Often when bands release a single, they want to put a little extra on there for the fans. It so happens that back in the days of the 45 rpm record, there was a whole half of the vinyl record left over for the extra music; the side with the main song on it was the "A-side" and the side with the rest on is the B-side.
Even today, now that the 45 rpm single is more-or-less on the way out, the terminology persists. A B-side is a song released alongside a single. It may be a good song that doesn't fit in with an album (or recorded for the single), is not good enough for release on an album, something too experimental to be commercially viable on its own, or just a joke.
The single is usually denoted as "A-side b/w B-side", the b/w standing for 'backed with'.
Occasionally, both sides of the single are promoted equally; the single is then called a "double A-side". Famous examples are "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane
" and "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions
". B-sides may be collected onto Compilation Albums
, or be included on an extra disc for deluxe reissues and Box Sets
. They might also turn up as bonus tracks on later printings of the album.
In Japan, this is a requirement for many bands, in order to control grey-market imports. It backfired
. The Japanese Editions are among the most wanted (and thus, among the most pirated) editions of the albums. In the past, it was a convention that European B-sides would contain non-album tracks (often outtakes or covers), while American singles would usually feature a second album track.
Unscrupulous publishers used to cheaply buy the rights to B-sides of songs they predicted to be hits. Since the B-side got 50% of the airplay royalties, the publishers would clean up.
B-side songs may well become Black Sheep Hits
the music industry, so examples should be parodies subversions or otherwise noteworthy.
See also B-Movie
, B Side Comics
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- An entire American Country Countdown program (a special that aired Oct. 4, 1975, in place of that weekend's regular countdown) was dedicated to B-sides of country music. The special featured classic gems by Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Hank Willliams Sr., Lefty Frizzell, Elvis Presley, Ray Price, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, Eddy Arnold, Merle Haggard and many others. The top song: "The Tennessee Waltz," as recorded by Patti Page.
- The B-side to 1970s pop singer Andy Kim's No. 1 hit "Rock Me Gently" was ... an instrumental of "Rock Me Gently." (It was simply the same music track, minus Kim's vocals.) This became very common in the years to come.
- The B-side to Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!" was called "!aaaH-aH yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT" and was a backwards version of the A-side.
- The Spitting Image single "The Chicken Song" b/w "I've Never Met a Nice South African" was jokingly promoted on the cover as a "double B-side", implying that both songs were of dubious quality.
- Marvin released a "Double B Side" too.
- Dance You Fuckers by Wall of Voodoo is one Hell of a b-side. Over 5 minutes long, it is the most Crazy Awesome track both line-ups ever recorded. Your mileage may not vary.
- By his own admission, Jasper Carrott's "Funky Moped" only charted as a hit single because the B-side had a risqué The Magic Roundabout sketch.
- Radiohead's B-sides are popular among fans for their strangeness and experimentation; "Kinetic" features a looped, backwards, slowed-down vocal part.
- Muse's B Sides are popular amongst fans. The most popular is Fury, which the band have played live, and Matt wanted on Absolution but the band voted him out. The band have a compilation called Hullabaloo which collects several of their B Sides, and another one called Random 1-8 which covers similar ground but has a couple of exceptions. Other popular B Sides include Agitated (a funk-thrash song that was a live staple for years), Eternally Missed (A 6 minute long epic that was in the running for Absolution but left off due to length), Nishe (a moody instrumental which the band still do live), and the band's cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", (which even got radio airplay in the UK).
- The Protomen released a white vinyl record roughly one year prior to releasing their Act II CD with the single "Father of Death". The other side contained a remixed version of "No Easy Way Out" from Rocky IV.
- blur have so many b-sides, that the situation is very close to Archive Panic.
- Blur recorded so often that they'd have brand new songs to release as B Sides, and not have to put out anything substandard (something The Smiths also did). This was particularly common during the "Leisure" and "Modern Life Is Rubbish" periods. In the case of the former, the more mature "Inertia" and "Luminous" were released as B Sides before "Leisure" came out, despite being recorded after it.
- And Kylie Minogue.
