The Best Selling Instrumentals of the Seventies

Purely Instrumental 70's No. 1 Hits
Purely Instrumental 70’s No. 1 Hits

Top Ten Instrumentals 1970-1979

The best-selling instrumentals of the seventies will provide information about each song and some facts about how that song became to be recorded. During the 70’s, there were only 184 instrumentals that charted on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. So, the fair question to ask is how to rank them and be fair at the same time?

I thought maybe by popularity, or the total weeks charted. There has to be a way to provide all instrumentals released in the 70’s a fair shot at making the top ten.

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Ranking the Top Ten Instrumentals

For the ranking of the top 10 instrumental hits, we first had to use a source. The source that will be used is Billboard’s Top 100 chart. The chart is published weekly and based on the popularity of the song through sales and airplay. This seemed to me the most fair approach.

The criteria that will be used for the rankings are:

  • The highest position record reached on the Hot 100 chart
  • The number of weeks record peaked at the highest position
  • The number of weeks record spent in the top ten
  • The number of weeks record spent in the top forty
  • Total number of weeks charted

The above is used to break all ties going from top to bottom.

Of the 184 records that peaked on the Top 100 Chart, there were only 11 songs that peaked at the number 1 position. Using the criteria above we are able to provide the top ten instrumentals of the seventies.

To be fair, it is logical to rank a record that peaked at #1 for 2 weeks ahead of a record that peaked at #1 for one week, regardless of the total number of weeks it spent on the chart. Also, if they tied for weeks at #1, then a song that spent 7 weeks in the top ten will be ranked higher than a song with 6 weeks or less.

We are going to list the top ten in reverse order from number 10 to number 1, just like on the radio in the past when they counted down the top ten hits for the week.

To aid you in getting to the song you are interested to learn more about, just click on the link and you will be taken directly to that section.

By the way, the other number one song that did not make our list is “Theme From S.W.A.T” by Rhythm Heritage in 1976. The song was #1 for one week on February 28, 1976.

Countdown Of The Top Ten Instrumentals

Instrumental Love Songs of the 70's
Instrumental Love Songs of the 70’s

The information will include the title, artist, year of peak popularity, highest position reached on Billboard’s Hot 100, Weeks Peaked (), Top 10 weeks, Top 40 weeks, and Total Charted weeks. Plus, information about the song.

NUMBER TEN

The Hustle – Van McCoy 1975 #1 (1) T10=7 T40=12 Charted=19

The song was released in 1975 and sold over one million copies. It was recorded by Van McCoy who was songwriter and arranger, along with the Soul City Symphony. McCoy won a Grammy in 1976 for the song in the “Best Pop Instrumental Performance” category.

McCoy visited New York City and wanted to make an album as he watched patrons do a dance known as “the Hustle” in the Adam’s Apple nightclub.

He recorded the song at New York’s Sound studio with pianist McCoy, bassist Gordon Edwards, drummer Steve Gadd, keyboardist Richard Tee, guitarists Eric Gale and John Tropea. The orchestra leader was Gene Orloff. Phillip Bodner played the piccolo and the lead melody. The rest is history.

The song hit number on July 26, 1975, for one week.

Listen to the recording below.

The Hustle #10

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NUMBER 9

Pick Up The Pieces – Average White Band 1975 #1 (1) T10=7, T40=13, Charted=17

Pick Up The Pieces was a song that was recorded by the Average White Band off their second album AWB. The single songwriting credit is given to saxophonist Roger Ball and is a founding member and guitarist Hamish Stuart as individuals and the group collectively.

The song was released in July, 1974, in the UK and it failed to chart. Then, the album was released in the United States in October of 1974, and the song was being played on radio stations across the country. It was very successful and the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart on February 22, 1975, for one week.

Listen to the song below.

 Pick Up The Pieces #9

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NUMBER 8

Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group 1973 #1 (1) T10=7 T40=14 Charted=20

The song Frankenstein was from the Edgar Winter Group’s album titled “They Only Came Out At Night”. Edgar Winter pioneered the advancement of the synthesizer as the lead instrument which is heard on the song.

The song got its title from the bands drummer Chuck Ruff from the various tapings of the song during rehearsals. Recording tape was used for each of these rehearsals and they had to splice the various recording tape sections into the final version. Because of so many of these sections being spliced the title of the song was coined.

