both ghosts riding around at night. You know, regular pop music stuff.

Murphy sings the song with so much emotion it almost feels like he’s about to die, himself, and – spoiler alert – he is about to die! He knows that because there’s been a hoot owl outside his window for six nights in a row.

And that’s it. That’s the song. And, yet, it became a big hit – reaching #3 on the Billboard Top 100. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to trash the music of today.

Cringiest Lyric

On Wildfire we’re gonna ride
We’re gonna leave sodbustin’ behind
Get these hard times right on out of our minds
Riding Wildfire

Wildfire, Michael Martin Murphey

11

Squeeze Box, The Who, 1975

https://youtu.be/ZXoxH8HI7z8

Here’s everything you need to know about the song “Squeeze Box.” It was originally intended for a TV special where The Who would be surrounded by 100 topless women playing the accordion.

The song is annoying and grating, with a tinny accordion melody and silly lyrics about a woman who loves her squeezebox so much that “Daddy never sleeps at night.” After learning the accordion, Pete Townshend wrote the song and originally intended it to be a juvenile, silly joke to make the other members of The Who chuckle.

To his surprise, the other band members loved the song, and wanted to record it. No one was more surprised than Townshend when it became a hit. (Except perhaps for me. I love The Who, but I don’t like this song.)

Cringiest Lyric

She goes in and out and in
And out and in and out and in and out

Squeezebox, Pete Townshend

12

Torn Between Two Lovers, Mary MacGregor, 1976

“Torn Between Two Lovers” was written by Peter Yarrow of the group Peter, Paul, and Mary, showing that anyone can have an off day.

This song is full of drama and angst, which seems excessive for a song whose theme is “I just can’t decide what boy I want to date!” It features an overly dramatic piano line and a syrupy vocal delivery.

The lyrics imply the singer knows she’s giving her lover devastating news that he can surely never get over. My guess is he was just fine a week later.

Cringiest Lyric

You mustn’t think you failed me just because there’s someone else
You were the first real love I ever had
And all the things I ever said, I swear they still are true
For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you

Torn Between Two Lovers, Peter Yarrow

13

Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band, 1976

If there’s a song that everyone universally agrees is a Very Bad Song, it’s got to be Afternoon Delight. It’s been used as a symbol of cheesy 70s music in the movie Anchorman and the TV show Glee.

I guess there’s something about wholesomely dressed, fresh-faced attractive people sweetly singing about having sex in the afternoon that gets under some people’s skin.

People forget that there were two versions of this song on the chart at the same time (a fairly common phenomenon in the 1970s). The Starland Vocal Band’s version reached #1 in July 1976, and country singer Johnny Carver’s version went to #10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles.

Based on my very unscientific survey, 1976 was the peak year for bad 70s songs. That was the year of the bicentennial, and everything seemed so much more innocent. We were all genuinely excited to celebrate the 200th year of our country.

Maybe we were all a little cheesy then. Maybe we should try to bring a little of that back. Maybe appreciating the sweet harmonies of a sugary song about – gasp! – sex is a good place to start!

Cringiest Lyric

Started out this morning feeling so polite
I always though a fish could not be caught who wouldn’t bite
But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might try nibbling
A little afternoon delight

Afternoon Delight, Bill Danoff

14

Undercover Angel, Alan O’Day, 1976

“Undercover Angel” is the story of a lonely man who has an angel visit him in the middle of the night to make love. If I had a dollar for every time that happened, am I right?

After a night of love, she leaves but tells him as she goes, “Go find the right one, love her, and then when you look into her eyes, you’ll see me again.”

In the next verse, we discover this entire story has been an elaborate seduction scheme as he says to the girl listening, “Now you know my story, and girl, if it’s right, I’m gonna take you in my arms and love you tonight.”

Unlike other contenders, the song’s melody isn’t terrible. It’s upbeat and catchy, with a fun hook in the chorus. However, the echoing “What?” of the chorus, followed by “Ooh-ooh-ooh, whee” and the teenage boy’s fantasy lyrics earns it a solid place on our worst-of list.

