See You On The Other Side - Brilliant B-sides
In the good old days, when all singles came out in a physical format, you could tell the quality of the band, not by their hits, but by the songs they didn't think were good enough for singles or album tracks.
Some songs rightly deserved their place on the flipside, but some bands released absolute treasures, seemingly relegated to this second tier status. Some of these b-sides would later appear as album tracks, but they were cracking tracks that the band didn't think were hits in themselves - were they mad???
As a teenager and later in my 20s, I would rush out to buy a Smiths single or Oasis 12 inch - not just for the lead track, but because often the b-sides would be even better. Both bands had a treasure trove of songs that easily were as good, if not better than the "hits".
I am sure the phrase b-side is meaningless to younger people these days (God, I sound so old...), but here's a little list of 30 such curiosities.
1. Acquiesce - Oasis (B-side of Some Might Say)
Whilst Some Might Say might have been their first No 1 in the UK, all three of its b-sides were just as good. But this was the standout. It was the opening track at so many live shows and gave you just a little peak at the weird relationship between Liam and Noel. But it was a BELTER of a song. At the time Mark Radcliffe used to play it on a BBC advert for their radio stations saying "it should have been the single" - he was not wrong.
Check them out on Channel 4's The White Room below - it's a fantastic performance, but also I can't think of any band that would use a major TV performance to play three b-sides - amazing!
2. I Am The Walrus - The Beatles (B-side of Hello, Goodbye)
McCartney apparently didn't think it was commercial enough, so Lennon's classic was relegated to the B-side. I can't imagine Oasis burning through McCartney's rather trite hit with the same gusto as they did with I Am The Walrus.
3. My Insatiable One - Suede (B-side of The Drowners)
The Drowners is a superb debut single, but its b-side was arguably even better (Morrissey was checking them out at their early shows and covered this hit live on several occasions on his Your Arsenal tour in 1992).
4. Half A Person - The Smiths (B-side of Shoplifters Of The World Unite)
Speaking of Mozzer, The Smiths released so many classic songs as b-sides, it's untrue. How Soon Is Now? was originally the b-side to William, It Was Really Nothing - Rough Trade impresario Geoff Travis didn't think it represented who the band were. It eventually was a single, but the momentum for a huge hit was gone. Such a shame.
But for me Half A Person is an even bigger travesty - then again, at the time I was most certainly 16, clumsy and shy...
5. 10.15 Saturday Night - The Cure (B-side of Killing An Arab)
Although it's on their debut album, it was originally the b-side to Killing An Arab, their first single. 10.15 was better, and less prone to misunderstanding (Killing An Arab is not some racist diatribe, but instead is based on Camus' L'Etranger). They still play it live and it's still brilliant.
6. 1963 - New Order (B-side of True Faith)
Whilst True Faith is my all time favourite New Order track, its b-side comes close. Its tale of domestic violence is another example of more story-telling lyrics as opposed to their usual opaque lyrical style. It's basically Love Vigilantes, but you can dance to it. It was eventually released as a single in 1995 - the wrong was righted.
7. The Model - Kraftwerk (B-side of Neon Lights, 1987, and Computer Love, 1981)
Originally released on The Man-Machine album in 1978 as well as being b-side to Neon Lights from that album. This was again put out as a b-side in 1981, simply because the band had not submitted a flip side and the single needed to be pressed. The DJs saved the day flipping this over and playing The Model, much to the annoyance of the band.
It became the first UK number 1 single by a German band - a great thing until you realise this possibly paved the way for other German bands such as Goombay Dance Band and Nicole...
8. Talk Show Host - Radiohead (B-side of Street Spirit)
Criminally wasted as the b-side to Street Spirit, this is one of their strongest moments, and a frequent feature in their setlists still.
9. Shopping For Blood - Franz Ferdinand (B-side of Darts Of Pleasure)
Again, another cracking song that they still play live, this stormer was buried on the flip side of their debut single, Darts Of Pleasure. Its Glam-rock stomp and Mark E Smith style snarling vocal are superb.
10. Velocity Girl - Primal Scream (B-side of Crystal Crescent)
B-side to their second single, this is punk rock played by The Byrds and it earned them a place on NME's classic C86 cassette - an era defining collection.
11. I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better - The Byrds (B-side of All I Really Want To Do)
I literally cannot understand how anyone thought this was anything other than a stone-cold classic. Quite incomprehensible. Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub based a lot of their careers on this...
12. Silver Springs - Fleetwood Mac (B-side of Go Your Own Way)
Stevie Nicks‘ post-mortem on the end of her relationship with Lindsay Buckingham was originally intended for Rumours, but was left off at the last minute and relegated to b-side status. Harsh revenge by Mr B, it's finally become a live staple in the last decade. And frankly, what was one more song about them all breaking up with each other - the album is littered with them!
