Top 10 Songs of 1977
You'd think with all the talk going around about punk and disco in 1977 that nobody was making any rock 'n' roll that year. But here's a fact: The biggest-selling album in 1977 was Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours,' and records by classic rockers like the Eagles, Queen and Lynyrd Skynyrd were also huge. While there's no getting around the great punk and disco singles that came out in 1977, there were plenty of terrific classic rock tracks too, like the ones found on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1977.
Folk and blues legend Lead Belly recorded "Black Betty" in 1939, but the song goes all the way back to the late 19th century, when it was sung by field hands. Of course the earlier versions didn't sound much like the bluesy stomp laid down by the Long Island rock band Ram Jam. Don't bother digging too deep in their catalog; there isn't much there, and what is there isn't very good. But for a few weeks during the summer of '77, they managed to turn an old-school field holler into a parking-lot singalong.
It's almost impossible to listen to "We Will Rock You" without its News of the World companion track "We Are the Champions" as a chaser. But the lead cut is the better song, a foot-stomping, hand-clapping monster that has rocked arenas and stadiums ever since. It's all voices and percussion until about 35 seconds from the end of the song, when Brian May uncorks one of his all-time best solos.
There's all kinds of greatness on ELO's double-album opus Out of the Blue, but this single – the third released from the record – packs the most monumental moments: sweeping strings, a vocoder and a hook the size of the spaceship on the LP's cover. It only managed to just crack the Top 20, but it remains one of the group's best songs.
Nineteen-seventy-seven was pretty much Fleetwood Mac's year (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1977). After struggling for years to get noticed in the U.S., the British blues band picked up a pair of L.A. singer-songwriters in 1975 and became one of the biggest groups on the planet. Rumours is their masterpiece, a breakup album centered on the members' infidelities; "Dreams" is Stevie Nicks' greatest contribution to it.
Steely Dan were the smoothest of L.A.'s smooth-rock giants in the '70s. Their jazz-speckled tracks – performed by some of the city's top session musicians – aimed higher than most of their contemporaries' songs. In a way, Steely Dan were outsiders looked down on the rock scene they were reluctantly a part of, often openly mocking it. "Deacon Blues" was their slow-boiling paean to perpetual losers. No wonder they sounded so committed.
The Eagles tried their hands at a concept album before – the wild-west mythology of 1973's Desperado. But with Hotel California they tackled a subject near and dear to their hearts: late-'70s L.A. debauchery. The entire Hotel California album sinks under the weight of too much sex and drugs, but the record's title track and centerpiece is the summation of all the paranoia, fear and soul-draining excess. By far the most sinister cut on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1977.
Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" was a concept album about being on the road. In one of the most inspired touches in rock history, the entire record, made up of all new songs, was recorded on the road: on tour buses, in hotel rooms, backstage, onstage. The title track and centerpiece is the singer-songwriter's life story, summed up as a decade more or less seen through a windshield.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's fifth and best album will always be shrouded in the tragedy that took place just three days after the record's release, when the band's plane went down, killing singer Ronnie Van Zant, among others. The album's horn-fueled opening track and lead single details a particularly rowdy night involving group members, crew and a groupie or two. It's one of Skynyrd's loosest songs and a total blast.
Neil Young's epic love song, featuring solid support from his occasional backing band Crazy Horse, boasts one of his all-time best guitar solos, a stinging, melodic set piece that comes on like a full-force gale. In addition to being a fan favorite, Young himself must love playing "Like a Hurricane": The song has been a part of almost every tour since 1977 and has shown up on several live albums over the years.
Fleetwood Mac's breakup album Rumours dominated 1977. As band members battled egos, each other and their romantic relationships (which, awkwardly, were all tangled within the band), their music got stronger, as everyone tried to get his and her side of the story heard. Everyone had their say: Stevie Nicks (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1977), Christine McVie and, especially, Lindsey Buckingham, whose terrific goodbye to Nicks is punctuated by one of rock's all-time-great guitar solos. Their pain, our gain.