Cringiest Lyric

Crying on my pillow, lonely in my bed
Then I heard a voice beside me and she softly said
“Thunder is your nightlight, magic is your dream”
And then as I held her, she said, “See what I mean”

Undercover Angel, Alan O’Day

15

Year of the Cat, Al Stewart, 1976

A textbook example of overly indulgent prog-rock, Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” clocks in at 6:40 minutes, with over four minutes of instrumentals. Prog-rock maestro Alan Parsons produced it. Like many prog-rock songs, it features sweeping orchestral strings, mumbled vocal delivery, and lyrics so abstract and nonsensical it’s hard to make any real sense of them.

Cringiest Lyric

While she looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat

Year of the Cat, Al Stewart, Peter Wood

16

Shannon, Henry Gross, 1976

An overwrought ballad, sung with a creepy vibrato, about someone else’s dead dog. I smell a hit!

And “Shannon,” written by Henry Gross about the death of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter, was a hit, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gross also had an Irish Setter named Shannon, so when he heard Carl’s dog Shannon died, he was naturally empathetic. He was so empathetic that he wrote a song commemorating the loss.

Shannon is also infamous for being the subject of Casey Kasem’s infamous profanity-filled tirade. Casey was upset about playing an uptempo song “and then you gotta go into where somebody’s dying.”

Cringiest Lyric

Another day’s at end
Mama says she’s tired again
No one can even begin to tell her
I hardly know what to say
But maybe it’s better that way
If poppa were here I’m sure he’d tell her

Shannon, Henry Gross

17

Disco Duck, Rick Dees, 1976

https://youtu.be/sxf2KCSyvgQ

“Disco Duck” proves that 1976 was the nadir for 1970s music. This song was on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks, even though anyone who has heard it groans and plugs their ears.

Written by Rick Dees when he was just a Memphis disc jockey, Disco Duck is not a novelty song about a duck . It’s actually about a man at a party who is so inspired by the disco music playing he begins moving around like a duck. (Hey, I didn’t write this.) Everyone starts copying him (this part makes sense) and he accidentally invents a new dance craze.

I don’t understand.

Cringiest Lyric

All of a sudden, I began to change
I was on the dance floor actin’ strange
Flapping my arms, I began to cluck
Look at me, I’m the Disco Duck

Disco Duck, Rick Dees

18

Muskrat Love, Captain & Tennille, 1977

You know we had to include this song, right? The story of Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam doing the jitterbug out in muskrat land, “Muskrat Love” is one of those songs you can’t believe anyone would ever dare to record.

In fact, it’s been recorded three times! It appeared on songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey’s first album, and then America covered it on their 1973 album Hat Trick. Toni Tenille heard America’s version on the radio one day, and she and the Captain added it to their nightclub as a light-hearted way to make the audience laugh.

Captain and Tenille added the song to their album Song of Joy in 1977. They didn’t plan to release it as a single. However, a radio station in Wisconsin began airing the song. Their audience loved it, proving that you can’t go wrong underestimating the American Public.

The rest is (very dark) history. A&M Records released the song as a single, and it shot up to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a radio staple for months, but today, much like the song “Feelings”, it’s difficult to find anyone who bought the record or will admit to liking it.

Cringiest Lyric

Muskrat Susie, Muskrat Sam
Do the jitterbug
Out in the muskrat land
And they shimmy
Sam is so skinny

Muskrat Love, Willis Alan Ramsey

19

Don’t Give Up on Us, David Soul, 1977

The song was a big hit in 1977. David Soul released it right at the height of his popularity on Starsky & Hutch, and it stayed on the charts for weeks, hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1977.

“Don’t Give Up on Us” received a fair amount of criticism upon release for its self-pitying lyrics and over-the-top arrangement, as well as for Soul’s (pardon the pun) soulless delivery. But after Soul’s arrest and imprisonment in 1980 for hitting his wife, then seven months pregnant, a song with lyrics like “I really lost my head last night” just didn’t feel right.

