1970 – Top Albums – A New Dawn Beckons….

1970 – A New Decade

No Dice – Badfinger – Epitome of 1970 Images [photograph courtesy Richard deLello]

Like all years at the start of a new decade, there is a tendency to think that events and happenings in the world will be different, that we have finished with the previous bundle and tangle of attractions and trifles, and start on a new course of activities and vital interests, create mindless trends and adore the New.  Over recent years the album’s reputation has been embraced as an artifact of high art, listener devotion, inspiration and a big money-spinner.

And so 1970 seems implicitly to bookend the 60s, and the Beatles, and to expand the universe that has developed around the British beat groups, the re-emergence of US rock as a vital force, Motown, psychedelia, flower power and Woodstock.  Whilst 1970 features most of the artists that have provided entertainment and enjoyment in the 60s, and their albums are still available, several posthumous albums are released this year by major artists, including Janis and Jimi.  The dark side foreshadowed at Altamont casts a shadow on the new dawn.

Sales Dominate

This is what it is all about – sales, sales, sales.  Let us start with Gene Sculatti’s small tome 100 Best Selling Albums of the 60s.  There are only 10 albums listed, but the scale of sales generally far exceeds earlier years:

Sales Artist Album Title
3,000,000 James Taylor Sweet Baby James
3,000,000 Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman
4,000,000 Beatles Let it be
4,000,000 Black Sabbath Paranoid
4,000,000 Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory
5,000,000 Santana Abraxas
6,000,000 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 11
6,000,000 George Harrison All Things Must Pass
7,000,000 Crosby Stills Nash & Young Deja Vu
8,000,000 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water

When we first started using Sculatti’s reference in 1965, sales of a single album rarely reached 1,000,000 and the Beatles were the only group to get into the multi-million sales zone.  Things have changed and the album is King and you may be assured that the Sculatti list of million selling albums is far from complete.

Book of Golden Discs – Joseph Murrell [1974; Reprint 1978]

Joseph Murrell’s – The Book of Golden Discs – “The Records that sold a million” (1974) has some interesting correlations and additions.  Included are the blockbuster releases of 1970 embracing stage, screen and performance.  The big three are Jesus Christ Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice), Love Story (Francis Lai) and Woodstock (Various Artists) selling millions of albums, and strangely not appearing in the Sculatti volume.

Murrell also lists Blood Sweat & Tears 3, Chicago 11, Emerson Lake & Palmer – self titled, Grand Funk Railroad LIVE, ABC and Third Album – Jackson 5, Elton John – self titled and Tumbleweed Connection, and The Partridge Family Album.  Each of these albums sold in excess of 1,000,000 copies in all formats – vinyl, cassette and later as CDs.

A Diversion – “ALBUMS – The Stories behind 50 Years of Great Recordings” [Ed – Thomas Jerome 2005 Thunder Bay Press]

This delicious book brings some compelling observations and photographs of rock stars, musicians, stage play and albums to its readers.  Aside from the albums already mentioned in our previous sources, Jerome includes – John Barry’s original soundtrack On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Curtis Mayfield’s – Curtis, the Velvet Underground – Loaded, Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die, Free – Fire & Water, Miles Davis – Bitches Brew, the Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, Neil Young – After the Gold Rush and Harvest, and Neil Diamond’s Taproot Manuscript.

Editor Jerome has an eye and ear for the flash and slash of rock, the uncomfortable new and the brash.  He also lists other major releases of 1970 including Santana’s Abraxas, Black Sabbath’s – Paranoid, George Harrison and his seminal album All Things Must Pass and the celebratory Woodstock.

Our Guide – BestEverAlbums.com

Our fundamental guide to greatness lies with the BestEverAlbums.com listing and for 1970 there are 961 albums nominated, about 40 more than were included in the 1969 list. The album continues to be highly sought after and fans shell out their hard-earned moolah to buy about 40 minutes of passion, surrender and happiness.  Double albums further increase our happiness and Woodstock exceeds all our wishes with three albums in one package, clocking in at 111 minutes plus announcements!!!

