|"This is the b-side of our platter, sports fans, hope it makes you sick". Now all but consigned to history by the rise of the dance remix and the CD single, the b-side of the average 7" platter was like a sort of musical lucky dip. You never knew whether you were going to get some fantastic discarded track left off an album for timing reasons, or just an instrumental version of an a-side that was hardly particularly vocal to begin with. As a salute to the long-lost days when the baffling prefixes 'c/w' and 'b/w' were a common sight, and as a b-side to our very own Top 100 Singles, TV Cream proudly presents our Final Countdown (c/w 'On Broken Wings') of the flipsides we loved, whether they made us laugh, cry, stare at the sleeve in complete bafflement, or indeed 'sick'. Pass the detonator...|
100 Napoleon XIV ‘!!aaaaaaaaaaaaaah-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT
gnimoC er’yehT’ (c/w ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away,
And to think people complained about Stock, Aitken and Waterman putting instrumentals on their b-sides. The flipside of the oh-so-tasteful ode to being taken away to the ‘funny farm’ was actually just the a-side run backwards, complete with a mirror image of the a-side’s label. This gimmick was later re-used to impressive effect by The Stone Roses, who were sufficiently adept at masking their similar dearth of fresh inspiration (and indeed new songs) to convince legions of podgy blokes in student unions that the likes of ‘Guernica’ are not so much inessential ripoffs as ‘mellow tunes, man’.
99 The Clash ‘Straight To Hell’ (c/w ‘Should I Stay Or
Should I Go?’)
There is no middle ground with The Clash; either you revere them as demi-gods of ‘right on’ politically fuelled music who represent the yardstick by which all other acts should be judged, or you can’t understand why there’s so much fuss about a tuneless racket with didactic lyrics when at least the Sex Pistols had a bit of humour about the whole thing. TV Cream, naturally, takes both of the above positions, and views ‘Straight To Hell’ as definitive proof of them both. The World Music-tinged ballad is tuneless but great for fist in the air shoutalong sessions, and its lyrics are to say the least muddly and incomprehensible, containing as they do a load of difficult-to-interconnect geographical references, but are nonetheless full of the embittered observations and incendiary clarion calls that the angry semi-politicised fifteen-year-old in all of us cannot help but see as a powerful and empowering statement on everything that is ‘bad’ in the world. Significantly, ‘Straight To Hell’ later became the theme song of a bizarre Alex Cox movie featuring The Pogues as Banditos or something, which probably only serves to underline its reputation as a confused meeting of inspiration and tedium.
98 Cilla Black ‘Liverpool Lullaby’ (c/w
And at 8pm, it’s loveable heartwarming scouse sitcom hilarity as poverty, child-beating and the destructive effects of alcohol are made light of for the purposes of conforming to a ‘cheeky’ regional stereotype and the innocent people of Liverpool have their reputation and intelligence dragged through the mud yet again. Essentially a Carla Mad sitcom set to dreary, maudlin and unnecessary treacly music, ‘Liverpool Lullaby’ scrapes the list more as a result of collective shared memories of being unwillingly subjected to it rather than on the basis of its artistic merits, although the rather bizarre lyrical image of a child having entire intact jam tarts lodged in their hair does raise an unintentional smirk of sorts. Mind you, TVC did once actually punch a clock radio on hearing it first thing in the morning, muttering something about hoping Brian Matthews felt that. Later covered, somewhat oddly, by long-forgotten mumblers The Crash Test Dummies. For less offensive and more tolerable b-sidery from ‘Our Cilla’ see ‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’, the Radiophonic Workshop-influenced and Morrissey endorsed flipside of ‘Where Is Tomorrow?’.
