Music Features

Staff Playlist #4 - The 1970s

I haven't done a survey recently, but I'd be willing to bet that the majority of No Ripcord scribes weren't born in the 1970s. Of those that were, they were likely to have been too young to appreciate the inventive, great music that came out of that decade. However, we're all clued up enough to know the present owes a great deal to the past, and here are some of our favourite tracks from some of the best artists. Some trailblazers, some rock n' roll and some poignant odes - every one a classic.

Our playlist can be found on here, Spotify here and - for the first time - can be listened to on 8tracks here.

Iggy Pop - The Passenger

I love this song. I'll say it again. I love this song. If I had to pick a favorite all time song, this would win every time. It doesn't change week to week, or even year to year. Since I was 17, this has been my favorite song, and I can't see that changing. Its lyrics are simultaneously bright and foreboding, evoking an air of mystery, intrigue, and nostalgia for late night drives. Its simple, consistent and rarely changing, yet it somehow holds my attention rapt for five minutes. Not only is the song objectively great, but it holds great memories, dripping in nostalgia. It's Justin's car on the way to school every morning, long drives with nothing to do but play it on repeat, and leaving jobs I hated early to go swimming. It's not like I have much responsibility now, but I had even less then. And it was nice. Justin would agree. Andrew Baer

The Faces - Stay With Me

As a general rule of thumb, testosterone-laden, overtly machismo rock really isn't my thing, but there's an exception that proves every rule. Stay With Me is a rollicking good time of a tune, and captures Rod Stewart in his pomp, when he ruled the world. You could argue that Rod's love 'em and leave 'em attitude isn't particularly wholesome, and some of the lyrics certainly sound misogynistic to 21st Century ears ("I don't mean to sound degrading/But with a face like that you've got nothing to laugh about"). However, focus on that and you're missing out on some sumptuous guitar licks, unexpected changes of pace and welcome excursions into honky-tonk bar-room blues. The Faces were a gang, and a fantastic gang at that. On the evidence of Stay With Me, you might not agree with their behaviour or morals, but it's the kind of gang you can't help but want to be part of. Joe Rivers

Wire - Outdoor MIner

Released over a glorious two year period from 1977 to 1979, Wire's first three albums arguably constitute the hottest artistic streak of the 1970s. The closest the band came to a hit single during this period was the fantastic Outdoor Miner from 1978's Chairs Missing (also my favourite Wire record). It must be the only pop song ever to contemplate the existence of the serpentine leaf miner, but don't let the obscure lyrics put you off - this is a timeless classic. David Coleman

Talking Heads - Mind

Summarizing what I believe to be an era quintessentially defined by art punk, hard rock and funk, Mind by Talking Heads I think encompasses a lot of what the 70s had to offer. Plus, I think it’s one of the band’s most overlooked songs. From 1979’s perfect Fear Of Music album, Mind is a funk-driven combination of David Byrne’s calculated fret work and Tina Weymouth’s minimalist groove. Its brilliance is understated next to the decade’s bigger punk/funk contributions like The Stooges’ Fun House, The Ramones’ Rock To Russia, Television’s Marquee Moon, There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone or Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain, but to me Mind is a quiet, creative revolution. The guitar work even gets dirty toward the end, fulfilling punk’s noise quota. Sean Caldwell

Joni Mitchell - Amelia

Amelia's parent album, Hejira, is one of my favourite records, but when I try and explain to people why I hold it in such high regard, I end up saying, "it sounds like one really long song," which is pretty much the definition of faint praise. Hejira is a travelogue, an ode to rootlessness, and its shining beacon is Amelia: a heartfelt paean to the tragic Amelia Earhart with flight as its theme and adventure at its core. It's a gentle, beguiling song, with lyrics lovingly hewn over time and some gorgeous bass work from the late Jaco Pastorius. It weaves its way into your subconscious and makes you feel longing for someone you never knew. When Joni sings, "oh, Amelia, it was just a false alarm," it gets me every time. And to think that some people only know Joni Mitchell through Big Yellow Taxi - more fool them. Joe Rivers

Lou Reed - Street Hassle

Maybe everyone who might visit this site has already heard this. Then again, the titular album it came from is not one of his greats so maybe it slipped through the cracks. Either way, you need to hear it, or hear it yet again. This is a song upon which reputations are made, and when people say Reed could really capture the gritty side of New York life, this song is what they’re talking about. Plus it contains a minimalist riff that would make Phillip Glass proud. Plus plus, it has a  Springsteen cameo. Alan Shulman

