Some of the worst songs of the 1970s were number one hits. This wild and wonderful decade gave birth to some seriously mundane music. And people loved it!
Well, some people loved it. Other people rebelled and started new genres like Punk and New Wave.
But we’re here now to talk about the worst songs of the 1970s.
Let’s hit it!
Why These Popular 1970s Songs Are Also the Worst
To understand why so many popular 70s songs were terrible, we have to take a little trip back in time. The precursors to rock were the Jazz and Rhythm and Blues of the 1940s.
R&B became Rock & Roll in the 1950s, with the explosion of electric guitars and the increasing production of vinyl records. The traditional yet repressive spirit of the 50s yielded a hunger for amped-up rock.
By the 1960s, the country was amid political upheaval spun out in all directions. The Vietnam War was raging, and tensions were high. Rock & Roll was hot but also looked at as a teenage fad.
After two decades of high energy and ever-advancing sound gadgets, the only way to rebel was to mellow out. The 1970s were prime for the easy times of a softer kind of rock.
Soft Rock and Easy Listening were genres stemming from the ballads, and folk tunes that dominated am radio. The culture en mass wanted a break from the heaviness of prior decades. They wanted it to be ok to sit back, relax, and sip a pina colada.
So finally 1970s are in full force. The Vietnam War is over, and the sexual revolution made its mark. And although sexy songs were all the rage, women were still seen as objects of desire more than autonomous beings.
Some of these popular 1970s songs are the worst because they’re boring soft-rock ballads. Others are terrible because the lyrics are sappy or sexist. Overall, the worst songs tend to be predictable and overproduced. And in some cases, the record companies capitalized on the latest trends in all the wrong ways.
Before we depress ourselves any further, let’s have some fun and look at our list of the worst popular songs of the 1970s.
Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band
About the Song: Afternoon Delight is a song about having sex in the afternoon. Sung by two married couples, the vocal arrangement is a back and forth between consenting adults with a pg-13 kind of vibe. The polished harmonies are soothing to the ears. It has a strong country kick to it.
Still, Afternoon Delight is one of the worst songs of the 1970s. The video is like a Saturday Night Live skit. The production is so over the top that it’s hard to believe it’s real.
Started out this morning feeling so polite I always thought 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
First Appearance: Afternoon Delight hit the radiowaves in April of 1976. It was the only hit for Starland Vocal Band.
The song won a Grammy for Best Arrangement for Vocals. Given that the late 70s were when the 60s sexual revolution went mainstream, it’s no wonder this goofy track was a hit.
Muskrat Love – Captain & Tennille
About the Song: If you’re looking for a great example of soft rock, then this is your song. Or perhaps you’re searching for an easy listening tune for the dentist’s office. Muskrat Love sounds like a Disney lullaby sung by bored studio musicians who hit the bong too many times. The lyrics are about two muskrats making love.
Captain & Tennille added twinkly electronic sounds effects to emphasize the image of two fuzzy animals gettin’ it on. Their intention was pure lighthearted fun. Apparently, to our astonishment, mainstream America loved it. With songs like Muskrat love on the radio, it’s no wonder punk rock was starting to take hold. What were people thinking? Or smoking??
Nibblin' on bacon, chewin' on cheese Sammy says to Susie "Honey, would you please be my missus?" And she says yes with her kisses
First Appearance: Muskrat Love was written and released in May 1972 by Willis Allan Ramsey. Ramsey’s original title for his Americana cult hit was Muskrat Candelight. The soft rock duo Captain & Tennille began to cover it during their club acts. Their cover became a #1 hit on the easy listening charts after its release in 1976.
Disco Duck – Rick Dees
About the Song: We’re almost sure that this is the worst 1970s song ever. Disco Duck was produced when mainstream record labels got hip to the rising popularity of Disco. Disco has its roots in the gay, Latin, and African American dance scenes of the 60s. It wasn’t until the mid-70s that the moral majority decided they wanted in.
Enter the Duck.
Radio DJ Rick Dees was inspired to write this song based on a 60s dance move called The Duck. Capitalizing on the vocal sounds of Donald Duck was the next step. Record label RSO jumped on producing it. If you find the music video on youtube, you’ll see why Disco Duck makes it on nearly every “worst songs” list.
