45 Sinfully Underplayed Songs of the 60s and 70s
AT a time when even the most obscure vintage track is just a few clicks away, it’s very hard to create a list of “underplayed” songs. Many recordings swept under the rug have now returned to the light via music blogs, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, etc.
The list before you is to help insert some new blood into your playlists. I’m always appreciative of a recommendation, so I figured some of you would be as well.
Note: There’s a tendency in many music lists to impress the rock snobs. Nothing is ever too unknown or clever for them. I’ve tried to avoid the temptation to plumb the depths of obscurity just to show off. We’ll keep things off the beaten path, but no so deep as to unleash the Balrog.
- 1941 – Harry Nilsson
Autobiographical ditty which got him noticed by the Beatles. Legendary debauchery by Harry and Mr. Ono soon followed.
- 2000 Light Years from Home – Rolling Stones - The Stones shoot for Strawberry Fields and actually nail it. They’d be moving on to bluesier stuff in a hurry.
- A Minah Menina – Os Mutantes
Brazilian psychedelia unbelievably used in a 2008 McDonald’s commercial. It deserved the attention.
- Any Major Dude – Steely Dan
Why this wasn’t a top ten hit will forever be one of history’s greatest mysteries.
- Ballad of Danny Bailey – Elton John
With so many hits being churned out by Elton, I suppose this one got trampled and lost underfoot.
- Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft – The Carpenters
Much more palatable than the original Klaatu version. Yes, it’s cheesy and insane – but that’s not always a bad thing.
- Chevy Van – Sammy Johns
Like “Afternoon Delight”, the innocent veneer masks an extremely dirty song (about having sex with a hitchhiker)
- Circle Round the Sun – B.J. Thomas
Beautiful, damn near transcendent song that apparently was too good for radio.
- Cthlu Thlu – Caravan
Guitar noodling goes on a bit long in the second half, but HP Lovecraft still would be proud.
- Daily Nightly – The Monkees
Moog infused psychedelia that, of course, gets no respect because it’s from the Monkees.
- Disadvantages of You – The Brass Ring
Elevator music at its finest.
- Fundamentally Yours – Stackridge
Sounds more like Badfinger than Badfinger, but you cannot deny it’s a flat-perfect pop melody.
- Ghetto Child – The Spinners
May sound silly to those raised on hip-hop, but this is where talent, soul, melody and message come together.
- Hard Times – Kiss
The circus often overshadowed their talent for simple quality rock. One wonders how their music would be viewed had they had just dressed like Foghat.
- Hello Little Lover – Mahogany Rush
These Canadians can rock hard. Great music to exceed speed limits to.
- Home Is Where the Hatred Is – Esther Williams
Esther lays it all out on the table. You’ll be exhausted by the time she’s through with you.
- Houdini Said – Gilbert O’Sullivan
Well crafted, creative, melodic… the adjectives keep on coming, yet I can’t put it into a coherent description.
- I See the Rain – Marmalade
Hendrix loved the guitars – you’ll get no better endorsement than that.
- I’m Mandy, Fly Me – 10cc
The band was always wandering off the beaten path; here they take an obvious pop nugget and make it interesting.
- In the First Place – Remo Four
From the Wonderwall film; a brilliant instrumental with George Harrison as its creator.
- I’ve Got to Be Going – Peppermint Trolley Co.
The group is more known for the original Brady Bunch theme than anything else, which is a crying shame because they could craft some great bubblegum pop.
- Ladies and Gentlemen – Clouds
In a perfect world, complex tunes like this go platinum. Instead, it was lost without a trace, and can’t even be found on Spotify.
- Land of the Few – Love Sculpture
If ever there was a song begging to added to a playlist, this is it. Do it for Dave Edmunds.
- Leave It – Mike McGear and Paul McCartney
Silly and nonsensical, but McCartney’s ability to come up with a brilliant melody on a dime is unnerving.
- Life Has Just Begun – Spirit
The whole Sardonicus LP is woefully under-appreciated. The songs were just a bit too odd to become a part of classic rock mainstream.
- Lord Grenville – Al Stewart
Transcendental tune about a 17th century naval captain which circles upwards like cannabis vapors to the Heavens. “Our time is just a point along a line that runs forever with no end.” Heavy, man.
- Love Alive – Heart
The ladies did their best to be Led Zeppelin in the early days. Here’s where they came the closest.
- Man of 1000 Faces – Gene Simmons
When all four members of Kiss simultaneously released solo albums, we sensed they’d be jumping the shark soon. This one is just too interesting to ignore.
- Mary Skeffington – Gerry Rafferty
It’s about Gerry’s own mother who once was full of promise, now dodges her drunk husband’s punches. It’s simultaneously depressing and beautiful.
- Mother Freedom – Bread
Not as pillowy soft as we’re accustomed with this band, but still has that signature triumphant hook.
- My White Bicycle – Tomorrow
Best bicycle song there is: beats both Queen and Floyd.
- Nice, Nice, Very Nice – Ambrosia
One of the few prog rock bands that recognized the importance of melody. Even Vonnegut couldn’t help but sing its praises; it’s not easy to adapt Bokononism for the radio.
- Open Sesame (Groove with the Genie) – Kool & the Gang
Back when funk bands had 20 members and a horn section; this is the very definition of back porch, booger nosed funk. Can ya dig?
- Psychic Vampire – Space Opera
More complicated than a song has a right to be; yet still pleasing to the ear. I could listen to this on a loop for the rest of my life.
- Red Telephone – Love
Easily one of the greatest albums of all time, Forever Changes was widely unknown until it started popping up on “best of” lists. I’ll add my voice to the chorus.
- Rose for Emily, A – The Zombies
It wants to be Eleanor Rigby, and comes damned close. Titled based on a Faulkner novel about necrophilia.
- Satellite of Love – Lou Reed
I’ve heard this song 900 times over thirty years and I still don’t know why I like it. It’s a rock snob favorite, so I want to hate it, but can’t.
- Searchin’ So Long – Chicago
One of the great codas in rock history. Coda hall of fame: “Hey Jude”, “Atlantis” by Donovan, “Aquarius” by the Fifth Dimension, and “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears “… and this is my foooour leaf clover.”
- Seven Island Suite – Gordon Lightfoot
Epic dirge to escape the rat race. Rarely are songs this exultant.
- She Was Naked – Supersister
Speaking of codas: this one starts off worrisome, then ends with a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus.
- Some Gospel According to Matthew – Roberta Flack
Before American Idol infected the world with melisma, and before autotune turned the singers of a generation into synthetic ventriloquist dummies – there was Roberta.
- Song of the Viking – Todd Rundgren
Playful on the surface, but bizarrely beautiful. Obviously written by a mad genius.
- Summer of ’71 – Helen Reddy
Hearing Helen sing about getting high on mescaline is reward enough. The fact that it’s a great song is the cherry on top.
- Theme One – The George Martin Orchestra
The Van Der Graf Generator did a respectable cover, but nothing tops the original sonic grandeur composed for Radio One.
- Vacuum Cleaner – Tintern Abbey
If you’re not pleasantly surprised by this oft overlooked psychedelic gem, you’re just being stubborn
Over to you…