stylus Magazine loves you, and wants you to be happy. Which is why we keep making time in our busy schedule to bring you our much-appreciated Non-Definitive Guides, brief and frankly inadequate introductions to areas of music that we believe more people should show affection for. This week the latest in a long line of these features celebrates the art of the b-side…

In an age of digital downloads and falling physical singles sales, the b-side as a form of creative musical expression could appear to be upon its last legs. Quick-fix radio hits can be acquired and uploaded to an MP3 player in seconds, a quick scratch for the itch of desire for popular music which means that thousands of potentially much-loved songs are going unheard, simply because we can no longer be bothered to take a risk and buy a CD where all but the lead track are deemed not worthy of radio play. But we don’t want to see that happen—to be honest, we at Stylus are music geeks and we love unfound gems and overlooked masterpieces. Because b-sides can be many things—experimental asides, out-takes, tunes recorded in a rush, songs that don’t fit with an album’s theme or mood, moments of brilliance deliberately hidden for only hardcore fans to find—but they all reveal something about the artist who composed them. We love them all, and we want to share them with you, so that you can love them too.

There are no rules to our selection other than the fact that they are all b-sides—not unreleased songs, not double a-sides, not tunes that were included on an album at a later date (although we don’t mind things added as bonus tracks or compiled in retrospectives). We’ve largely avoided such staple flipside fare as remixes, covers and live versions, because we reasoned that generally these songs are well-enough known in other forms. Instead we’ve favoured original songs that we feared might have been lost forever, at least until now.

And so, with no further ado and in no particular order, here follows a collection of some of our absolute favourite b-sides through the ages.

"Starla" – Smashing Pumpkins
B-side of “I Am One”
The Smashing Pumpkins had so many B-sides (itself the merest tip of an unreleased song iceberg now circulating freely thanks to Monsieur Corgan and his net-savvy buddies—and even that doesn’t count the many demos of more familiar tunes) that picking one is nearly impossible, right down to deciding which of the group’s remakes is best makes for a task. Some songs were a cut above, though, and “Starla,” a monstrous slow burn of a psychedelic head-spinner much removed from “I Am One”’s immediate brawling rampage, ranks among them. Thankfully easily found on the Pisces Iscariot collection, its core ascending riff is pure feedback exaltation, a progression into the heavens, while Corgan’s singing is restrained, wistful, a gentle counterpoint that felt like Marc Bolan calmly singing over Loop’s psychosis. Later songs like “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” would be as majestic, but none showed quite so deft a balance.
[Ned Raggett]

“Pictures Of Bernadette” – Talk Talk
B-side of “Give It Up”
As you might expect given their mythical career progression from synth-pop scene-followers to quixotic, avant-garde auteurs, Talk Talk’s b-sides vary massively in mood from the classy, tuneful piano-led pop (“Why Is it So Hard?,” “Again A Game… Again”) of their early days to more experimental ethereality circa the singles from The Colour Of Spring, when b-sides like “For What It’s Worth,” “It’s Getting Late In The Evening” and the circular spectre of “John Cope” predicted the awe-inspiring final two albums the band would make. For my money one of their best is “Pictures Of Bernadette”; a hunkering, jerking beast of a song easily the equal of its a-side. Tune, groove and lyrics aside (they are, as ever, fantastic), perhaps the best thing about it is Mark Hollis’s squalls of guitar, erupting with particular force at 2:35 and then consuming the song from the inside-out during the extended fade. So good is “Pictures Of Bernadette” that it even received its own “Dance Mix” on the 12” ahead of the actual a-side—the remix itself tells the darker side of Talk Talk’s story; a muffled voice hidden in the mix repeats the phrase “we shall overcome,” presumably a reference to the band’s mistreatment by EMI. There is good reason why Asides Besides, a retrospective collection of 12” mixes and b-sides, has a cover painting of a goose atop a golden egg with a noose around its neck.
[Nick Southall]

“Method Man” – Wu-Tang Clan
B-side of “Protect Ya Neck”
The failed launch pad for the solo star that ended up getting upstaged by a (sublime) stoner MC. It’s cool though because it’s packaged with the alliance of other verbal marauders, shipped at midnight from a filthy-ass Staten Island loading dock and sold as the big blustery sun of New York starts hitting the cheap plastic. Besides the macabre intro and Meth’s still intimidating flow, you get a beat that actually sounds like broken bones: searing piano collisions and remorseless breakdowns. This song is the reason everyone got excited for albums like Tical 0: The Prequel. I still like that they bundled it with a big group riot; even though “Method Man” eventually got a video and lasting fame it always sounds like an underdog.
[Evan McGarvey]

“I'll Be Around” – The Spinners
B-side of "How Could I Let You Get Away"
Since it was their debut single since leaving Motown, as well as their first with prodigal Philly Soul songwriter/producer Thom Bell, we can cut Atlantic Records a little slack for the monumentally wrong decision of choosing “I’ll Be Around” to be the b-side of their 1972 single “How Could I Let You Get Away.” Luckily, the public spoke up on this one, and propelled “I’ll Be Around” to the #1 spot without any official re-release of it as an a-side. Thom Bell had just started to hit his stride with his brand of amorous and classy Philly Soul, but it arguably took The Spinners’ smooth harmonizing and the expressive lead vocals of Bobbie Smith and Phillipé Wynne to really bring his songwriting vision to perfection, and to elevate his exposure into the mainstream. Lean and subtly funky (check out the persistent bongos that discreetly underline the whole song,) “I’ll Be Around” presents the well-worn tale of pursuing unrequited love, yet it shows it as a noble and distinguished goal to have. Wrapped up in a tender lead vocal and honeyed production, chivalry and seduction convincingly become synonymous with each other as the song plays. It also happens to be one of the hippest songs you’ll ever hear at a wedding full of people twice your age.
[Michael F. Gill]

"Asleep" – The Smiths
B-side of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”
This b-side of "The Boy With a Thorn in His Side," serving as many a depressive US kid's introduction to The Smiths thanks to its appearance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is the suicide anthem to end all suicide anthems. It's not really that maudlin, considering-there's no drama, just despair, Morrissey insisting "Don't feel bad for me / I want you to know / deep in the cell of my heart / I really want to go". Singing with just a wind machine and heartbreaking piano line to accompany him, the Moz doesn't sound depressed, just completely and utterly resigned, making the song all the more harrowing. When it closes as the last track on The Smiths' odds-and-sods compilation Louder Than Bombs , you might need a few minutes to remind yourself that the world has not ended around you.
[Andrew Unterberger]

“Oh Shit!” - The Buzzcocks
B-side of “What Do I Get?”
The Buzzcocks—first wave punk's best singles band—would get more interesting as time passed, eventually offering up material as strange as “Are Everything,” “Running Free” and “Why Can't I Touch It?”; but those early tunes can't be beat for pure, thwarted-hormone energy. Most of them are pleas for acceptance, but “Oh Shit!” is face-to-face denigration. Pete Shelley is mad at himself, sure—for being dumb enough to think that things were going well and that you weren't, and I quote, “a fucking cow.” The opening is pure adrenaline ramp-up, and the lyrics a model of elegant simplicity; next time you're pissed off at someone, try chanting out “Admit! Admit! You're shit you're shit you're shit you're shit you're shit!” and see how good it makes you feel. Best of all, though is the way that underneath the main guitar bit there's another two-note refrain, blaring back and forth in the background. At the end that sound remains after the band and Shelley stop, rapidly pulling itself apart as the track ends. Just like the people it soundtracks.
[Ian Mathers]

"Beat Connection" — LCD Soundsystem
B-side of “Losing My Edge”
Hard to think of the DFA label/production team having a “golden age” this soon into their history, but surely the double gut-punches of “Losing My Edge” and “Beat Connection” will qualify when it is all said and done. Further cultivating his Mark E. Smith/indie ironist persona, LCD frontman James Murphy works it out over a never-ending succession of breakbeats and synth gurgles. For those who didn’t get (or appreciate) the message of the name-dropping, hipster baiting A-side, the flip told you all you needed to know about Murphy’s message: Stop worrying about shit, and get your ass on the dancefloor, motherfucker. Mission accomplished.
[Todd Hutlock]



“Flim” – Aphex Twin
B-side on the Come To Daddy EP
“Come To Daddy” remains one of the most extreme singles ever released by anyone ever, possibly ever, in the world, ever; a cacophonous, satanic techno-punk flashbomb that destroyed televisions, paralysed grannies, warped schoolchildren, made The Prodigy’s fire-starting efforts sound like cheesy Ibiza trance nonsense and once caused me to stand and applaud alone in the middle of a cultural studies lecture on Adorno when we were shown the video (which I was already familiar with) as an example of “pop” “music” not always necessarily being trite tranquilizers for the proles. “Flim” comes immediately after it and is one of the most beautiful and melodious things I’ve ever heard. The beat skips like a carefree child playing elastics in a junior school playground, impossibly deep in the bottom-end but somehow still weightless. Possibly because of the confluence of melodies that run over the top of it which, well, Brian Wilson would be proud of. I don’t know what a “Flim” is and I have never understood what Richard D James intended any of his music to mean, if it’s meant to mean anything (which it probably isn’t); he lives in a bomb-proof ex-bank in Cornwall and uses his face as a signifier / trademark. This might just be his–shall I say it?–finest moment.
[Nick Southall]

