The 20 Soundtracks That Defined The 1970s

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    img.album {            opacity:0.8;            filter:alpha(opacity=80); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    img.album:hover {        opacity:1.0;        filter:alpha(opacity=100); /* For IE8 and earlier */    }    a.header {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#ababab;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }    a.header:hover {        font-family: "Fjalla One";        color:#333333;        font-size:28px;        line-height:30px;        text-decoration:none;    }[1960s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-60s) 1970s [1980s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-80s) [1990s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-90s) [2000s](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-00s) [2010s](/features/2010s-soundtracks-reader-choices) ![]( *Select an album to hear samples from the album and to find out why it made our list.* ![]( [![Assault On Precinct 13](]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p2%29 [![Halloween]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p3%29 [![Grease]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p4%29 [![Mean Streets]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p5%29 [![Chinatown]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p6%29 ![]%28 [![Dawn Of The Dead]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p7%29 [![The Godfather]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p8%29 [![Get Carter]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p9%29 [![The Harder They Come]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p10%29 [![Quadrophenia]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p11%29 ![]%28 [![Saturday Night Fever]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p12%29 [![Shaft]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p13%29 [![American Graffiti]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p14%29 [![The Omen]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p15%29 [![Rocky]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p16%29 ![]%28 [![The Exorcist]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p17%29 [![Jaws]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p18%29 [![Star Wars]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p19%29 [![Superman The Movie]%28]%28/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p20%29 [![A Clockwork Orange](](/features/decade-defining-soundtracks-70s/p21) ![](   

Assault On Precinct 13
Composer: John Carpenter
Directors composing their own soundtracks is nothing new, but John Carpenter and his keyboard remain king of that very peculiar niche. He began with Dark Star, but really announced his presence as a purveyor of atmospheric aural accompaniment with the swagger of the title track from Assault On Precinct 13. The score, overall, is a belter - the delicate Contemplationis a standout - but it’s the Main Title that looms over all, with its fuzzy bassline repeating over and over and over again, embellished by waves of string. Without knowing it at the time, Carpenter had coined the phrase ‘Carpenteresque’, used to describe the countless soundtracks since that have tried to emulate the director’s relentlessly cool vibe. Back to the menu

Composer: John Carpenter
That man Carpenter again. With this and the ominously insistent bass of The Fog, he pretty much rewrote the rulebook on horror soundtracks, to the point where even the great Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score for The Thing sounded like a Carpenter tribute band. Halloween, in particular, is magnificent, a creepy cavalcade of catchy motifs that stalk and slash their way into your brain, Michael Myers-style. There’s not a lot of variation here – the main theme, Laurie’s Theme and Myers’ House are pretty much recycled throughout, but what themes they are. Oh, and for an amazing revamp of the Halloween Theme, check out Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s score for Halloween II. Back to the menu

Composer: Various Artists
If there’s one film that marks the moment that culture turned away from the muddy, mustardy ‘70s to the day-glo ‘80s, it’s surely Grease. A sun-coloured musical that is both lousy with nostalgia and oddly timeless, this story of adolescent love has become a rite of passage for teens and tweens. Everyone watches Grease at some point, probably at a party full of your fellow 13 year-olds, and so the insanely catchy songs become part of a new generation’s fantasy teenhood and the cycle continues. We can hope one day to lay the Grease Megamix, that scourge of ‘90s dancefloors, to rest, but we’ll never say goodbye to Grease itself. Say rama-lama-lama-key-ding-a-de-ding-a-dong instead. Back to the menu

Mean Streets
Composer: Various Artists
You’d have to go a long way to find a director with a greater LP collection than Martin Scorsese. His use of music inspired by both movies – Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising – and real life – the tunes that poured out of the windows from his Little Italy – he mixes up opera, ‘50s doo-woop and ‘60s/’70s rock to energise the lives of his small-time hoods. Some classic Mean Streets movie moments: Keitel’s head hitting the pillow to The Ronettes’ Be My Baby; De Niro strutting down the bar to The Stones or clowning about to The Miracles’ Mickey’s Monkey; a fantastic pool hall punch-up to Please Mr. Postman by The Marvelettes – all pop videos a good ten years before MTV was invented; all intrinsic to the world of the film. Back to the menu

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
The ultimate noir score, with haunting trumpet solos and strings that stab as suddenly as a flick knife to the nose. Although it lost to The Godfather Part II at the Oscars, Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack is far more celebrated and influential. But it almost didn’t happen at all. Goldsmith wasn’t hired until a last-minute preview screening of the film yielded disastrous scores. The composer toiled day and night to complete his score, which incorporated four harps, two percussionists and a string section. Plus, of course, legendary Hollywood trumpeter Uan Rasey, who has since revealed that Goldsmith “told me to play it sexy — but like it’s not good sex!” Back to the menu