- And Tori Amos.
- Eye of The Lens by The Comsat Angels could have been their biggest hit in the early 80's, had it been included on an album.
- Nightwish has a few of these from the Anette era, notably "The Escapist" and "While Her Lips are Still Red."
- Self's "No B-sides": The back story is that Matt Mahaffey of Self was streaming one B-side (more accurately "outtake") from forthcoming album Ornament And Crime a day until the album's release date. When the anticipated release date came and the album didn't, the song for the day was "No B-sides", a catchy, jingle-like number where Mahaffey informed fans that there weren't any b-sides left, the album was delayed by record label issues but was still going to come out, and if anyone pirated the streaming songs in mp3 form, he would personally Groin Attack them. Now that Ornament And Crime is a Missing Episode, the song is a mild "Funny Aneurysm" Moment.
- The B-side of Three Dog Night's "Shambala" was called, appropriately enough, "Our B-Side."
- The original "Garage Days Revisited" by Metallica. This was the B-side to the European release of "Creeping Death," and contained two covers, "Am I Evil?" (originally by Diamond Head) and "Blitzkreig," by the group of the same name. Metallica would use the "Garage" name for a number of future cover-based releases, and would release many NWOBHM cover tunes as B-sides (later collected into the "Garage, Inc." album).
- Birmingham stand-up comic Jasper Carrott had a hit single with a mildly diverting funny song called Funky Moped. However, what people were really buying it for was a B-side that because of content could not be broadcast on the radio: an adult-themed version of popular children's animation The Magic Roundabout, in which, among other things, aspersions are cast as to prim and proper Florence's sexual preferences.
- The B-side of Yes's "Leave It" was the same song a capella.
- Gorillaz have two whole B-side albums: G Sides for their self-titled first album, and D Sides for their second album Demon Days. They contain both unused songs and remixes by other artists.
- Radiohead's My Iron Lung EP contains outtakes from the early stages of "The Bends" sessions. The only exception is Creep (Acoustic) which was a B side in the Pablo Honey era.
- Muse's Hullabaloo has one disc of B Sides and the other of a live concert. During the Showbiz era, the band released a Japanese tour EP called Random 1-8, which had a similar tracklisting to Hullabaloo (sans the Origin Of Symmetry era B Sides), but also had Agitated, a live version of Do We Need This, as well as three Sunburn mixes which were hidden tracks.
- Elton John's Rare Masters collects his B-sides from 1968 through 1975 along with a few soundtrack recordings and other rarities.
- Alternative by Pet Shop Boys collects their B-sides from 1986 through 1994. Format does the same for 1995-2012.
- Shits & Giggles by the Kleptones is a 2010 compilation of Kleptones b-sides from 2004 to the present day. The catch is that, as a mash-up artist, all of his albums have been released online for free and they've never had a proper "single". Also, it's damn good.
- The Smashing Pumpkins' Pisces Iscariot and Judas Ø.
- The Used's Shallow Believer.
- Manic Street Preachers has Lipstick Traces, featuring their B-sides from 1989 to 2002.
- Suede's Sci-Fi Lullabies is reckoned by many critics to be the equal of their better studio albums.
- Oasis has The Masterplan, which contains many classics and fan favorites like "Acquiesce" that were never featured on their studio albums.
- Crowded House released Afterglow which featured, among others, "Recurring Dream," their first recorded song.
- Pearl Jam has Lost Dogs, a two-disc compilation of B-sides and non-album singles like "Last Kiss".
- Nirvana's Incesticide has many of their B-sides from the Bleach and Nevermind eras. Many fans consider it to be the album most representative of the band's style.
- Green Day's Shenanigans.
- The Pixies' Complete 'B' Sides.
- Miscellaneous T by They Might Be Giants collects b-sides from their first two albums.
- R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office, a collection of B-sides from their first four albums. Later editions would also include the out-of-print Chronic Town EP in it's entirety as bonus tracks. A deluxe version of In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003 also included a disc of B-sides.
- Disturbed's The Lost Children, released shortly after the beginning of their hiatus.
