IF you want to write a rock and roll hit, learn four or five chords, crank up the amp, and write about love. I suspect that if we deciphered more hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt, we’d find lyrics written by a 23 year old guy proclaiming his love for the girl who lived just around the corner of the next pyramid over. I woke up this morning singing Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love (don’t know why, I just did) and that got me wondering – What are eleven great songs from my youth (the 70s) with ‘LOVE’ in the title.
A reverse chronology.
11. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse – 1970.
Love Grows is a perfect example of the bubblegum pop era. Uptempo, punchy, hummable, danceable. It was the boy-girl party mainstay when I was in sixth grade; guaranteed to get the boys up and dancing with the girls. Edison Lighthouse was a studio group, put together for this song. A great one-hit wonder.
10. Only Love can Break Your Heart – Neil Young, After the Gold Rush – 1970.
Gold Rush is quite possibly, Neil Young’s finest album. Every song is perfect. No wasted notes, his singing is outstanding (yes, I just said that about Neil Young’s singing), and his lyrics and melodies have never been better. I love Neil when he rocks, but trust me, any guy who could play Only Love can Break Your Heart on a guitar for his girl in 1977 was well on his way, if you know what I mean.
9. Love Her Madly – The Doors, LA Woman – 1971.
A band with no bass player, a finger-style jazz guitarist, and a Lizard King singer who couldn’t keep his leather pants zipped. As Stephen Davis said in his biography of Jim Morrison “Jim roared like a lion with a hard-on and crooned like Hell’s version of Bing Crosby.” On Love Her Madly, you hear both. The Doors were together for five years, and forty years later, The Doors still matter.
8. Radar Love – Golden Earring, Moontan – 1973.
The greatest summer time driving around with the top down windows open music cranked slurpee in hand roadtrip song of all time. This is the first, the ur-, the alpha and omega of road songs.
7. Fooled Around & Fell in Love – Elvin Bishop, Struttin’ My Stuff – 1975.
Elvin Bishop was one of the top blues and session players of my youth. As a guitar player, I loved his stuff. He wrote this, found Mickey Thomas (later to sing for Jefferson Starship) to sing it, and Fooled flew to the top. Elvin’s solo is beautiful, perfectly formed notes, just enough playing to draw you in, not so overbearing that song becomes about the guitar, instead of his heart.
6. Heard It in a Love Song – Marshall Tucker Band, Carolina Dreams – 1977.
The mournful lyrics are strictly country. The piano is spot-on. Toy Caldwell’s guitar throughout the song is as good as melodic guitar gets, plus a flute. Playing in a band in the 1970s, I learned some flute for a Jethro Tull song, but it was hearing MTB that made me really learn to play. A lovely song; when it comes on the radio, how can you not sing along with that chorus?
5. Is This Love – Bob Marley, Kaya – 1978.
Ganja wink-wink nudge-nudges aside, Bob Marley wrote some terrific love songs. One Love and Could You be Loved were definitely in the mix in this playlist, but this song, a plea to his girl in which he pledges his love, care, and heart with a plaintive “Is this love? Is this love? Is this love that I’m feelin’?” is the winner. Melanoma killed Bob much too soon. As a melanoma survivor, I’m a beggin’ you mon, lively up yourself to the dermatologist and gets yourself checked out
4. Love is the Drug – Roxy Music, Siren – 1977.
The late 70s punk era was the answer to the disco that damn near destroyed pop music. The music went into two directions-really hardcore stuff, which will form another playlist, and some pretty sophisticated stuff – Queen, Be-Bop Deluxe, Mott the Hoople, and Roxy Music with Bryan Ferry on vocals. Danceable, listenable, and musically intriguing; it was the perfect answer to the execrable music of the Saturday Night Fever “electronic pre-programmed disco.”
3. Who Do You Love? – George Thorogood, Move It on Over, 1978.
Written by the immortal Bo Diddley, after whom the distinctive ‘Bo Diddley Beat” is named, and covered by dozens of great players (check out Ronnie Hawkins’ version on The Band’s The Last Waltz; warning-bring some ice water), why did I chose GT’s version? In 1978, as I’ve mentioned, we were fighting the Great Disco Plague. George and the Delaware Destroyers hit the road. With George’s rollicking, screaming slide guitar playing, his trio’s thumping bass, and a real drummer – hundreds of thousands of kids were grabbed by their musical throats and yanked back into the good graces of roots rock n’ roll. Bless you, George.
BTW- I chose this video from 1985’s Farm-Aid because that is Bo Diddley, with his trademark square guitar, jamming with GT.
2. Chuck E.’s in Love – Rickie Lee Jones, Rickie Lee Jones, 1979.
As if tasteful guitar, a neatly syncopated rhythm section, and swinging horn section weren’t enough, Rickie’s great jazz-tinged vocal phrasing makes this a musical don’t miss. She’s singing about a guy friend who disappeared for a few days because he was hanging with his new girlfriend. Trivia – Rickie was dating Tom Waits at the time she wrote this song.
- Peace, Love, and Understanding – Elvis Costello, Armed Forces, 1979.
In this clip from 2003, Elvis is guest hosting on David Letterman. Costello introduces himself, hijinks ensue, and then he rips through a stinging version of one my very favorite Elvis Costello songs. I’ve seen Elvis several times, and trust me, this version equals any of the live versions I saw in the 1970s and 1980s. Killer, simply killer. I arranged these songs chronologically, and luckily, the best song closes our playlist.
There are thousands of great songs with love in their titles. There are hundreds of Seventies era songs with LOVE in the title.
Would you do me a favor? On the Dads Roundtable Facebook page, share a few of your favorite 70s era “LOVE” songs. Thanks.