Dawn Of The Dead
Composer: Goblin
Two soundtracks for your listening pleasure here, due to the film’s varying versions. Dario Argento supervised his own cut for non-English speaking countries (calling the film ‘Zombi’), a version scored by frequent collaborators Goblin. Their creepy score is a bonkers melting pot of influences, ranging from weird country to voodoo chanting to some sort of proto-techno, taking in guitar, piano, sax, funk bass, and, of course, the most evil instrument known to man, the Mellotron. But DOTD’s most famous track, the chirpy choon in your head right now, is from the other album of incidental tracks Romero chose for his own, Goblin-reduced cut. It’s called The Gonk, by Herbert Chappell. When there’s no more room in hell, you may be able to find it online. Back to the menu

The Godfather
Composer: Nino Rota
Nino Rota’s score for The Godfather is almost as iconic as the dialogue, performances and Francis Ford Coppola’s direction. It has become a touchstone for those referencing, or even parodying the film, and remains just as evocative without the visual accompaniment. There was some controversy, though, as Rota’s music was removed at the last minute from the list of 1973 Oscar nominees when it emerged that Rota had used some music from his theme for Eduardo De Filippo’s Fortunella. Still, the score for The Godfather Part II managed to scoop the gong despite using the same love theme. Back to the menu

Get Carter
Composer: Roy Budd
It’d be an injustice for Roy Budd’s place in cinema history to be overshadowed by that other jazzy Brit, John Barry, but there’s no denying Barry got the sweeter gigs. While Budd was doing sterling work on the likes of The Black Windmill (1974) and Diamonds (1975), his contemporary was busy on Bond and Born Free. Still, Budd’s work on Get Carter was a deserved breakthrough, its groovy-yet-melancholic theme showcased by that amazingly time lapsed train journey. The story goes that Hodges had a budget of £450 for the score, so Budd accompanied his own Jazz Trio on harpsichord, electric and grand piano. The resulting theme as cool as it is influential; check out, for example, Lindstrøm’s The Contemporary Fix, and enjoy the similarities. Back to the menu

The Harder They Come
Composer: Jimmy Cliff
Paving the way for Bob Marley’s conquest of the airwaves was Jamaican superstar Jimmy Cliff. He provided the title track and lead turn in this Jamaican crime thriller, and spearheaded a soundtrack that featured classic reggae and ska cuts from Desmond Dekker, The Slickers and The Maytals. Cliff’s work spawned a stage musical, a novel and a 2003 re-release, has been sampled by The Clash, covered by Madness and Cher, and inspired filmmakers like Sofia Coppola. “As a kid, I remember hearing The Harder They Come soundtrack,” she remembers. “I don't know if my dad was into it or what, but it’s a strong memory.” Back to the menu

Composer: The Who
To catch The Who playing Quadrophenia this year, you probably won’t get enough change from £100 to buy a tin of scooter wax. The buzz around the tour is testament to the enduring appeal of band, LP and film, a combination that, for a time in ’70s Britain, was the zeitgeistiest thing on two wheels. Like Tommy in 1975, The Who’s rock opera was the nuts-and-bolts of a Brit flick full of angry yoofs and iconic moments that made Britannia cool well ahead of schedule. Ten of the album’s 17 tracks made it to the screen, with the band recording an extrathree new tracks for the film. The 2000 re-release also added The Ronettes, Booker T. & The M.G.’s and The Crystals to a heady brew. Back to the menu

Saturday Night Fever
Composers: Bee Gees
Trust us when we tell you that night fever is an actual medical condition, first unleashed by the brothers Gibb and spliced into some virulent and contagious by Johns, Badham and Travolta in their ‘70s disco mindbomb. Just hit play on Stayin’ Alive or Night Fever – the title track of the band’s dancefloor monster – and see what it can still do to a wedding dancefloor. All the glitz and hedonism of the era’s nightlife was bottled in a record that wasn’t so much a movie soundtrack as a social phenomenon. The Bodyguard has since overtaken it as the biggest selling soundtrack of all time, but Saturday Night Fever’s disco legacy endures. As Disco Stu would say: “Boogie down.” Back to the menu

Composer: Isaac Hayes
Though Gordon Parks’ film remains a soul classic, Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack has enjoyed a life far beyond the cinema screen. Hayes initially hoped to win the title role in the movie, but with Richard Roundtree already cast, the legendary musician had to make do with a cameo role and scoring duties. As runners-up prizes go, it wasn’t half bad – hisensuing double album rocketed up the charts and the main Shaft theme has become one of the most recognisable in cinema history. And no discussion of Shaft is complete without a shout out to Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly, which followed in 1972 attached to the film of the same name and essentially launched the idea of a soul concept album. Back to the menu

American Graffiti
Composer: Various Artists
“One-two-three o’clock, four o’clock, rock.” The energetic strains of Bill Haley And The Comets’ Rock Around The Clock blasted George Lucas’ ‘50s nostalgia trip to life and rewrote the soundtrack collection rulebook in the bargain. Lucas used the music to help structure the screenplay – each scene was around two and a half minutes long, the length of the average ‘50s pop song – yet the tunes mainly underscore mood rather than lyrically aping actions (an exception is The Platters’ Great Pretender accompanying Richard Dreyfuss acting tough). The cost of licensing denied Lucas the use of Elvis Presley, but this is among the finest collection of ‘50s tunes you are ever likely to find. Bitchin’, as they said back then. Back to the menu