- Disk 4 of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' box set "Playback" consists of B-sides.
- Sugar's Besides
- Nick Cave's B-Sides and Rarities.
- Anthrax's Attack of the Killer B's.
- Attack Of The Killer B's was also a compilation album of B-sides released in 1983. Included were songs such as "You're My Favorite Waste Of Time" (Marshall Crenshaw), "In The Sticks" (the Pretenders), "Babysitter" (the Ramones), and "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" (Talking Heads).
- Broken Social Scene's Bee Hives, which was entirely B Sides from You Forgot It In People.
- The second disc of Metallica's Garage, Inc., as mentioned above.
- XTC's Rag N Bone Buffet is a compilation of B Sides and other rarities (such as contributions to film soundtracks, singles released under other names, and "Mermaid Smiled", the song that was originally left off the US version of Skylarking).
- The Replacements' Distinct Double Album compilation All for Nothing / Nothing for All - one disc was a Greatest Hits Album covering the last five years of the band, the other was b-sides, outtakes and other rarities from the same period.
- The Killers' Sawdust is a collection of B-sides, rarities, and remixes from Hot Fuss and Sam's Town.
- Ash released a collection of B-Sides titled "Cosmic Debris" as a bonus with their greatest hits album Intergalactic Sonic 7"s.
- blur's Japan only release The Special Collectors' Edition which collects B Sides up to the Parklife singles. In terms of box sets, they have the more substantial 10th Anniversary Collection and the even more substantial Blur 21 set (of which all the albums were released as 2CD sets including most of the B Sides).
- Zig-zag: The Capitol records release of the Beatles' Hey Jude album were composed of songs, a and b-sides that were not previously featured on albums. The 1980 release Rarities features other cuts not previously released on American albums.
- Hank Williams Sr. had several two-sided hits, but his best known was "Kaw-Liga"/"Your Cheatin' Heart," both which went No. 1 in 1953, several months after his death.
- Elvis Presley: Also famous for scoring with dual-sided hits, his most famous was one of popular music's all-time most popular songs — from 1956, "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog." Both sides of this double A-sided hit were No. 1 on all three of the major charts — the Top 100 (as Billboard magazine called it at the time), the country, and the rhythm and blues charts. Incidentally, the song's designation as a double-A single didn't come until 1960.
- Dolly Parton had several, including "It's All Wrong, but It's All Right"/"Two Doors Down" and "Baby I'm Burning"/"I Really Got the Feeling". Both sides went to #1.
- Razzy Bailey also had two #1 singles with double A-sides: "I Keep Coming Back"/"True Life Country Music" and "Friends"/"Anywhere There's a Jukebox". "Midnight Hauler" also went to #1, with its b-side "Scratch My Back" reaching #8 soon afterward.
- Linda Ronstadt had several double A-sided hits in 1975 and 1976 alone, allowing her to have as many as six top 10 hits (divided between the country and Hot 100 charts) within a year's span:
- Early 1975: The single "You're No Good"/"I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)." "You're No Good" (with a searing rock guitar solo from Andrew Gold) topped the Hot 100 in February 1975, right around the same time the flip side — a cover of a classic Hank Williams Sr. song — peaked at No. 2 on the country chart. (And yes, both sides got airplay on both country and pop radio.)
- June 1975: "When Will I Be Loved," a soaring cover of the Everly Brothers' hit from 15 years earlier, was backed with "It Doesn't Matter Anymore." Although the flip side didn't chart on its own, it did get lots of airplay in both the country and Top 40 genres, going to No. 1 country and No. 2 Hot 100.
- October 1975: "Heat Wave"/"Love is a Rose." "Heat Wave" was a No. 5 hit, and Ronstadt's cover of the old Martha and the Vandellas smash from the early 1960s. "Love is a Rose," a cover of a Neil Young-penned album track, was the side of choice for country radio. Incidentally, both songs stopped at No. 5 on the Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts, respectively.