BEA’s top 40 is as follows:

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot 200
1 Black Sabbath Paranoid 12
2 Neil Young After the Gold rush 8
3 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 1
4 George Harrison All Things Must Pass 2
5 John Lennon Plastic Ono Band 6
6 Miles Davis Bitches Brew 35
7 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 11 1
8 Van Morrison Moon Dance 29
9 The Stooges Fun House DNC
10 Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmos’s Factory 1
11 Beatles Let it be 1
12 Derek & the Dominoes Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs 16
13 The Velvet Underground Loaded DNC
14 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath 23
15 Crosby Stills Nash & Young Déjà Vu 1
16 Grateful Dead American Beauty 19
17 Deep Purple Deep Purple in Rock 143
18 Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman 8
19 Santana Abraxas 1
20 Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother 55
21 The Doors Morrison Hotel 4
22 The Kinks Lola Versus Powerman & the Moneygoround, Part One 35
23 The Who Live at Leeds 4
24 Soft Machine Third DNC
25 Curtis Mayfield Curtis 19
26 Tim Buckley Starsailor DNC
27 Syd Barrett The Madcap Laughs DNC
28 Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys 5
29 Grateful Dead Workingman’s Dead 27
30 David Bowie The man who sold the World 105
31 Vashti Bunyan Just another Diamond Day DNC
32 Elton John Tumbleweed Connection 5
33 Nico Desertshore DNC
34 Rodriguez Cold fact DNC
35 Exuma Exuma DNC
36 The Beachboys Sunflower 151
37 James Taylor Sweet Baby James 3
38 Tim Buckley Lorca DNC
39 Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon 27
40 Emerson Lake & Palmer Emerson Lake & Palmer 18


There are several gems  in the next 20 or so albums, including McCartney – Paul McCartney’s hastily released offering of ditties for 1970 at # 43, the Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South (# 46), two from King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon (# 48) and Lizard (# 49), Chicago – Chicago 11 (# 50), the Rolling Stones live – Get yer Ya-Yas Out (# 51), and Stephen Stills self-titled album at # 57.

Kris Kristofferson’s debut album Kristofferson is at # 73.  Similarly the Wishbone Ash debut self-titled album resides at # 79 and the Carpenters, big sellers in 1970, are at #92 with Close to You.  The Beatles excellent US compilation Hey Jude can only make # 96.  Outside the Top 100 BEA Chart there are many more gems which we have loved over the years and it is worthwhile adding one more list to jog our foggy memories of past glories.

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot 200
102 The Mothers of Invention Burnt Weeny Sandwich 94
106 MC5 Back in the USA DNC
112 Frank Zappa Chunga’s Revenge 119
116 Aretha Franklin Spirit in the Dark 25
118 Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen 2
129 Leon Russell Leon Russell 60
131 Ten Years After Watt 21
135 Rod Stewart Gasoline Alley 27
139 May Blitz May Blitz DNC
142 Mountain Climbing! 17
144 Bob Dylan Self Portrait 4
149 Eric Clapton Eric Clapton 13
171 Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship Blows Against the Empire 35
179 Mandrill Mandrill 27*/48
191 Jackson 5 ABC 4
201 Fleetwood Mac Kiln House 69
216 John Mayall Empty Rooms 33
226 Elvis Presley Back in Memphis DNC
236 Gordon Lightfoot If you could read my mind 12
241 Rare Earth Ecology 15
273 Patto Patto DNC
277 Duke Ellington New Orleans Suite
284 The Faces First Steps 119
312 Melanie Candles in the rain 17
314 Roberta Flack Chapter Two 33
328 The Partridge Family The Partridge Family Album 4
338 Steve Miller Band Number 5 23
349 Taste On the Boards DNC
366 The Flock Dinosaur Swamps DNC
387 Cream Live Cream 15
405 Spooky Tooth The Last Puff DNC
412 Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears 3 1
419 Freda Payne Band of Gold 17*/60
443 Linda Ronstadt Silk Purse 103
453 Dusty Springfield Brand new me 107
459 Ringo Starr Beaucoup o f Blues 65
476 Ginger Baker’s Airforce Ginger Baker’s Airforce 33
485 Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour 29
535 Charles Manson Lie: the Love & Terror Cult DNFC

