“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, It’s a wonder I can think at all, and though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall.” Opening lyrics of “Kodachrome” written by Paul Simon (1973).
It was early June 1973: I was driving to my Glenvar High School graduation ceremony and I heard “Kodachrome” from Paul Simon being played on Top 40 WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, Virginia. It was a perfect song for my listening ears, as I was transitioning from life as a high school student into new life adventures as a young adult.
As I reflect back on the 50 years since I completed high school, I am remembering the music from my youth. With this music blog message, I will be counting down what I consider to be my favorite top 40 hits from 1973.
The number 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 the day I graduated from high school was “My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings.”
I have fond memories of listening to top 40 radio in 1973. It was the year I turned 18 and started my freshman year at Virginia Western Community College.
During daylight hours, I exclusively listened to Roanoke’s legendary WROV 1240 AM. This station featured a Top 40 format and was the number one top-ranked radio outlet in my city.
Audio Aircheck of Larry Bly WROV Roanoke April 1973. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett
Bart Prater and Larry Bly were my two favorite WROV DJs back in 1973. When WROV reduced power at sundown, I would listen to 3 top 40 AM radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home.
Audio Aircheck of Bart Prater WROV Roanoke May 1973. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett
After sundown, I would tune into three 50,000-watt clear channel AM stations: WLS 890 AM Chicago, WCFL 1000 AM (Super CFL) and WABC 770 AM New York.
For my countdown of ’73 superfine singles, I used two sources in my calculation for the biggest records in this category: Billboard and Cash Box magazines’ year-end top 100 singles charts for 1973.
As I surveyed the prominent hits from 50 years ago, the countdown is entirely based on my opinions. My selections are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.
An interesting fact that I learned when researching this topic: Billboard and Cash Box year-end charts both agreed on the biggest two hits for 1973:
1 TIE A YELLOW RIBBON ROUND THE OLE OAK TREE – Tony Orlando & Dawn
2 BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN – Jim Croce
Before I start my countdown of superfine singles, I want to share 10 of my favorite songs that were not ranked by either Cash Box or Billboard on their top 100 year-end charts for 1973.
- Pieces of April—Three Dog Night
- Peaceful Easy Feeling—Eagles
- China Grove—The Doobie Brothers
- Over the Hills and Far Away—Led Zeppelin
- We May Never Pass this Way again—Seals and Crofts
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door—Bob Dylan
- Rocky Mountain Way—Joe Walsh
- Living in the Past—Jethro Tull
- Tequila Sunrise—Eagles
- I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)—The Moody Blues
Next up are songs I considered for the 1973 countdown but fell outside my top 25 selections. Singles are not ranked and are placed in a random order:
- Free Ride—The Edgar Winter Group
- Ramblin’ Man—The Allman Brothers Band
- Let’s Pretend—The Raspberries
- The Cisco Kid—War
- Crocodile Rock—Elton John
- Could It Be I’m Falling in Love—The Spinners
- Will It Go Round in Circles—Billy Preston
- Just You ‘n’ Me—Chicago
- Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)—The Four Tops
- The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia—Vicki Lawrence
- Money—Pink Floyd
- Frankenstein—The Edgar Winter Group
- So Very Hard to Go—Tower of Power
- Natural High—Bloodstone
- Danny’s Song—Anne Murray
- Superstition—Stevie Wonder
- I Wanna Be with You—The Raspberries
- Papa Was a Rolling Stone—The Temptations
- Jambalaya (On the Bayou)—Blue Ridge Rangers
- My Love—Paul McCartney & Wings
Without further ado, my 1973 superfine singles countdown begins:
25. It Never Rains in Southern California—Albert Hammond
Peak Positions on Charts: #2 Cash Box Top 100, 36th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Prolific songwriter. British-born. Composed over 20 successful singles for other artists. Lyricist also collaborated with Hal David, Diane Warren, Carole Bayer Sager and Mike Hazelwood, for additional top 40 hits.
24. That Lady Pts. 1 & 2—The Isley Brothers
Peak Positions on Charts: #6 Billboard Hot 100, 21st Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Originally written in 1964 by siblings Rudolph, Ronald and O’Kelly Isley as “Who’s That Lady.” The ‘73 R&B rendition utilizes a fusion of funk and rock, featuring outstanding guitar riffs.
23. I Can See Clearly Now—Johnny Nash
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 on both Billboard Hot 100 & Cash Box Top 100, 74th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Reggae/R&B/Pop singer-songwriter. Johnny Nash wrote his number 1 single. International hit for the American artist.
22. You are the Sunshine—Stevie Wonder
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Cash Box Top 100, #1 Billboard Hot 100, 19th Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Progressive soul. Second single to reach #1 for Stevie Wonder in 1973. Singer-songwriter won Grammy Award for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” for his tune.
21. Love Train—The O’Jays
Peak position on Charts: #1 Billboard Hot 100, #1 Cash Box Top 100, 12th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Classic R&B tune. Considered Proto-disco. Forerunner of disco genre. Lyrics promote world peace.
20. Love Me Like a Rock—Paul Simon
Peak Positions on Charts: #2 Billboard Hot 100, 22nd Biggest Song of 1973 Cash Box
Background vocals by Southern Black gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds. Won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel performance in 1974.
19. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)—George Harrison
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Billboard Hot 100, #1 Cash Box Top 100, 42nd Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
The former Beatle uses slide guitar technique on this single. Second #1 song in Harrison’s career. Has spiritual lyrical content.
18. Higher Ground—Stevie Wonder
Peak Positions on Charts: #4 Billboard Hot 100, 62nd Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
The third of four consecutive top ten hits for Wonder in 1973. The Motown artist wrote song and plays all instruments on the single.