- February 1976: "The Sweetest Gift"/"Tracks of My Tears." Again, released to both country and rock radio stations, "The Sweetest Gift" — with Emmylou Harris providing backing vocals — got the nod early on at country radio, but it wasn't long before the pop side "Tracks of My Tears" (covering Smokey Robinson & the Miracles) earned its keep at country radio and (depending on the chart) made the top 10 or stopped just short.
- November 1977: Some pressings of "Blue Bayou" (top 5 both country and Hot 100) had as the flip side the Warren Zevon-penned "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me," the latter which became a top 30 pop hit.
- Conway Twitty released a single in 1975 that ultimately became a double A-sided hit – "Touch the Hand"/"Don't Cry, Joni." The two songs were subsequent hits, with "Touch the Hand" (a ballad) becoming the first hit, becoming a No. 1 country hit in the summer of 1975. As that song's popularity began falling off, there came "Don't Cry, Joni," a tale about a 15-year-old girl's infatuation with her 22-year-old neighbor, his rejection of her, and – several years later, after realizing she may have been the girl for him all along – returning home to start a relationship but learning that she had wed his best friend. "Don't Cry, Joni," whose female vocal was by Joni Lee James (Twitty's daughter), became a top 5 hit that fall.
- Michael Jackson did this with the first single release from HIStory, "Scream"/"Childhood".
- Wings had the double A side "Mull of Kintyre"/"Girls School". "Mull of Kintyre" was massively popular in the UK, while "Girls School" was ignored; in the USA, "Girls School" was a hit and nobody remembers "Mull of Kintyre".
- The commercial single of Lonestar's "No News" (their second single) was a double A-side with its predecessor, "Tequila Talkin'."
- "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions" by Queen are usually played one after the other on the Radio.
Famous songs that were originally B-sides
- Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," with the first A-side being "Reason to Believe." While "Reason to Believe" gained airplay during the summer of 1971, it wasn't long before "Maggie May" – the song about a young adult's infatuation and mixed emotions over his infatuation with an older woman – became the clear favorite of both the radio-listening audience and disc jockeys. Despite its length of 5:15 ("Reason to Believe" itself clocks in at just over four minutes), the song was fitted on a standard 7-inch single in its full edit (excepting for an early fade) ... and soon became a classic that is played heavily to this day.
- Boney M originally released "Brown Girl in the Ring" as the B-side to "Rivers of Babylon". Once "Rivers of Babylon" had become a hit and was slipping down the charts, they asked radio stations to start playing "Brown Girl in the Ring" instead — and then released that as the A-side of a single, with the B-side — what else? — "Rivers of Babylon". Effectively, many people ended up buying the same record again but upside down.
- The song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (by "Steam") was written for the purpose of being the inferior B-side song for a number of A-side songs. It became a hit, while most of the A-sides were forgotten.
- Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" was originally the B-side to his cover of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," which was also a top five hit but not as big as "Ice Ice Baby."
- "Move It" by Cliff Richard and the Drifters and "Shakin' All Over" by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (the first British rock record and rock number 1, respectively).
- "Beth", KISS' biggest pop hit, was originally the b-side to "Detroit Rock City."
- ABBA's "S.O.S.", which was one of their first worldwide hits, was originally issued as the B-side to the mainly forgotten "Man in the Middle".
- "How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths was first released as a B-side and only later given a proper single release. This is commonly cited as the reason for its comparatively poor chart performance.
- Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" was originally the B-side to "Substitute."
- Oasis's "Acquiesce" started out as the B-side to "Some Might Say". Such was its popularity with fans that it became a single itself a few years later (natch, it was as the lead-off single from The Masterplan, a collection of B-sides).
- Red Hot Chili Peppers' Soul To Squeeze was the B Side to both "Give It Away" and "Under The Bridge" in 1991. In 1993 it appeared on the Coneheads soundtrack and was released as a single. Many people thought it was a new song, which was why the song was a hit.
- Many songs by The Beatles were originally released as B-sides, including such classics as "Rain", "I Am the Walrus", "Revolution", "Don't Let Me Down" and "The Inner Light".
- Some Beatles albums managed to have the A-side and the B-side end up as #1 hits.
