TOP 20 HARD ROCK SONGS OF 1974
Since launching Hard Rock Daddy in 2013, one of the most popular features is the annual top hard rock songs of the year list. Tomorrow is the six-year anniversary of our launch. The site has evolved in a number of ways since that day. For a while, we had a feature called Hard Rock Music Time Machine with a number of writers contributing. That feature was eventually rebranded as Rock and Roll Time Machine to be more inclusive of a variety of artists. That feature may return eventually, but for the foreseeable future, it will be replaced by a top hard rock song list from years prior to Hard Rock Daddy’s launch.
1974 was an interesting year for hard rock. There were a limited number of releases that would fall squarely into the “metal” category. Some of those releases (from now legendary artists) capture the early stages of what would become the band’s sound. It would have been easy to just pick songs from those bands, but it would not have been a genuine list if I did.
What you will find on this list is a mixture of classic rock songs that still get radio play 45 years later, some surprises that you might not expect to see, and some music that you may just be discovering. There is also a lot of music history contained within each write-up, so hopefully you’ll learn some new things that you never knew before.
As far as “hard rock” is concerned, I wouldn’t say that 1974 was a banner year, but there were elements that would set the tone for years to come. After compiling this list, and spending some time listening to the playlist, I realized that the year can best be defined as a mixture of blues rock and glam rock (with a few outliers that don’t fit either category).
The YouTube playlist for the Top 20 Hard Rock Songs of 1974 (below) can also be founded on Hard Rock Daddy Network (HRD’s YouTube channel).
 QUEEN – “Killer Queen”
To say that Queen’s music has stood the test of time would be a massive understatement. Because of the timeless quality of their unique style, it feels like their catalog is bigger than it is. In 1974, the band released two of their fifteen studio albums. The latter of the two, Sheer Heart Attack, produced one of their signature songs in “Killer Queen.”
The lyrics, undoubtedly, are above the heads of the listener to varying degrees (myself included), but Freddie Mercury delivered them with such flair, that it made us all embrace our inner aristocrats. Not many artists could have made you care about this story the way that Mercury did. Maybe no others. He was one-of-a-kind. Though vocal harmonies are not exclusive to Queen, this style has never truly been duplicated.
There’s a reason why the movie Bohemian Rhapsody did extremely well at the Academy Awards. It’s the same reason why the reserved industry crowd was uncharacteristically electrified by the performance of “We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions” to open the show. Musical preference is of little consequence when it comes to one of the greatest artists in the history of rock and roll. Queen’s music is as transcendent as any other artist. Though they have some other hits from their early years, “Killer Queen” is the song that put the band on the map.
 LYNYRD SKYNYRD – “Sweet Home Alabama”
If “Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t the epitome of Southern Rock, then the only song that can compete for that title also comes from Lynyrd Skynyrd. If not for Skynyrd, who knows how popular Southern Rock would have become. What’s interesting is that this song only came to fruition as a response to Neal Young’s classic, “Southern Man.” Who would have ever guessed that a battle between rockers from Jacksonville, FL and Canada would have resulted in a song that has never lost its luster in the 45 years since its release? To this day, it is one of the songs that gets the most airplay on classic/heritage rock stations across the country.
 DEEP PURPLE – “Burn”
Ritchie Blackmore is one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll history, but he is also (notoriously) one of the most difficult to get along with. By 1974, Deep Purple’s Mark II lineup had become one of the biggest bands in rock. This lineup was as talented as any other band out there, but talent only goes so far when you’re living in Blackmore’s world. Replacing Roger Glover on bass with Glenn Hughes probably would have gotten more attention had it not come at the same time as replacing Ian Gillan with David Coverdale.
Looking back, it seems like one legend was replacing another, but in 1974, neither Hughes nor Coverdale were well known entities. The Mark III lineup would not enjoy the same success as the lineup that many still consider the “classic lineup,” but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their moments. The title track off of the band’s eighth studio album (Burn) is as good as any song in the band’s lengthy catalog.
