Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs: 1970s

Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean. For a lot of people, the ‘70s gave birth to this genre. For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 decade defining hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1970s. Special thanks to our users akt, SuperMonkeyGyrados, Jack Morris, Rocky Al., Alex Guzman, Time Signature, milkman0973, 7AMart1, Godslayer79, Mitch Deans, Raymond Leduc, Jimmy Kowaleski, MrRock4Evr, Charlotte Kevin Rudd, ynot0404, richardbain, kitlivsey, troywebers, Vaxtin and Oliver Swen for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean.

Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs: 1970s


For a lot of people, the ‘70s gave birth to this genre. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1970s.

For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. With that said, get ready to jam with the grandfathers of rock and metal!

#10: “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (1973)
Alice Cooper

The singer with the snake has got quite the résumé when it comes to hit songs. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a hard rock and glam metal track that revels in its subject matter about not letting other people’s opinions and expectations bring you down. Meanwhile, the single’s top 40-chart success propelled its parent album, Billion Dollar Babies, to number one in both the UK and U.S.

#9: “Jailbreak” (1976)
Thin Lizzy

This hard rock number is one of Thin Lizzy’s most well known songs. Along with “The Boys Are Back in Town,” the titular track off of the band’s sixth album is one that continues to receive steady classic rock radio airplay to this day, and sticks to the band’s lyrical themes of staying tough no matter what. Thanks to its recognizable Thin Lizzy guitar sound, “Jailbreak” has found its way into pop culture on multiple occasions and has been covered by several artists since its release.

#8: “Walk This Way” (1975)
Aerosmith

Now many of you may only know the version of this track with Run D.M.C. While that collaboration was a perfect blend of rap and rock, the bluesy and rocking original makes it on to our list for standing out in its own right as a hard-hitting track of the genre. Catapulting the band to mainstream success in the mid-‘70s, “Walk This Way” has proven to be quite the crutch for Aerosmith throughout the years.

#7: “Hell Bent for Leather” (1978)
Judas Priest

This 2-and-a-half minute metal number is a reflection of the band’s transition into commercial success. After abandoning their previous fantasy-inspired style for songs that’d be more realistic and hopefully hold more mainstream appeal, Judas Priest released their fifth album with this track at the helm. Fitting that around the same time of this song’s release, the British rockers also took on their signature leather and stud image.

#6: “Rock and Roll All Nite” (1975)
KISS

This was the first of Kiss’ songs that managed to earn significant chart success throughout the ‘70s – but only after a live version from the 1975 album Alive! hit the market. “Rock and Roll All Nite” was meant to be experienced in concert, and the fact that this release bested the studio take’s top 60 showing with top 20 chart placing proved it. Serving as a rally cry for those who loved to rock, the single also pushed its parent album to the top of the charts, and has maintained its status as the band’s most identifiable song and a live staple.

#5: “Smoke on the Water” (1973)
Deep Purple

The band never expected it to be a hit, yet this song was the crowning jewel on their most commercially successful album. Based around a fire that took place at the Montreux casino complex where they planned to record, “Smoke on the Water” subsequently became quite the venture to produce. But the effort was worth it; thanks to its blues, hard rock and metal flavors, along with one of the most familiar guitar riffs of all time, the Deep Purple song is now considered one of greatest rock tracks in music history.

#4: “Stone Cold Crazy” (1974)
Queen

There are so many great songs by Queen that we’ve already posted two whole videos dedicated to them. Our choice for their 1970s entry goes to this Sheer Heart Attack number. Known for its quick pace and distortion effects, “Stone Cold Crazy” is considered a forerunner to modern thrash and speed metal, and for that achievement alone it deserves a spot on our list. Not to mention that it was a Queen concert staple that still rocks hard and fast today.

#3: “Highway to Hell” (1979)
AC/DC

One of the band’s signature tunes, “Highway to Hell” is a hard rocking song that became an unfortunate reflection of life on the road for the Aussie musicians. The lyrics about a grueling tour, along with the sudden death of frontman Bon Scott six months after the track’s release, has made the single all the more potent. With Mutt Lange’s production work and a signature riff introducing it, this is one AC/DC number that won’t soon be forgotten.

#2: “Kashmir” (1975)
Led Zeppelin

This song borrows elements from classical Arabic, African and Asian music, all the while invoking thoughts of an endless journey with its hard rock and progressive rock vibes. Writing the lyrics to such a mighty composition was such a challenge for frontman Robert Plant that he was almost brought to tears. Though we reckon those later turned into tears of joy upon completion, as the band members have stated that Kashmir is the “definitive Led Zeppelin song” and it quickly became an essential live track.

Before our number one pick leaps out from the ‘70s, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971)
The Who
- “Stranglehold” (1975)
Ted Nugent
- “Stargazer” (1976)
“Rainbow”
- “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (1976)
Blue Öyster Cult

#1: “Paranoid” (1970)
Black Sabbath

It may have started as an afterthought for the album of the same name, but “Paranoid” became one of the band’s greatest hits. Ozzy and crew managed to create a heavy metal monster of a sophomore effort, with this track spearheading its way into musical history through a blast of sound. Praised for its incredible guitar riff, the less-than-two-minute track is still placed in the top tier of heavy metal to this day and has also found its way into pop culture.

Do you agree with our list? Which hard rock or heavy metal song took you back to the 1970s? For more decade defining top tens, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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