97 Band Aid ‘Feed The World’ (c/w ‘Do They Know It’s
"I wouldn’t have wanted to sing on that rotten record", quoth Phil Oakey in 1994 Yet if the invitation to assist in the letting them know of the imminence of Christmastime had indeed extended to ‘the girls’ and The Human League had actually attended the session, chances are that they would not only have ended up singing on said ‘rotten record’, but talking on it too. For the b-side was little more than an instrumental version of the a-side, only with recordings of those present at the session proferring seasonal greetings and exhortations to feed the world grafted over the top. So far, so Weller. Yet the reverse was noteworthy for affording substantial performance time to those whose presence on the a-side had not extended beyond virtually imperceptible contributions to the ‘choir’ (step forth Mark Brezeczki out of Big Country), and indeed those who were unable to turn up to the recording itself, including Holly Johnson on the other end of a crackly telephone line, and a bafflingly high quality recording of Paul McCartney saying something indecipherable at an inexplicably quick tape speed ("sorry I can’t be with you, aszhsawa, shup, zeeep!" or words to that effect). Best remembered for inspiring many a young listener to go on to use Bono’s "Happy Christmas and… a… Merry New Year" amusement in every single Christmas Card that they have ever written, and for still managing to sound a lot less pointless than the copycat efforts on the flipsides of the various charity singles that appeared in the slipstream of Bob Geldof’s world-changing effort (naming no ‘Gospel Soul Jams’).
96 The Human League ‘Non-Stop’ (c/w ‘Open Your
Coming across like Phil Oakey’s take on the sort of instrumental music that used to get played over a caption card of the McWomble before the BBC’s television service started up for the day, ‘Non-Stop’ (quite appropriately named, given that exceeds the normal b-side length conventions by some amount and eventually clocks in at close to five minutes) sounds as though it was fashioned from an assortment of potential chorus hooks and ear-catching synth noises that were left over when he had finished writing "Dare". Its upbeat jollity is somewhat at odds with the more moody and considered sophistication of the a-side (and indeed with pretty much everything else that The Human League did around that time, making it sound rather worryingly close to a joke when appended to the end of CD reissues of "Dare"), but nonetheless it was always (and in fact still is) top music to play at the start of a marathon summer holidays b-sides session.
95 The Saint Orchestra ‘Funko’ (c/w ‘The Return Of The
‘Cheap’ and ‘nasty’ are hardly the words. With the itself hardly classy theme tune to accompany the animated escapades of a pin man battling some blokes in ‘old-skool’ tracksuits and throwing a feather boa away in the bag, the hastily assembled ‘Saint Orchestra’ (and how many orchestras do you know of that feature little more than an early synthesiser, a wah-wah guitar and the odd trumpet?) cut loose in the studio for a quick instrumental jam in the age-old ‘almost but not quite like the a-side’ tradition, whilst everyone else in the world hastily wedges their fingers in their ears. The end result was so tacky that they seemingly couldn’t even be bothered making the effort to think of anything other than the most desultory (and hardly appropriate) title imaginable.
94 Martika ‘Exchange Of Hearts’ (c/w ‘Toy
When 20-year old American Martika burst into the Top 10 in 1989, we thought it could be another Madonna. Well, her name was a bit similar, and she dressed a bit provocatively. ‘Exchange of Hearts’, at the time, encouraged such comparisons, as the production sounded not dissimilar to many of the tracks on Madonna’s first album, five or six years earlier. In fact, it was exactly the sort of thing that would be playing at a teenage party that you might have attended at the time. Now it sounds a bit dated, more like the screechy guitar pieces you probably used to get on Channel 5 soft porn programmes. And then, of course, Martika got involved with Prince and went off the rails, much to the disapproval of Phillip Schofield at the time, who noticed her moral decline with great sadness, and liked to tell people this at every opportunity.
93 The Tweets ‘Mellow Terrain’ (c/w ‘The Birdie
Facts amazing - when TVC first heard a load of kids sing "and shake your arse!" over the A-side, we had never heard of the word before and assumed that it was really spelt and pronounced ‘hearse’ and they were all dropping the ‘h’. We had much more fun with the B-side. Of course, The Tweets themselves were simply a bunch of jobbing session musicians dressed up as canaries, and seemingly they were given free reign on the flip to essay one of the other tunes in their repertoire. What we got was 'Mellow Terrain', a nice flute-driven instrumental that you could easily imagine backing Pages From Ceefax or being piped into British Home Stores - probably because that was what it was originally written for. We're not aware of any 'rude' lyrics to this, or indeed any lyrics at all, though you could sing ‘Mellow Terrain’ along with it. They really should have released this as their second single as opposed to the cash-in 'Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing', which unsurprisingly flopped. They could have been the British equivalent of Ray Stevens if they'd tried!