 RUSH – “Working Man”
For over 40 years, the trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neal Peart made magic together as (arguably) the greatest power trio in the history of hard rock. There has never been another band in the same realm as Rush, and probably never will be. It’s hard to imagine what would have become of these Canadian rockers had Peart never replaced original drummer, John Rutsey (whose brother suggested the band name). Though Rutsey appeared on the band’s self-titled debut, he quit before Rush ever hit the road. Health issues added to his distaste for touring. He only lasted for one album, but it was a good one to set the tone for the band’s career. More straightforward rock than the progressive sound that would evolve with Peart, “Working Man” is the one song that has remained a classic from the Rutsey era. In the years since 1974, there have been anthems dedicated to the working man, but none with as much staying power as this one.
 UFO – “Doctor Doctor”
They’ve released 22 studio albums over the course of nearly five decades (dating back to 1970), and yet, UFO is still one of the more underappreciated bands in rock. Despite almost unrivaled longevity, the band only has a handful of hits that broke through in the United States. One of their biggest is the unforgettable, “Doctor Doctor.”
The song begins with a grandiose intro that was commonplace in the ‘70s before kicking into a mainstream, bluesy rocker that features a danceable galloping beat. To this day, whenever I hear “Doctor Doctor” come on the radio, I turn up the volume and bask in the feel-good atmosphere of the song. It’s a wonder that this band didn’t enjoy the same fame as many of their musical counterparts.
 DAVID BOWIE – “Rebel Rebel”
In some ways, you can look at “Rebel Rebel” as being one of the songs at the forefront of the glam rock movement that would follow not too long after its release. But for Bowie, this song marked the end of his glam rock days. Originally written for a Ziggy’s Stardust musical that never got off the ground in 1973, this song appeared on Bowie’s 1974 Diamond Dogs album.
“Rebel Rebel” was Bowie’s first hit not to feature guitarist Mick Ronson. Bowie handled the guitar duties himself for most of the album. His riff on this song is one of the most iconic in rock and roll. Any fan would be able to name this song from the first guitar note. As with most things, Bowie was way before his time. His gender bending lyrics of “Rebel Rebel” feel like they were born out of the gender fluidity that exists in 2019.
 ROLLING STONES – “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”
The Rolling Stones are the epitome of what you think of when you hear the words “rock and roll.” Yet, what sets them apart is the gin-soaked blues sound that they infuse into their music. From the opening note of “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It),” this ode to the genre that always seems to have one foot in the grave is dripping with that bluesy sound that sets the Stones apart from all others. The song is as simple and straightforward as its message, highlighted by brilliant, subtle, nuances that give it a surprising amount of depth.
 BAD COMPANY – “Can’t Get Enough”
Choosing just one song from Bad Company’s outstanding eponymous debut album was challenging, but ultimately, “Can’t Get Enough” got the nod because it is the band’s biggest hit. Still a staple on classic rock radio stations to this day, this song perfectly encapsulates what one of the original supergroups is all about. Bad Company is blues rock at its finest.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts with Bad Company. That’s not to say that the individual members aren’t all extremely talented, rather that this supergroup is arguably more popular than all of the groups that they originated from (Free, Mott The Hoople, and King Crimson).
 KISS – “Black Diamond”
With a rich history of albums dating back to 1974, KISS has a slew of songs to choose from. The band broke onto the scene in 1974 with two albums…their self-titled debut and Hotter Than Hell. Through the years, “Black Diamond” has always been my favorite from the band, but with one caveat…it has to be the live version. I like the studio version of the song, but the elongated ending of droning guitars takes away some of the luster. If not for the ending, this most certainly would have placed higher on this list. Though Peter Criss didn’t sing the majority of the band’s songs, he was responsible for the lead vocals on some of their best (including “Black Diamond”).
