Top 10 Underrated Rock Songs of the 70’s
Reliving The Magic
The 70s will remain as one of the best decades in music. Sure, there were other genres on the rise but rock was becoming a culture with solid and loyal following. Legends were born, women were becoming increasingly popular in a once-male domain, and musicians were unafraid to experiment with their sound and style.
There were so many great songs it was hard to keep track. It’s relatively easy to pick 10 of the greatest tracks of this era but on the other side of the spectrum, we have some of the underrated ones – those which didn’t get the credit (and airplay) they absolutely deserved.
We’re listing them down and in case you forgot these not-so-big hits, you’re welcome.
10. David Bowie – “Black Country Rock” (1970)
David Bowie had numerous hits in the 70s. From “Starman” and “Heroes” to “Life on Mars” and “The Man Who Sold the World” – he was an artist through and through. We don’t know about you but this is our favorite Bowie decade – it basically solidified his spot not just in the rock ‘n roll pantheon but pop culture as a whole.
Watching him develop his alter ego wasn’t just refreshing but it also pushed creative boundaries but while we can easily come up with 10 of his greatest hits in this era, we’d also like to point out this lesser known but still well-loved song.
“…spontaneously … because he ran out of lyrics … we all thought it was cool, so it stayed.” – Producer Tony Visconti on Bowie’s Marc Nolan impression
“Black Country Rock” is the quick break from all the other heavy songs in Bowie’s 1970 album “The Man Who Sold the World.” Bowie didn’t shy away from experimenting with various genres and while this hard rock tune isn’t as popular as the others, it’s still just as good.
9. Thin Lizzy – “Bad Reputation” (1977)
Most know Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation” as the 1977 hard rock album, few actually hear the title track on the radio. “The Boys Are Back in Town” get major airplay and it makes you think why “Bad Reputation” didn’t get the same attention when it’s an amazing song too.
It’s fun to listen to and we can’t get over how incredibly groovy the drum and bass are.
“Plus, this is pure visceral rock & roll, the hardest and heaviest that Thin Lizzy ever made, living up to the promise of the title track.” – AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine on the “Bad Reputation” album
We only have two issues here – it’s not played enough and it doesn’t go on for more than 10 minutes. Thin Lizzy was on another level and while this song is on the underrated side, we still consider it as a musical masterpiece. Anyone who disagrees needs to listen to this at least 10 more times.
8. Queen – “Stone Cold Crazy” (1974)
We love Queen, that’s a given, but we don’t understand why MTV or classic rock radio stations play just a handful of their songs every single time. It’s as if the band is limited to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Are the Champions,” or “We Will Rock You.”
They have way more amazing songs in their catalog – case in point, “Stone Cold Crazy” which is criminally underrated.
“straight-up punk-rock drumming. […] In essence, Taylor’s groove is a double-stroke roll split between his bass drum and snare drum with some cool accents played on his crash cymbals. Taylor later re-enters with a dramatic and decidedly non-punk fill to restart the groove.” – DRUM! Magazine
Just when you thought Queen couldn’t do thrash metal, they decided to create this sound even before anyone coined the term. So to anyone who loves thrash, you have Queen to thank. It’s insane how they changed rock music, one song at a time.
7. Rainbow – “Stargazer” (1976)
This is yet another reason why you shouldn’t be fooled with their sweet-sounding name. Everything going on here is just musical perfection – from Ronnie James Dio’s insane vocal performance to the mind-blowing and powerful drumming, and of course, it showcased Richie Blackmore’s superb guitar work.
It makes you miss the 70s, doesn’t it? Sadly for all of us classic rock fans, they just don’t make music like this anymore. But hey, “Stargazer” sounds as good now as it did back then. It didn’t get enough airplay and recognition but we know better.
“”Stargazer” is a faster song which was deemed as a power metal pioneer due to its faster rhythm and its epicness (i.e., epic lyrics and vibe).” – The Metal Archives
“Stargazer” is one of metal’s finest songs. We actually feel bad for those who haven’t heard it before because man, you’re missing out big time. Thanks to Rainbow, they redefined how heavy metal should sound.
6. Deep Purple – “Speed King” (1970)
You cannot call yourself a fan of hard rock and heavy metal without having this song on your playlist. That intro is blazing and phenomenal – Richie Blackmore’s guitar solo is like a punch in the face.
You might actually need to catch your breath a few seconds after the song opens. In fact, they’ve been playing it for months before they sat down to record it.
Fun Fact: Lead singer and lyricist Ian Gillan wrote that the title used to be “Kneel and Pray.”