We will stop at # 535.  The Charles Manson largely folk album performed by mad Charlie Manson and his “family” is still available on Discogs on LP and CD and has been reissued several times, once on the apposite White Devil Records label in 2006, and as recently as 2018 on cassette.  Copies can be purchased from $AUD17.91.  Some albums should just be cast into the eternal fire……

And there are some familiar albums well below this threshold and a few are worth mentioning.  The Monkees – Changes at # 737, Thunderclap Newman – Hollywood Dream at # 855, Ray Stevens – Everything is Beautiful at # 877, Tom Jones – Tom at # 913, and the high flying Mixtures (from Winston Charles discotheque fame) – In the Summertime at # 937.  All good things must come to an end.  But original copies of this album are also available at Discogs and prices for a near mint copy start at $AUD15.00 – not too bad considering.

Ultimate Classic Rock – Top 15

The guys at Ultimate Classic Rock don’t muck around when it comes to selecting the best albums of 1970.  They always have an eye on the rock tradition and its edgy evolution, the guitar Gods, and the rock voices that carry the message, whatever the message is – sex, drugs, rock n roll, peace, love…whatever man.

Rating Artist Album Title
1 John Lennon John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
2 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water
3 Neil Young After the Gold Rush
4 Van Morrison Moondance
5 Derek & the Dominoes Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
6 George Harrison All Things Must Pass
7 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
8 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Deja Vu
9 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 111
10 The Stooges Fun House
11 Black Sabbath Paranoid
12 Santana Abraxas
13 Grateful Dead American Beauty
14 Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory
15 Beatles Let it be

It is good for the spirit to see John Lennon and Plastic Ono Band as their #1 selection and there must have been a lot of blood on the floor to see BOTW so high up the chart for Rock’s hard boys.  But for the rest of their selections they take no prisoners.

Rolling Stone Magazine – The Times are a-changing

Rolling Stone magazine has been a bastion of support for rock music since 1967 under the guidance of wunderkind editor Jann Wenner.  Historically, noting the magazine’s intrinsic interest to rock’s evolution, Rolling Stone has payed relentless homage to the leading groups and fire eating acts of the 60s and the 70s.  It was not until 2003 that the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums was first created and the usual suspects crowded into the Toppermost – Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the rest followed.  The list was revised in 2012 but the changes were marginal.  In 2020 there has been significant change to the Top 500 as the popularity and respect accorded to mature acts is reassessed and modern acts revitalise the genre.  Kanye West, Prince, Michael Jackson, Talking Heads, Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Nirvana, Lucinda Williams and many others now adorn the star list.

Below is the listing of 1970 albums:



Rating 2020 Artist Album Title
23 85 John Lennon Plastic Ono Band
95 87 Miles Davis Bitches Brew
108 88 David Bowie Hunky Dory
74 90 Neil Young After the Gold Rush
191 94 The Stooges Fun House
66 120 Van Morrison Moondance
131 139 Black Sabbath Paranoid
51 172 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water
104 182 James Taylor Sweet Baby James
208 205 Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman
261 215 Grateful Dead American Beauty
147 220 Crosby Stills Nash & Young Deja Vu
117 226 Derek & the Dominoes Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs
110 242 Velvet Underground Loaded
275 Curtis Mayfield Curtis
170 327 The Who Live at Leeds
207 334 Santana Abraxas
392 342 Beatles Let it be
61 343 Sly & the Family Stone Greatest Hits
243 355 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
433 368 George Harrison All Things Must Pass
264 409 Grateful Dead Workingman’s Dead
262 413 Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory
439 James Brown Sex Machine

There has been general slippage of the 1970 albums down the Rolling Stone 500.  Having said that, there are no surprises at all in the RS Top 500.  The list is a good match with the BEA.com selection (which is routinely updated to accord with popular choice), and must be considered representative of the overall assessment of albums.  Completely dropping out of the Top 500 2012 version are The Carpenters with Close to You, Nick Drake – Bryter Later, Randy Newman – 12 Songs, MC5 – Back in the USA and the Elton John self-titled album.  And Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, who conceivably should have already been included on the list, have been granted their rightful places.