The song was originally the B-Side of “Hangin’ Around”, but was soon to be replaced as many calls were received into the radio stations about the song.

The song was very successful as it sold over one million copies and hit the number 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on May 26, 1973, for one week. Listen to the song below.

Frankenstein #8

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NUMBER 7

Love’s Theme – Love Unlimited Orchestra 1974 #1 (1) T10=7 T40=16 Charted=22

Love’s Theme an instrumental song that was recorded by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra in November, 1973. It was pieced on two albums “Under The Influence Of Love Unlimited Orchestra” and 1974’s “Rhapsody in White”.

The recording uses a large string orchestra, wah-wah guitar, and big rhythm and was an influence to the disco sound. The song was popular not only in the United States but also in Canada.

The song was used as the opening theme by ABC Sports for its golf coverage for many years. It was also used by the Hong Kong based “Cathay Pacific Airways” in their TV advertisements.

The song hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on February 9, 1974, for one week. It also hit number one on the Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks on January 26, 1974.

Take a Listen:

Love’s Theme #7

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NUMBER 6

Gonna Fly Now – Bill Conti 1977 #1 (1) T10=8 T40=13 Charted=20

Gonna Fly Now is also known as “Theme From Rocky” is the theme song from the movie “Rocky” which was released in 1977 in February with the movie. The song was written in Philadelphia, composed by Bill Conti, with lyrics by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins.

The song is often played at sporting events, especially at events in the city of Philadelphia.

The song sold over one million copies and was certified Gold by the RIAA. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 49th Awards ceremony.

The song reached number one on Billboard’s Top 100 chart on July 2, 1977 for one week.

Take a listen:

Gonna Fly Now #6

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NUMBER 5

A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy 1976 #1 (1) T10=10 T40=22 Charted=28

A Fifth of Beethoven is a disco instrumental that was recorded by Walter Murphy. He adopted it from the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Murphy in 1974, was in the process of writing a disco song for a commercial when a producer gave him the idea of updating classical music which no one had done lately. Murphy mailed a demo tape to various record labels in New York. It generated very little response. Murphy also played almost every instrument on the recording.

Then, Larry Uttal the owner of “Private Stock Records” agreed to produce the song under contract and it was recorded in 1976. It was released as a single on May 29, 1976, and hit #80 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

It took the record nineteen weeks to hit number one on October 9, 1976, and stayed there for one week. It was Murphy’s only top forty hit of his career. The record was certified Gold by RIAA with over one millions copy sold.

Take a listen:

A Fifth of Beethoven #5

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NUMBER 4

Star Wars Theme – Meco 1977 #1 (2) T10=6 T40=13 Charted=20

The Star Wars Theme was written by John Williams and recorded by Meco, taken from the album “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk”.

The song went Platinum by selling over two million copies and is certified by RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). To date, it’s the biggest-selling instrumental single in the history of recorded music.

Meco in 1977, watched the movie “Star Wars” on its opening day. By Thursday he had seen the film four times and then got the idea to make a disco version of the score by John Williams. He contacted Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records to pitch his project. After the film became a hit, he signed a contract with Millennium Records to record the “Star Wars Theme”.

The record was released in 1977, and became a number one hit on October 1, 1977, on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and stayed there for two weeks.

The song was also used in the late 70’s by CBS Sports as their opening music for its NFL coverage.

Take a listen:

Star Wars Theme #4

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NUMBER 3

TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) – MFSB/Three Degrees 1974 #1 (2) T10=7 T40=12 Charted=18

This is a recording by MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) featuring vocals by The Three Degrees. It was written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and was used as the theme for the television program Soul Train.

There are two vocal parts to the song: a part at the beginning the Three Degrees sing “People all over the world!” and a chorus during the fadeout, “Let’s get it on/It’s time to get down”. On the original version the Three Degrees singing their part are not heard.

The song was rerecorded a number of times for the show Soul Train. The owner of Soul Train Don Cornelius refused the group to use the name of Soul Train for the title of the song. So, Gamble and Huff had to come up with an alternate title for the release. They came up with TSOP. Don Cornelius later would admit that not allowing the single to be titled “Soul Train” was a big mistake on his part.