“Under The Ivy” – Kate Bush
B-side of “Running Up That Hill”
If, like me, you were lucky/frightfully middle class enough to grow up with the delights of a decent-sized garden, the sentiments of this track should be cosily familiar. Many is the time that arching, leafy canopies served as castle parapets, or tiny cocoon of space within bushes became desperate struggles against the many arms of some terrible beast in my young, escapist mind. Outdoor space seemed to force the imagination almost as much as dramatic fantasy soap-operas involving Lego castles. Using little more than some restrained piano and her unmistakable voice, Kate taps into this rich seam of innocent experience and moulds a ballad of untainted beauty. It barely lasts two minutes, but the imagery stirred spans several years of childhood play. There’s a whiff of crisp morning dew in the air, followed by the soft breeze of a clear, summer night. Through the foliage, the house emits a warm glow. It’s time to go inside for tea. Modern life has a way of crushing anything which approaches youthful purity with deadly efficiency, so we all need those old hiding places-maybe more than ever. Everyone needs an escape, even if they’ve never seen a single solitary leaf.
[Peter Parrish]

“Yellow Ledbetter” – Pearl Jam
B-side of “Jeremy”
“Yellow Ledbetter” isn’t exactly your mythical, lost-treasure-chest b-side. Thanks to Pearl Jam’s obsessive live documentation project, it appears on approximately 5,000 albums that you can pick up in any mall. It’s also a song that helps expose Pearl Jam’s dissenters. “All they ever did was reframe ’70s classic rock so that it could be consumed by massive audiences in the ’90s.” So what! Their critics conveniently forget how good they are at doing just that, and “Yellow Ledbetter” executes this agenda flawlessly. A bluesy guitar lick in the opening. A soaring vocal performance that listeners will inevitably try to mimic. And, of course, an extended solo that was made for air guitar. Put all this together and you’ve got a B-side that ended up receiving more radio airplay than most bands could ever hope to get from their greatest single. Pearl Jam are a terrific B-sides band (the fact that they tastefully cover so many tried and true staples doesn’t hurt), and the proof’s in the pudding with “Yellow Ledbetter,” probably the most well-known song on this list.
[Ross McGowan]

"Penthouse Serenade" – Alan Braxe & Fred Falke
B-side of "Palladium”
The shower curtain swings aside and a dripping blonde model steps out to the opening keyboard motif of "Penthouse Serenade." Pristine white towels await dampening by unseasoned flesh. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke looked long and hard to give this debutante a vamping riff that was both posh and loungey, where she can strut around doing imaginary aerobics as she gets dressed. But no, it wasn't enough for Braxe & Falke to make her happy, they wanted you to like her too. The glossy French House sheen of the track coaxes your scepticism and waxes your body with soothing synth pads. And is there any resistance to our femme fatale's blond locks of hair, and gratuitously thin thighs? I’d say no, especially in this voyeuristic moment of solitude we are being shown here in sound. For sure, this is ear candy soundtracking some paralleling eye candy. But damn you Alan and Fred, I'm tingling.
[Michael F. Gill]

“Dandelion” – The Rolling Stones
B-side of “We Love You”
As psych-pop goes, it’s certainly sub-Surf’s Up, but that’s not the point. No, we humbly direct you to this spot, for it’s here that The World’s Greatest Pull-Quote sank to a psychic nadir. Beset by MPs, caught up in the shining Sixties, the boys forsook their best instincts and suckled at the wire mother of psychedelia. The A-side - “We Love You” - was a minor classic: a post-prison banger graced by JohnandPaul. The flipside was an ode to the titular weed, and by saying “weed” I have already given this track more subversive effect than it ever had. This is not the darker sting of “Paint It, Black.” No, this is a full-on grab for the throne of Donovan, complete with utter whimsy (“Little girls, and boys come out to play/Bring your dandelions to blow away”) and a damn oboe. If there’s a hidden decadence within, you must be reading the right interviews. Brian Jones’ last great gasp, Her Satanic Majesties Request, followed, after which the Glimmers jockeyed him aside and the drugs worked their final evil charm. Oh, and note some of the worst backing vocals you’ll hear on a single without reading the words “and Kid Rock.”
[Brad Shoup]

“Ski Jump Nose” – Mansun
B-side on the One EP
Paul Draper (distracted situationist, art student, occasional singer, accidental post-structuralist, skewed sex symbol) knew the value of obsession in pop music. Go to Mansun.Net and search the discography–have you EVER seen anything like it? Every track, every release, commercial and promotional, detailed with a psychopath’s glee, where it was recorded, who mixed it, what sandwich Chad had eaten before playing the solo-overdub… “Ski Jump Nose” was one of the first and as such sounds like really early Verve with a touch of Goth added in for good measure–baggy, black-clad shoegazing you could dance too while Draper whines over the top like the best New Romantic karaoke queen ever. Is the title an allegory? Are the lyrics self-referential tools designed to mind-wash those who listen? Fuck knows.
[Nick Southall]

"King Of Clubs" – Johnny Dangerous
B-side of "My Definition of House, Vol. 1”
DJ Hell released a twelve inch earlier this year under the rather unattractive title “My Definition of House, Volume 1,” with an Eric “Call On Me” Prydz remix, of all things, on the a-side. You’d be forgiven for not looking at it twice. Yet during one night in Boston, at around 2 am when all the clubs were about to close, my friend Billy dropped this bizarre slice of ghetto house into his set to the bewilderment of everyone dancing. It was then played just about every week in Boston for the next few months. It really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Johnny Dangerous is a Chicago rapper known for his explicit lyrical descriptions of gay sex, and here he rants, boasts, and wails for nearly nine minutes about how he’s the king of the club. And he does this backed by a tuba bassline, piccolos, oboes, a MIDI trumpet, faux eastern melodies and a broken down drum machine. But perhaps it’s the sheer oddity and weirdness of this house b-side, the way it sticks out like a sore thumb even compared to similar stuff by Disco D and DJ Godfather. Whatever the reason, “King of Clubs” is one of the most unlikely local club hits I’ve ever known.
[Michael F. Gill]



“17 Days” – Prince
B-side of “When Doves Cry”
1984 was, um, a good year for Prince-so much so, in fact, that even his b-sides from the period are more well-known and beloved than most other artists' a-sides from the period. "Erotic City" gets the most attention, but "17 Days"-the flip to "When Doves Cry"-is even better, a gorgeous blanket of a groove that drowns in a shower of synths and droplets of bass, the purple one welcoming his fate with the chant "Let the rain come down, let the rain come down." Search out the 13-minute version if you can, since it gives you nine extra minutes to pretend that the song is never going to end.
[Andrew Unterberger]

"My Dark Star" – Suede
B-side of “Stay Together”
One of the last Suede efforts from the Bernard Butler era of the band was also one of the group’s strongest, as befitted a group that had so many killer B-sides that even one two-disc compilation wasn’t enough. But “My Dark Star” was something special even for them, a soft guitar chime and gentle shuffle providing the bed for Brett Anderson to croon reflectively about messianic imagery (shot through with orientalism in the Edward Said sense, admittedly) and the future of the world—the usual light fare of the time for the group, to be sure. All it took was the chorus to cement this as a classic, though, Butler’s guitar suddenly surging triumphantly as Anderson’s vision of a new—and this time female—saviour climaxed in his call “Oh how my dark star will rise!” Seductive and suddenly thrilling, a literal dark star of a song, it outdid the rock-epic-by-rote A-side “Stay Together” at its own game—something even the band admitted soon afterward.
[Ned Raggett]

“Raja Vocative” – The Mountain Goats
B-side on the Orange Raja, Blood Royal EP.
Oh, it’s John Darnielle—everything he’s done is pitched between affecting and devastating. As Saint Sebastian is to arrowsmiths, and Saint Petronilla is to treaties between Frankish emperors and the pope, so Mr. Darnielle is the patron of a million crystalline details that both escape and define us daily. Which is why “Raja Vocative” finds him equally at home thoughtfully noting, “A bird you would’ve liked brought the sky down” and nasally (also quite entertainingly) envisioning an ex with “Some foreign guy.” Even in his simplest of settings, he contains worlds, dammit—and it doesn’t hurt to have Kiwi undergrounder Alastair Galbraith humming away with some warm, curative violin. Just like Ghostface and Missy split “Tush” between NYC and Miami, “Raja Vocative” (written upon visiting Chicago for the first time; as always, the geography is dizzying) is the result of John mailing one of his infamous tapes to Oceania for adornment. “Hands-down one of the best moments I’ve ever had,” John recalled, “lying on my bedroom floor in the dark with the phone pressed up to my ear. The violin wailed through the earpiece like a newborn infant.” For those scoring at home, it’s on Orange Raja, Blood Royal.
[Brad Shoup]

