Which artists were popular in Italy during the 70s? From the break-up of the Beatles to the domination of disco music, who did the best there? Today we review the top selling singles of the decade, year after year, in rankings full of global superstars.
After fully concentrating in the two biggest Latin American countries, it is time to show our interest towards Italy, not only because of its relative importance among European countries but because not much is widely known.
In fact, far fewer sales claims can be found in old magazines, plus chart information is quite fragmented and the efforts made in putting some order have only partially helped understand it.
The result is that our knowledge of this very important market is patchy at best and, definitely, some further attention is required.
From Italy, for instance, we know how dominant was progressive rock in the first half of the decade, with Pink Floyd emerging as an all time favourite for the general public, while hard rock acts also performed well.
While as the years went by, pop music and disco in particularly started to gain market shares until almost dominating it toward the latter part of the 70s. This may not be very different from what was observed in Brazil and Mexico, but things may have been more extreme in Italy.
Was there anything else? How did black artists perform? What about soundtrack? Or what happened with established artists from the sixties like The Beatles (and their solo members) or The Rolling Stones?
A number of questions arise, so this will be a very interesting opportunity to understand more about a key market of the continent.
It is important to remember, as we did in our previous analysis, that Italy is a crucial market from a chart freek point of view not only because of its magnitude but because not as much information is available. It is especially true when we go further back in time.
It isn’t as easy as we can think to know who has been popular at some specific moment in a specific area. In fact, for that matter the large majority of the data we use to gauge the success of artists is corrupted by decades of catalog action.
Our CSPC articles encompass everything together, from everywhere, from every format and from every period. Streaming Masters pieces focus on the strength of catalogs in recent years. In their side, global heatmaps display hot markets of artists as of today.
What happens if we really immerse ourselves in the past? What were teenagers, young adults, and older people, listening to in Italy some 45 years ago?
Luckily, Discogs, which happens to be a wonderful tool to put some light on obscure areas in terms of sales, is here to rescue us.
In this article, we will list their top 10 most owned foreign singles releases of each 70s’ year in Italy. The method is far from perfect: some of these songs got multiple releases in this market, in distinct formats, at different times.
Some artists, most notably rock acts, are also collected way more than others in Discogs. Still, results are insightful. Indeed, since CDs took over LPs in early 90s there, the number of owners of these vinyls isn’t corrupted by subsequent catalog sales.
That some artists are more collected than others is annoying, but since we know that, we can account for it in our comments. Also, no matter how much collectors love some artists, the truth is that all of them have been highly successful still to feature inside an annual top 10. Get ready for some real surprises!
Italy’s top foreign singles sellers of the 70s
As is the case in just about every 70s ranking compiled until now, no matter the country in question, the decade starts with the Beatles-related products dominating the whole thing.
In this case, it is George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord the ones that tops the 1970’s list with 224 owners, being the only singles above the 200 benchmark.
On the other hand, hard rock and heavy metal are also represented in Italy, as occurred in other countries, which is also a sign that sites like Discogs favors this type of music.
Black Sabbath’s Paranoid is the only single that breaks The Beatles’ hegemony in the Top 5 and Deep Purple’s Black Night also makes it to the Top 10.
Other than that, Creedence Clearwater Revival reconfirm their global status with a song at number 10, Travellin’ Band. Beyond the 10 main positions, apart from more Beatles stuff, we also find material such as Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young’s Ohio, plus acts like Badfinger and Sly And The Family Stone.
Helped by the collaboration of Italian composer Ennio Morricone and the also Italian film Sacco & Vanzetti, Joan Baez claims a surprising chart topping single with Here’s To You which has a strong 278 owners.
This inclusion is at least debatable still, given the local factors influencing the project. Tony Christie’s (Is This The Way) To Amarillo ends up at number 2 and Demis Roussos’ We Shall Dance at number 3.