Cringiest Lyric

It’s written in the moonlight
Painted on the stars
We can’t change ours

Don’t Give Up on Us, Tony Macaulay

20

You Light Up My Life, Debby Boone, 1977

Another giant hit nobody seems to remember buying, “You Light Up My Life,” began as a song on the soundtrack of the movie with the same name.

Didi Conn lipsynched the song in the movie over a track by Kasey Cisyk, but Debby Boone’s version shot up the charts and stayed there. The song was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten long weeks.

The song is – how should I put this? – not good. The epitome of a sappy love ballad, everything about the song – from its overly sweet lyrics to its drawn-out chorus – is saccharine and cloying.

“You Light Up My Life” had at least one proud fan. Patti Smith (yes, that Patti Smith) covered it on an appearance on an 80’s kids’ show, “Kids are People Too.”

Cringiest Lyric

Rollin’ at sea, adrift on the water
Could it be finally I’m turnin’ for home?
Finally a chance to say, “Hey, I love you”
Never again to be all alone

You Light Up My Life, Joe Brooks

21

MacArthur Park, Donna Summer, 1978

I didn’t feel qualified to rank the songs on this list; they all feel equally awful to me. But, if I were to pick a Number One Worst Song of the 1970s, it would have to be “MacArthur Park.”

Written by one of my favorite songwriters, Jimmy Webb, and sung by one of my favorite singers, Donna Summer, “MacArthur Park” is a seventeen-minute ode to lost love and to a cake left out in the rain.

Summer’s version of “MacArthur Park” has it all: melodramatic music, confusing lyrics, overwrought vocals, and a throbbing disco beat. The extended version features extended synthesizer interludes.

Dave Barry proclaimed “MacArthur Park,” the worst song of all time (obviously, I agree), saying:

My 12-year-old son, Rob, was going through a pile of ballots, and he asked me how “MacArthur Park” goes, so I sang it, giving it my best shot, and Rob laughed so hard that when I got to the part about leaving the cake out in the rain, and it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again, Rob was on the floor. He didn’t BELIEVE those lyrics were real. He was SURE his wacky old humor-columnist dad was making them up.

I couldn’t put it better, myself, Rob.

Cringiest Lyric

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no

MacArthur Park, Jimmy Webb

22

Sometimes When We Touch, Dan Hill, 1978

“Sometimes When We Touch” is a confusing song. It alternates between vague insults (At times I’d like to break you, And drive you to your knees) and stark expressions of longing (At times I’d like to break through, And hold you endlessly). In a way, it feels like the first incel anthem.

Hill wrote this song at 19 (sounds about right) after trying and failing to convince a woman he was seeing to become his exclusive girlfriend. Knowing that makes the beginning of the song (You ask me if I love you, And I choke on my reply, I’d rather hurt you, honestly, Than mislead you with a lie) sound just a little bit like the old playground retort of “So you are, but what am I?”

Cringiest Lyric

And who am I to judge you
On what you say or do?
I’m only just beginning
To see the real you

Sometimes When We Touch, Dan Hill (lyrics), Barry Mann (music)

Did we leave out any 70s stinkers? Do we include your favorite song? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “20+ of the Worst Songs of the 1970s”

  1. “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” by Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer, 1979 (two weeks at #1) is a man bashing piece of slander that is far from reality. Not sure if the song was also an effort to boost feminism or as I said before and that’s to berate and judge all mean as evil. Thank goodness I haven’t heard this piece of trash in more than 40 years as mainstream oldies radio seems to leave it on the shelf.

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  2. I am a boomer and I certainly did not like most of these songs – with a few exceptions like A Horse with No Name – not their best, but come on – is it really worse than “Billy Don’t be Hero” or “Chica-Boom”?? But yes, I really hated anything Bread, Captain and Tenille, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and my all-time cringiest song, “Sometimes When We Touch” – like finger nails on a blackboard. I also really did not like anything by Paul McCartney and Wings (wow – did his music ever take a dive after splitting with John Lennan).

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