The 70s was an odd, but rich, decade. Looking at it from strictly a musical point-of-view, it covered A LOT of ground: from the end of The Beatles; to arena rock; to funk and proto-hip-hop; to punk and New Wave. Oh, and did we mention disco?
But for straight-up quirky lyrics, it’d be hard to top the soft-rock musings of artists that’d now find themselves mostly on Yacht Rock playlists.
Maybe it was something about the inward-focused “Me Decade” zeitgeist, or the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air, but the songwriters of the time managed to roll up some genuinely memorable turns of phrases.
Please let us nominate a few lines for our “Most 70s Lyric Ever” list:
– “There were plants and birds and rocks and things.”
Songwriter Dewey Bunnell explained that “A Horse with No Name” was “a metaphor for a vehicle to get away from life’s confusion into a quiet, peaceful place.” It’s an undeniably catchy tune, but it does seem a bit odd to run out of things to list after, you know, three items. Of course, this was soon followed by “’Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” For pure 70s-style, weed-scented navel-gazing, this is hard to beat.
– “Blowin’ thru the jasmine of my mind.”
If there were ever an era to have some jasmine of your mind, whatever that is, the 70s was it. It’s hard to know what those words mean, exactly, but they’ve got a vibe. Rolling Stone named it #13 on the list of “best summer songs of all time.” Plus, any song that gets covered by both the Isley Brothers and Type O Negative has got something going for it.
– “I’m a joker. I’m a smoker. I’m a midnight toker.” (Not to mention, “’Cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”)
Steve Miller covers a lot more ground than soft rock, of course, but this one lands pretty squarely in the mellow sweet spot of the time. He was also a savvy early recycler, using “pompatus” in two songs; and the “Fly Like an Eagle” riff twice.
– “We are real, and we are burnin’, hey.”
Seals and Crofts earn two spots on this list, as they really did nail the soft-rock thing completely. “Burnin’” is probably not the first description you’d apply to these guys, but “Diamond Girl” is undeniably one of the masterworks of the genre. Get the yacht ready…
– “Moonlight. Feels Right.”
If you’re gonna have one hit, make it a monster, as Starbuck did in 1976. The record’s success is a great story of perseverance, as the band delivered the single, by hand, to over 400 radio stations; but it took months before one started the ball rolling by playing it in the warm spring season. It was a smart move, as the song does conjure a languid summer feeling that fits its time splendidly.
Of course, there are lots of other memorable lyrics, in many other genres, from that time. (“You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy” or “Here’s a chance to dance our way out of our constrictions,” anyone?)
Please let us know which lyrics bring you back. We’d love to hear from you.
(Photo: Warner Brothers Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
I am reeling with delight over here, because I was planning to use this very idea in my morning Facebook post!! Synergy aside, I do have a selection for the most ’70s lyric in my fevered head: “That ain’t the way to have fun…son!” From the Three Dog Night rendition of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”
A perfect Randy Newman lyric, Ellen. Fits perfectly on the list!
So many daffy lyrics, but one that always stood out for me for its weirdness (and also yacht rock qualification) was “When someone drops a cup and I submerge” from “Show me the way” by Peter Frampton. Er, come again Pete?
Brilliant choice! Literally meaningless, but somehow just what the song needs…
Not kidding I heard this yesterday and after 45 years of hearing it, I was just about to look it up when I read this comment. Thanks for saving me the time. Fun article too
“:You’re so vain; you probably think this song is about you.” I was just 9 when this came out and all I could think was, “yeah, this song IS about you…I don’t get it.”
An absolute 70s classic…
“The fact that me, an overfed, long haired, leaping gnome,
should be the star of a Hollywood movie.
Draggin’ The Line. Song title by Tommy James. What does that even mean? Great song though!
America was responsible for some of the most egregiously awful lyrics of the ’70s.
“‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man
That goes by the name of the Sandman
He flies the sky like an eagle in the eye
Of a hurricane that’s abandoned”
A hurricane that’s abandoned? Srsly?
“And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air”
Alligator lizards in the air, OMG…
Yeah well, not to totally defend their purple prose, but it is the eagle that’s abandoned …
Absolutely turgid. I never liked America until they did “Ventura Highway.” And then I went on disliking them again.
I thought you were blaming the whole country at first
Somehow, they roll off the tongue so damn satisfyingly as you instinctually sing along with ’em though, don’t they? ;]
Seals and crofts ! Every single song ! Hummingbird , summer breeze ! Makes summer days so much better ❤️🥰
Thanks, everyone, for all the cool comments. Yeah, many of these lyrics are in “the movement you need is on your shoulder” category: nonsense on one level, but perfect on another…
Although it barely makes the decade, I vote for Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).”
Pina Colada Song definitely earns its place on the list!
“Sky rockets in flight, Afternoon Delight”. To me, this song just screams the mid 70’s. It’s a not so guilty pleasure song for me.
Just noticed you beat me to this classic!
Great minds think alike
“Someone left the cake out in the rain
And 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”
My fav is Afternoon Delight:
Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight
Gonna grab some afternoon delight
My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right, it’s right’
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?
Satisfaction came in a chain reaction.
C’mon!! Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there!! (I still love Yes.)
Brilliant lyric from a brilliant band! (I still love them too…)