George Harrison isn’t only a strong entry in the Top 10 but, once again, the leading former Beatles member in this ranking, in spite of busy solo projects by almost all of them back in that decade.
One more time, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Deep Purple are represented.
Outside the Top 10, we have more George Harrison singles, some early classic songs by Rod Stewart and Sony & Cher with All I Ever Need Is You, whilst, for the most part, a major trend emerges with a great presence of progressive rock incursions.
This is embodied by Jethro Tull’s Aqualung and stuff by Uriah Heep. This last characteristic was also observed in Brazil and Mexico, but Italy was a special market for this subgenre, as latter rankings will show.
The theme song from The Godfather gave the soundtrack universe a second chart topping track in a row, once again helped by the Italian influences surrounding the film.
That is how the Santo & Johny track finishes at the top with Il Padrino. In addition, if progressive rock was dominant in this first half of the decade, the act taking the greatest benefits from that was without any doubt Pink Floyd, this time with two singles in the Top 5: One Of These Days closes the year at number with 226 owners, just 5 below the number 1, and Free Four at number with 144 owners.
The likes of Deep Purple, T. Rex and John Lennon also appear at the bottom of the Top 10. Behind the Top 10 singles are found, apart from The Bee Gees and The Beatles’ Altogether Now, mostly progressive rock tracks, including more Pink Floyd entries.
1973 sees a strong and unusual continuation of the former year, with Pink Floyd shining once again and monopolizing the Top 3 positions, something that hadn’t happened in any of the previous analysis for Brazil or Mexico.
Point Me At The Sky wasn’t just the top song of the year but another version of the track also ranks at to number 3, with a combined 310 owners.
It is worth noting that this song was originally released in 1968, but it seems that, at least in Italy, it enjoyed several reissues and became a sort of cult favourite among the group’s fanbase, which means that this one is unlikely to have achieved big commercial sales in spite of its great showing.
The one album that was released in 1973 is, of course, The Dark Side Of The Moon, arguably the best selling foreign album ever in Italy. So seeing its signature track Money at number 2 is no surprise.
The Rolling Stones make another strong entry with their classic Angie, one of their most popular and beloved 70s tracks.
R&B is represented by Stevie Wonder’s Superstition in the Top 5, anticipating subsequent entries by other black artists, some of which weren’t equally known.
Below the Top 10, there are more singles by Paul McCartney and one by Ringo Star with Photograph. Mainstream rock/pop acts are represented by such artists as Suzy Quatro and The Sweet, to name a few.
Carl Douglas manages to put his Kung Fu Fighting song at the top of the 1974’s ranking with as many as 211 owners, which shouldn’t be that surprising, not really because of the act but the popularity achieved by this track back then.
The Sound of Philadelphia is a far more unexpected entry right behind, as is The Hues Corporation’s Rock The Boat.
In their side, Abba make a strong impression in this chart too, with both Waterloo and Hasta Mañana in the Top 10. This would normally be expected, but it is important to notice that Italy was one of the least favourable markets for the Swedish band, but it would appear that the singles market was much better for them than the album market in Italy.
This time, unlike the previous one, Suzy Quatro reaches the Top 10 with 48 Crush, just like The Commodores do so with Machine Gun, complemented by other least popular black artists who -at least in Italy- made some impact.
1975 was arguably David Bowie’s great year, after appearing in good shape during the previous one. Fame tops the chart with 192 owners, while Young Americans is number 5, making it two entries by this legendary act.
The rest of the annual ranking is dominated by the proto-disco sound that will emerge far more triumphant in the next years, such as Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything, which charts at the number 2 position, and Gloria Gaynor’s classic Reach Out, I’ll Be There and How High The Moon, at number 3 and 9 respectively.
Black artists were more prominently represented not just in the latter two, but also, as anticipated, with such entries as those achieved by Labelle, Esther Phillips, People’s Choice or Black Blood.
