Last week on NME.COM we mourned the death of the B-side in the age of digital download. You responded by nominating your favourite examples of the art. First up: Oasis, ‘Fade Away’, a B-side on their 1994 single ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’.
Oasis, ‘Half The World Away’ (1994). An extra track on their ‘Whatever’ single, which reached Number Three, ‘Half The World Away’ later found a wider audience when it was used as the theme tune to ‘The Royle Family’.
Joy Division, ‘These Days’ (1980). Originally released as the B-side to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – released just after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis – ‘These Days’ boasts a creepy, juddering keyboard sound, which nineteen years later The Horrors pinched for the outro of ‘Sea Within A Sea’.
Manic Street Preachers, ‘Patrick Bateman’ (1993). The B-side to ‘La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)’ was named after the anti-hero of Bret Easton-Ellis’ hit novel ‘American Psycho’, later made into a film starring Christian Bale.
The Beatles, ‘I Am The Walrus’ (1967). John Lennon wrote this now-legendary track, and hoped it would be a single – but Paul McCartney thought it too uncommercial, and relegated it to the B-side of ‘Hello Goodbye’. To this day, Oasis’ cover of ‘I Am The Walrus’ is a highlight of their live shows.
Radiohead, ‘Fog’. One of Thom Yorke’s most simple and beautiful creations, ‘Fog’ has appeared in two very different incarnations – but the best is the solo piano version, featuring nursery rhyme-style lyrics about “baby alligators/in the sewers”.
The Beatles, ‘Rain’ (1966). This track was written during the ‘Revolver’ sessions, but was ultimately only released as the flipside of ‘Paperback Writer’. The last verse features backward vocals – one of the first recorded examples of this technique.
The Cribs, ‘Get Yr Hand Out Of My Grave’ (2007) Nestled on the ‘Men’s Needs’ EP, this track was a slice of Jarman brilliance after a live version and a CSS remix of the title track, which incidentally was annointed NME’s third best track of 2007.
The Maccabees, ‘Colour It In’ (2006) This was the B-side to ‘First Love’, the band’s first release on Fiction after leaving Fierce Panda, and their first to graze the lower echelons of the charts. It reached Number 40.
Kasabian, ‘Black Whistler’ (2006) Kasabian’s top ten hit ‘Empire’ came out in a variety of releases. Most of them unfortunately were just backed by unimaginative remixes and videos. However, the CD version had this gem on the flipside.
Muse, ‘Fury’ (2004) This b-side to their 2004 track ‘Sing For Absolution’ was previously available on the Japanese version of the album ‘Absolution’.
Franz Ferdinand, ‘Shopping For Blood’ (2003) Franz Ferdinand’s debut single ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ saw them march onto a barren musical desert and firmly plant their art-rock flag in the ground. John Peel declared them the saviours of music and the world agreed, and this B-side showed they were no one trick pony.
Primal Scream, ‘Velocity Girl’ (1986) The second track on the now ultra-rare 12” vinyl single ‘Crystal Crescent’ saw the Scream at their most Stone Roses-like – the Mancunians pinched the melody for their own ‘Made Os Stone’ three years later. A classic piece of pop history.
Blur, ‘Dancehall’ (1996) Everyone on the site had their favourite Blur B-side. ‘Young & Lovely’ made several appearances, as did ‘Never Clever’. However it was the B-side to ‘M.O.R.’ that made the cut, surprisingly, as it was only on the Australian version of the CD.
Lily Allen, ‘Cheryl Tweedy’ (2006) The B-side to Allen’s first Number One ‘Smile’ apparently saw her wishing she was a different person and singing lyrics like “Wish I looked just like Cheryl Tweedy/I know I never will”. However, she revealed afterwards that the words were tongue-in-cheek, and the pair enjoyed a brief spat. Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy) referred to Allen as “a chick with a dick”.
Radiohead, ‘Talk Show Host’ (1995) This song was never going to be lost into the B-side vortex. The flipside to ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ demonstrated Radiohead’s status as a band so good (at that time) they couldn’t knock out a bad tune, and became a live favourite. It gained further popularity after being remixed by trip-hop legend Nellee Hooper and used on the ‘Romeo And Juliet’ soundtrack.
New Order, ‘1963’ (1987) ‘True Faith’ and its B-side ‘1963’ were both written for the band’s first singles compilation ‘Substance 1987’, but the former was deemed the stronger track at the time. ‘1963’ was eventually remixed and released in its own right as a single, in 1994.
Arctic Monkeys, ‘Despair in the Departure Lounge’ (2006). Appearing as a mere footnote on ‘Who The Fuck Are The Arctic Monkeys’ EP, this is the proof (if any were needed) of the tenderness that the Monkeys can exhibit in their songwriting when they want to, not to mention their skill for writing a brilliant post-modern love/heartbreak song. A real hidden gem.
Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Starla’ (1992) This whopping ten minute B-side to the controversial ‘Disarm’ atomises the best of the Pumpkins’ early period into one (albeit rather long) song. It’s also the song to play to anyone that disputes the fact that Billy Corgan was one of the best guitar players of the ‘90s.
The Clash, ‘Pressure Drop’ (1978) ‘Pressure Drop’ was completely different to the distinctly punky ‘English Civil War’. This cover of a Toots And The Maytals track is an excellent reminder that despite their serious punk message The Clash were a lot of fun as well.
Kings of Leon,’ My Third House’ (2007)’ A number from when the Followill family were still more hick farm band than stadium rockers. Off the ‘On Call’ single and supposedly written about a stay in Colorado, ‘My Third House’ displays the King’s raw and frenetic side – a little removed from the polished chart rocking band they have become.
Queen, ‘We Will Rock You’ (1977). Some mistake here? Actually no. Though subsequently released multiple times as an A-side, upon its initial release this – one of the most legendary rock songs of all time – began life as the B-side to ‘We Are The Champions’ in the UK (in the US it was a double A-side). The song’s seminal status was secured by its performance at the London Live Aid concert in 1985.
The Last Shadow Puppets, ‘Two Hearts In Two Weeks’ (2008) Despite clocking in at just over two minutes, ‘Two Hearts In Two Weeks’ demonstrated a genius songwriting partnership in Turner and Kane. It was the b-side to their debut single ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ and reached number 182 in the charts on downloads only. The other b-side was a cover of the classic ‘Wondruous Place’, a song made famous by Billy Fury and ruined by Jason Donovan in the same year.
The Libertines, ‘The Delaney’ (2002) When The Libs released ‘Up The Bracket’ as a single it came backed with a barrage of great B-sides. CD1 had ‘Boys In The Band’ and ‘Skag And Bone Man’ while the second disc had fan favourites ‘Plan A’ and this shuffling classic.
The Smiths, ‘Jeane’ (1983). Most people first saw The Smiths when Morrissey appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ waving a gladioli and singing their second single ‘This Charming Man’. Those that bought the single, though, were treated to this golden nugget.
Suede, ‘He’s Dead’ (1992) ‘He’s Dead’ was the B-side to ‘Metal Mickey’, the second single from Suede’s debut album and a UK Top 20 hit. Metal Mickey, incidentally, was initially a fictional robot character on ’70s kids TV show ‘The Saturday Banana’, and went on to have his own programme.
Prince, ‘Irresistible Bitch’ (1982) The B-side to ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Married’ received an equal amount of airplay upon the single’s release, and thus also charted. It was re-recorded a year later, and remained a live staple during his ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘New Power Generation’ tours. The A-side, incidentally, was a B-side on a Tina Turner track (‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’).
The Killers, ‘Daddy’s Eyes’ (2006). A classic of bombastic guitars and ethereal synths, ‘Daddy’s Eyes’ presents an enlightening snap-shot of the band during their period of transgression from gritty rock roots to grandiose stadium wonders. It appeared on the ‘Bones’ single, and was one of their B-sides that made the ‘Sawdust’ album.
Bloc Party, ‘Skeleton’ (2006). Written during the period of ‘Silent Alarm’, this became the B-side to ‘Helicopter’. One of the Party’s darker outings, the song’s status as fan cult favourite has resulted in Kele Okereke reportedly saying that he wished it had replaced ‘Lupo’ on the album, which would have given it a different feel.
Super Furry Animals, ‘Tradewinds’ (2001). Reportedly an initial contender for first single off of the ‘Rings Around The World’ album, ‘Tradewinds’ was somehow relegated to the B-side position of the ‘Juxtapozed With U’ single. Despite being an initial favourite, it has only since appeared as part of a bonus disc for the album.
The Cribs, ‘Advice From A Roving Artist’ (2006). A bizarre raw monologue, ‘Advice From A Roving Artist’ offers fans a gritty, more personal view of the Jarman brothers. Coupled to the single ‘You’re Gonna Lose Us’, it captures the bile of the emerging band, best witnessed in the screaming final refrain of “fashionistas, we don’t need you”.
Stone Roses, ‘Mersey Paradise’ (1989). ‘Mersey Paradise’ could easily be overlooked by the strength of the single it accompanied – ‘She Bangs The Drums’ – but it’s gone down as a classic Roses tune, and has risen to prominence on several Stone Roses compilations.
Arctic Monkeys, ‘Plastic Tramp’ (2007). Appearing on the ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ single, this raw rock outing has become a firm fan favourite and one Alex Turner himself says he enjoys listening to. So respected is the song that a live rendition found its way onto the set list for the Monkeys’ live DVD, ‘At The Apollo’.