No one asks me this.
Being a rabid oversharer, though, I do volunteer a lot of what I remember, which isn’t a ton, and was almost all wildly inappropriate for someone in early childhood, just by virtue of life being fucking complicated. For some reason, though, I have a pretty strong sort of sense memory of what the music was like in the last age before widespread music video. I’ve wanted to do something like this for quite some time, but the combination of insomnia, caffeine, time I should’ve used on something else and obsessive behavior hadn’t aligned until last night.
(Note: share embeds from Spotify only list the first 100 songs, roughly 48.7% of the playlist, so you’ll need to go to Spotify for the entirety of the big list.)
This is an evolving document, but to the best of my recollection, give or take some things I never wish to hear again, either because they were terrible or because the people who made them were a bit shit, this is what the 1970s sounded like to me, as they were happening. My extra brain for this was Wikipedia’s series of annual “Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles” from 1970-1979 (start here). Almost everything on this playlist can be found on those lists. A few non-chart songs snuck on. A notable exception was Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” from the “Midnight Express” soundtrack, because, while it did not chart on those year-end deals, the song was absolutely everywhere in that time period. So many local television stations used it in the background of sports video packages, public affairs calendar stuff…you couldn’t get away from it. Which, of course, took a somewhat uncomfortable turn when I got cable television at a young age and wanted to see the movie that cool song was from, but that’s another story.
I will also mention that at least one song on here (David Naughton’s “Makin’ It”) is definitely a re-recorded version, and normally I wouldn’t go with those, but that song was such an important part of my 1979 (some of my earliest phone calls were to a local radio station to request it over…and over…and over again…) that it’d leave a gaping hole if it wasn’t in there, and it’s actually not a bad re-record.
You may notice that there’s really not much in the way of hard rock, heavy metal, punk or new wave on this playlist. I don’t really remember hearing it until 1980 or so. “1980, you say?”
Bonus: yes, because I’m a horrible cheater who is firmly in the “decades are 0-9” camp until I have to actually define eras of my musical life, I made a 1980-specific playlist. In my head canon, 1980 was still part of this period, but you can see that the selections I went with from memory were already very different than the ’70-’79 stuff. I would call both of these playlists part of the same era, but also sorta not.
Why stop here, though, if I’ve crossed the decade line already?
Two things happened around the end of 1980 that really created before/after markers, at least in my head. First, as I alluded to above, music videos started to be broadcast on a pretty widespread basis. My first exposure was probably Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 in 1980, and from there, we got cable in June of 1981, so I saw a lot of things on HBO Video Jukebox, and, eventually, MTV.
The other thing, which is pretty unpleasant, is that John Lennon was shot and killed. Hearing of a popular musician being shot and killed when I was 6 years old…well, it left a big fucking dent that I’m still grappling with almost 4 decades later. Yeah, that got dark, but it’s absolutely relevant to a conversation about my personal musical history, and really my life.
Before that happened, though, I had a good almost 6 1/2 years of musical discovery. Here’s what it sounded like. You’ve got about 17 hours to listen to. Some of it will be really familiar, some might not. I consciously put songs in vaguely chronological order, but also in “this would sound good here” order, but I’ve been testing both playlists on shuffle, and they work that way, too, oddly enough. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments or otherwise.