17. Rocky Mountain High—John Denver
Peak Positions on Charts: #7 Cash Box Top 100, 26th Biggest Song in 1973 (CB)
Folk rock/country rock musical genres. Became an official state song for Colorado in 2017. One of Denver’s lasting environmental signature singles.
Peak Positions on Charts: #9 Billboard Hot 100, 25th Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Canadian pop/rock band. A one hit wonder in the U.S. Group had multiple hits in their home country. Outstanding power ballad.
15. Space Oddity—David Bowie
Peak Positions on Charts: #15 Billboard Hot 100, 97th Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
First released in July 1969 and a U.K. hit. Re-released 3 years later in the U.S. Tale about a fictional astronaut named Major Tom. Signature song for Bowie.
14. Do It Again—Steely Dan
Peak Positions on Charts: #6 Billboard Hot 100, 73rd Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Written by Steely Dan members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. First top ten hit for the band. Single has a Latin-jazz, soft rock rhythm and features an electric sitar.
13. Stuck in the Middle with You—Stealers Wheel
Peak Positions on Charts: #3 Cash Box Top 100, 28th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Scottish musicians Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan from Stealers Wheel co-wrote song. Peppy pop tune. Group charted a second top 40 hit with “Star” in 1974. Rafferty left the band for a solo career the following year.
12. Midnight Train to Georgia—Gladys Knight & the Pips
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Cash Box Top 100, #1 Billboard Hot 100, 15th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
First number 1 hit for the R&B group. Won a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Vocal Performance by A Duo, Group or Chorus.” Has become Gladys Knight’s signature song.
11. Feeling Stronger Everyday—Chicago
Peak Positions on Charts: #8 Cash Box Top 100, 54th Biggest Song of 1973 Billboard
A collaboration between bassist Peter Cetera and trombonist James Pankow of Chicago. Superb guitar playing by Terry Kath. Brass section of trumpet, saxophone and trombone lays foundation for this single.
10. Live and Let Die—Paul McCartney & Wings
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Cashbox Top 100, #2 Billboard Hot 100, 33rd Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Written by Paul and Linda McCartney. It was the first rock song to open a James Bond film. Received a Grammy Award for “Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).” McCartney still performs renowned song at solo concerts.
9. Smoke on the Water—Deep Purple
Peak Positions on Charts: #3 Cash Box Top 100, 50th Biggest Song of 1973 Billboard
Lyrics chronicle an actual 1971 fire in Montreux, Switzerland that Deep Purple band members witnessed while recording an album. Tune has one of the greatest rock guitar riffs of the 20th century.
8. Kodachrome—Paul Simon
Peak Positions on Charts: #2 Billboard Hot 100, 64th Biggest Song of 1973 Cash Box
Paul Simon penned this song that is named after Kodak’s now-discontinued reversal film brand Kodachrome. First of two consecutive singles that peaked at #2 on Cash Box and Billboard charts.
7. I Got a Name—Jim Croce
Peak Position on Charts: #3 Cash Box Top 100, 68th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
Song was released one day after Jim Croce died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. “I Got a Name” was the first of 3 posthumous top ten hits for Croce in 1973 and 1974.
6. Long Train Running—The Doobie Brothers
Peak Positions on Charts: #8 Billboard Hot 100, 41st Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Pulsating rocker with superb guitar riffs. First top ten hit for the band. Written by Tom Johnston who provides lead vocals on track.
5. Saturday’s Night Alright (For Fighting)—Elton John
Peak Position on Charts: #12, Billboard Hot 100, 98th Biggest Song of 1973 Cash Box
Lead single from legendary “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album. Composed by Elton John’s long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. High-powered energy rock tune.
4. We’re an American Band—Grand Funk Railroad
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Billboard Hot 100, 23rd Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Band member Don Brewer wrote autobiographical lyrics for this toe-tapping, hard driving rock song. Produced by Todd Rundgren. First number one single for GFR.
3. Reelin’ in the Years—Steely Dan
Peak Positions on Charts: #11 Billboard Hot 100, 68th Biggest Song of 1973 (B)
Second single from Steely Dan’s debut album, “Can’t Buy a Thrill.” Has a highly-rated guitar solo by session player Elliott Randall. Musically is jazz-rock perfection.
2. Dancing in the Moonlight—King Harvest
Peak Positions on Charts: #10 Cash Box Top 100, 36th Biggest Song of 1973 Billboard
King Harvest is a one hit wonder. Group formed in Ithaca, New York. This song is still popular in 2023 as it is played at many wedding receptions all across the U.S.
1. You’re So Vain—Carly Simon
Peak Positions on Charts: #1 Billboard Hot 100, #1 Cashbox Top 100, 7th Biggest Song of 1973 (CB)
My number 1 selection was written by singer-songwriter Carly Simon and is considered her signature song. Single is ranked at #92 on Billboard Magazines “Greatest Songs of All Time” listing.
Lyrics are brilliant as she describes her narcissistic lover. In real life, Simon says that her song is actually about 3 men. However, fifty years later, she remains secretive about revealing the identity of these fellow.
I consider this masterpiece as one of the best epic story songs from the 70s. Without a doubt, “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon is my number 1 best single for 1973.
That wraps up what I consider to be my favorite and best top 40 hits for 1973. I completely understand that my listing of songs in this category was written from my point of view and is subjective.
If you were creating a similar register of excellent 1973 hits, your tabulation may be totally different. What do you consider to be best preeminent singles from ’73? I hope you will comment below.
Listening to music from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart. I still cherish and fondly remember my favorite superfine singles of 1973. Rock on!
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