On that note the biggest change to the Rolling Stone 500 is the new #1 – Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s going on replacing the Beatles technicolour 1967 Sgt Pepper’s album, which has dropped to #24 – a bit of a shock to the system.  So there is a clear message – the times are a-changing and that over time they will change even further.  But as the Beachboys’s Brian Wilson and the Pixies’ Frank Black sang – “hang on to your ego” (and old LPs).

Billboard 200 – Who sells more wins

Nothing has changed at Billboard.  Sell more and more and more and you will reach the top of the Toppermost.  The Billboard Hot 200 # 1 albums for 1970 are listed below:

Date Artist Album Title Weeks In
7 March Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 10
16 May Crosby Stills Nash & Young Deja Vu 1
23 May Paul McCartney McCartney 3
13 June Beatles Let it be 4
11 July Various Artists Woodstock 4
8 Aug Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears 3 2
22 Aug Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory 9
24 Oct Santana Abraxas 6
31 Oct Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 111 4
28 Nov Santana Abraxas 4

After a smash performance at Woodstock on 31st August 1969, Santana reaped huge rewards with their third album, Abraxas, and enjoyed two stints at #1, equalling Simon & Garfunkel’s duration at the top in the earlier months of 1970.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, after a consistent three years on the charts, also stayed at #1 for a long period.  Although only nine albums graced the #1 position in the Billboard Hot 200 many contenders played in the ranks.  And there were some beauties.

As usual in the first two months of the year albums from 1969 lingered on the 1970 Billboard Hot 200.  The Beatles – on top with Abbey Road in January, followed by Led Zeppelin II until 28 February.  Then we begin the new year proper with Simon & Garfunkel’s BOTW and by the end of the year we are sick and tired of the album.  The Top 10 albums at 7 March are:

No Release Year Artist Album Title
1 1970 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water
2 1969 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II
3 1969 Beatles Abbey Road
4 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival Willie & the Poor Boys
5 1970 Chicago Chicago II
6 1969 Jackson 5 I want you back (alternate title: Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5)
7 1970 Johnny Cash Hello I’m Johnny Cash
8 1969 Three Dog Night Captured Live at the Forum
9 1969 Engelbert Humperdinck Engelbert
10 1969 Santana Santana

The album to note in this week’s selection is #5 Chicago – Chicago II, which remains in the Top 10 albums until 17 October 1970 – an amazing achievement, peaking at #4 and staying in the Top 10 for 36 weeks.  And it is an album you never get tired of listening to – wild, thundering, happy and full of life.

In the mix on 14 March are the Doors with Morrison Hotel at #12, the Plastic Ono Band with Live in Toronto at #18, King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King at #37.  In the following week the Beatles stride into #3 first week on the charts with the Hey Jude US compilation, one position ahead of Morrison HotelHey Jude makes #2 on 4 April but cannot progress any further until Simon & Garfunkel leave the top spot which they do on 16 May, when Crosby Still Nash & Young assume the mantle with Deja Vu.

During those five weeks many albums have risen and fallen, including – Mountain – Climbing! #17, Aretha Franklin – This girl’s in love with you #17, Hollies – He ain’t heavy #32, Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky #23, Bobby Sherman – Here comes Bobby #11, Badfinger – Magic Christian #55, and Ten Years After – Cricklewood Green #22.

Paul McCartney, in his third week in the charts, takes the #1 spot on 23 May with his debut solo album McCartney, and glory is short for CSNY.  But not for Paul McCartney, the most popular of the Beatles, who remains in the top spot until 6 June, and resumes it with the Beatles on 13 June with Let it be.  The long awaited release by the Fab Four is in its second week in the charts.  Fame moves fast.

The Beatles remain at #1 and Paul McCartney at #2 for four successive weeks and the Top 10 on 4 July is blooming with big names:

No Artist Album Title
1 Beatles Let it be
2 Paul McCartney McCartney
3 Various Woodstock
4 Crosby Stills Nash & Young Deja Vu
5 Fifth Dimension Greatest Hits
6 The Who Live at Leeds
7 Chicago Chicago ll
8 Jackson 5 ABC
9 Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies
10 Isaac Hayes Movement

On 11 July, the massive triple album that is Woodstock in all its splendor attains the #1 position.  And 50 years later in 2020 there is much to celebrate.  Another two volumes are released making a total of four volumes on 10 discs released on Atlantic Records.  Separately Rhino Records also releases a Woodstock: Back to the Garden – The Anniversary Edition in a limited edition 38 Uber CD and Blu-Ray boxset, a 10 CD Super deluxe boxset, a 5 LP boxset and a 3 CD pack.  The 38 CD set has 432 songs of which 267 have never before been released and is priced at about $AUD1200.  Buy up.