"Going Down Slow" — Spiritualized
B-side of “Out Of Sight”
For all his success, Jason Pierce is still a troubled, haunted man. On “Going Down Slow,” Pierce appeals to God to make him a better man, although somewhat in reverse. He prays for the Lord to let him be wrong, foolish, lonely, helpless, and a liar, because if he isn’t, he will be even worse off (“When men are right, they are not young,” “When men are wise, they’re not satisfied,” “When men tell the truth, they’re all alone.”). Drifting along on a gorgeous full band and orchestra cloud, by the time Pierce hits his final appeal (“Please Lord, put a tiny little spring in my step”), the clouds part and the skies open and his, and all of our, prayers are answered in a spectacular coda, complete with heavenly choir, layered vocal harmonies, and some truly inspired horn fills. Pierce has made a career out of playing the poor fucked-up boy looking for redemption, but never so effectively as he does here.
[Todd Hutlock]

"King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown" – Augustus Pablo & King Tubby
B-side of Jacob Miller's "Baby I Love You So”
Commonly regarded as one of the best dub reggae tracks ever recorded, as well as being one of the few b-sides that spawned an entire album (of the same name,) “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown” still sounds prophetic and anachronistic today. Just listen to the intricacy in which Pablo & Tubby apply delay to make the drums sound skittery and in double-time. Hear how effortlessly the short vocals snippets and drum fills sporadically emerge like flashing spectres at home in a mystical playground. Marvel at the cut up guitar lines sharply echoing from one speaker to the other. It’s basically the early model for breakbeat, jungle, and drum �n’ bass, even if it was recorded nearly twenty years prior, and makes use of mostly analog equipment. Despite all these precedents, "King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown" is in no way novel. It’s still a trippy and immersive listen, the de facto standard of quality to which most dubs are matched, and an homage to the inventive possibilities of live, real-time mixing.
[Michael F. Gill]

“Tulips” – Bloc Party
B-side of “Little Thoughts”
It all starts with a beat so full of bass and haemorrhage that your neck snaps. And then there’s Bloc Party, at first notice, with their massive ringing guitars and Kele Okereke’s whispered love-me-not vocals. As always, the band hitches itself to the chariot fire of its rhythm section, and they follow the whiplash. You get a full glimpse of the band’s potential here as they forge a muscular anthem out of relatively simple parts. They traipse through critical time signatures and axis-snapping breaks to make it work. But still, “Tulips”’ import lies in how early it formed, and the promise that came of its c-section birth. To these ears, it trumps the single it was meant to support, and sounded a daybreak alarum of just how much pull Bloc Party had in an arena already growing tired of its own dim cheer.
[Derek Miller]



"The Plague" – Scott Walker
B-side of “Jackie”
Scott Walker’s well-deserved reputation as inventive, obsessively experimental crooner and all-around artiste continues to this day, but one of his earliest solo efforts helped cement his reputation—and it was buried on a b-side. Little surprise though given that the A-side, the Jacques Brel cover “Jackie,” was one of his best and biggest smashes, but “The Plague,” based loosely on Albert Camus’s existential novel of the same title (and thus beating the Cure to the general punch by over a decade), finds Walker so on top of his game he can deliver a literally wordless chorus—merely repeating/singing the syllable “na” again and again in a catchy hook—and make it work through and through. When Marc Almond chose to honor his debt to Walker on a covers EP in the late eighties, this was the one he picked.
[Ned Raggett]

“D.I. Go Pop” – Disco Inferno
B-side on the Last Dance EP
Ian Crause & co.’s most overtly rock moment is also arguably Disco Inferno’s most bizarrely avant-garde noise-storm too, as peculiar a melange of samples as you would expect from the midi-friendly trio who produced D.I. Go Pop, only this time pushed way beyond the prettiness of “Summer’s Last Sound,” the oddness of “New Clothes For A New World” and the hyperactive pop of “It’s A Kid’s World” and into scary realms of digitised feedback. It was almost as if Crause had taken up the gauntlet laid down by Kevin Shields on “You Made Me Realise,” only instead of constructing his precision feedback chaos with guitars, Crause went for birdsong, traffic-noise and a myriad of other, unidentifiable found-sounds. Factor in the unforgiving tempo and the confusing, heady lyrics about–well, about what? Going for a meal? Being ripped off by a record company? Making a record?–and the result is as thrilling as anything Disco Inferno ever produced. Isn’t it time, Rough Trade, that the five EPs were properly compiled and released?
[Nick Southall]

“Shoot the Singer” – Pavement
B-side on the Watery, Domestic EP
Warring between the Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain camps may never cease (I side firmly with the former), but hopefully we can all agree on the brilliance of the Watery, Domestic EP, the closest Pavement ever came to an even synthesis of their first two albums’ sounds. “Frontwards” famously declares the Pavement manifesto—“I’ve got style, miles and miles”—but “Shoot the Singer” set the bar for the band’s other joyous cruisers like “Gold Soundz” and “Shady Lane.” When Stephen Malkmus commands, “Slow it down, the song is sacred,” it’s one of the signature moments of Pavement’s career, a key reason why this song sits near the pinnacle of their b-side mountain. (And if you’ve bothered to pick up either of Matador’s reissues of the above-listed albums, you know just how rarefied that air is.) It might not have been so clear at the time, but when “Shoot the Singer” closes out its EP, it also signifies Pavement’s trade of S&E’s grime for Crooked Rain’s polish, forever capturing what otherwise would have been the missing link in their much-debated evolution.
[Ross McGowan]

“What Do You Do When Love Dies” – Dusty Springfield
B-side of “What Good Is I Love You”
Honestly, I think the only thing overrated about Dusty in Memphis is the in Memphis bit. Much of that album is plunged in string-laden AM syrup, yet it all meshes wondrously with Dusty’s keen power of interpretation. One of her best b-sides from this era is “What Do You Do…,” simply because it’s a joy to hear her stitch a song together. The verses are pinned to a lovely guitar run - nothing to make the MGs worried - and Ms. Springfield fills them with a breezy cosmopolitan longing. Coffee for one not two, et cetera. Then, without much justification, the band lurches into its swingin’ soul paces. Not to fear; Dusty steps up, roughs up, and belts out a truly aching chorus. The result is a worthy sister track to “Breakfast in Bed” or “Don’t Forget About Me.” A lesser talent would’ve just pointed up the disparity in emotions and approach; Dusty Springfield merely carried the song on her shoulders.
[Brad Shoup]

“Sunfly II: Walking With The Kings” – The Boo Radleys
B-side on the Boo Forever! EP
To say the Boo Radleys had a cornucopia of B-sides understates - speaking personally, my own homemade compilation fills 4 CDRs to the brim, and that’s still missing a few songs here and there. Nearly all of them gave the band the chance to experiment with a sound, a style, a combination of approaches, which “Sunfly II” did in spades. Itself a reworked version of a much quieter song that surfaced as a vinyl-only single with the band’s Everything’s Alright Forever, the group turned it into a hyperactive slice of techno mixed with howling post-Dinosaur Jr./MBV feedback that, Sice’s singing and a bit of sprightly acoustic guitar aside, resembles nothing so much as early Third Eye Foundation—a few years before those songs first started to surface, interestingly enough. That the group topped it all off with a sample of Charles Bukowski ranting about hating history and bidding his listeners good night seems appropriate enough.
[Ned Raggett]

"Miserablism" – Pet Shop Boys
B-side of "Was It Worth It?”
Just one of their many fine b-sides throughout the years, “Miserablism” is a spiky, arpeggiated pop number that manages to be simultaneously perky and melancholic. Which is a perfect tone for its corresponding lyrics: a witty examination of how being “serious” and “depressing” is often equitable with musical depth and importance. So on one hand, it’s a clever and justifiable mocking of the free pass of credibility Morrissey and a lot of shoegazers got in the early �90s. But I think it’s equally amusing that lyrics like “Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning / It shows the world that you've got substance and depth,” can be taken as being cynical about cynicism, putting down entire melancholic genres like emo, goth and bossa-nova in one broad stroke. That being said, “Miserablism” remains peculiar in the fact that it logically promotes romance over realism, dreaming over scepticism. Oh, and did I mention it’s catchy as hell?
[Michael F. Gill]

