Whether you’re listening on vinyl or custom-fitted true wireless earbuds, enjoy these super hits of the ‘60s—‘80s that your grandparents definitely partied to.
Do you remember rock ‘n’ roll radio? You don’t have to be nostalgic for the velvety sounds of ‘70s soft rock to love this playlist—but it helps. From the depths of your grandparents’ record collection to your custom-fitted true wireless earbuds, we’re proud to present our playlist of the finest vintage radio hits. Always fresh, never moldy—these golden oldies arguably sound better today than in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, especially in a set of good earbuds.
We interrupt our scheduled broadcast to invite you to play “spin the dial” with us and sample the sweet, sultry and surprisingly eclectic sounds of the glory days of vintage AM radio—pop, R&B, disco, country, soul and, of course, lots of groovy ‘70s soft rock, presented here for your listening enjoyment without static—or commercial interruption.
Don’t touch that dial. Keep your phone, tablet or laptop parked right here and tune into AM Gold, only on Ultimate Ears.
Carpenters — “Yesterday Once More”
And at the top of the hour, here’s the Carpenters with “Yesterday Once More,” Richard and Karen Carpenter’s ode to the golden glory days of AM radio. Richard Carpenter once said this oldies jukebox staple was his favorite song he’d written.
Kicking off the B-side of the Carpenters’ 1973 LP Now & Then, the nostalgic ballad reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, second only to Jim Croce and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
You know what else kicks? Karen Carpenter’s stellar drum fills on “Yesterday Once More.” Carpenter flips the script (and the beat) with tricky rhythms that display her jazz background without skipping a beat—or dropping a stick.
Harry Nilsson — “Gotta Get Up”
What’s my age again? Singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson struggles to act his age on “Gotta Get Up,” a jaunty—and bawdy—little cabaret number from the 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson.
Sometimes called “the American Beatle,” the Brooklyn-born songwriter became fast friends with the Fab Four following a 1968 press conference where the Beatles, asked to name their favorite American group, replied with a single word: “Nilsson.” In 1974, John Lennon and Ringo Starr entered the studio with Nilsson to record the infamous Pussy Cats, an album whose rowdy recording sessions caused Nilsson to rupture a vocal cord.
Equally sunny and sardonic, “Gotta Get Up” sets the Sunday scaries to music with bouncy, major key piano chords and buoyant Sgt. Pepper-meets-Broadway orchestration.
Roy Orbison — “In Dreams”
Decades before Stranger Things introduced Kate Bush and Metallica to new audiences, the crooning balladeer, proto-emo boi and original rock ‘n roller Roy Orbison saw his career revived on the silver screen right before his sunglasses.
Roy Orbison’s ethereal 1963 single “In Dreams” features heavily in director David Lynch’s 1986 absurdist neo-noir thriller Blue Velvet as one of several twisted obsessions of villain Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), an impulsive and shady character known to demand the song’s “candy colored clown” violently and without warning. The film’s bizarre lip synch performance from actor Dean Stockwell was popular enough that Orbison released a music video for a rerecording of “In Dreams” in 1987, co-produced by Lynch and T-Bone Burnett.
Etta James — “At Last”
Etta James waltzes into our hearts with “At Last,” the title track from the legendary pop and R&B vocalist’s 1960 LP on Chess Records. James’ powerful voice is front and center on this recording of her signature tune, backed up by a dramatic, unforgettable orchestra arrangement written by Riley Hampton.
Like many early ‘60s stereo recordings, At Last! features LCR (“left center right”) stereo panning—with Etta James’ voice up the middle and the orchestra mixed all the way to the left and right channels. In a good set of earbuds, the soundstage is spectacular.
Bill Withers — “Lovely Day”
Who you gonna call when you need a hit?
If you’re Bill Withers, you pick up the phone and dial Ray Parker, Jr., the soon-to-be Ghostbusters theme composer and session guitarist on “Lovely Day,” the breezy, disco-fied single that kicks off Withers’ 1977 album Menagerie and peaked at number six on the Billboard R&B charts.
“Lovely Day” is a bright and sunny departure from Withers’ earlier raw, folk-tinged R&B work, with funky electric piano and a lush uptempo arrangement, complete with horns and strings.
Eddie Rabbitt — “I Love a Rainy Night”
Eddie Rabbit snapped into the number one spot of the Hot Country Singles, Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary Singles charts with a touching tribute to his favorite weather forecast, “I Love a Rainy Night.”