92 Mike Oldfield ‘Rite Of Man’ (c/w ‘Moonlight
The poppy A-side, sung by prime where-are-they-now? candidate Maggie Reilly was a runaway success in the summer of 83 But turn over to the B-side it's a totally different story. Possibly knowing he was onto a winner with ‘Moonlight Shadow’, and eager to cast off his (at the time) deeply unfashionable folk rock image, Mike Oldfield presents this slice of anti-folk folk. Morris dancer rhythms with lots of jingly tambourines, he qualifies lines like "do not dismay to-loo-rye-aye speak up for the rite of man" by singing "here's to another folk cliché". Mocking the genre and loving every minute of it. A plodder but a grower all the same.
91 Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin ‘Jane B’ (c/w ‘Je
T’aime… Moi Non Plus’)
Clearly recorded in the same session as its more notorious a-side, sharing as it does its arrangement and an almost identical bassline, ‘Jane B’ swaps heavy breathing and lyrics about nothing beating physical lovemaking for what appears to be, erm, a missing persons report being filed for the exuberant Ms. Birkin and her ‘aqualine’ nose. As usual, it’s virtually impossible even for the most fluent speaker of French to be able to decipher exactly what Serge Gainsbourg was rambling on about, but it’s probably fair to say that Frederick Chopin, credited as co-composer on this track, would hardly have been delighted by it. Whether or not this far more innocent (well, come on, that’s hardly difficult) track was condemned by Mary Whitehouse and The Vatican along with its companion piece is sadly not known.
90 Carol Bayer Sager ‘Aces’ (c/w ‘You’re Moving Out
The bouncy novelty a-side was not what people usually expected of Carole Bayer Sager. Perhaps that's why it was her only chart hit as a performer. Usually found behind the scenes as a top notch Brill Building songwriter providing smash hits for the great and good (and indeed the not-so-great and not-so-good), she tried her hand at singing a song nobody else was convinced by a la Ian Broudie, and ‘You're Moving Out Today’ was a surprise smash in 1977 On the other side is more earnest, heart-wrenching fare of the sort that she more normally produced for chartbound Americans with their eye on becoming FM Radio ‘staples’, and jolly good it is too. All the better, in fact, for being performed by its actual writer, rather than a bunch of talentless swaft-rawk cretins with too much hairspray and holding guitars that aren’t actually audible.
89 Boney M ‘Plantation Boy’ (c/w
Two protest songs in one here. Odd though, that at Christmas 1977, and at the top of the pop tree, Boney M should choose to release a song about the troubles in Belfast. It was a hit all the same. Flip over to the other side and here's another song with a message. ‘Plantation Boy’ seemed to be about the emancipation of slaves in the southern states of America: "Plantation boy, come on and get happy, yesterday's chains, are broken in two". Or perhaps it was about record company contract disputes. Could easily have been the a-side, while ‘Belfast’ would have made a better b-side.
88 The The ‘Three Orange Kisses From Kazan’ (c/w
Bizarrely, there was a point in the late 1980s when the tabloid press made an ill-fated (probably because nobody much had heard of him at that point) attempt to turn Matt Johnson into some sort of provocative arty bete noire, what with him writing songs condemning the West’s attitude to the Middle East, releasing a single with the word ‘scrotum’ in it, and appearing in a video with lots of flashing images. A couple of years earlier, he was merely an aspirant singer-songwriter with a neat line in, um, arty and provocative lyrics, as were exemplified by this overlooked gem about people who repeat what they read and squeezing your boss until you hear this sound (cue high-pitched backward guitar, for some reason). What’s more, it all comes couched in a scary mock-eastern-arrangement with distorted vocals that make it sound like one of Badly Drawn Boy’s nightmares.
