A playlist suggested by Roy, who has proposed we debate a list of ten great B-sides. Perhaps he will reply with his list underneath, who knows..
In our view, the ground rules for a true B-side are: not a remix of the A-side, not appearing on an album and most definitely not part of a double A-side. Also, for my list, I have ignored cover versions. So here are ten original and unique songs, often the equal of, or better than, the lead track. If you don’t know what a B-side is then no worries as you have probably stopped reading by now anyway!
In researching these, I fully expected that most would not be on youtube and they certainly wouldn’t have videos – wrong on both counts.
So here they are:
10. Suede – Europe Is Our Playground
A band who loved their B-sides, to the extent that their rarities compilation ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’, ranks as one of their very best albums. This was on the B-side of ‘Trash’, the first post-Bernard Butler single. Do check out ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’, there are plenty more where this came from..
9. Bruce Springsteen – Roulette
Eventually released as the B-side of One Step Up, Roulette is seemingly about the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in 1979. No accompanying video is around, but the song tells the story. Possibly the closest Springsteen came to new wave, musically and lyrically..
8. U2 – Salomé
An interesting one this. This was a originally on the B-side of ‘Even Better Then The Real Thing’, but just as the Perfecto remix of ‘Even Better…’ went on to be an even bigger hit, so Salome was remixed for the B-side of Who’s Going to Ride Your Wild Horses where it clearly outshone the lead track. So a B-side remixed as another B-side. I can’t think of any other instances of this. I think I am one of the very few U2 fans who wish they would do more dance stuff like this and less rock..
7. The Clash – 1977
The B-Side of White Riot, you can probably guess when it was released. With Primal Scream having just released the momentous ‘2013’, it takes a confident band to attempt to attempt to codify a whole year. This is a live version..
6. New Order – Lonesome Tonight
The B-side of Thieves Like Us, I first heard this sitting on top of the South Downs on a summer day and it’s a slow-building truly beautiful sunset of a song. In case you’re wondering, I’m treating Joy Division/New Order as the same band, otherwise Dead Souls would also feature in this list…
5. Human League – Hard Times
4. Tubeway Army – We are So Fragile
Paired with ‘Are Friend Electric’ and possibly overlooked as it was more punk-oriented, but a firm fan favourite. This clip is performed live, fairly recently, which shows its durability. Over thirty years on Numan is one of the best live acts around, possibly better than at the peak of his fame.
3. The Smiths – Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
On the other side of ‘William It Was Really Nothing’, is it sacrilege to say this is better? It has gone on to be covered by dozens of artists, including Muse, Franz Ferdinand, The Deftones and, unfortunately, used on that John Lewis advert.
2. Ian Dury & The Blockheads – There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards
Ian was one of the undoubted kings of the B-side, as Juke Box Dury shows. I could equally have gone for ‘You’ll See Glimpses‘, but this, on the reverse of ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ just shades it. This could have been a number 1 on its own and foreshadows the ‘list song’ approach of the next single ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. Someone has done a rather nice animation for it as well…
1. Oasis – The Masterplan
The first three albums saw some fantastic accompanying EPs, most of which were collected on compilation ‘The Masterplan’ and it’s that track, from the ‘Wonderwall’ EP, that tops my personal list. It just wins out over Acquiesce, which to be honest could also have topped the chart, but only one entry allowed per artist. This ‘Lowry meets South Park’ video is just adorable. Not too often you hear ‘Oasis’ and ‘adorable’ in the same sentence..
So there you have it. But what have I missed….?