Rediscovering 1970

On Christmas Day, 1970, I received a Westinghouse transistor radio as a gift from my grandparents. I was nine years old, and little did they know what they were about to unleash. I inserted the supplied AA batteries, turned it on and tuned in 1050 CHUM, Toronto's Top 40 powerhouse. I discovered rock 'n' roll, and my life would never be the same.

What I heard that afternoon was probably something like this J. Michael Wilson aircheck from December 23. And if perchance CHUM was playing something drippy like The Partridge Family, four alternatives were on offer: 790 CHIC (Brampton), 1150 CKOC (Hamilton), 1280 CHAM (Hamilton) and 1430 CKFH (Toronto).

Fast forward 49 years and with the help of the CHUM Tribute site, I'm rediscovering the music of my youth, creating my personal Top 100 for 1970, 1971 and 1972. I consider these the prime years. From 1973 onward, the music grew increasingly saccharine. Then came disco. Regardless, I just downloaded every CHUM chart from January 3, 1970 till they stopped publishing them in mid-1975. I consider them pure gold: touchstones of my youth that I never expected to see again. I've been scouring the charts, especially their lower reaches, for obscurities I missed when I first assembled my playlists for the big three years, and I found some gems that fleshed out my Top 100.

So ... what can I say about 1970? I feel rather unqualified to discuss the year as a whole because I only signed up in the last week. I'm in the strange position of having heard The Beatles' debut solo singles before I'd heard of The Beatles. I remember thinking, sometime in 1973 maybe, "You mean John, Paul, George and Ringo were all in the same band once? Wow. I should check them out." And that, of course, sent me on another wonderful journey. Certainly, the breakup of The Beatles is the single biggest musical story of the year, followed by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. But 1970 is, as you'll discover below, so much more than that. Here you'll find pile-driving rockers, bubblegum classics, killer pop songs and the first stirrings of soul mutating into funk, not to mention a few oddball novelties. This was a time when white and black musics sat side by side on the charts in their many guises: soul, funk, rock, gospel, pop, folk, country and more. Music wasn't segregated and segmented as it is now. From fuzzed-out guitars to funky grooves to lush orchestral passages, 1970 has it all.

My Top 100 is in no particular order, other than what makes sense to me as a playlist. The nine songs that kick it off are among the first I ever heard, which is why I've given them prominence. A few songs released in 1970 didn't chart until early or even mid-1971 on CHUM. Regardless, they properly belong to 1970 and so are included here. In brackets is the date the song debuted on the CHUM chart, followed by its peak chart position. Chart-topping songs are in bold. You'll note that a few songs in my Top 100 didn't chart at all. Some may have charted on the other Top 40 stations mentioned above; as for the rest, they're worthy tunes I encountered later that deserved a better fate.

But enough rambling—here's my Top 100 of 1970. Explore, discover, and enjoy the great sounds of a terrific year!

