The 10 Most Bizarre Hits of the ‘70s
Last weekend, my nine-year-old niece talked me into taking her to the mall. In one store, we heard the ‘50s novelty classic “Witch Doctor” – you know, the song that would launch Alvin and the Chipmunks. Hadley turned to me at one point and said, “Who thought this song was a good idea?” I explained to her that sometimes funny songs become hits.
Every era has its weird songs, from “The Purple People Eater” to “Barbie Girl.” But the ‘70s seemed to have an overabundance of bizarre hits. Think about it: doesn’t it make sense that the strangest decade of the 20th century would produce some true musical oddities?
So let’s revisit the glory days of oddball music. Hop in the time machine with me as I do my best Casey Kasem impersonation (minus the radical politics) and count down the craziest hits of a wild decade. Here we go.
10. “Seasons in the Sun” (Terry Jacks, 1974)
Music snobs hold dramatic European pop in a rarefied air, but it hasn’t ever really taken hold in the States. There’s one glaring exception: one of the biggest international hits of the ‘70s, which has become one of the most despised singles in the ensuing years.
Belgian star Jacques Brel recorded a song entitled “Le Moribond” (which translates to “the dying man”) in 1961, and it became a sensation in Europe. Years later, pop poet Rod McKuen wrote English lyrics.
Canadian singer-songwriter Terry Jacks produced an English version of the song, which became “Seasons in the Sun,” for the Beach Boys, but when that band decided not to do anything with it, Jacks recorded his own version. Somehow it became a bona fide smash, topping the charts in 14 countries.
The problem with “Seasons in the Sun” and the primary reason why it has become such a target for vehement disdain is the song’s lyrical content. McKuen’s lyrics are ridiculously sentimental and overwrought – though, to be fair, it’s hard to imagine a song about a dying man being much less than that. The song has made several worst-songs lists, and with good reason. But it probably doesn’t matter to Jacks, because it became his biggest hit.
9. “Pop Muzik” (M, 1979)
The 1970s began with the last number one singles for the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Supremes, and as the decade neared its end, a form of music using synthesizers and other modern technology began to blossom. New Wave would create ripples into the ‘80s and beyond, but in 1979, British musician Robin Scott took advantage of it with his project M and its only American hit, “Pop Muzik.”