The lyrics either referenced or drew inspiration from other American rock ‘n roll songs which is why some listeners thought this was a cover version. We love both the studio and live version but for the latter, Deep Purple often extended their jams up to 15 minutes long! That’s 15 minutes of pure musical bliss.
It’s powerful, electric and intense – all the things you want in a song as heavy as this.
5. Humble Pie – “Black Coffee” (1973)
When the rock gods decided to shower some regular folks with golden pipes, Steve Marriott was probably at the front line. We don’t even know the right word to describe it. Phenomenal? Stellar? Spine-chilling? Superb? We’ve heard numerous vocal performances over the years but this one remains in the top 10, easily.
Don’t get us wrong, we thoroughly enjoy Tina Turner’s version but somehow, this cover has that grit and edge we just love.
“This version of the song is about Marriott’s devotion to musical inspirations found in the work of black artists, acknowledging his foreignness in relation to it, but also delivering it in a voice that establishes his authority in singing his own take on that inspiration.” – The Delete Bin’s Rob Jones
If we had to choose the greatest cover versions ever recorded, this would definitely be in the top 5. Humble Pie took this song and made it their own. It’s surely deserves way more credit that it got.
4. Black Sabbath – “Never Say Die” (1978)
Can we all just take time to appreciate Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal performance here? We’re well aware that not everyone’s a fan of this album but this title track is unjustly underrated and we don’t understand why.
Some think the record isn’t cohesive and focused enough which basically reflected what was going on with the band. Be that as it may, it’s hard to deny the energy and power of “Never Say Die!” which is the best choice for the opening.
“It’s hard to relate to that album. It was a bitter time for us.” – Tony Iommi
Well that actually happens. Just because the album doesn’t live up to people’s expectations doesn’t necessarily mean all the songs suck. This wasn’t Black Sabbath’s finest moment but at least one track still managed to shine and stand out. It’s still underrated which is why we often think of this as a rare gem.
3. Mott the Hoople – “All the Way from Memphis” (1973)
Mott the Hoople of the glam rock era is popular for their 1972 hit “All The Young Dudes” which was written by David Bowie. But this underrated song which also happens to be a great tune is the single “All The Way from Memphis.”
It’s widely regarded as lead singer Ian Hunter’s finest work and he wrote it on the day of their concert which was almost a disaster.
“But no one would ever have dared to argue that Ian Hunter didn’t love rock & roll (Hunter included), and from the rough barrelhouse stomp of the opening piano chords (banged out by Hunter himself) to the honking sax solo at the conclusion (courtesy Andy Mackay from Roxy Music), “All the Way From Memphis” blends the first wave rock & roll that made Memphis famous with the glammed-up swagger of U.K. rock circa 1973 in a way only a true fan could have conjured up.” – AllMusic’s Mark Deming
Ian Hunter’s penchant for creative storytelling is showcased here and the song itself is a great rock ‘n roll anthem. Here’s a quick warning though, it’s fairly easy to get hooked.
Queen’s Brian May covered this track with Hunter for his second studio album, Another World.
2. Slade – “Gudbuy T’ Jane” (1972)
We’re pretty darn sure the nostalgia is almost too much to bear now. Every single one of these songs just makes us want to go back to the ‘70s, even more so since they easily blow today’s music completely out of the water.
Slade is one of the most successful British groups in the ‘70s and we don’t have to look further to see why. They’re the glam rock band that brought you “Cum On Feel the Noize.”
“I didn’t even like some of those old ones. We all hated “Gudbye T’Jane” when we made it. It was knocked up in half an hour at the end of one of our studio sessions.” – Jim Lea
Slade is fond of misspelling their song’s title and aside from writing “Gudbye T’Jane” in just half an hour, it was also one of the easiest tracks they ever recorded. It’s not just this one song though, Slade has numerous underappreciated but incredible singles on their catalog.
1. Free – “Remember” (1970)
This is just way too good – from the tone to the bends and guitar solos. Oh and let’s not forget Paul Rodger’s incredibly beautiful vocal performance that never fails to send chills down our spine. There’s something so raw and intimate about it.
And listening to this today just reminds us that this man, who is oozing with talent by the way, is STILL not recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Let that sink in.
“He [Alexis Korner] said, “I don’t know if this helps you, but I used to have a band with Cyril Davis, who is a Blues harmonica player called Free At Last. I don’t know if that helps you.” There was sort of a silence and then there was sort of a unanimous feeling, “You know what? It’s got to be Free!” And that’s how the name was born.” – Paul Rodgers on “Free”
For “Remember,” they reworked a song during one of their sessions back in 1968 which was called “Woman By The Sea.” While it’s hands-down stellar, it still didn’t get enough radio airplay and we’re frustrated that no matter its sheer brilliance, it is underrated.