  1. Games - Redeye (12/12/70, #10)
  2. Love the One You're With - Stephen Stills (12/19/70, #1)
  3. My Sweet Lord - George Harrison (11/28/70, #1)
  4. Born to Wander - Rare Earth (1/9/71, #8)
  5. I'm Eighteen - Alice Cooper (3/27/71, #6)
  6. Express Yourself - Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (9/26/70, #15)
  7. Stoney End - Barbra Streisand (12/12/70, #6)
  8. Hey Tonight - Creedence Clearwater Revival (did not chart)
  9. We Gotta Get You a Woman - Runt (12/19/70, #7)
  10. Evil Ways - Santana (2/7/70, #5)
  11. Are You Ready - Pacific Gas & Electric (5/30/70, #24)
  12. Celebrate - Three Dog Night (3/7/70, #16)
  13. Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine - James Brown (did not chart)
  14. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) - Edison Lighthouse (2/21/70, #3)
  15. Make Me Smile - Chicago (4/18/70, #5)
  16. Bus Rider - The Guess Who (did not chart)
  17. Spirit in the Sky - Norman Greenbaum (2/28/70, #4)
  18. The Witch's Promise - Jethro Tull (did not chart)
  19. Do What You Wanna Do - Five Flights Up (10/10/70, #22)
  20. Turn Back the Hands of Time - Tyrone Davis (4/4/70, #11)
  21. Tears of a Clown - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (10/24/70, #3)
  22. Blue Money - Van Morrison (2/27/71, #16)
  23. Who'll Stop the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival (1/31/70, #1)
  24. Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (7/25/70, #6)
  25. Hitchin' a Ride - Vanity Fare (5/2/70, #4)
  26. As the Years Go By - Mashmakan (7/4/70, #1)
  27. We've Only Just Begun - Carpenters (9/26/70, #2)
  28. Black Magic Woman - Santana (11/14/70, #2)
  29. Cecilia - Simon & Garfunkel (4/25/70, #2)
  30. Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell (6/27/70, #3)
  31. In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry (7/18/70, #4)
  32. ABC - The Jackson 5 (3/21/70, #3)
  33. Somebody's Been Sleeping - 100 Proof Aged in Soul (11/14/70, #12)
  34. Give Me Just a Little More Time - The Chairmen of the Board (1/24/70, #5)
  35. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder (7/11/70, #14)
  36. Mr. Monday - The Original Caste (4/25/70, #3)
  37. No Time - The Guess Who (1/3/70, #9)
  38. One Man Band - Three Dog Night (1/2/71, #20)
  39. Travelin' Band - Creedence Clearwater Revival (1/31/70, #1)
  40. Who Needs Ya - Steppenwolf (1/16/71, #17)
  41. Mexico - Jefferson Airplane (did not chart)
  42. You, Me and Mexico - Edward Bear (3/14/70, #3)
  43. Temptation Eyes - The Grass Roots (2/20/71, #7)
  44. My Baby Loves Lovin' - White Plains (4/11/70, #2)
  45. 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago (8/8/70, #1)
  46. The Letter - Joe Cocker (5/2/70, #2)
  47. Tighter, Tighter - Alive and Kicking (6/20/70, #6)
  48. Corrina, Corrina - King Biscuit Boy & Crowbar (9/12/70, #23)
  49. Band Bandit - Tundra (did not chart)
  50. Yellow River - Christie (7/25/70, #5)
  51. Wild World - Cat Stevens (did not chart)
  52. All Right Now - Free (9/12/70, #2)
  53. You're the One - Little Sister (4/11/70, #12)
  54. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly & the Family Stone (1/24/70, #1)
  55. The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles (5/23/70, #1)
  56. No Sugar Tonight - The Guess Who (3/21/70, #1)
  57. Reflections of My Life - The Marmalade (3/14/70, #7)
  58. Question - The Moody Blues (5/9/70, #7)
  59. Come Saturday Morning - The Sandpipers (5/2/70, #16)
  60. Come Running - Van Morrison (4/4/70, #8)
  61. Up Around the Bend - Creedence Clearwater Revival (5/2/70, #1)
  62. Fire and Rain - James Taylor (10/3/70, #6)
  63. Love on a Two-Way Street - The Moments (5/16/70, #3)
  64. Ball of Confusion - The Temptations (5/30/70, #7)
  65. I'll Be There - The Jackson 5 (9/26/70, #1)
  66. O-o-h Child - The Five Stairsteps (6/28/70, #9)
  67. Mama Told Me (Not to Come) - Three Dog Night (5/30/70, #2)
  68. American Woman - The Guess Who (3/21/70, #1)
  69. Vehicle - The Ides of March (3/28/70, #2)
  70. Lucretia MacEvil - Blood, Sweat & Tears (10/24/70, #11)
  71. Up the Ladder to the Roof - The Supremes (3/14/70, #13)
  72. Go Back - Crabby Appleton (8/15/70, #10)
  73. Lola - The Kinks (10/3/70, #2)
  74. Ride Captain Ride - Blues Image (5/9/70, #8)
  75. Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (6/13/70, #5)
  76. Oye Como Va - Santana (3/13/71, #19)
  77. No Matter What - Badfinger (11/21/70, #3)
  78. Indiana Wants Me - R. Dean Taylor (7/25/70, #4)
  79. Joanne - Michael Nesmith and the First National Band (8/15/70, #6)
  80. I Hear You Knocking - Dave Edmunds (1/16/71, #3)
  81. Instant Karma! - John Lennon (2/28/70, #1)
  82. Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin (2/20/71, #9)
  83. Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin (12/5/70, #2)
  84. (They Long to Be) Close to You - Carpenters (6/28/70, #1)
  85. Hand Me Down World - The Guess Who (7/11/70, #3)
  86. Out in the Country - Three Dog Night (9/12/70, #11)
  87. Spill the Wine - Eric Burdon & War (7/4/70, #4)
  88. Neanderthal Man - Hotlegs (9/5/70, #18)
  89. Hey Lawdy Mama - Steppenwolf (did not chart)
  90. Venus - The Shocking Blue (1/3/70, #1)
  91. If I Were Your Woman - Gladys Knight & the Pips (12/26/70, #6)
  92. 5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love) - The Presidents (11/28/70, #7)
  93. Colour My World - Chicago (7/7/71, #3)
  94. One Tin Soldier - The Original Caste (1/3/70, #1)
  95. War - Edwin Starr (7/18/70, #1)
  96. Have You Ever Seen the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival (2/20/71, #16)
  97. Domino - Van Morrison (11/21/70, #4)
  98. Bridge over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel (2/7/70, #1)
  99. Share the Land - The Guess Who (10/17/70, #3)
  100. Let It Be - The Beatles (3/21/70, #1)

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Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
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