B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles

When I look at my favorite bands and artists across the years, I recognize the many great singles they’ve released.

These singles are the songs released that gave them the radio hits, prompted tours, helped sell albums, etc.

More often than not, artists from at least the mid 1950s through the early 1990s would release singles where the “A” side was the attempt at a hit, the strongest candidate, the song the artists or producers or record companies thought were the strongest efforts. The flip sides, the “B” sides, would sometimes be filler, or live versions, or songs from older albums. In general, this was content that didn’t have a lot of thought put into it.

Obviously, this isn’t 100 percent true for every single or every artist. Plenty of artists put out killer singles that were great on both sides. Heck, The Beatles and The Beach Boys often put out great double-sided hits (like “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” / “God Only Knows,” for example).

This got me to thinking not just about the hit singles, or the singles that had hit B-sides, but also about singles where I actually prefer the B-side over the A-side of the single. That has happened for many of my favorite acts with some regularity.

Heck, even The Beatles themselves enjoyed exploring B-sides. When they were getting started, they would devour B-sides of singles to develop their repertoire. There’s a lot of gold to be found on the flip sides of singles.

Let’s take a look at some of my preferences, shall we? In most of these cases, I dearly love the A-sides, too, but I find the B-sides more exceptional. Maybe I love the vocals more, or I’m burned out on the A-sides. Maybe I think the songwriting is superior on the B-side, or there’s more emotion or creativity or … Well, you get it.

A selection of singles where I enjoy the B-side more than the A-side:

The Beatles

“This Boy” over “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

“You Can’t Do That” over “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

“Yes It Is” over “Ticket to Ride.”

“Rain” over “Paperback Writer.”

“Don’t Let Me Down” over “Get Back.”

The Beach Boys

“In My Room” over “Be True to Your School.”

“Don’t Worry Baby” over “I Get Around.”

“Kiss Me, Baby” over “Help Me, Rhonda.”

“Little Bird” over “Friends.”

“Cuddle Up” over “You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone.”

“Baby Blue” over “Here Comes the Night.”

Queen

“Rock It (Prime Jive)” over “Need Your Loving Tonight.”

“My Life Has Been Saved” over “Scandal.”

Bob Dylan

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” over “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” over “All Along the Watchtower.”

“You Angel You” over “On a Night Like This.”

“The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” over “Heart of Mine.”

“Brownsville Girl” over “Got My Mind Made Up.”

Weezer

“I Do” over “Hash Pipe.”

Billy Joel

“Everybody Loves You Now” over “She’s Got a Way.”

“Vienna” over “She’s Always a Woman.”

“Big Man on Mulberry Street” over “Baby Grand.”

The Monkees

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” over “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”

Simon and Garfunkel

“The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” over “The Dangling Conversation.”

“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” over “A Hazy Shade of Winter.”

“The Only Living Boy in New York” over “Cecilia.”

The Doors

“The Crystal Ship” over “Light My Fire.”

“Love Street” over “Hello, I Love You.”

“Roadhouse Blues” over “You Make Me Real.”

The Eagles

“The Last Resort” over “Life in the Fast Lane.”

Led Zeppelin

“Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” over “Whole Lotta Love.”

“Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” over “Immigrant Song.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Who’ll Stop the Rain” over “Travelin’ Band.”

“Up Around the Bend” over “Run Through the Jungle.”

Obviously, that’s just a smattering, some key selections from just a selection of my favorite acts. You can pretty much insert any performer or group in genres that issued singles and find examples where the B-sides could rival the A-sides.

What B-sides do you love more than the A-sides? Let’s chat about them! Leave me some comments, let’s get some discussion going.

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4 thoughts on “B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles

  1. Ryan Engelman

    This is cheating somewhat, given that most Nine Inch Nails “singles” were released as CDs and contained six to 10 songs (often remixes of the “Side A” song), but I’ll take “10 Miles High” over “We’re in This Together” any day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My introduction to “We’re in This Together” came when you burned copies of “The Fragile” for the copy desk back in … 2005? Man. So long ago …

      I’m gonna look up “10 Miles High.” I don’t think I’ve heard it (maybe you played it for me in your car back in the day, but it’s been too long). I see it on YouTube, so I’ll give it a bookmark and listen to it later.

      Good to hear from you, sir!

      Like

      1. Ryan Engelman

        Bah! (As a certain soon-to-be-retired editor we know would say.) I heard Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter” on the radio today and realized that’s probably my favorite example of a true B-side. It was on the “Jeremy” single in 1992 and didn’t make an album release until a 2003 collection. Easily a top-three all-time Pearl Jam song.

        Speaking of Pearl Jam, they had a great B-side on their “Immortality” single — an acoustic cover of “Rearviewmirror” by The Frogs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Beatles, the BBC and falling in love with so many great artists – Musing on music

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