Some of my fondest memories of youth revolve around music. In the 1960’s when I was still a child virtually every song I ever heard came from a radio tuned to 77WABC on the AM dial, a powerful station in NYC that broadcast popular music of the day. At the age of ten my parents bought me a phonograph for my birthday and I began to buy records to play in my room after school. I think they were about 50 cents each around that time and there were two sides to each, the hit song you bought the record for and the flipside with a second cut. I can still remember the titles of most of them, Indiana Wants Me, by R. Dean Taylor on the Rare Earth label — it was the only 45 I ever owned that was red — Cherokee People by Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Patches by Clarence Carter, one of my favorites to this day. The first album I bought was The Hollies He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and I played it so often I literally wore it out. After that I switched over to albums and spent almost every cent I earned from my paper route on new ones; Carole King’s Tapestry, America’s self titled first album, and Don McClean’s American Pie. By the time I was a teenager I probably had half a dozen milk crates full of vinyl and I continued to add to the collection whenever I could, spending God knows how many hours of my life playing them as a background for whatever else was going on in my life. We lived in what was called the tri-state area, halfway between Philadelphia and NYC so we got the best of both in terms of radio stations. By the mid 70’s FM had replaced AM radio and it opened up a world of music that was far more broad than what you’d get from a top ten radio station. One of the premier radio stations of that era was a powerful one out of Philly called 93.3 WMMR and it featured a couple of DJ’s that introduced new artists and albums that hadn’t made the mainstream. One of my favorite programs during that time was the Wednesday Night release of new albums played without commercial interruption by a guy named Ed Skiacky. Every week I made sure to be in my room, often painting at my easel when he’d cue the needle at 9 o’clock and a new world would open. I can still recall the opening bars of so many of those albums playing in a dark room, windows open, sound cranked up. Whenever I hear them the teenager inside still sings along.
The following albums were among the very best of the 1970’s by my standards. I’m not surprised at how long these have been around, but it is equally curious that almost every one of them has proved itself to be able to continue to be relevant, to stand up to the passage of time. Most of them have great album covers too, the added bonus. I certainly hope that they bring back memories, but I know that they aren’t the only influential and memorable ones that came out of the extraordinarily creative period in American music history. I have tried to pick one album for each year of the decade, but the years 1975 and 1977 were impossible to pick from the final two, so I included an extra for each.