Just missing the Top 10 is, amongst several others, Abba’s I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, accompanied by iconic tracks of that decade like Barry Manilow’s Mandy or Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, plus stuff from George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and Suzy Quatro.
Considering how strong this Mexican act was in Italy during much of the 70s, it was a bit staggering not to see him in former years, but this is compensated with a chart topping single, Europa, which places Santana in our rankings for the first time.
This track eclipses such signature songs as Abba’s Fernando, which lands at number 2, and Boney M’s Daddy Cool, which reaches number 3, in both cases not that far the top.
These last two tracks, however, seem to have been more fitting of what was being listened to at the time, given that The Ritchie Family’s The Best Disco In Town and notably KC And The Sunshine Band’s That’s The Way (I Like It) are number 6 and number 8 respectively, and that other tracks like Elton John’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and -for the first time- Queen’s Somebody To Love also manage to make the Top 10.
Keith Emerson’s Honky Tank Train Blues is another weird entry, from that point of view, and a further testament of the strong fanbase achieved by progressive rock in Italy.
Apart from Fernando, Abba’s is close to making the Top 10 with Dancing Queen, whilst artists like Donna Summer, with Love To Love You and Could It Be Magic, and The Rolling Stones, with Fool To Cry, also fail to do so but show up reasonably well in the expanded Top 50.
And if Donna Summer had made two solid appearances in 1976, this time she makes a stronger headline with I Feel Love at the top spot, with as many 324 owners, a higher amount than in any of the former years and a proof about how strong the singles market was getting back in the day.
Santa Esmeralda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is yet another strong addition at number 2, which doesn’t surprise as this act had reached great status also in Brazil and Mexico.
And, of course, it is impossible not to mention The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive at number 3 with as many as 269 owners, which would have granted this record a safe number 1 position if it had been released in previous years.
The year 1977 appears to be more diverse and eclectic than the former one, as proven by the presence of Grace Jones’ La Vie En Rose, David Bowie’s Heroes or Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express.
Sheila B. Devotion manages to get two entries inside The Top 10, both with quite solid amounts of owners. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack also fueled Disco Inferno, by The Tramps, to almost making the Top 10, while Al Stewart, Queen and The Sex Pistols feature inside the Top 50.
Given the musical context, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights ends up 1978 as a quite unusual or peculiar chart topping tracks, in spite of its cult and long lasting appeal.
This was a sort of novelty at the time. It was mega-successful in certain countries and here it accumulates nothing less than 447 owners, the biggest amount registered during this decade.
Almost the entire rest of the Top 10, contrary to the above, is far more fitting and in sync with what would be normally expected, as it includes three tracks derived from the Grease soundtrack, You’re The One That I Want at number 2, Grease at number 6 and Summer Nights at number 10.
Boney M’s Rasputin and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive also make it high.
Two more established artists feature this Top. Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and The Rolling Stones’ Miss You chart at number 5 and 10, respectively. Just outside are also Queen’s Bicycle Race, Bonnie Tyler’s It’s A Heartache, plus more stuff by Kate Bush and some Bee Gees too.
To finish this decade, Buggles takes not just the annual crown but also that of the whole decade, as their Video Killed The Radio Star crushes at the top spot with a staggering 606 owners, largely outdoing any other track of the 70s.
Lipps Inc’s Funkytown and Bee Gees’ Tragedy are no strangers in the Top 10, neither is Michael Jackson with his first international hit as an adult artist, The Police with Message In A Bottle -as both them and Sting later as a solo act were on course to becoming huge stars in Italy- and, of course, Pink Floyd’s making it predictably high with Another Brick In The Wall.
Patrick Hernandez’s Born To Be Alive shows itself in great shape at number 2, with as many as 346 owners, and Wings’ Goodnight Tonight closes the Top 10.
Beyond the Top 10, some very close to it, there were plenty of great classic singles, proving how competitive the singles market was getting toward the last part of the decade.