Can you name that tune? Whether your favorite was Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees, ABBA, or maybe an early punk band, it was an eclectic decade when it came to the songs and anthems we loved. From country to rock to disco, rap and more, we've got 35 opening lyrics from the most popular songs of the '70s -- do you think you can recognize them all from just a few words?
"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"
If you don't recognize it from radio play, you probably know this six-minute rock-opera song from the now-classic scene in the 1992 movie, "Wayne's World". Freddie Mercury began writing it in 1968 while he was attending London's Ealing Art College. It appeared on Queen's 1975 album, "A Night at the Opera".
"Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man: no time to talk ..."
The Bee Gees song, "Stayin' Alive," has been a disco staple since it was released in 1977. Originally from the movie, "Saturday Night Fever," "Stayin' Alive" is also often used for training and performing CPR chest compressions -- its rhythm of 103 beats per minute is just about perfect for delivering the minimum 100 chest compressions per 60 seconds.
"Nibblin' on sponge cake, watchin' the sun bake ..."
Did you know there's a lost verse to "Margaritaville"? Jimmy Buffett occasionally sings it during live shows, and it goes like this: Old men in tank tops, cruisin’ the gift shops, checkin’ out chiquitas, down by the shore. They dream about weight loss, wish they could be their own boss. Those three-day vacations can be (or “become”) such a bore ...
"It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in ..."
"Piano Man" was Billy Joel's first single, first major hit, and has since come to be considered his signature song. Joel has said that it's a fictional story, but based on his time as a lounge singer at the Executive Room bar in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
"At first I was afraid, I was petrified ..."
First released as a B-side to Gloria Gaynor's "Substitute" in 1978, "I Will Survive" went on to become Gaynor's only No. 1 hit -- and won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording.
"Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words ..."
"Killing Me Softly" was first recorded by Lori Lieberman in 1971, but didn't become a No. 1 hit until Roberta Flack recorded it in 1973 -- and No. 2 when it was covered by hip-hop group Fugees on their 1996 album, "The Score." It won Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal in 1974 -- and then in 1997, won another for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
"I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop-a you don't stop the rock ..."
When it came out in September 1979, The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" wasn't the first single to feature rapping -- but it's considered the first full-length rap single, and the song that introduced rap and hip-hop to mainstream American and global audiences. The record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.
"Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold ..."
Don't let 'em pick guitars, or drive them old trucks ... sang Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, when they covered the song on their duet album, "Waylon & Willie" in 1978. The duet peaked at No. 1 on the country music charts, and also hit No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year. In 1979, the duo won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.
"I know a place ain't nobody cryin', ain't nobody worried, ain't no smilin' faces lyin' to the races ..."
There are at least a dozen notable covers of this song, but it's the 1972 version of "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers that came first. Released on their album, "Be Altitude: Respect Yourself," the hit spent 15 weeks on the charts, and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Every time when I look in the mirror, all these lines on my face getting clearer ..."
This power ballad was the first major hit for Aerosmith. "Dream On" was a track on the band's debut album, 1973's "Aerosmith" -- and went on to peak at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair ..."
It's the title track to the Eagles' album, "Hotel California," released in 1977. The next year, it was awarded a Grammy for Record of the year -- and more recently, the now-iconic song was named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to be one of the songs that has shaped rock 'n' roll.
"Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah, some call me the gangster of love ..."
This popular song left listeners wondering, what exactly is the pompatus of love? "The Joker," off the Steve Miller Band's album of the same name, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. (Oh, and "pompatus"? It's a reference to a doo-wop song, "The Letter," sung in the 1950s by The Medallions.)
"Well, we got no choice, all the girls and boys, makin' all that noise ..."
When Alice Cooper's first major hit single was released, some radio stations banned it. Why? Because adults worried it could incite rebelliousness in students. Fast-forward to 2004, and "School's Out" has been named one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It's also been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including "The Muppet Show," "American Idol" and "Glee".
"You show us everything you've got, you keep on dancin' and the room gets hot ..."
"Rock and Roll All Nite" was released on the 1975 KISS album, "Dressed to Kill." It's become the band's signature song, and is a staple on concert set-lists.
"Ooh, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good ..."
The Queen of Disco, Donna Summer, had numerous hits like "Love to Love You Baby," "Last Dance," and "MacArthur Park." But it may be 1977's "I Feel Love" that left the longest-lasting impact -- especially on early electronic dance music (EDM).
"Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying ... Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying ..."
Marvin Gaye's song, "What's Going On," was released in 1971 on the artist's album of the same name. The album was the first Motown record to credit all the musicians who performed on it.
"I took my love, I took it down, climbed a mountain and I turned around ..."
Billy Corgan, The Dixie Chicks and "Glee" have all recorded versions of this song, but it was Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks who wrote it. "Landslide" was released on the band's self-titled album in 1975.
"Hey ho, let's go! hey ho, let's go!"