- A really weird example is "Hey Hey What Can I Do?" by Led Zeppelin. The band was no stranger to releasing singles, however, none of them were non-album songs. This one, released as the B-side of "Immigrant Song", was, and yet remains a beloved radio staple to many a Zepp fan.
- They originally recorded it to be a non-album single in the UK, but decided against it, so it was an obvious choice for interntational B Side. It was in the running for Led Zeppelin III at one point but not included.
- "Incense And Peppermints" by The Strawberry Alarm Clock. "Birdman Of Alkatrash" was its original A-side, but radio DJs preferred the flip-side instead.
- An abridged version of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the B-side of The Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women". When the full version was released on Let It Bleed, it became just as popular.
- "Dear God" is one of XTC's most well-known songs, but it originally was the b-side to their single "Grass". Once it started unexpectedly getting radio play, it not only got it's own single, but it also was added to the US version of their album Skylarking, replacing the song "Mermaid Smiled". The most recent reissue of Skylarking includes both songs, though: "Mermaid Smiled" is in it's original place on the album, while "Dear God" is included as a bonus track.
- A near example came while George Harrison was working on doing a B-side for a single off his new solo album. Visiting with his friend Bob Dylan, who had a mini recording studio in his place, he ended up doing a little song along with a few other friends, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, taking the name from a tag on one of Dylan's travel cases. When he sent it to the record company, they saw immediately that this was NOT B-side material song and asked for more. The result was that Handle With Care became the lead song from The Traveling Wilburys' first album.
- Pink Floyd's ''Careful With That Axe, Eugene".
- Elvis Costello & The Attractions' cover version of Brinzley Shwarz's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", which came to cover up the original. Not only was it originally a b-side, but it wasn't even a B-side to an Elvis Costello single - it first appeared as the B-side to "American Squirm", a single by Nick Lowe, who wrote "...Peace Love And Understanding".
- U2's "The Sweetest Thing" was originally a b-side to "Where the Streets Have No Name" in 1987. Eleven years later they re-recorded it for The Best of 1980-1990 and that version became a sizable hit.
- U2 did it again with their B.B. King collaboration When Love Comes To Town. While the A-side was certainly strong, many radio stations flipped it over and gave equal airtime to the B-Side, a cover of Patti Smith's Dancin' Barefoot.
- Chicago's "Colour My World" was a B-side twice; it backed "Make Me Smile" in 1970 and "Beginnings" in '71.
- Alan Jackson used "Home" as a b-side for five songs before releasing it in April 1996.
- "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas was originally supposed to be a B-side to "I Want to Give You My Everything" (they had a three-hour recording session, and had to rush "Kung Fu Fighting" in the last ten minutes). The label decided to swap and make it an A-side.
- "Born Slippy .NUXX" by Underworld ("lager, lager, lager, mega-mega-white thing..."), famous for appearing in the final scenes of Trainspotting, was originally a B-side to the very different track "Born Slippy" and was more or less thrown together as a joke.
- Feeder's "Just A Day" was originally the B Side to "Seven Days In The Sun", before it appeared on the Gran Turismo 3 soundtrack, from which it was released as a single in its own right. It ended up becoming a huge hit.
- As with "Shatter", once the B Side to "Tumble And Fall", and then released on their Greatest Hits album "The Singles" from which it was a single (albeit slightly remixed). The band really wanted this track on Pushing The Senses but the record company felt it was too heavy, so they were glad to have it on The Singles.
- When New Order released their singles compilation Substance in 1987, they recorded the song "1963" to promote it, but when they came to produce a B-side for it, they came up with "True Faith", and "1963" got relegated to the flipside instead. However, "1963" was so popular with both critics and fans that when they put out their next Greatest Hits compilation a few years later, a remixed version finally got released as an A-side in its own right.
- Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs" was left off of the Rumours album and became a B-side to "Go Your Own Way" (much to Stevie Nicks' chagrin). The song finally got its time to shine when the live version from The Dance became a single in 1997.
- When Elton John's "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" became the greatest-selling single of all time, it was largely thanks to its B-side: the Princess Diana tribute "Candle in the Wind 1997."