Formerly a songwriter for Elvis Presley and Ronny Milsap, Rabbitt helped pioneer the ‘80s “crossover” country-pop sound alongside Dolly Parton. In February 1981, “I Love a Rainy Night” washed Parton’s “9 to 5” out of the number one spot of the Billboard charts. Two weeks later, Parton worked overtime to return “9 to 5” to the top of the chart. Since then, no two country songs have been number one back-to-back.
Martha Reeves & the Vandellas — “Nowhere to Run”
From the halls of Hitsville, USA to Detroit City Hall, there’s no outrunning Martha Reeves in the Motor City.
From 2005—2009, the Vandellas lead singer served as an elected member of Detroit’s city council, just another win in a six-plus decade career. Add to that 26 hit singles and a permanent record at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Martha Reeves & the Vandellas in 1995, and there’s truly no escaping what Motown founder Berry Gordy calls “The Sound of Young America.” Given that “Nowhere to Run” appears on an album called Dance Party and still totally slaps, the label still applies.
Even young Americans will want to get down to the timeless Motown sound, overstuffed with glorious girl group harmonies and the best tambourine playing on Spotify.
Dusty Springfield — “Son of a Preacher Man”
British vocalist Dusty Springfield ignites a blue-eyed soul gold rush with the 1968 single “Son of a Preacher Man.” Songwriters John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins wrote the steamy Southern ballad for Aretha Franklin, but in a 2009 interview, Ronnie Wilkins tells the story how Atlantic Records co-owner Jerry Wexler suggested that Dusty Springfield should sing the soon-to-be soul classic.
Recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama with vocal sessions at American Studios in Memphis, TN, “Son of a Preacher Man” absolutely shines in earbuds. The stereo mix, still a relatively new technology in 1968, is adventurous in its use of panning. Springfield’s iconic vocal (made more so following the song’s inclusion in Pulp Fiction) is front and center like you’d expect, but otherwise, the stereo panning on “...Preacher Man” breaks all the rules.
“...Preacher Man’s” success—and that of Dusty in Memphis—set off a tidal wave of popular “...in Memphis”-style albums by superstars like Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick and Elvis Presley.
Linda Ronstadt — “You’re No Good”
Linda Ronstadt tells it how it is on “You’re No Good,” kicking off a string of hits for the multi talented and multiplatinum singer from Tucson, Arizona. Ronstadt is one of the best-selling artists of all-time, with over 100 million albums sold. But believe it or not, “You’re No Good” is Ronstadt’s only single to reach number one out of her 21 Top 40 hits.
The first of four singles from Ronstadt’s 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel kicks like a mule, country rock style. In fact, Ronstadt’s rocking cover of songwriter Clint Ballard Jr,’s 1963 soul staple is inspired by another cover, recorded in 1964 by the British group The Swinging Blue Jeans. Unsatisfied after cutting several R&B influenced takes of the song, Ronstadt and her band cooked up the rocking version heard here that would become the singer’s signature song.
Eagles — “I Can’t Tell You Why”
Give the bass player some. It’s Timothy B. Schmit’s time to fly on “I Can’t Tell You Why,” a smoky soft rock ballad etched in vinyl on the Eagles’ 1979 album The Long Run. Schmit pulls a double on this top 10 single, clocking into bass guitar and lead vocal duties.
Before joining the Eagles on their 1977 Hotel California tour, Schmit joined Steely Dan in the studio as a backing vocalist on Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam and Aja. And any major dude will tell you Schmit deserves props for his early ‘80s work as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. Schmit is credited with coining the term “Parrothead” to describe Buffet’s passionate (yet somehow always relaxed) fanbase.
Ramones — “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”
Joey Ramone waxes nostalgic on “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?,” the Ramones’ tribute to the fired-up 45 rpm singles that inspired the ‘70s punk explosion.
Johnny, Marky, Dee Dee and Joey keep the haircuts but ditch their barebones punk rock formula on the leadoff track from 1980’s End of the Century. Really, there are only two words to describe the production of “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”—”kitchen” and “sink.” The Ramones lay it on thick with overdubbed acoustic guitars, piano, synthesizers and even a full horn section on top of their thunderous bedrock of distorted electric guitars, bass and drums.