“Let The Damage Begin” – The Verve
B-side of “This Is Music”
Between being the stoned stargazers who made A Storm In Heaven and the messianic prog-rock egotists behind Urban Hymns, The Verve made one of the most strung-out, sex-and-death obsessed albums of scourged northern soul that you could ever imagine. And they left the most monstrous paean to dirty, self-loathing lust off it, instead consigned “Let The Damage Begin” to life as a b-side. Nick McCabe made some ungodly sounds in his time (the ferociously wah’d electrical blizzard of A Northern Soul’s title track springing to mind), but he never sounded as huge, as destructive and as inexorable as he does here, forcing squalls of industrial agony from his guitar. Meanwhile Ashcroft matches him step-for-step in the intensity levels, hollering nasty sex lines like “Turn out the lights / Let the damage begin / Didn’t like pain / Till I lived in sin.” And the groove is just horrible, in a great way, thuddering like a nasty, black-smoke-spouting machine. The Verve released an array of great b-sides across their career (the shoegaze haze of “One Way To Go,” the luscious tech-groove of “Echo Bass,” the unhurriedly gorgeous space-balladry of “Back On My Feet Again”), but “Let The Damage Begin” is undoubtedly their most powerful.
[Nick Southall]

“I Got A Feeling” – The Four Tops
B-side of “Bernadette”
This week, I want the voice of Levi Stubbs. I will make devoted couples feel as if they’re in thrall to a miracle that renews itself every hour. I will demolish every well-intentioned Holland-Dozier-Holland dance device with true hurt, naked betrayal, soul power. And I’ll get out in three minutes. “I Got a Feeling” is the flipside to “Bernadette.” Structurally, a male analogue to the Supremes’ 1964 smash “Baby Love,” “I Got a Feeling” is a primer in lead/background interplay. Stubbs can wring tears of joy out of hackneyed fluff like “got me rockin’ and a-reeling,” and the close harmonies of the other Tops are pitched up to heighten the excitement. Plus, you get a classic piano-driven Funk Brothers arrangement. In Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, the narrator tells his girlfriend that “the reason the Four Tops never broke up is they all go to the same synagogue.” I’d like to believe they knew what a dynamo sounds like on wax.
[Brad Shoup]

“The Healer” – The Chameleons
B-side on the Tony Fletcher Walked On Water EP.
Music history is littered with bands supposedly deserving of greater things. Oh, if only they’d released the right single. If only their record company had shown more faith. If only they hadn’t embarked on that ill-advised tour of Antarctica. Often, this is nothing more than a load of old bobbins. Not so for The Chameleons; they of the twinkling guitars and a three record stretch to put most others to shame. Then, disaster-the death of manager and friend Tony Fletcher overtook all else, leading to a fifteen year period of acrimonious silence. Silence, save for a single EP comprised of four songs presumably planned for a fourth album. A cruel glimpse of what could have been, but at the same time an undeniable glimpse of beauty. Particularly choice are the seven minutes of concentrated, shimmering echoes, going by the name of “The Healer,” serving as a cathartic, shuddering release of pain. Despite references to both sun and moon, it’s a persistent splash of rain which is brought sharply to mind when, halfway through the track, tumbling, crystalline sounds suddenly cascade over Mark Burgess’ steady assurance that “It’s alright ...” You’ve just got to forget the near misses at fame, because it’s this which is the true Chameleons legacy. Even as the rain falls, even as the darkness draws in-it’s alright. It’s really going to be alright.
[Peter Parrish]



"Ansaphone" – Pulp
B-side of “Disco 2000”
Little surprise that Pulp snuck out more than a few killer B-sides over the years, touching on everything from Tony Blair’s New Labour attempt to co-opt Pulp’s image to Jarvis Cocker’s surprising explanation of what his last name is short for. The winner during the band’s era of smash commercial success, though, was probably “Ansaphone,” contrasting the exultant explosion of “Disco 2000” with a sad, descending arrangement that sounded like an extended sob, even with a funny little kazoo-like break at one point. Appropriate enough, given that Cocker used the song to create the English equivalent to the Replacements’ “Answering Machine,” bemoaning a situation where he was stuck calling while the object of his affections was off gallivanting around. His spoken word part halfway through, where he leaves a hesitant message for said person, is both a masterpiece of acting and a surprisingly to-the-quick moment of self-embarrassed heartbreak.
[Ned Raggett]

“Talk Show Host” – Radiohead
B-side of “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
Radiohead had some pretty cool b-sides before the "Street Spirit" single-"Permanent Daylight," "Lozenge of Love" and "How Can You Be Sure" among them-but it wasn't until "Talk Show Host" that Radiohead started their run as the greatest b-side band since The Beatles, if not ever. It was also the first sign that Radiohead was beginning to move behind the still relatively straightforward guitar/bass/drums Britrock that had populated their first two albums-the only guitar is babbling autistically in the background, while the spooky trip-hop rhythm punctuated instead by even spookier synth-whooshes, echoing for what seems like forever. The song is perhaps best known today for the Nelle Hooper edit that appears on the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack, but it would've sounded much better in Moulin Rouge-imagine Ewan McGreggor's heavenly voice goading Nicole Kidman, "You want me? Fucking come on and break the door down."
[Andrew Unterberger]

"Mandate My Ass" – Le Dust Sucker
B-side of "Love Me”
The beginning of Gil-Scott Heron’s anti-Reagan diatribe “B-Movie” is the infamous line: “Now the first thing I’d like to say is: Mandate, my ass.” But those goofballs in Le Dust Sucker have just sampled the last three words, and made it some sort of cheeky call to body-moving. Gladly, “Mandate My Ass” didn’t stick around in b-side obscurity for too long, as Tobias Thomas picked it up as the climax of his Smallville mix CD on Kompakt, and it later appeared as a bonus track on the belated 2005 CD release of the Le Dust Sucker album. Yet the duo still remains incredibly underrated, and on club bangers like this they sound like a deranged Germanic version of Daft Punk, with dinosaur stomps as drums, a primitively pounding synth line, and the unkempt glee of a prankster. It’s just the type of intelligently vicious, yet perfectly plump anthem that nearly any dance floor would benefit from.
[Michael F. Gill]

“Don’t Stand Me Down” – The Bluetones
B-side of “Slight Return”
Arguably the Nicest Men In Indie Pop (© everyone who’s ever met them), The Bluetones’ albums almost always lacked muscle and sex, trading in the darker side of rock �n’ roll for a kind of politely deferential tunefulness that won them the kind of non-profile that’s seen them continue to play, ten years into their career, the same venues as they played after only one single. Had they let their mysterious side out more often it’s possible that they might have cemented their early successes more fully (but doubtful that they’d have wanted it). Seemingl;y nothing to do with Dexys, despite the title, “Don’t Stand Me Down” was on the flipside of their biggest, sappiest single, January 1996’s “Slight Return,” and while it’s hardly Hendrix doing 14-minute voodoo sex chants, in comparison to its bedfellow it’s a veritable storm of black lust. “I know all about magic baby / You see I taught myself / And I’ve got tons of the stuff / On my bedroom shelf” sings Mark Morriss whilst Adam Devlin whips up a non-more-John-Squire storm of riffs on his guitar. The only other moments where they’d match it for atmosphere and temperament, “Simple Things” and “Nifkin’s Bridge,” were both also b-sides. Silly, silly boys.
[Nick Southall]

“(Untitled)” – The Sisters of Mercy
B-side of “Dominion”
On the surface, another unremarkable attempt at a b-side from a band who never seemed to care much for the concept. Surely the only notable aspect is that Andrew Eldritch couldn’t even be bothered to add obscurely metaphorical lyrics about US politics in a rather deep voice to this one? First impressions can be misleading. In essence, yes, this is just an instrumental version of “Dominion”-the massive choirs-and-caverns, curtain raiser to the apocalyptic, Cold War nightmare of “Floodland.” And ok, not bothering to even give it a title is pretty lazy (although “(Untitled)” is still technically a title, pedantry fans). Beneath these criticisms, though, lies an interesting discovery: “Dominion” actually works brilliantly in instrumental form. Stripped right down to gunshot snares, plaintive sax and languid bassline-in comparison to its a-side brother the construction is almost minimal. Albeit still drenched in enough reverb to make the 80’s blush. Key to everything is the reduced tempo, a sorrowful crawl over shifting sands on the beach of regret. Abandon all hope. Say farewell to those you hold dear. Join the shuffling procession for the end of days.
[Peter Parrish]