The couple in this iconic photograph married two years later and recently celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary.

Just outside the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 200, Grand Funk Railroad is at #11 with Close to home, Melanie is at #17 with Candles in the Rain, Rod Stewart is at #32 with his second album Gasoline Alley, and Grateful Dead at #28 with Workingman’s Dead.  Bob Dylan, in his second week in the charts, lobs into #7 with the much maligned double album Self Portrait.  The fans are expecting something special.

Woodstock tarries at the top for four weeks giving up the crown to Blood Sweat & Tears 3 on 8 August.  BS&T are closely followed by the Creedence Clearwater Revival with their latest contribution – Cosmo’s Factory – sitting at #2.  The Jackson 5 sit at #6 with ABC.  On 22 August CCR take over the top spot and stay there for nine weeks until 17 October.

In the intervening period The Who enjoy two albums in the Top 10 – Live at Leeds and Tommy (noting that Tommy was originally released in May 1969 and is promoted by an extended live tour of the rock opera).  Joe Cocker makes a mad run for the big prize with Mad Dogs & Englishmen to claim the #11 spot first week in, but can only make it to #2 eventually, before the all conquering Santana claims his first #1 on 24 October.  Traffic makes it #9 with John Barleycorn must die and the Band to #10 with Stage Fright.

By late September other contenders include James Taylor, who has slowly been making his way up the charts, with Sweet Baby James at #11, Neil Young – After the gold rush at #13, Free with Fire & Water at #29, and second week in – the Carpenters at #30 with Close to you.  On 24 October the Top 10 hosts some big players:

No Artist Album Title
1 Santana Abraxas
2 Credence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory
3 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin lll
4 Jackson 5 ABC
5 James Taylor Sweet Baby James
6 Rolling Stones Get yer ya yas out
7 Various Woodstock
8 Neil Young After the gold rush
9 Joe Cocker Mad dogs & Englishmen
10 Carpenters Close to you

Now that is a great Top 10.  And down below there seems to be a Black surge with the Temptations at #17 with their compilation Greatest Hits ll, the Four Tops at #22 with Still waters run deep, Aretha Franklin at #32 with Spirit in the Dark, Roberta Flack at #33 with Chapter Two, the great Curtis Mayfield at #34 with Curtis, the Last Poets with their self-titled album at #35, and hard-working James Brown, ever present, at #39 with Sex Machine.

Led Zeppelin with LZ lll, on their second week in, takes over from Santana at the top staying there until 28 November, when Carlos rescales the heights and ends the year in the premiere position.  By 5 December the Carpenters have moved to #2 with Close to you, Stephen Stills with his fantastic debut self-titled album reaches #8 and the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar resides at #10.

In the ranks the Partridge family make #12 with the Partridge Family Album, Derek & the Dominoes and the outstanding Layla is at #18, Black Sabbath at #36, Badfinger – No Dice at #37, the Allman Brothers and Idlewild South at #40 and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s great album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy at #90.

The Top 10 for 26 December is as follows:

No Artist Album Title
1 Santana Abraxas
2 George Harrison All things must pass
3 Sly & the Family Stone Greatest Hits
4 Stephen Stills Stephen Stills
5 Grand Funk Railroad Live Album
6 Carpenters Close to you
7 Various Jesus Christ Superstar
8 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 111
9 Partridge Family Partridge Family Album
10 James Taylor Sweet Baby James

George Harrison, in his second week in, makes #2 with his magnificent debut triple album – All Things Must Pass.  The Beatles have had another bumper year and the individual parts of the Beatles have achieved similar success.  The Billboard Hot 200 is littered with big double and triple albums – Tommy by the Who, Woodstock, Chicago 11, and Jesus Christ Superstar, not forgetting George Harrison’s opus.