 SWEET – “Ballroom Blitz”
I didn’t discover “Ballroom Blitz” until 1984 when Krokus covered it for their album, The Blitz. For years, I thought that it was a Krokus original because it fit so well with the rest of the album. By the time that I heard Sweet’s 1974 original , the cover was the version that stuck with me most. However, over time, I’ve come to appreciate the original just as much (if not more). It’s songs like this, and bands like Sweet, that laid the foundation for the glam rock of the ‘80s.
 AEROSMITH – “Same Old Song And Dance”
The lead single off of 1974’s Get Your Wings, “Same Old Song And Dance” still gets airplay on classic rock radio today. My personal discovery of the song came when it was featured on Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. It was the first album that I owned by the band. Who would have guessed that it would still be one of the most listened to albums to this day? It regularly appears alongside other classic albums on the Billboard Top 25 Hard Rock Albums chart. There is a cool swagger to this song that captures the spirit of the band, especially frontman Steven Tyler. The horn section came courtesy of a suggestion from producer Jack Douglas who thought that it “brought out their rhythm and blues side.” Douglas hit the nail on the head with that suggestion. If you stripped the horns away now, the song would feel naked.
 THE WHO – “Long Live Rock”
“Rock is dead!” It’s an all too familiar refrain that gets bandied about these days because the genre is barely represented in the mainstream. Rock has changed over the years, but it is alive and well now (albeit in a different way than the past), just as it was back in the early ‘70s when skeptics were sounding its death knell.
“Long Live Rock” was written by Pete Townshend in 1971, but not included on The Who’s release that year, Who’s Next. The original recording of the song didn’t appear until 1974’s rarities album, entitled Odds & Sods. It was eventually released as a single in 1979. Written in the early ‘70s, included on an album in the mid ‘70s, and released as a single in the late ‘70s, the message of “Long Live Rock” was always equally relevant. All these years later, it still is.
 ROBIN TROWER – “Too Rolling Stoned”
Robin Trower joined Procol Harum after the success of the band’s biggest hit, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” The year was 1967; I wasn’t even born yet. He would remain with the band until 1971 before launching his solo career. Though “Too Rolling Stoned” came out in 1974, I didn’t discover it until I purchased a compilation album called The Rock Album in 1980. Back then, compilation albums were fairly new, which explains why a song that was already six years old made the cut. If I’m being honest, this song didn’t grab me right away because I was too young to appreciate the soulful blues amidst a sea of melodic rock songs by bands like ELO, Foreigner, Eddie Money, Styx, Cheap Trick, Boston, The Babys, Kansas, Toto (and more). Looking back now, this song is actually one of my favorites from 1974.
 J. GEILS BAND – “Musta Got Lost”
My introduction to the J. Geils Band came in 1981 as I was mesmerized by the video for “Centerfold” on MTV. Other songs would grab my attention when I discovered the music videos as well. For all I knew back then, J. Geils Band arrived on the scene in the ’80s. I had no idea that the band’s origins dated back to the late ‘60s, or that were more of a blues band early on. Truth be told, it wasn’t until years later than I realized that J. Geils was actually the guitarist, and not the singer strutting across my screen. That being Peter Wolff.
“Musta Got Lost” is more ‘70s bluesy Rolling Stones than feel-good ‘80s hard rock. Even though the sound is a pretty big diversion from the J. Geils Band that I fell in love with during the MTV days, I can appreciate it in a different way now that I’m older.
 ELTON JOHN – “The Bitch Is Back”
Elton John on a hard rock songs list? Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but this song (in particular) certainly fits in with the glam rock sound of others that seem like a more natural fit. I still remember buying the single of this because I was so fascinated by the fact that it said “bitch.” I would go on to become a big fan of his as I got older, but as a little kid, the language was enough to pique my interest. But that’s not why the song still resonates with me to this day. It’s one of the more raw offerings from the man whose music is generally more polished and less edgy.