Flapping my arms, I began to cluck (Quack, quack) Look at me, I'm the disco duck
First Appearance: The single Disco Duck was released on September 4th, 1976. It charted at #1 for over one week and flapped its weirdo wings in the top ten for over two months. Rick Dees, bandmates, and dancers toured the TV music show circuit, torturing viewers nationwide.
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes
About the Song: Escape is a classic soft rock song. Folks under 30 might know it as one of those hip love-to-hate yacht rock songs. Whether you’re hanging out by a cabana or going to a summer pool party, you’ll likely hear this ditty at some point in your day.
The Pina Colada song is about a guy flipping through the personal ads and meeting up with a girl who likes Pina Coladas. The problem is that the guy already has a girlfriend. As far as the musicality and composition, the song isn’t terrible. The classic 70s guitar phaser sound is a plus to some. But to others, like us, it’s like polished nails on a chalkboard.
I was tired of my lady We'd been together too long Like a worn out recording Of a favorite song
First Appearance: Ruper Holmes released Escape (The Pina Colada Song) in October 1979. Listeners worldwide flocked to the tune, keeping it on the radio for decades. The song was the symbolic goodbye to the 1970s, charting as the last number one hit of the decade.
You’re Having My Baby – Paul Anka
About the Song: You’re Having My Baby was written as a love declaration by Paul Anka for his wife and children. Despite these lovely intentions, however, the lyrics are a little condescending.
We can imagine Fred Flinstone singing this to his barefoot wife in the kitchen. In addition, the music is dreadfully dull. How in the world was this a number one hit?
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?
First Appearance: Paul Anka wrote and released this sappy serenade in June of 1974. It got Anka back on the music map after 15 years without much traction. It also got acrimonious attention from The National Organization for Women for its male chauvinism. You’re Having My Baby charted at #1 in America and Canada.
You Light Up My Life – Debby Boone
About the Song: This late 70s ballad was played on the radio about every five minutes from 1977 to 1983. OK – that is a complete exaggeration. But you get the point.
The theme is pretty basic: a sad, lonely person gets happy when another person enters their life. Although the song offers hope to all the lonely souls out there, overzealous airplay made the message feel like a hammer on the head.
You Light Up My Life is one of the worst 70s songs because of its drama. We dare you to listen to the song and not roll your eyes at least once.
So many dreams I kept deep inside me Alone in the dark, but now you've come along
First Appearance: This classic ballad first appeared on the soundtrack album for the 1977 film by the same name. Composer Joseph Brooks wrote it for the movie and was not thrilled by Kasey Cisyk’s vocals. So, he shopped it to singer Debbie Boone on the down-low.
Consequently, the two versions of the song were released simultaneously. Debbie Boon’s version was #1 on the charts for over three months. You Light Up My Life is one of the top ten Billboard Hot 100 songs of all time.
Midnight At The Oasis – Maria Muldaur
About the Song: Midnight At The Oasis was folksinger Maria Muldaur’s best-known hit. According to legend, this romantic, soft rock jingle has inspired many romantic moments. Muldaur claims that several fans have approached her after gigs, telling her the song encouraged a fling, an intimate night, or even their firstborn child!
That says a lot about the early 70s. To some, the song feels embarrassing. It’s like witnessing a slow, drooly kiss between a distant relative you like and their creepy awkward partner. Something better left unshared. Technically speaking, the song is well constructed. But it’s about as interesting as a lukewarm wet towel.
I know your daddy's a sultan A nomad known to all With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him
First Appearance: Midnight At The Oasis was recorded and released by Maria Muldaur in early 1974. Composer David Nichtern wrote the song a year before and was thrilled when Muldaur wanted to record it.
Midnight At The Oasis reached the top ten charts in The U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Which of These Songs From the 1970s is the Worst?
Congratulations! You made it through the wilderness of the worst songs of the 1970s! After all of our research and debate, we think Disco Duck is the absolute worst. You’re Having My Baby runs a close second. Afternoon Delight is cheesy, but at least the vocals are pretty. And the song is pretty funny!
What’s your pick of the worst song from our list of 70s music disasters? Let us know in the comments!