The ‘B’ sides of great singles

We all remember the big hits but of course when we bought singles there were at least two songs that we could listen to. The often forgotten ‘B’ side was sometimes a great song in it’s own right. For this list of songs I decided to search out the ‘B’ sides of some of our favorite ‘A’ sides.

Some of these ‘B’ sides became hits in their own right.

Here is the list:

Let’s look at each song in a little more detail.

  1. “It’s So Hard” – John Lennon – 1971
    • This is the ‘B’ side of one of the most famous singles around – ‘Imagine’.
    • The song has a distinct blues feel to it.
    • “It’s So Hard” is a song written and performed by John Lennon which first appeared on his 1971 album Imagine.
    • Shortly after the album’s release, the song was released as the B-side to the single “Imagine”.
    • According to author John Blaney, the lyrics of “It’s So Hard” represent a summary of Lennon’s struggle with life problems.
    • Author Andrew Grant Jackson interprets the song as demonstrating the difficulty in achieving the utopia vision in his song “Imagine”.
  2. “Drain You” – Nirvana – 1991
    • This is the ‘B’ of Nirvana’s biggest single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
    • This is actually one of my favorite Nirvana songs.
    • According to biographer Charles Cross, “When Kurt was questioned about the song “Drain You” he said he had made a lot of it up on the spot but that the first line, “One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you”… was particularly important to the interpretation of the song…”.
    • A live version recorded in 1991 appeared on the live album From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah in 1996 and was released as a promotional single.
    • Despite releasing only three full-length studio albums in their seven-year career, Nirvana have come to be regarded as one of the most influential and important rock bands of the modern era.
  3. “Out In The Street” – The Who – 1965
    • This is the ‘B’ side of “My Generation” which became a hit and one of the bands most recognizable songs.
    • “My Generation” was released as a single on 5 November 1965, reaching No. 2 in the U.K., The Who’s highest charting single in the U.K. and No. 74 in the U.S.
    • “Out in the Street” is the opening track of  The Who‘s debut album My Generation.
    • While the album was being recorded, the song was titled “You’re Gonna Know Me”.
    • It was a single A-side in Greece and Japan in 1966.
  4. “Get Rhythm” – Johnny Cash – 1956
    • Released in 1956 as the B-side to “I Walk the Line” in 1969.
    • “I Walk the Line” written by Johnny Cash and recorded in 1956.
    • After three attempts with moderate chart ratings, “I Walk the Line” became the first number one Billboard hit for Cash.
    • The single “I Walk the Line” remained on the record charts for over 43 weeks, and sold over 2 million copies.
    • “Get Rhythm” is about optimism, centering on a shoeshine boy who “gets rhythm” to cope with the tedious nature of his job.
    • In 1969, the original recording of “Get Rhythm” was released as a single itself, with sound effects dubbed in to simulate the sound of a live recording.
    • This rerelease went to #23 on the country charts..
  5. “I’m in Love with My Car ” – Queen – 1975
    • The ‘B’ side of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was released twice first on 31 October 1975 and again after Mercury’s death on 9 December 1991. The ‘B’ side remained the same on both releases.
    • “I’m in Love with My Car” is the only song on the album A Night at the Opera written entirely by Roger Taylor.
    • The song was initially thought to be a joke by Brian May, thinking that Taylor wasn’t serious when he heard the demo recording.
    • Taylor played the guitars in the original demo, but they were later re-recorded by May on his Red Special (the electric guitar that was designed and built by Brian May and his father).
    • The lead vocals were performed by Taylor.
    • Taylor was so fond of his song that he urged Freddie Mercury (author of the first single, “Bohemian Rhapsody”) to allow it to be the B-side and reportedly locked himself in a cupboard until Mercury agreed. This decision would later become the cause of much internal friction in the band, in that while it was only the B-side, it generated an equal amount of publishing royalties for Taylor as the main single did for Mercury simply because it was the B-side to “Bohemian Rhapsody“.
  6. “Two Sisters” – The Kinks – 1967
    • The ‘B’ side of “Waterloo Sunset” a single in 1967, and featured on their album Something Else.
    • “Two Sisters” was the ‘B’ side in the US with “Act Nice and Gentle” being the ‘B’ side in the UK.
    • In “Two Sisters”, the singer compares sisters Sylvilla and Percilla. Sylvilla is a swinging, single “wayward lass”, while Percilla is a married housewife.
    • The song sung by Ray Davies, is notable for its use of harpsichord.
    • It was also the first time strings were used in a Kinks track.
  7. “Metal” – Gary Numan – 1979
    • This song was the B-side of “Cars” in the U.S. but in he U.K. the ‘B’ side of “Cars” was “Asylum”.
    • Written by Numan for his 1979 album The Pleasure Principle.
    • The song was inspired by the works of Phillip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs, and is about an android who wishes to be human, but never can be.
    • The track has been a regular feature at Numan’s live shows since his first tour in 1979, and appears on the majority of his live albums.
    • “Metal” has been covered by many artists, including Nine Inch Nails.
  8. “Andy Warhol” – David Bowie – 1971
    • This is actually one of my favorite Bowie songs.
    • Released as the B-side of the single “Changes” in January 1972.
    • Despite missing the Top 40, “Changes” became one of Bowie’s best-known songs.
    • This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol.
    • Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes (as strange as the persona of Warhol).
    • The song was a 1972 regular performance, but it was not played again until the 1995 Outside Tour with Nine Inch Nails.
    • Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man.

I hope you enjoyed the list, if you did please share through your social media.

Thanks for reading

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