Sylvester - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)

A lot of the rock output of the decade hasn't aged particularly well, being self-important and turgid (a criticism that's almost as valid for punk as it is for prog); much of the real innovation was to be found in pop music. In addition to being vibrant, fun and featuring some still quite brilliant production work, Sylvester's disco classic also evokes the final years of sexual liberation, before AIDS came along and ruined things for everyone. Mark Davison

Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water

My choice may be entirely on the safe side, but no other seventies song leaves me as breathless as Simon and Garfunkel’s exceptional commercial release, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Probably the only song that literally sends shivers down my spine, this utterly sensorial record starts simply enough: a piano progression leads the way for Art Garfunkel to broaden his lofty tenor. What comes afterwards is the truest designation of artful pomposity: as soon as those augmented drum pounds surround my ears with their forceful (not to mention revolutionary) production, you know you’re in for something special. A crashing cymbal hit is all it takes, building into a climactic crescendo of stirring orchestral strings and Garfunkel’s escalating falsetto, making this a singular experience that has never been replicated on record. It only lasts ten seconds, yet leaves an unforgettable impact. Juan Edgardo Rodriguez

Nico - All That Is My Own

While it may have been perfectly acceptable for many of the decade's bands to write lyrics based on mythology, German chanteuse Nico, with her blank wail and otherworldly looks, may well have stepped out of one of those myths. Both of the albums she released during the seventies make for exceptional but incredibly demanding listening, mostly because of their unremitting bleakness, but All That Is My Own, from 1970's album of howling and harmonium, Desertshore, may be one of the easier places to start, thanks to its (slightly) less claustrophobic sound. Mark Davison

Yes - Sound Chaser

You can’t do a 70’s playlist without some good prog and this is about as good as it gets on a number of levels; it’s tuneful, it rocks, it has multiple sections and most importantly, everyone in the band is showing off like their judgmental Dad who never hugged them was sitting smug-faced in the audience. Those elitist pricks who only liked The Clash and The Sex Pistols have to at least stand in awe of the sheer energy on display. Sure, it’s much ado about nothing, but so is Louie Louie. Alan Shulman

Loudon Wainwright III - Glad To See You've Got Religion

I'm in a folksy mood. Check out Loudon Wainwright III. He's a brilliant, oft-overlooked singer-songwriter that has written a bunch of remarkable tunes in his career. This track is off his first album, released in 1970. Very sardonic, and very funny. Preston Bernstein

Arthur Russell - I Couldn't Say It To Your Face

I wasn't aware that avant-garde cellist and disco visionary, Arthur Russell, had a sideline as a prolific singer-songwriter until I heard Audika's 2008 compilation Love is Overtaking Me. Recorded in 1974, this beautifully sparse break-up song was not released and probably spent the better part of the decade gathering dust in a closet. While I'm intrigued to see how it will fare on a seventies playlist, alongside tracks more immediately associated with the era, the main reason I've selected I Couldn't Say It To Your Face is Russell's fantastically direct lyrics. His narrator may be selfish and cowardly – “I couldn't say it to your face but I won't be around any more / I needed some space so I walked out the door” – but you can hardly dislike the guy when he's singing such a great song. David Coleman

The Rolling Stones - Plundered My Soul

Finally released in 2010, Plundered My Soul was a track recorded during those infamous summer sessions at the Villa Nellcote. It's classic Stones as Jagger vents his unbearable anguish: “I thought you wanted my loving / but it’s my heart that you stole… I thought you wanted my money / but you plundered my soul!” A little piece of genius set across the cool, bluesy guitars, saxophones and keys that became so indicative of Exile on Main St. itself. Joe Iliff

Donna Summer - I Feel Love

Doing away with the acoustic orchestration which had been the backbone of disco, Giorgio Moroder’s pioneering production was so ahead of its time that it still sounds futuristic more than 30 years later. I Feel Love is one of the tracks which helped to shape dance music as we know it. Judging by how its influence is still heard today, it’s safe to assume that Kylie, Madonna et al took note. Gary McGinley

So, there you have it. Those are our picks for the top. We'd love to know what your favourite tracks of the decade are though, so get involved using the comment box below, or get in touch via Twitter.