13. The Loved - Paul Weller (B-side of Hung Up)
As well as its b-side status, this was released as a free Flexi single with The Big Issue. Not a love song, but one of his more gentle and light songs with a political message - "Don’t come ’round here, expecting votes, see who charts the course on a sinking boat". It’s fabulous.
14. Dear God - XTC (B-side of Grass)
Originally intended for their Skylarking album, they were nervous about the reaction to such an anti-religious, agnostic statement - indeed, the band received hate mail and one radio station which played it received bomb threats...not exactly in line with what the bible preaches surely?
One US student forced his school radio to play it repeatedly, while holding a member of staff at knife-point. Not many songs can claim to have inspired such an alarming reaction. It was later added into the album track list.
15. In The Night - Pet Shop Boys (B-side of Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money))
Later becoming the theme tune to BBC's The Clothes Show, In The Night was a high-concept track about the Zazous, a sub-culture in occupied France in WW2, more interested in music and fashion that taking sides in the war. The song considers whether apathy equates to collaboration with the enemy. Not obvious chart fodder for lyrics, so you can see why this storming New Order-esque bass heavy track was hidden away.
16. Pleasure, Little Treasure - Depeche Mode (B-side of Never Let Me Down Again)
A cracking dance number, the Glitter remix making its way onto the CD of Music for The Masses as an extra track. It's close in sound to their Route 66 cover and would have been a smash hit if they had released it.
17. Late Bar - Duran Duran (B-side of Planet Earth)
With its slightly heavy Andy Taylor guitar, this stood out from their early material - it's still played occasionally live - and Joanne Joanne (the all-female Duran tribute band) do a cracking version!
18. Crawl - The Wedding Present (B-side of Corduroy on the 3 songs EP)
Technically, you could argue this wasn't a b-side, but f*** it, it's fantastic and I wanted to include it - it's my bloody list! Another that's still going in their live setlists.
19. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers (B-side to Hung On You)
Phil Spector may have seen this as a throwaway track, but DJs strongly disagreed, helping this to become a massive hit that's stood the test of time. And if Patrick Swayze lights your candle, I am sure you have a soft spot for this...
20. I Can't Help Myself - Gene (B-side of Be My Light, Be My Guide)
Gene, perennial nearly made it Britpoppers, were often derided as Smiths rip-offs, but their main similarity was a very high quality benchmark for any track they released. This is such a beautiful ballad, it deserved more exposure.
21. Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl - U2 (B-side of A Celebration)
A fantastic strum that finally got the recognition it deserved on the Under A Blood Red Sky live album.
22. Velvet Goldmine - David Bowie (B-side of the re-release of Space Oddity)
This didn't make The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. It was considered too risqué in 1972 - "You're my taste, my trip, I'll be your master zip, I'll suck your hair for kicks, you'll make me jump to my feet".
Not that rude? It finally found more recognition for inspiring the title of the film by Todd Haynes, though Bowie refused to license the song to be used in the film.
23. Apple Scruffs - George Harrison (B-side of What Is Life)
This was initially released on All Things Must Pass, but later included as a b-side. This lovely Dylan-style track is an homage to the die-hard Beatles fans that hung outside Apple Corps, just to get a glimpse of their heroes.
24. Why Can't I Touch It? Buzzcocks (B-side of Everybody’s Happy Nowadays)
Superb punk track, with a pseudo-reggae feel and a stunning, groovy bass line (though I can't believe I just used the word "groovy").
25. The Butterfly Collector - The Jam (B-side of Strange Town)
Owing a debt to The Kinks' Shangri-La, this vicious assessment of those that sleep around is another scathing Weller track, attacking those just seeking another notch on their bed-post. It's been covered in recent years by Noel Gallagher, Garbage and more. Weller still occasionally plays it now.
26. Erotic City - Prince (B-side of Let's Go Crazy)
Inspired by seeing Parliament live, this man just had TOO many cracking songs.
27. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor (B-side of Substitute)
Another one where DJs took matters in hand and played the flip side, and thank God they did! Bridget Jones remains eternally grateful, I am sure.
28. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones. (B-side of Honky Tonk Woman)
Surely this was worth its own release first time around? It was eventually released as a single four years later. Jagger surrounded by angelic school boys on Top Of The Pops would not have sat well with their bad boy image, one suspects.
29. Hairdresser On Fire - Morrissey (B-side of Suedehead)
B-side to Morrissey's first 12 inch single, this is one of his greatest, yet silliest lyrics - love it. My barber is less keen though...
30. Grasshopper - Ride (B-side of Leave Them All Behind)
At approaching 11 minutes, this is a storming instrumental - just when you think it's finished it keeps going - the shoe-gazers rocked out big style on this track.