“Broadcast” – The Electric Soft Parade
B-side of “There’s A Silence”
From a fairly forgettable single by a very forgettable band–I only picked it up because it was $2 at my local used record shop and I thought I recalled a good review in the NME from back in the day. After two bland indie rock tunes “Broadcast” starts, and from the beginning it's pretty apparent that it's much better, a gloomily graceful ballad anchored by drum and guitar parts that might easily be loops. That alone would make it for a good song, but as it continues “Broadcast” slides more and more out of the sonic limits you'd expect it to follow, more and more organ and reverb and space leaking into the song. Eventually the drums start again after a pause, but they're terrifically warped, not so much dubwise as dub-damaged, and after some messing around there the chorus begins again; then at 3:23 the magic hits and the voice is doubled with some weird vocoder grot and extra drums. It's like the song is exploding into a kaleidoscope, and before I dug “Broadcast” out again for this article I discovered that in my memory I had assumed the change came much earlier in the track. As it is, it's a quick, magisterial coda, but those fifty seconds of magic are enough to make “Broadcast” a great b-side.
[Ian Mathers]



"Don't Ask Why" – My Bloody Valentine
B-side on the Glider EP
Amid all the full-on noisefests that characterized MBV’s landmark Glider, “Don’t Ask Why” stands out as something else again—not completely spare, but more sharply precise than anything else done by the band in that era. Much has been made of Kevin Shields’ obsessive recording ear and on here it was working overtime, probably exactly because the usual murk and fog were toned down, with the core of the song being a short, heavily treated guitar figure—possibly acoustic, possibly electric, likely both mixed—that practically pierces eardrums with its high pitch. Everything else about the song readily betrays its origins—Shields’s drifty voice, what appears to be Bilinda Butcher’s wordless vocals swooping on the chorus, a distant background texture created by who knows what and then towards the end a suddenly huge, screaming blast of additional guitar performing the same melody. An experiment that holds up perfectly well on its own.
[Ned Raggett]

“Entering Quadrant 5” – Underground Resistance
B-side of "The Final Frontier”
The politically charged Detroit techno of Underground Resistance was a goldmine of quality b-sides during its early years, as Jeff Mills, Mike Banks, and Rob Hood were prolific in their creation of scathing, lo-fi acid, electro, and techno. Perhaps “Entering Quadrant 5” gets more overlooked than others due to its a-side (“Final Frontier”) being one of the most popular tracks they ever did. But this is EBM-style electro/techno par excellence, riding on a three-note keyboard loop and a grungy sawtooth hook that wouldn’t be out of place on records by Front 242 or Black Strobe. Cranking the tempo up to nearly 130 BPM, “Entering Quadrant 5” moves by in a breeze of debris, with a glitchy descending sample reappearing as if it were shedding any excess computer waste. So while the techno vision of a post-industrial society run by machines may sounds dreadful, here’s a shred of the ample evidence that say it can be rather captivating.
[Michael F. Gill]

“One Thing That Was Bothering Me” – Elbow
B-side of “Newborn”
Elbow b-sides seem to fall into two distinct camps; firstly there are shorter, stripped-back, sweet acoustic nothings where Guy Garvey’s voice and gift for a gnarled melody are given front seat. But more often and more interesting are the things of experimental, grooving menace, elongated non-songs full of buzz and whirr that live lives beneath factory floors in a Social Security twilight of mumbled anti-pleasantries and bewitching, microscopic shifts in tone. “One Thing That Was Bothering Me,” as if you couldn’t guess from that preamble, is one of the latter, a resonating slow-worm of a song, next-door sighs and mechanical draughts where the only recognisable instrument is the drum beat, ponderous and plaintive. Garvey doesn’t sing, the lyrics delivered in something beneath even a whisper (a whimper?), pained and bored mentions of daytime television, the dole-scum and housewife’s time-killing opium roll-call of “Cookery and home improvement shows / All mysteries to me.” He ends with a refrain, over and over, each time with less passion, more doldrum in his voice–“We all love / Colombo.” Peter Falk eat my heart out.
[Nick Southall]

“On Time” – The Bee Gees
B-side of “My World”
After their ornate and plastic psych-pop hits dried up, but before they conquered the US with their falsetto and helped calcify the public image of disco for ever more, the Brothers Gibb cut some unsuccessful country songs. And whilst this course is often the path of the chancer (Tom Jones, I’m looking at you) 70s Nashville does seem a natural home for the rigorously professional but still morbid and waywardly fucked compositions that the Bee Gees were producing at this time. “On Time,” by far the best song of this period, is tucked away as a b-side on a single hardly anyone cared about even when it was released. But it’s beautiful, a lazily funky faux-Southern rocker with excellent Philly-soul-by-way-of-Bobbie-Gentry string sweeps, shuffling drums and a twin lead guitar solo. It’s a great record as much for what it gets wrong, for the remaining sediment of UK showbiz culture, as for what it gets right. And it’s what Beck imagines himself to sound like.
[Patrick McNally]

“Bustin’ And Dronin’” – Blur
B-side of “Song 2”
B-sides are often portents of things to come–born out of experimentation under no pressure, they are free to delve into areas that may not be otherwise accessible. Blur’s “Bustin’ + Dronin’,” on the flipside to the worldwide smash / albatross “Song 2,” is such a song, a clear signpost to the jam-based structures of the album that followed two years later, 13. Weighing in at a not insubstantial six and a half minutes, it begins with the hum of feedback before a fuzzed-up Coxon riff ushers in the arrival of the rest of the band. A slightly less showy then normal bass line is coupled with some fine Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain drumming as the rhythm section enter, before Damon delivers the opening line - “Coming from your eyes, no more selfish lies.” The vocal, distorted and distant, is hard to make out. The repeated phrase “Man alive” emerges as some kind of refrain, but it doesn’t matter–the focus here is on the band, not the song. “Bustin’ And Dronin’” continues and then continues some more, both Albarn and Coxon free to experiment with different melodies or guitar phrases, solid rhythm at the helm, guiding the song along to Blur’s future.
[Matt Slack]

"Velocity Girl" — Primal Scream
B-side of “Crystal Crescent”
Years before Screamadelica, Kate Moss, and international stardom/infamy, Bobby Gillespie and Co. were purveying Byrds/Beatles-insired jangle pop of the highest order for Creation Records. And even if they hadn’t ever really hit the big time, “Velocity Girl” would have cemented their place in history. Featured on the NME’s fabled C86 compilation, “Velocity Girl” came to stand as one of the touchstone moments of that brief movement in Britpop, all in just under 90 seconds. But, oh what a minute and a half. A perfect portrait of a girl on the verge of coming apart at the seams (“Here she comes again / With vodka in her veins”), this stands as Gillepsie’s best realized lyric. Original Scream 12-string artiste Jim Beattie never sounded finer; it’s little wonder that the rest of the band totally changed musical direction after his departure, as perhaps even they knew they couldn’t better this perfect pop snapshot.
[Todd Hutlock]

“Something Wicked (This Way Comes)” – Siouxsie & The Banshees
B-side of “The Killing Jar”
The Banshees produced scores of excellent b-sides (recently collected on Downside Up), churned diligently out over spare weekends and affixed to more glamorous �A’ material. Sifting gleefully through the schizophrenic “Eve White/Eve Black,” the understated menace of “Tattoo” and sing-song grace of “Lullaby” it seems an impossible task to select just one. Throw in “Something Blue” with its stately swagger and truly the cup runneth over. However, I’ve opted for the bard-influenced “Something Wicked (This Way Comes)”-possibly because the BBC are redoing some Shakespeare this week, or possibly just because I find Lady MacBeth strangely intriguing. In fact, the song embarks on a whistle-stop tour of unlikely literary bedfellows, with allusions to the Bible, fairytale imagery and grim quicksand death akin to something from Dickens or Arthur Conan Doyle; all the while slinking along a seductive serpentine bassline fresh from the house of Severin. Is Siouxsie purring out a warning or enticing us to embrace our sins? Perhaps it merely forms the basis of a clever charade, a gentle jab at those who would portray Ms. Sioux as some kind of contemporary witch. Either way, it’s a wonderfully sorcerous concoction
[Peter Parrish]

"The End" – Change
B-side of "A Lover's Holiday”
Change is mostly remembered as the group where Luther Vandross cut his teeth, and as the Chic-influenced studio band of Italian svengali Jacques Petrus. But hidden behind their most well-known single (and thankfully later added onto their album “The Glow of Love”) was “The End,” a spacey italo-disco instrumental that was unlike anything else the group ever recorded. Comparable with the best of Giorgio Moroder or Cerrone, as well as an early favorite for techno DJs, “The End” still sounds incredibly slick and futuristic today. The main melodies are infectiously lonely and quirky (which is practically the definition of “laser-guided melodies” nowadays) in such equal measures, that the track could easily tip towards either extreme at any time. The middle eight shows off this imbalance well, as perky keyboards clash with filter sweeps and metallic drones in a moment that’s both chic and flamboyant. Even if it was a one-off, “The End” has endured time and its b-side status to become an underground space disco classic.
[Michael F. Gill]