All in all it has been an exciting year on the Billboard Hot 200 – always a tough assignment.

1001 Albums you just gotta hear….

Robert Dimery’s 2006 doorstop lists 30 albums which are mostly mentioned in previous lists.  In fact there are few surprises except for Ananda Shankar’s self titled offering, an album of “sitar rock fusion” released after Jimi Hendrix asked Ananda to make a record for him.  Also included is Spirit’s Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, Nick Drake’s Bryter Later and Soft Machine – Third.  Welcome inclusions are the Carpenters’ Close to You, Stephen Stills’ self-titled debut solo album, Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, and Rod Stewart’s warm sophomore album Gasoline Alley.

Dr ‘Pop’ Paul Gambaccini Presents…

Old Skool impresario Dr Gambaccini has maintained a list of Top 100 albums since 1977.  His useful album sized book “Paul Gambaccini Presents the Top 100 Albums” is a little gem.  Only four albums from 1970 are listed:

Rating Artist Album Title
42 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water
49 Tim Buckley Starsailor
52 Van Morrison Moondance
92 Derek & the Dominoes Layla & Other Assorted Love songs

An interesting list – no Beatles, no Black Sabbath or Santana – the gaps are endless!

101 Essential Rock Records [Jeff Gold, 2012]

Jeff Gold, as usual, is very careful with his selections listing only seven albums from the excitement that was 1970.  His selections are also unrated leaving you to ponder the inclusions and obvious exclusions.  This could be your desert island disc selection.

Artist Title
Vashti Bunyan Just another Diamond Day
The Move Shazam
James Taylor Sweet Baby James
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
Emerson Lake & Palmer Emerson Lake & Palmer
David Bowie The man who sold the world
Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman

It is interesting to note Vashti Bunyan’s lost masterpiece is included in his selective list.  Whilst selling a few hundred copies in 1970 and failing to impact any of the charts, the album has become an instructive influence on modern artists.  The Move, however, is a selection that can only be linked to fandom.

The Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums [1998]

Colin Larkin’s Virgin All-time Top 1000 Albums lists 35 albums, and many of those albums already appear in the Best Ever Albums list and the Rolling Stone Top 500.  Larkin’s book, published in 1998, is a product of the times and includes many releases from the 90s – for example Oasis, Nirvana, Blur, Cast & Pulp – which have pushed into relatively high positions due to their popularity in the mid to late 1990s.  So it appears that albums released in earlier decades 60s, 70s and 80s are rated lower in the general scheme of things.  Simon & Garfunkel’s BOTW is rated highest at # 52.

The following table lists Larkin’s bottom 20 albums from 1970, beginning at # 346, and shows many respectable albums in the lower echelons.

Rank Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
19 346 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin III
20 375 Black Sabbath Paranoid
21 390 George Harrison All Things Must Pass
22 416 James Taylor Sweet Baby James
23 422 Deep Purple In Rock
24 455 Elton John Tumbleweed Connection
25 484 Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon
26 512 Traffic John Barleycorn Must Die
27 529 Various Artists Woodstock
28 532 The Band Stage Fright
29 556 Jimi Hendrix Bad of Gypsies
30 561 Beatles Let it be
31 594 The Beachboys Sunflower
32 633 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
33 657 Soft Machine Third
34 668 Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band Lick my decals off baby
35 669 Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo’s Factory
36 811 Jefferson Starship / Paul Kantner Blows Against Empire
37 882 Free Fire & Water
38 902 The Move Shazam
39 925 Jimi Hendrix / Otis Redding Monterey International Pop Festival

New editions of Colin Larkin’s book may update ratings in due course.

The Parallel Universe that is The Grammy’s – at the Hollywood Palladium

The 13th Grammy Awards are broadcast live, for the first time, from the Hollywood Palladium Los Angeles on 16 March 1971.  Andy Williams smooches over proceedings.

Nominations for the Best Album are almost an all-American affair (although Elton John did sneak in there):

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water, Chicago – Chicago 11, Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Deja Vu, Elton John – self-titled, James Taylor – Sweet Baby James and the Carpenters – Close to you.  There is no prize for guessing the result – Simon & Garfunkel.