The Omen
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count this: Jerry Goldsmith – the great Jerry Goldsmith, the man who wrote scores as wildly contrasting and memorable as Chinatown, Poltergeist, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and First Blood – was nominated for an Oscar on 17 occasions. He won just once, a ludicrous state of affairs – but what a victory. His soundtrack for The Omen is the sort of thing you can imagine Satan slipping on for a bit of easy listening; an invidious, sepulchral work that inspires naught but dread. It’s dominated by the outstanding and pants-filling opening track, Ave Satani (literally ‘Hail Satan’). There are whole armies of death metal bands who would give their right soul to write something this spooky. Naturally, it lost Best Song to Barbra Streisand. Back to the menu

Composer: Bill Conti
Here’s a soundtrack guaranteed to get you in the mood for punching beef or running up steps. Bill Conti’s chronicle of the rise and heroic fall of Sly Stallone’s lovably mumbly Rocky Balboa is a dramatic, driving, often disco-y affair, with tracks like the brassy Fanfare For Rocky and the reflective, then triumphant The Final Bell standing out. But it’s Gonna Fly Now, the main theme that soars on a volley of trumpets, noodling guitar and a choir bellowing potentially inappropriate lyrics like “Trying hard now, it’s so hard now”, that stands out. One listen of this batch of aural steroids and you’ll be ready to take on the champ. If only Lance Armstrong had listened to this before his Tours de France... Back to the menu

The Exorcist
Composer: Krzysztof Penderecki
One of the few categories in which William Friedkin’s terrifying horror movie didn’t get Oscar-nominated was Best Score – hardly surprising, considering The Exorcist mostly used pre-existing music to conjure up its menace. And boy does it work, with Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki contributing a few cues, including the magnificent Polymorphia, a track which sounds like all the nails in the world being dragged down all the blackboards in the universe at the exact same time. Kubrick clearly thought so, as he used it several years later for The Shining. And then there’s the song that launched a thousand ringtones: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, a cascading clash of riffs that just might have influenced John Carpenter’s Halloween theme. Oldfield and Penderecki, together at last. Who can possibly resist? Back to the menu

Composer: John Williams
Pop quiz. What do Caddyshack, The Secret Of My Success and Super Gran have in common? They have all used the Jaws theme as a comedic signal for encroaching menace and terror. The main two-note theme – an E and an F – is one of the most recognisable pieces of music of any kind in the world, its primal insistence immediately putting you at water level. But Jaws is so much more than just its theme, brimming as it does with high adventure, rigorous classicism (listen to the music as they construct the shark cage) and sea-salted jigs. So packed full of memorable music, it is proof positive that the devil doesn’t have the best tunes, John Williams does. Back to the menu

Star Wars
Composer: John Williams
There are untold reasons why John Williams’ 105 minutes, 46 seconds of music for Episode IV should be here. Historians will argue it revived orchestral scores to a ‘70s dominated by pop. Musicologists will tell you it heralded the return of the ‘leitmotif’ approach – where recurring music signifies a character, place or idea – thought long buried with Wagner. Showbiz types will argue it bagged three Grammys and Williams’ third Oscar. But the real reason Star Wars is here is in the listening: granite-hard action scoring, romantic sweep, atonal colour, and, in its two Cantina Band source tunes, otherworldly jazz. Luke and Han’s haircuts may have dated, but the music is timeless. Back to the menu

Superman The Movie
Composer: John Williams
If you don’t feel stirred to heroism by John Williams’ Superman theme, you’re made of stronger stuff than us – or perhaps weaker. An aural invocation of truth, justice and the American way, it perfectly encapsulates the Big Blue Boy Scout’s shining idealism without losing the gee-whizz, Boy’s Own feel of the comic-book source. In the complicated world of the late ‘70s – post-Watergate, pre-Glasnost – Superman offered a respite from shades of grey and brought a sense of wonder back to the cinema, building on the Star Wars legacy. Rarely has a film, or its score, so thoroughly delivered on a tagline: you’ll believe a man can fly. No, not you, R Kelly. Back to the menu

A Clockwork Orange
Composer: Various Artists
Perfect for those calm little moments before the storm, Beethoven has foreshadowed moments of extreme nastiness since Stanley Kubrick made Symphony No. 9 A Clockwork Orange’s droog-busting melody. Leon, Django Unchained and Irreversible, to name three, have employed its swells to create more unease than a man in a powdered wig has any right to provoke. There was something in the juxtaposition of classicism and clinical brutality that Kubrick recognised and exploited on a score that also boasted Rossini, Elgar, Purcell and the Moog work of Wendy Carlos. With the film withdrawn from UK cinemas, the score and Wendy Carlos’ Clockwork Orange, a double LP packed with uncut cues, helped keep it alive. Back to the menu | Back to the soundtrack celebration hub