The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" is the opening track of the band's debut album, released in 1976. Although the song never charted, it's considered to be one of the most influential for punk rock.
"I met her in a club down in North Soho, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola ..."
"Lola," says its writer Ray Davies, is about a man who falls in love with person he thinks is a woman, but isn't. The song was released on the Kinks' album "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One" in 1970.
"Radio, video, boogie with a suitcase ..."
"Pop Muzik" was originally released as a single in 1979, and then on M's full-length album, "New York · London · Paris · Munich". M, real name Robin Scott, was a one-hit wonder in the U.S.
"You walked into the party, like you were walking on a yacht ..."
For four decades we all speculated about who the self-absorbed lover in Carly Simon's hit, "You're So Vain," could be. James Taylor? She said no. Cat Stevens, or Kris Kristofferson? Actually, it was, Simon disclosed in 2015, "a little" about Warren Beatty.
"He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he'd never been before ..."
Controversy over whether the song is about marijuana has followed "Rocky Mountain High" since it was released on John Denver's album, "An Evening With John Denver," in 1975. But Denver himself, during his testimony at the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Senate hearings in 1985, cleared that up: nope.
"You've got your mother in a whirl, she's not sure if you're a boy or a girl ..."
David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" wasn't written as a single or for an upcoming album -- it was written for a Ziggy Stardust musical that never actually came to be. Instead, it was released as a single on Bowie's 1974 album, "Diamond Dogs" -- and became the final glam rock song he would record.
"When you're weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all ..."
The album, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," released in January 1970, was Simon and Garfunkel's fifth and final together. But it included the smash hit song of the same name, which would win five Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. It was the duo's biggest hit single.
"I was tired of my lady, we'd been together too long, like a worn-out recording of a favorite song ..."
Rupert Holmes may be best-known for his hit single, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," although he's also been a long-time session musician, composer, and now playwright. "Escape," released in 1979, went on to be the final No. 1 song of 1970s in the U.S.
"Feeling better now that we're through, feeling better 'cause I'm over you ..."
"You're No Good" wasn't written by or for her, but Linda Ronstadt's cover went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1975, making it the most successful cover. While she often performed it during her live shows, Ronstadt included the song as a last-minute addition on her "Heart Like a Wheel" album.
"If there's a cure for this, I don't want it ..."
"Love Hangover" may have been the fourth No. 1 single for Diana Ross, but producer Hal Davis thought it could have worked for Marvin Gaye, too. Ross' single was released in 1976, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles, and Hot Dance Club Play charts.
"You might not ever get rich, but let me tell you it's better than digging a ditch ..."
You may recognize its hand claps sampled in many songs, but it's Rose Royce who had the hit with "Car Wash," written for the movie of the same name. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture in 1976.
"Finished with my woman 'cause she couldn't help me with my mind ..."
"Paranoid" was the first single released from the album, "Paranoid" by the British rock band Black Sabbath, in 1970. It was the group's first original single, and was Black Sabbath's only Top 10 hit.
"I saw my problems and I'll see the light, we got a lovin' thing, we gotta feed it right ..."
"Grease," written by Barry Gibb (yes, of The Bee Gees) and performed by Frankie Valli, is the opening track to the 1978 movie of the same name. You won't hear its groove on stage -- it was one of four songs written for the film.
"In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream ... at night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines ..."
Today, Bruce Springsteen has 20 Grammy Awards and has sold more than 65 million albums. But it was in 1975, when he released his third album, "Born to Run," that gave him his breakout hit. "Born to Run" would go on to inclusion on many Greatest Songs lists, including Best Songs of the 1970s.
"Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band ... Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man ..."
Written about the spirit of California and the women who lived there, Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" was released on his fourth album, "Madman Across the Water" in 1971. More than four decades after its release, Elton John released a music video for the song in May 2017.
"See the curtains hangin' in the window, in the evening on a Friday night ... A little light a-shinin' through the window lets me know everything's all right ..."
It's been covered by The Isley Brothers, Type O Negative, the Three Tenors and many others. But the original "Summer Breeze," released in 1972, written and originally recorded by Seals and Crofts. It went on to reach No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Singles charts.
"You need coolin', baby, I'm not foolin' ..."
"Whole Lotta Love," recorded in 1969, became the first hit single for Led Zeppelin, and was certified gold for having sold one million copies, in April 1970 in the United States. The song turned out to be the last song the group would play together live.
"Lookin' at the devil, grinnin' at his gun, fingers start shakin', I begin to run ..."
Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" was released in December 1969, and went on to become the No. 19 song of 1970. The group recorded an alternate, slower arrangement of the song for their 1971 album, "There's a Riot Goin' On," calling it "Thank You for Talkin' to Me Africa".
You Might Also Like
About HowStuffWorks Play
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!
Get smarter every day! Subscribe & get 1 quiz every week.
Playing quizzes is free! We send trivia questions and personality tests every week to your inbox. By
clicking "Sign Up" you are agreeing to our
years old or over.