BOTW wins the Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year.  The Beatles are also nominated for the category Record of the Year with Let it be, along with Ray Stevens and Everything is Beautiful, but Simon & Garfunkel are triumphant.  Although on the night Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, who had recently broken up, leave the podium to opposite sides of the auditorium stage.  Simon simply gives a nod in appreciation to the audience.

Towards the latter part of the evening John Wayne appears on stage to present the award to the winner of the Best Original Score written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special.  The nominees are:

The Beatles – Let it be, Alfred Newman – Airport, Fred Karlin – The Sterile Cuckoo, Johnny Mandel – M*A*S*H, and Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer – Darling Lili.

The surprise of the evening is the selection of the Beatles to win this award and John Wayne gives the Grammy to Paul McCartney, who is accompanied by his wife Linda, impressing the cheering and clapping Hollywood crowd by this well kept secret appearance.  Paul McCartney’s comments are brief – “Thank you. Goodnight”, but the audience enjoys the visual of a Real Beatle standing right next to their Real Western Star – True Grit.  Dream on Hollywood.  In retrospect, and noting this is the first live televised broadcast of the event, the Grammy brains trust must have exercised their extensive resources to ensure that the Beatles or at least one Beatle somehow or other got into the Grammy action on the night.

The Carpenters are awarded the Best New Artists of the Year. And all ends well.

What happened in Australia?

In 1970 there is not much evidence of many albums being released by local artists.  But there were a few.  In the 2017 edition of The 110 Best Australian Albums compiled by John O’Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson, a single album is nominated from 1970.  The album is Fool’s Gold by Axiom, one of Australia’s first influential super groups featuring legendary Brian Cadd and Glenn Sharrock in the line up.  Other albums released in 1970 are shown in the following table with their peak position (where known) on the Go-Set Top 20 Album Chart:

Rank Go-Set Top 20 Artist Album Title
5 Max Merritt & the Meteors Max Merritt & the Meteors
6 Tully Tully
7 Bee Gees Cucumber Castle
8 Zoot Just Zoot
9 Johnny Farnham Looking through a tear
15 Chain Chain Live
18 Axiom Fool’s Gold
18 Kamahl Sounds of Kamahl
20 Flying Circus Prepared in Peace
The Mixtures In the Summertime
John Williams John Williams
Masters Apprentices Masterpiece
Ronnie Burns Ronnie
Levi Smith’s Clefs Empty Monkey
Dave Miller / Leith Corbett & Friends Reflections of a Pioneer
Jeff St John’s Copperwine Joint Effort
Taman Shud Goolutionites & the Real People

This list may not be complete and we will make every effort to update it in due course.  Most of these albums have not been reissued, although Taman Shud has had a resurgence of interest and the Goolutionites is now available on red-hot vinyl.  Copies of these albums are also few and far between and fetch hefty prices on Discogs.  The exceptions are of course Kamahl and Johnny Farnham, the latter, whose early albums are pretty light weight in this period.  Not included in the list is Johnny Farnham’s Christmas album and limited copies are available from $6.00 on Discogs, so get in early or be disappointed.

Summary – What’s the verdict for 1970?

Did 1970 prove to be a new page for popular music?  The albums of 1970 are a long way from the beat and pop of 1963, when four lads from Liverpool hit the world of pop.  On that note the Beatles have dissolved their relationship as a functioning band and are presenting their own versions of songs and music to the world, and successfully too.  That in itself is the end of an era beginning around 1962 and ending in 1970.  We will not see the like of that again.  It has been a period rich in colour and sound and vitality.

The sounds of the new bands are also enhanced with horn and reed with the arrival of Chicago, Mandrill, the Flock and Blood Sweat & Tears – full on song in ballads and wild rock anthems.  Yet the drive of the music also still remains the same.  CCR complete three or four years of popularity with their bayou romps, whilst the Kinks start to move into new ground – from the rock opera Victoria in 1969 to Lola and the Moneygoround in 1970.

And we can feel safe in the harmonies of CSNY and the Carpenters – new but not brash, and also the gentle flow of James Taylor and Cat Stevens.  From the Black scene the number of albums released seems to be relatively few with Aretha, James Brown, the Jackson 5, Isaac Hayes, Diana Ross achieving success.  But this will change.