The record was a huge success by becoming a number one hit on Billboard’s Top 100 chart on April 20, 1974, and stayed there for two weeks. The record was also number one on the Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks on May 4, 1974, and the Hot Soul Singles chart on April 20, 1974, for one week.

Take a listen:

TSOP #3

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NUMBER 2

Rise – Herb Alpert  1979 #1 (2) T10=9 T40=15 Charted=25

Rise is an instrumental song that was written by Andy Armer and Randy Baddaz Alpert. The song was recorded by trumpeter Herb Alpert in 1979. The track was included on the album “Rise”. The song received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

The song was originally recorded as an uptempo dance number. While recording the song at the A&M studios, the drummer, Steve Schaefer suggested that they slow down the tempo to 100bpm.

When the song was released, it received some burst of promotion when Jill Farren Phelps, musical director of the ABC soap opera General Hospital, decided to use “Rise” as the musical backdrop for the rape of Laura Webber by Luke Spencer. This surprise support allowed the song to sell over a million copies and was certified Gold by RIAA.

Herb Albert is the only artist on Billboard’s Hot 100 to chart to attain number one songs as a solo artist with “This Guy’s In Love With You” in June, 1968, 4 weeks at #1, and as an instrumentalist with “Rise” in 1979.

The song “Rise“, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 20, 1979, and stayed there for two weeks. The song also hit number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for one week on September 22, 1979.

Take a listen:

Rise #2

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NUMBER 1

Fly, Robin, Fly – Silver Convention #1 (3) T10=7 T40=13 Charted=17

This is a song recorded in 1975 by a German group the Silver Convention. The song was released from their album titled “Save Me”.

The song has only six words by repeating “Fly, Robin, Fly” three times. The song ends with the words “Up, up to the sky”. The song had an original title called “Run, Rabbit, Run” which was revealed during a segment on VH1’s 100 “Greatest Dance Songs”. Fly, Robin, Fly also received and won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1976.

The song sold over one million copies in the United States and is certified Gold by the RIAA. CBS Sports used the song as intro music for NFL coverage in the late 1970’s. The song was also featured in the film “Boogie Nights”.

Fly, Robin, Fly hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on November 29, 1975, and stayed there for three weeks and making it the all-time number one instrumental for the decade of the seventies. The song was also number one for one week on the Soul Singles chart on November 15, 1975.

Take a listen:

Fly, Robin, Fly #1

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Instrumental Trivia Info

Did you know…

The all-time number one instrumental on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart is “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith. The song stayed atop the charts for nine (9) consecutive weeks in 1960. To date, no instrumental has been at the #1 position longer on Billboard’s Hot 100.

In the fifties, Anton Karas and Guy Lombardo released “Third Man Theme” and both artists had their song stay at #1 for eleven weeks on two different Pop charts. Making it the all-time number one song of the fifties before the release of the Hot 100 by Billboard in 1958.

In the forties, Artie Shaw released a song “Frenesi” on December 21, 1940, and stayed at number one for 13 weeks. Glenn Miller released “In The Mood” late in 1939, the song hit number 1 in February, 1940, and stayed their for 13 weeks on the Jukebox Chart. Thus, making both hits the all-time instrumentals of the 40’s.

In the eighties, there were only two songs that made it to #1 and they are:

  • Chariots Of Fire – Titles – Vangelis May 8, 1982 #1 for one week.
  • Miami Vice Theme – Jan Hammer November 9, 1985 #1 for one week.

To date, there have been no instrumentals released to make it to #1 from 1990-2013.
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Shop Top Ten Instrumentals

You can shop for the top ten instrumentals of the seventies below. The two CD’s contain 9 of the 10 instrumental songs and other instrumentals of the decade. The other Rise, is available on the album or the single versions.

Instrumental Gold: 70's CDInstrumental Gold: 70's CD
Instrumental Gold: 70’s CDInstrumental Gold: 70's CD
Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 3: The Seventies CDRock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 3: The Seventies CDRock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 3: The Seventies CDRock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 3: The Seventies CD Rise - Used Album VinylRise - Used Album Vinyl
Rise – Used AlbumRise - Used Album Vinyl
RISE/ARANJUEZ 45 RPM Vinyl RecordRISE/ARANJUEZ 45 RPM Vinyl Record
RISE/ARANJUEZ 45 RPM RecordRISE/ARANJUEZ 45 RPM Vinyl Record

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