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.

20Led Zeppelin - 'Stairway To Heaven'

If a classic rock radio station ever polls its listeners, this bananas blend of bustling hedgerows and head-caving guitar tends to tussle it out with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' near the top. We all love a grand folly and if you can get through Robert Plant's hey-nonnying about pipers and May Queens, Jimmy Page has reserved a screaming balls-out axefest just for you.

19Joy Division - 'Transmission'

This intense single stood alone from Joy Division's albums and is perhaps the most New Ordery of their brief burst of releases with its pulsing beats and that low-slung bass. Its drive and thrash build to a delirious – some think epileptic – height before rattling away to silence. Covered rather more politely by Hot Chip for the 2009 War Child album.

18Ian Dury - 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll'

Released without a Blockheads credit – only sax player Davey Payne and guitarist Chas Jankel join Ian Dury on this one – this is still a typical slab of bar room funk from Dury and co. The greatest anthem from pub rock's greatest exponents, it's the spidery riff that really makes the song, although the story goes it was a lift from Ornette Coleman's 'Ramblin''. Dury apologised, but the world couldn't be that mad at a song this brilliantly ballsy.

17The Rolling Stones - 'Brown Sugar'

Possibly not the most politically correct song of the 1970s, 'Brown Sugar' was written for the singer Marsha Hunt, Mick Jagger's then-lover and mother of his first child, and flirts with sadism, smack, oral sex, and all manner of rock'n'roll fun. Above and beyond any suspect lyrical content, it's all about a kinetic groove, dirty sax and an unfeasibly laid back Keith Richards riff.

16Bruce Springsteen - 'Thunder Road'

The opening track on Born To Run, 'Thunder Road' is one of the Great American Songs, the tale of a couple down on their luck, "praying in vain/For a saviour to rise from these streets. Springsteen later described it as "my big invitation to my audience", and it remains one of The Boss' most beloved moments, a staple in his live set to this day.

15Stevie Wonder - 'Superstition'

It's just a matter of that bassline, isn't it? The bassline that isn't really a bassline, more a funky workout on Stevie Wonder's fat-sounding Hohner clavinet. Whatever, 'Superstition', originally written for Jeff Beck, is no less toweringly cool with each passing year and it got its just desserts with a Billboard Hot 100 No.1. Whether it deserved the Olly Murs cover is open to conjecture.

14Pink Floyd - 'Comfortably Numb'

From 'The Wall' album and movie soundtrack, 'Comfortably Numb' is a Roger Waters and David Gilmour co-composition supposedly inspired by Waters' crazy sensations after being injected with tranquilisers before a Philadelphia show. It's as dizzy and displaced as it should be, drifting through guitar solos and a pretty chorus before winding up in the Scissor Sisters' back pocket.

13The Undertones - 'Teenage Kicks'

Don't know if you're aware of this, but this was John Peel's favourite record. Oh, you knew. Anyway, back when Feargal Sharkey wasn't running all of UK music he was fronting this chaotic adrenaline rush of adolescent thrills that put his Derry band on the map. And it was played at John Peel's funeral. Oh, you knew that too.

12John Lennon - 'Imagine'

Inspired by Yoko Ono's Grapefruit book, a collection of poetry, 'Imagine' is that old classic – simple but devastating. It wasn't much of a hit first time out; in fact, it didn't even get a UK single release for four years after the album came out, but in the wake of John Lennon's death it became first an anthem for his life and later a universal call for peace that continues to resonate.

11Talking Heads - 'Psycho Killer'

A No.92 smash in the States, 'Psycho Killer' is vintage Talking Heads, sweating with paranoia, its limbs flying all over the shop. David Byrne scrapped his initial plans to include descriptions of the act of murder in the lyrics but it doesn't take anything away from the song, as taut and just-about-funky as all the best 'Heads and the starting point of a flood of new wave genius.

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