The Killer B’s – Ten Classic B-sides

VinylA 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 

TrashA  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

SpringsteenEventually 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

U2An 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

ClashThe 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

ThievesThe 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

Human leagueThe sibling of ‘Love Action’. At that point everything they touched turned to gold. It cropped up on the Dare remix album (Love & Dancing) but was not on the original, so in my book it qualifies….

4. Tubeway Army – We are So Fragile

NumanPaired 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

SmithsOn 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

DuryIan 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

Oasis WonderwallThe 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….?

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2 thoughts on “The Killer B’s – Ten Classic B-sides

  1. This is a great list! One worth mentioning is the B-side to the 1973 Slade hit Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, the rarely mentioned Kill ‘Em At The Hot Club Tonite. I’ve played it to friends on several occasions and asked them to guess who’s singing – they never get it! Hear for yourself here:

  2. Some great choices and some I’d completely forgotten some were B sides at all (take a bow ‘We Are So Fragile’ ). Completely shocked that you left out ‘Talk Show Host’…but then so did I

    10. Velvet Goldmine – David Bowie

    B side to Space Oddity and deemed not good enough to get on the Ziggy album which just shows what a rich vein of form Bowie was in during this period.

    9. Satellite – Sex Pistols

    B side of Holidays In The Sun. I remember playing this nearly as much as the A side; one of Rotten’s best vocals.

    8. Rubber Ring – The Smiths

    It would have been difficult to choose a Top 10 of Smiths’ B sides, let alone a solitary contribution. This edged it for me for as, sonically, it surpasses the more mundane “Boy With The Thorn….’ on the A side and of course for the immortal line
    “But don’t forget the songs that made you smile and the songs that made you cry”

    7.In A Lonely Place – New Order

    As with The Smiths, virtually impossible to pick aNew Oder/Joy Division B side above others (I nearly went for ‘These Days’ ). But this gets the nod by its near orchestral beauty and by virtue of probably being the most depressing song ever recorded.

    6. Acquiesce – Oasis

    Because of the dual vocals and the fact that despite being a B side it was always a monsterous highlight of their live sets. Most bands can only dream of writing songs this good, Oasis used to chuck them away on B sides.

    5. I’m Not Like Everybody Else – The Kinks

    Originally released in 1966 as a b side to ‘Sunny Afternoon’. It was re-worked by Ray Davies in the 90’s and featured on the Sopranos. Absolutely nails that whole psych pop thing.

    4. 1977 – The Clash
    Sten Guns in Knightsbridge. Richard has posted and said it all above.

    3. Be-Bop-A -Lula – Gene Vincent

    Couldn’t believe this wasn’t an A side but it was the B side to a song called ‘Woman’s Love’ in 1956 which nobody remembers. If it didn’t invent Rockabilly, it certainly took it mainstream and you’ve got to love that synchronised guitar swinging.

    2. Revolution – The Beatles

    I’m having this because the version on The White Album is different and called Revolution 1 !! Lennon’s finest moment and the B side to the mind numbingly boring ‘Hey Jude’ in 1968. Black Sabbath were listening !

    1. Butterfly Collector – The Jam

    B side to ‘Strange Town’ from 1979 – taking The Jam off into the realms of post-punk and the dark places inhabited by The Cure and Joy Division. Weller at this majestic best, both lyrically and musically, even eclipsing a very fine A side.

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