“Get A Real Tattoo” – Six.By Seven
B-side of “For You”
“For You” is the most overtly pop moment from Six.By Seven’s terrific debut album, The Things We Make, a beautiful, played-straight love song with a tune to die for, so it makes sense that the stormy, noise-loving Nottingham group should feel the need to juxtapose it with their most punishing, destructive and lovesick (not sick because of love but sick that it exists) moment of strung-out post-rock. “Get A Real Tattoo” is seven minutes of build for very little comfortable release—just an unrelenting phalanx of guitars and main man Chris Olley screaming “I’m gonna chase you around the air,” a promise and a threat, something inside him poisoned and desperate to get out and making hell trying to do so. It starts so quietly you can almost barely hear it, just a distant drum-tap and some bent guitar notes with Olley’s stretched and uncomfortable whisper, but that final thrash could tear down buildings—as Olley whispers himself at one point, “Once it starts / It just wont stop.”
[Nick Southall]



“Ten Thousand Animal Calls” – Q And Not U
B-side of “On Play Patterns”
It’s only been a few months since Q And Not U broke up, and I miss them already. The reasons are numerous, but one stems from the fact that, since they were planning to release a new album next year, the band probably would have been dropping one of their killer album previews right about now. In 2003 “X-Polynation/Book of Flags” gave us an early glimpse at what ended up being Power’s two finest tracks. For some reason “Ten Thousand Animal Calls” wasn’t included on 2002’s Different Damage, Q And Not U’s musical zenith. My best guess as to why is that, on an album that emphasized coherence above all else, “Animal Calls” simply failed to fit in. Whatever the case may be, it’s a terrible shame since it resulted in far fewer people hearing what I view as the greatest song that the band ever recorded. It immediately erased questions sceptics had about how Q And Not U would respond after the loss of their original bassist, and also embodied much of what made them special—memorable guitar attacks, rapid yet smooth transitions, opaque lyrics, and a fist-pumping chorus. “Ten Thousand Animal Calls” isn’t merely the logical starting point for explorations into Q And Not U’s scant amount of unreleased material—it’s also the best introduction to the band as a whole.
[Ross McGowan]

“Needles In My Eyes” – The Beta Band
B-side on the Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos EP
You have to understand, I’ve always experienced The Three EPs as an album, not a collection of songs (of course, I've also always skipped “Monolith” because it’s rubbish), and so “Needles In My Eyes” has come down to me not as a b-side (which it is) but as one of the more sublime album closers of its age. That wavering, high lonesome organ, those sluggish drums, that guitar that's too dense to twang; the entirety of the Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos EP, from the hypnotically minimal “Push It Out” to the whimsical “Dr. Baker,” sounds more down-homey than the more outré explorations the band had already engaged in, and if “Needles In My Eyes” was all you'd ever heard by them maybe you'd think they were mumbly campfire types, the kind who might “jam” when not uttering hushed ballads with lines like “Last night I dropped my heart and I never wanna see it again.” Luckily, of course, they were instead geniuses (and thus mostly unheralded), and although “Needles In My Eyes” was early Beta Band at its most conventional, the fact remains these are guys who managed to turn “Needles in my eyes won't cripple me tonight, alright” into the most rousing “I Will Survive”-esque anthem of perseverance you could find in 1998.
[Ian Mathers]

"Into The White" – The Pixies
B-side of “Here Comes Your Man”
Play this and "Here Comes Your Man" for someone who's never heard The Pixies before and ask them which they think is the a-side and which the b-side. Taken without context, "Here Comes Your Man" sounds like perfect b-side fare, a well-done sort of novelty song that sounds a little stilted and awkward but clearly well-intended and a bit endearing. "Into The White," on the other hand, is a total fucking scorcher-one of the most slithering grooves the band ever achieved, and with Kim Deal's vocals sounding more perfectly detached and deadpan than ever, even further evidence that she should have served equally with Francis on The Pixies' throne. Easily as good as anything on Doolittle.
[Andrew Unterberger]

“Satan Side Version” – Soul Syndicate / Augustus Pablo
B-side of Hudson All Stars’ “No Time To Waste Version”
For reasons unbeknownst to us all, Augustus Pablo’s dub version of Soul Syndicate’s “Satan Side” wasn’t released as the b-side on the original single, but appeared four years later as a b-side to the dub of another Keith Hudson production, “No Time to Waste.” Despite its obscurity, this is one of the most ecstatically psychedelic dubs the man ever did, with huge smears of ghostly organs lathering up against Pablo’s eerie melodica strains. What’s surprising is the amount of melodic drama Pablo’s organ solo adds to the song. In a genre that is more known to accompany a marijuana haze or a chilled out party, Pablo uses the cavernous reverb as a supplement to the organ’s tense and agitated stabs, playing up the darkly carnival-esque vibe. It’s that quivering emotional rawness, balanced out by a few quirky melodies, that make “Satan Side Version” an unusually thrilling dub, and at two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, a criminally short one too.
[Michael F. Gill]

“What Happens Next” – Orbital
B-side of “One Perfect Sunrise”
As with many of the artists included on this list, you could pick any of a dozen or more b-sides by Orbital and be sure of it being a gem. From cohesive, themed EPs (The Box, Times Fly) and bizarre political statements (“Criminal Justice Bill?” is five minutes of protesting silence), the surreptitious live-album shenanigans of “Satan Live” and its accompanying b-sides to the first emergence of, quite simply, their greatest moment (“Belfast”), they peppered their many singles with such quality that they’re long-overdue a retrospective collection of them. Among the highlights would be “What Happens Next,” Paul and Phil Hartnoll’s last ever b-side, and a criminal omission from the nearly-worthy swansong of Blue Album. Clattering beats, chaotic swirls of sound and bleeping alien voices give way to beatific plains of synthesizer after a couple of minutes before the Hartnolls, ever experts at slowly adding layer upon layer until you stand back, slack-jawed in admiration, pile all the initial elements back without you noticing before stripping it all away to just a beat, and then bringing back the squalls and voices for the final minute. A textbook example of their talent.
[Nick Southall]

“Godrevy Point” – Patrick Wolf
B-side of “Wind in the Wires”
Patrick Wolf was our skeleton songsmith before he understood how to rattle his bones. While his debut album Lycanthrophy turned our eyes inward in a way that couldn’t possibly end in self-fulfilment, he offered us glimpses of glisten on his follow-up, Wind in the Wires. He knew the breaking of the wave now, and the way the surf reforms again. No more guttered childhood tales, no more eunuch waste. Here, on the flip to the single of the title song, Wolf shows us how much he’s grown since his debut. The electronics are subtle, a reverbed smoke against his tom-tom beat, and they offer only support to his increasingly Anglophonic folk. He came to embrace his Celtic roots, and they’ve never cooled his blood so warmly. This is skeletal shake gone orbit, and Wolf costumes us in femur for his Day of the Dead.
[Derek Miller]

“(It’s Good) To Be Free” – Oasis
B-side of “Whatever”
Noel Gallagher, ever the raconteur with an eye on history and his place in it, made a big deal in Oasis’ early days of telling all and sundry that the band’s first three records were already written and that they were all brilliant. He also made a big deal of the band’s b-sides, insisting that he had enough good tunes to piss away such masterpieces as “Acquiesce,” “Talk Tonight” and “The Masterplan” on the singles, safe in the knowledge that he’d have enough number ones for even the ugly duckling leftovers to be revered. As it happens his plan went slightly awry, and the pre-written third record all got used as b-sides along the way (which is why Be Here Now is largely such crap). Pick of the bunch for me, above the ones that get shouted for by lairy eejits in button-down shirts at enormodome gigs, is this slice of hard-riffing coke-paranoia from the band’s lost single. Like that other great Oasis flip “Half The World Away” it’s loaded with escapist desire (“But little things they make me so happy / All I wanna do is live by the sea”) only this time it’s fucked-up and psychotic rather than melancholic, lashings of frustration tied-up in the feedback. Chuck in some Morse code and a disturbingly cheerful accordion coda, and there you have it.
[Nick Southall]

"Detroit State of Mind" – Shake
B-side of "...Waiting For Russell”
This b-side by underrated Detroit techno producer Anthony “Shake” Shakir has endured in both the techno and minimal house scene, possibly due to its plum position of ending Daniel Bell’s seminal mix “The Button Down Mind of Daniel Bell” on such a wistful note. An unlikely winning combination of warm techno and trip-hop, “Detroit State of Mind” is almost a manifesto for the moody machine music that emanates from the city, coasting on lushly synthetic strings, piano, and brass. Listening back to it, it feels like Shakir didn’t even intend to invoke those instruments; perhaps he was looking for digital patches and sounds that were just analogous to acoustic instruments in general. So it wasn’t a mere coincidence that the elegant lead synth line he ended up using sounds like the best digital French horn you’ve ever heard. And that the opening theme sounds like the most gorgeous combination of a motorik printer and a vibraphone. It’s hard to imagine Shakir being as successful of an emulator if he was deliberately trying to create these sounds. And we can rest easy knowing that Billy Joel will never cover it.
[Michael F. Gill]