 MOTT THE HOOPLE – “Roll Away The Stone”
Mott The Hoople recently announced that they will be touring the United States for the first time since 1974. The publishing of this list was planned before the announcement, so it turns out to just be serendipitous timing. My first exposure to Ian Hunter and company came when I heard cover versions of Mott The Hoople songs done by other bands. I didn’t discover the originals until several years later. Though the band was at the forefront of the glam rock sound that would lay the groundwork for many of my favorite bands growing up, I never knew a lot of their music until I had access YouTube. “Roll Away The Stone” is a fairly recent discovery, but one that I’m very glad to have made in time to publish this list. What I love most about this song is that it bridges the gap between the ‘50s Doo Wop that I grew up listening to with my parents, and the rock music that I would discover on my own.
 SUZI QUATRO – “The Wild One”
She appeared in seven episodes of Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero. In 1978, she had one hit in the United States with “Stumblin’ In” (a duet with Chris Norman). For many years, that was all I knew of Suzi Quatro. I knew that she had other albums, but had no idea that she has recorded nearly twenty over the course of her career (which is still going strong to this day). I always thought of her as the cool one when she appeared on Happy Days. The leather-clad yin to Fonzie’s yang (even though he dated her sister Pinky on the show). But Quatro is more than an iconic television character or the more well-known half of duo that had a hit song in the ‘70s. She’s something of a real-life badass.
“The Wild One” blends a bit of sleaze with a healthy dose of glam, and just the right amount of edge, to make for a memorable rocker. Think Cheap Trick meets The Runaways. I didn’t discover this song until doing research for this list, but as the saying goes…better late than never.
 GRAND FUNK RAILROAD – “Some Kind Of Wonderful”
“Some Kind Of Wonderful” speaks to my generation, but it wasn’t the 1974 Grand Funk Railroad song that introduced me to the phrase. Rather, it was one of the movies directed by Gen X legend, John Hughes. Interestingly, this bluesy party song wasn’t included on the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, nor was the original version.
Until doing research for this list, I had no idea that Grand Funk Railroad had made famous a song that was originally recorded in 1967 by Soul Brother Six. The song has been covered a number of other times, most notably by Huey Lewis & The News in 1994, and most recently by Joss Stone in 2003.
 JETHRO TULL – “Bungle In The Jungle”
Jethro Tull is one of the most unique sounding bands in the history of rock and roll. The obvious reason would be the extensive use of the flute by Ian Anderson, but it goes deeper than that. Anderson’s flute playing definitely adds a unique flavor to the band’s sound, but it’s his instantly recognizable vocals that really distinguish Tull from all others. There’s a touch of darkness to his emotive vocal style that makes brings the stories of his lyrics to life in a mystical kind of way. The flute blending with strings adds a folk element to this Tull classic. It’s far from their heaviest song, but it was an important one to help give a snapshot of what the year had to offer.
 ELF – “Rainbow”
I didn’t discover Ronnie James Dio until the summer of 1981 when I was turned on to Rainbow’s Difficult To Cure album by a friend. I fell in love with the band, and immediately went out to buy their whole back catalog. I had no idea that Joe Lynn Turner was actually the band’s third singer, or that none of the other albums to that point featured his voice. It didn’t matter though. I loved the album with Graham Bonnet, and especially loved all of the albums with Dio at the helm. The band’s debut album in 1975 was titled “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.” Reading the liner notes on each album, I saw that the band had a lot of turnover, but I didn’t know the whole story.
When I finally got my hands on the albums that Dio made with Elf (which were hard to find back then), I learned that Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was actually Elf with a different guitarist. Elf had opened for Deep Purple, which how they connected in the first place. Dio’s presence loomed large in Rainbow, but paled in comparison to the shadow cast by Blackmore.
It seems fitting to end this list with a song called “Rainbow” by Elf. This was the band that set the stage for what would become one of the greatest careers for a heavy metal singer with Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio. Most people probably won’t know this song, but if you’re a fan of Dio’s, you’ll appreciate going back in time to discover his roots.
MORE SONG LISTS