On the wild side The Stooges and MC5 produced some tortuous and early punk tendencies, which would start to take root much later in the 70s, and also provide a backdrop for Thatcherism in the UK.  Watch this space.

All in all, 1970 does appear to create a new scene creaking at the edges with a challenge to renew, to improve, to self-destruct, and continue the movement.

White Elephant Favourite Albums for 1970

There are many favourites from 1970 and they are cemented into the hierarchy at White Elephant Records.  The albums below are listed in no particular ranking.

BEA Rank Artist Title
5 John Lennon Plastic Ono Band
22 Kinks Lola Versus Powerman & the Moneygoround Part One
149 Eric Clapton Eric Clapton
179 Mandrill Mandrill
50 Chicago Chicago ll
96 Beatles Hey Jude
51 Rolling Stones Get yer ya-yas out
4 George Harrison All Things Must Pass
366 The Flock Dinosaur Swamps
19 Santana Abraxas
85 Various Woodstock
15 CSNY Deja Vu
8 Van Morrison Moondance
18 Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman
14 Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
135 Rod Stewart Gasoline Alley
142 Mountain Climbing!
116 Aretha Franklin Spirit in the Dark
28 Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies
277 Duke Ellington New Orleans Suite
92 Carpenters Close to You
12 Derek & the Dominoes Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs
46 Allman Brothers Band Idlewild South
57 Stephen Stills Stephen Stills
246 Humble Pie Humble Pie
405 Spooky Tooth The Last Puff
412 Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears 3
592 5th Dimension Portrait

The albums which have spent most time on the White Elephant turntable since 1970 are few despite the big list.  The Flock’s Dinosaur Swamps, although not as good as the 1969 self-titled debut has been worn out and replaced twice.  The same goes for Chicago ll and AbraxasGasoline Alley was a huge favourite in Rod’s big years in the 70s.  Surprisingly Duke Ellington’s New Orleans Suite has also been replaced once during the last 50 years.

The Rolling Stones Get yer ya-yas out – The Rolling Stones in Concert – has also had a good run on the home turntable, although not so much in recent years as the later live albums are at another level altogether.  But by 1970 not many live albums had been released and the album was highly attractive to fans.  The cover is brilliant with the normally taciturn Charlie Watts in high spirits leaping like a circus performer and brandishing two guitars, whilst a fully laden donkey watches Charlie’s wild dance with calm wonder.  The album is a ripper. Returning to the American concert scene after a three year absence, the Stones recorded the album during a two-date stand at Madison Square Gardens in late November 1969.  And this year you can buy the 50th anniversary clear vinyl version with a framed reproduction of the cover for only $500.  Or maybe get out your old copy and flog it once more!

Following a live concert at Leeds University in Hull on 14 February 1970, the Who released a fantastic live album titled Live at Leeds, which has been described as “stunning, incendiary hard rock.”  Although the album is not in the White Elephant List a copy is on order.

Eric Clapton’s two contributions for 1970 were flogged mercilessly and Mandrill, only acquired after hearing Mandrill Is (from 1971), is a dark wonder along with Mandrill’s later albums.  Stephen Stills’ album is a quiet winner and he has some great support on the album including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Rita Coolidge.  Spooky Tooth’s Last Puff is always worth a listen and the pumping blues guitar of Leslie West on Mountain’s Climbing! is cataclysmic.   Humble Pie’s first effort also seems to be an attempt to redefine pop music for the 70’s with a mix of blues, rock, psychedelia and folk, whilst Black Sabbath set the darkness alight.  At the other end of  the spectrum Cat Stevens brings song to the fore with his ground breaking Tea for the Tillerman, whilst the Carpenters defy the heavy beat and guitar driven rock with the love songs of Close to You.  Life can be very different.

The selection above provides an “album” soundtrack for 1970, and although it is a “boys” list at best, it is great representation of a year that followed one of the best decades in modern music.  The Sixties have long gone but the echo of the vibrant sounds resonates as the Seventies tries its luck.   Our last image is a reprise of our opening image – an enlarged view of the front cover of Badfinger’s debut 1970 album – No Dice – says it all!


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