“There’s Glory In Your Story” – Idlewild
B-side of “These Wooden Ideas”
From an era when Idlewild were still mostly about sound and fury, the quick tunefulness of “There's Glory In Your Story” couldn't have done any good on the mostly raging 100 Broken Windows (still their finest hour); even the a-side is more about angry dialectic and a beepy keyboard than melody. One of the song's saving graces is its brevity; at a mere 1:58 Roddy Woomble can never descend into pathos as he'd quickly start doing over the next couple of albums, and electric fiddle-sounding chorus guitar is on the right side of the line separating charming from quirky. This, along with “Let Me Sleep (Next To The Mirror),” served notice that the band could write pop songs as well as frenetic splurts, a tendency soon to come to admirable fruition with “American English.” But just because “There's Glory In Your Story” is a mere pit stop on the route from snotty to mournful, from “When I Argue I See Shapes” to, err, “Live In A Hiding Place,” doesn't take away from its off-kilter heart. It's obliquely reassuring from the title on down and, as Woomble says, sometimes a simple approach is the best. Ultimately the band opted for a more filigreed sound, but this b-side points the way to another approach they could and should have taken.
[Ian Mathers]



“Unbelievable” – Notorious B.I.G.
B-side of “Big Poppa”
Ready To Die is so intensely tight that you can’t really make a case for “Unbelievable” ever being lost in the shuffle. The deck isn’t thick enough. Though when you make it the b-side of a single that’s not only the calf-skin smoothest of the �90s but one of the three or four best samples in rap, Grecian marble could go missing. The song mostly reflects on how damn polished Biggie’s debut was. “Unbelievable” is really just another boast/narrative where Biggie promises dominance in rap, crack selling and other equally malicious activities while sitting on a splintered cycle of scratches and little drum burps. To writ: “get ready to die, tell God I say hi.” It’s a middle-relief weapon like “Machine Gun Funk” or “Warning”—and like them, it blows most everything else off the map.
[Evan McGarvey]

”Laughing Stock” – Love
B-side of “Your Mind And We Belong Together”
Love’s final single in 1968 (yes, I know Arthur Lee continued to use the band name every so often, but once MacLean was gone it wasn’t Love anymore, let’s be honest) may not have the orchestrated majesty of the songs on Forever Changes but both it and the accompanying b-side are fantastic in their own right. “Your Mind And We Belong Together” itself is notable both for taking 44 fraught takes in the studio before Arthur Lee was happy with it, and for having one of the single greatest guitar solos ever, a frenetic fretboard meltdown which takes up the entire second-half of the tune. “Laughing Stock” is a much stranger affair though, building from muted, fingerpicked guitar and eerie whispering into a joyous chorus which veritably explodes from the speakers, Lee hollering about how he’ll just “Keep playing my drums” and “Keep doing my thing.” It fades to gorgeous acoustic guitars again before a final chorus eruption causes the tune to disintegrate, the band in disarray, the song falling away just as it seemed as if it knew what it wanted to be. Given the beautiful fragmentation that “Laughing Stock” collapses into, it makes sense that Mark Hollis would steal the title for Talk Talk’s final masterpiece some 20 or more years later.
[Nick Southall]

"No Place to Hide" - Ash
B-side of “There’s A Star”
Ash's return to the top of the world in 2001 got them cocky enough to toss gems like this out on b-sides (which is too bad, 'coz they could've used the back-up on Meltdown) This flip to "There's a Star" was wisely chosen as the lead-off track on Cosmic Debris, the b-side bonus disc to their best-of Intergalactic Sonic 7"s, which is unfortunate, since the song's hopelessly addictive pop-punk blast sets entirely unreasonable expectations for the rest of the disc. Ash are the band that proves that though the US may get things like Hot Pockets and Adult Swim right, we're still dumb as hell when it comes to pop-punk-you think New Found Glory's b-sides are this good?
[Andrew Unterberger]

"Farley Farley" – Farley "Jackmaster" Funk
B-side of "Funkin' With The Drums Again”
A long forgotten b-side of demented Chicago house that verges on being psychotic, “Farley Farley” only needs an electronic drum kit and a manipulated one word sample to work its twisted ways. That one word sampled is “Farley,” repeated over a hundred times in different pitches and rhythms, from the sparsest staccato to the most alienating funk. It conjures up an imaginary movie scene where a male protagonist is in the middle of nervous breakdown and starts viciously abusing everyone he comes across. However, his condition only allows him one word to express all his feelings. And while this heroine attempts to inject the word with a manic, inconsolable anxiety, by the end we have heard the word so many times that it has lost any meaning it once had. Eventually, it becomes as commonplace as hearing wind blow, and banishes this character to the sequestered hermitages of the world. If you only know Farley Keith from his gospel-esque covers of Issaac Hayes’ “I Can’t Turn Around” and Stevie Wonder’s “As Always,” you might be rather shocked at what else he has put out during his time.
[Michael F. Gill]

“Guacamole” – Super Furry Animals
B-side of “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You”
B-sides can be many things; songs not good enough for albums, bold experiments into new territories or alternate takes at existing songs. They can also just be a couple of minutes of throwaway fun. Any song apparently about insomnia and Mexico’s favourite avocado-based savoury dip and that features the lyrics “Guacamole, guacamole, sleep deprivation's driving me insane” as the chorus, clearly falls into the latter category. A highlight of the Outspaced compilation, “Guacamole” is an irresistible piece of breakneck pop music, and with a bit of spit and polish could easily have been a chart-slaying single. Originally released on the back of “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You,” it’s a perfect compliment to the overwrought, slightly leaden A-side, and wouldn’t have been out of place on the band’s debut album. Based on a simple, repeating power chord sequence of B D E for the versus and E G A for the chorus, it was clearly written in about 15 minutes, but still manages to demonstrate fully what made SFA such a charmingly fantastic band.
[Matt Slack]

“Somethings Burning” – The Stone Roses
B-side of “One Love”
If you’ve ever wandered what a Stone Roses album recorded around the time of “Fools Gold” would have sounded like, there’s an easy way to find out–simply listen to tracks 5 though 11 of Silvertone’s cash-in odds-and-sods compilation Turns Into Stone. Collecting non-album singles from their first flash of genius and some of the b-side that went with them, the second half of the CD demonstrates the Roses’ mercurial way with a song, whether it be the lovelorn shuffle of “Standing Here,” the tuneful psychedelia of “Where Angels Play,” or its backwards-spun, ambient twin “Simone.” But possibly what The Stone Roses did best during that too-short time was groove. “Somethings Burning” is an ominous, glockenspiel-embellished piece of mysticism, Biblical lyrics and liquid guitars anchored by a bassline that creeps beneath long-rotted floorboards and Reni’s most elegant, effortless drum swing. It orbits tightly for 8 minutes, alludes to a dozen romances, curses, plots and philosophies, threatens your state of mind and suggests a sinister, suffocating but devout love (“I am the vine / And you are the branches”). They had a little magic, for a while, The Stone Roses, and it found its way into our world during “Somethings Burning.”
[Nick Southall]

“Far From Grace” – Doves
B-side of “Pounding”
Doves' first album was in parts a soupy mess, vocals emerging out of the hazy murk intermittently, and it was wonderful. In their transition on The Last Broadcast and Some Cities to a cleaner, more epically thudding style Doves have made some very good music but have left behind the differing charms of tracks like “Sea Song” and “Rise.” “Far From Grace” is a slight return; still clean-shaven but with some of the grand swirl of their earlier efforts, it is like them mostly centered around a refrain that, like the song as a whole, could be looped to twice or three times its length without any appreciable deterioration. Coupled with the triumphant “Pounding,” the track from The Last Broadcast which probably best sums up the band's move from melancholy to positivity, “Far From Grace” is a welcome reminder of why we liked them in the first place. It wouldn't have fit in with “Words” and “There Goes The Fear,” or even “Black And White Town” and “Sky Starts Falling,” but freed of the context that would make it a wet blanket “Far From Grace” gets a well-deserved chance to shine.
[Ian Mathers]



