The 1970s were when icons were born. With the groundwork for a new sense of aesthetic and personal freedom laid in the swinging 60s, people experimented with their sound, look and entire persona in more and more extreme ways. In London there was punk, with The Sex Pistols and The Clash leading a tribe of pierced, leather-clad young upstarts that stuck two fingers up to the establishment. In New York there was the CBGBs scene of unattainable, insouciant cool. From somewhere in space landed David Bowie and Marc Bolan - two otherworldly angels at the forefront of glam rock. The 70s didn't do things by halves; relive the magic with the decade's 100 key tracks. Words: Dan Martin, Matthew Horton, Priya Elan, Tim Chester.

30Al Green - 'Let's Stay Together'

Produced and written with legendary Memphis soul man Willie Mitchell, Al Green's persuasive soul smoothie slinked to No.1 in the States – his only single to do so – and a dozen years later provided Tina Turner with her big return to the limelight. As with all Green's tunes from a classic period, lazy horns offer the perfect bed for his keening falsetto, soaking the song with heat and lust.

29The B52's - 'Rock Lobster'

The song that apparently pushed John Lennon back into the studio after half a decade's househusbandry, 'Rock Lobster' is a ludicrous platter of fish-related silliness, surf guitar and horror movie ticks – like a wacky pop Cramps. Fred Schneider is the man talk-singing over the top, but it's the inspired mix of spooky 50s rock and new wave that makes this more than a curiosity.

28Kraftwerk - 'The Model'

For such an unusually catchy tune 'The Model' took years to make an impact, starting life as a snappy pop interlude on 1978's 'The Man Machine' before becoming a single that was largely overlooked until the end of 1981 when it suddenly pelted up the UK charts right to No.1. Creating an actual song, Kraftwerk beat the pop stars at their own game.

27ABBA - 'Dancing Queen'

Separate it from the weddings, hen parties, endless party showings of Mamma Mia and screeching karaoke versions and – well – here you have one of the greatest pop songs ever. It's difficult to shake the baggage, sure, but soon you're swept up by the trilling piano, easy beats and elegant meld of Agnetha and Frida's voices on the single that gave ABBA their only US No.1.

26Lou Reed - 'Walk On The Wild Side'

Lou Reed's one real solo hit was written for the freaks and uniques who visited Andy Warhol's Factory studio, a hymn to hedonism and shunning the flock. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson it's also got a woozy sax solo from Bowie's old teacher Ronnie Ross and that bassline from Herbie Flowers, later to give A Tribe Called Quest their one real hit.

25David Bowie - 'Life On Mars?'

It was a couple of years before this was released as a single in the wake of Ziggymania, but it still had the resonance to make the Top 3 in the UK. Its weird origins bear repeating – Bowie first wrote it to the tune of Claude François’s 'Comme D'Habitude' which eventually became the hoary old Sinatra standard 'My Way'. Prog rock wizard Rick Wakeman plays stately piano.

24AC/DC - 'Highway To Hell'

AC/DC's cut-glass rocking terrahawk caused some consternation on release, what with that title and butter-wouldn't-melt schoolboy Angus Young's devil horns and tail on the album cover, but really it was a coded moan about touring. Still, the riff is Keefy dynamite and singer Bon Scott – who would die just a few months later – has just the right Satanic squeal.

23Tubeway Army - 'Are 'Friends' Electric?'

Pale-faced synth pioneer (from Slough) Gary Numan fashioned a high concept around his debut hit, a world where an isolated public communicates with cyber 'friends' – oh God, it's happened. The powerful marching riff took it the top of the hit parade, and did the same for the Sugababes a couple of decades later when Richard X cunningly reworked his mash-up of Adina Howard's 'Freak Like Me'.

22Sugarhill Gang - 'Rapper's Delight'

Hip hop's first proper hit was mired in controversy. Sugar Hill label boss Sylvia Robinson had co-opted a trio of obscure rappers to make that pop crossover but they were accused of stealing their rhymes. Still, the track's bed of Chic's 'Good Times' was a fresh move – and repeated countless times over the years – and whatever their provenance, couplets about Holiday Inn are ludicrous and immortal.

21Marvin Gaye - 'Let's Get It On'

After getting all that political conscience stuff out of the way on 'What's Going On', Marvin Gaye went straight for the groin with 'Let's Get It On', soundtracking a million and more trysts with tumbling funk and a begging vocal that would teeter on the edge of "Let it go, Marv" embarrassment if it wasn't so downright persuasive. Bet it worked too.

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