“Instant Whip” – The Tremeloes
B-side of “(Call Me) Number 1”
Brian Poole and the Tremeloes were always one of the blandest and most unappetising of the Brit beat boom bands and they didn’t get any better after they dumped him. Except for this one great track, the flipside of what was a number two hit mere seconds before they alienated their audience by repudiating their past and calling their fans �morons’. This record is a great example of giving the drummer some. Firstly because in time-honoured b-side tradition this single gives a member under-represented in writing credits, drummer Dave Munden, a chance to earn some royalties (safely hidden away from anything anyone might actually listen to). Secondly, because, well, he gives it some, playing heavy funk beats under spindly hard rock guitar and semi-retarded electric piano runs. The singer lets out strangulated yelps and shouts “Aaall right noow!” way off in the background somewhere. If it sounds like it’s all going to come apart any second that’s because it is—by the end, when everyone, especially Munden, is really hammering it out, they’re closer to the amateur German commune band Amon Duul than they are to the professionalism of James Brown. And that lack of inhibition means something, coming from the same band that recorded “Silence Is Golden.”
[Patrick McNally]

"1963" – New Order
B-side of “True Faith”
While America and elsewhere was tripping out to mimes getting beat up on MTV back in 1987, the flipside to “True Faith” showed New Order at its most emotionally fraught. Part of the genius of the band always lay in how it carefully balanced thrilling music with Bernard Sumner’s seemingly offhand, diffident lyrics (yet after all, did Sumner ever expect to be in that frontman position before Ian Curtis’s death?), but on “1963” he chose to portray something more harrowing, detailing spousal abuse and murder from the victim’s point of view. That he did so with a cool but wounded voice instead of screaming fear added to the song’s chilling impact, but it was the arrangement—unexpectedly anthemic in the chorus, New Order aiming a little more for rock and roll than the dance floor this time around—that sent it over the top. When it eventually became a single in the mid-1990s, it wasn’t too surprising why.
[Ned Raggett]

“2 Late” – The Cure
B-side of “Love Song”
The Cure spend so much time trying to sketch out the vastness of despair on Disintegration that you'd be forgiven for forgetting that they also wrote better pop songs in the late-80s than any other rock band. "2 Late" resides in that moment of time where bliss turns into misery and vice versa, Smith's eternal sigh of a vocal (waiting, always waiting) bathed and comforted by waves of synths and his own guitar line, galloping towards heaven. The Cure were wise to leave it off of Disintegration-that album only had room for one perfect pop song, already occupied by the flip "Love Song"-however its relegation to b-side status is an unfortunate fate for one of the group's finest moments.
[Andrew Unterberger]

“Amphibian” – Bjork
B-side of “Cocoon”
Much like fellow European soundpushers Radiohead, Bjork has made a career of sprite out of her b-sides. There’s enough good material from Homogenic onwards to form an album and a half that would make most other artists close up shop, content. Here, enveloped in the Asiatic harp and softly sifting beats that dominate Vespertine, we begin to hear the European cosmo-glam of James Bond smirking in the corners, gold of finger and stiff with tuxedo and stiffer drinks. Listen to that whistling! Drop your shakers and smear the carpet. Strings bubble up against Bjork’s mutli-tracked vocals, offering us another glimpse inside the compelling swan-star, no dress, and lit only by the purple icelight of Reykjavik to make us understand that the illusion is real and reality never sleeps, even in the winter.
[Derek Miller]

“Joan Of Arc (20 Below Mix)” – Low
B-side of “Joan Of Arc”
The original version of “Joan Of Arc” is a fairly typical early Low single, albeit a bit catchier than normal. It's gorgeous, certainly, but so is almost everything else Alan, Mimi and Zak have set their hands to. The “20 Below Mix,” however, is like taking off a welding mask while staring at the sun. It's the exact same song, probably the exact same performance, buried under a landslide of static. The opening alone makes me lose my breath, and since all the distortion is just the original sound magnified exponentially when the noise suddenly drops after the first chorus I want to weep. The verses are merely magnificently sepulchral, but when those two voices rise up and drag all that din behind them, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Early Low never sound so still, so calm, so pristine as when they perform behind a curtain of sound, and this mix, degraded like a tenth-hand copy, reminds me of every faded thing, every friend you haven't thought of in months, of that photo you once found of your grandfather, the one where he's young and he looks like you.
[Ian Mathers]

“You Made Me Forget My Dreams” – Belle & Sebastian
B-side on the Lazy Line Painter Jane EP
To me, the young American, “b-side” is often greatest-hitspeak for “decent album track.” Those of a certain age or nationality know that the b-side of a single is where the artist lands ideas that just couldn’t fly anywhere else. The principle remains true for Belle and Sebastian, whose LPs of art-school irony and cheek couldn’t hold this demure performance from the Lazy Line Painter Jane EP. The lyrics are vintage Stuart, a tainted garden of bass players, rocketships, and bloodied sheets, sung guilelessly and made flesh via spare piano, tambourine, slide guitar, and muted brass. Absolutely lovely, but the band still saw fit to send in a Tinkertoy Mancunian spaceship to gobble the track at the end. The perfect complement to the stunning, chasmal “Lazy Line Painter Jane,” even if the band just dialled down the cheery snarkiness for a bit. So it’s not a total shift. Otherwise, I’d be talking about “A Century of Elvis.”
[Brad Shoup]

"Boys" – Bauhaus
B-side of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Bela Lugosi is not quite among the living and “Boys” is not quite among the most well known of Bauhaus songs, even though countless people probably have bought it over the years without actively caring. Seemingly orphaned as the flipside to the band’s landmark debut, it is everything the more famous song is not—short, stripped-down, almost barely there, as if the quartet had exchanged King Tubby at his most threatening for Wire at their most astringent. But that makes for part of the song’s genius, pace carried mostly by Daniel Ash’s guitar, the David J/Kevin Haskins rhythm section suddenly stabbing in for effect, Peter Murphy’s spindly tales of transvestitism and art damage a leeringly good time. They’re not playing it on the current reunion tour but back in 1998 it was one of the show-stoppers, letting Murphy revisit his some of his more feverish teen glam dreams.
[Ned Raggett]

“Feels Like Glue” – Embrace
B-side of “A Glorious Day”
It’s fitting that Embrace should hide their most expansive, psychedelic song on the back of the final, lowest-charting single from Out Of Nothing - they’ve made a career out of chucking away moments of outstanding beauty (“Dry Kids”) and fury (“Blind”) as b-sides of slightly stodgy (if incredibly well-crafted) anthemic singles. “Feels Like Glue” is nigh-on 10 minutes long but somehow doesn’t feel it–rather than being a jam it’s a proper pop song, slowed down to a treacle pace and lavished with echoing, out-of-time guitars and ethereal pads of keys in a galaxy of reverb. Danny McNamara, oft criticised singer, delivers a blue-eyed soul vocal so strong it’s hard to believe he ever hit a duff note, while his band lock a groove underneath him but always, always keep the song foremost even as they’re rolling other worlds out of a bank of effects pedals and keyboards. The lyric is about getting stuck, unsurprisingly, in life’s corridors without realising until you’ve seen your time pass you by. There’s a gospel-pop chorus, a middle-8 that sounds like it was recorded on the moon and, six minutes in, the kind of oceanic swell of sound that makes grown men think they can spread their arms out wide and fly. A b-side? Get real.
[Nick Southall]

“Fog” – Radiohead
B-side of “Knives Out”
Come on. Did you really think we’d only include one Radiohead b-side here? If ever there were a band that defined the notion of amplifying its voice through the flip, it was Radiohead. Shit, I’ve got discs full of their mesmerizing waste. The public at large has clamoured for official comps for a decade. Here, as static rumbles to a breakfast tea morning, subtle chimes step into the gap. Thom seems to ghost-ride over the proceedings, humming through his dystopic predator-prey fears as the beat rusts around the edges and chains are drawn out of the bricked torchlight and people, somebody somebody and nobody hears, are strapped into the future. This is a morn without saviour, and a scavenger’s feast, told past the fears of the summoned. You can’t help but see the garbage eyes of Newt from Aliens in this song’s tale. Hide, keep your eyes open, and love the clammy skin that is your life again.
[Derek Miller]

“Rain” – The Beatles
B-side of “Paperback Writer"
The flipside of one of the quirkiest chart-toppers ever at that point in time (1966), “Rain” figures mightily in Beatle and pop music history as the point where the band officially started to explore psychedelia on record. Over Ringo’s best loping drum beat and some truly inspired fills, the band craft a jangling, propulsive rhythm, punctuated by McCartney’s newly discovered low end (the band had lobbied to have the grooves dug deeper on this 45 to accommodate the bass range they craved), all while Lennon drowsily contemplated the existential nature of precipitation (“It’s just a state of mind.”) The backwards vocal on the coda may sound pedestrian to today’s ears, but at the time, this was truly groundbreaking stuff, especially for everyone’s favourite mop tops. “Niiiiaaaaaar,” indeed.
[Todd Hutlock]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-11-14
Comments (34)
 

 
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