87 Pet Shop Boys ‘You Know Where You Went Wrong’ (c/w
‘It’s A Sin’)
BBC Radiophonic Workshop soundsmith Dick Mills was always on the lookout for everyday sounds that he could turn into strange sound effects for programmes like "Doctor Who", "Blake’s 7" and "The Val Doonican Show" (although Dick can take no credit for the weird noises that came out of the Irish crooner’s vocal cords). One day in 1981, Dick was in his kitchen and noticed that the kitchen tap was dripping, the drops of water splashing on to the base of the aluminium sink in perfect rhythm. Intrigued, he temporarily blocked the drip with his finger then released it, thus altering the pattern. Enthused, he went off for his reel to reel tape recorder and recorded a number of rhythmic variations of the dripping tap, distorting the sound live through a complex connection of tin cans, milk bottles and tea strainers. However, the following week Dick took delivery of a new reel-to-reel tape recorder, and gave away his old one – inadvertently failing to remove the tape reel containing the dripping tap recordings. This reel-to-reel recorder ended up in an electronics shop on London’s Kings Road a few weeks later, where it was purchased by two men who had just met up in said shop and decided to form an electro-pop group. A few years later in 1987, those two men – having attained great success - were working on a B-side for their new single, ‘It’s A Sin’. The song in question, ‘You Know Where You Went Wrong’, was a catchy number of a-side quality, its lyrics dealing with people having to face up to the fact that they alone are responsible for their current situations, but the song was lacking something. Eventually, Neil and Chris realised that they needed a more interesting intro for their kitchen sink audio drama, and remembered the tape left on the reel-to-reel recorder they purchased a few years before. The Pet Shops Boys made millions, while Dick earned a modest BBC salary. Dick Mills, you know where you went wrong. You know where you went wrong. You know. See also the "The Clothes Show"-friendly ‘In The Night’ (c/w ‘Opportunities’) and ’Do I Have To?’ (c/w ‘Always On My Mind’)
86 The Toy Dolls ‘Fisticuffs In Frederick Street’ (c/w
‘Nellie The Elephant’)
Notorious for not actually wanting their punked-up tale of packing trunks and saying goodbye to the circus to be a hit as it attracted the wrong kind of audience, The Toy Dolls always gave perfect examples of why certain audiences were wrong for them with such efforts as ‘Deidre Is A Slag’, ‘When You’re Jimmy Saville’, the brilliantly titled ‘Cloughie Is A Bootboy’, and their rendition of the theme song from "The Adventures Of Rupert Bear" ("all these verses are the f-cking same!!!"). ‘Fisticuffs On Frederick Street’, the flipside of their freak hit, was no exception – essentially an almost literal ‘blow-by-blow’ account of a street scuffle of such magnitude that it had actually made the local news, helpfully advising listeners that "Fosters Club is not the place to go, unless you want your head kicking in". Okay, so it was hardly ‘Ghost Town’, but when you’ve got blokes in red frightwigs shouting, does that really matter?
85 John Cooper Clarke ‘Sleepwalk’ (c/w
The a-side of this offering from the drainpiped punk poet is ace, with obligatory gimmicks (or should that be gimmix?) thrown in - it's one of those double-groovers, with alternate expletive-free and expletive-ridden versions of the poem, depending on where the needle falls. The b-side, however, is a no-frills classic - over a hypnotic Martin Hannett backing - a premonition of early acid house wobblings slowed down to an appropriately somnambulant pace, with a bit of slap bass and celestial synth thrown in - Clarke spits out a vicious diatribe against a terminally lazy society. "Stop, look, listen to the zombie, the hoochie coochie blues, black slacks and a crombie, Gucci shoes". When Tom Paulin claimed to detect "a throbbing and exultantly dionysiac wildness" in Johnny's work, we like to think he was talking about this, rather than the Sugar Puffs Snappy Badges song.
84 Jon And Vangelis ‘Back To School’ (c/w ‘I’ll Find My
Even those morally opposed to the prog credentials of Jon Anderson and Vangelis couldn't help but warm to the wistful ditty on the front of this single, and jolly nice it was too, even despite the boredom of their "Top Of The Pops" appearance which saw the producer cut halfway through to a procession of photographs of ‘Jon’ looking mightily impressed whilst ‘Vangelis’ showed him some synthesisers. Bit of a shock, then, to flip the thing over and be confronted with this slice of heads down, no-nonsense, mindless boogie, with sarky lyrics from Anderson parodying early rock 'n' roll's anti-work posturings ("man, it's crazy out here in the outer world") with some endearingly overwrought lines ("I tried to get an understanding with the foreman boss, he simply put me down, and said I wasn't to be trusted") over a highly competent, muscular eight-bar backing from the rotund Greek. All accusations of humourlessness thus dispatched, the duo went on to record an album ("The Friends of Mr Cairo") which featured both these, the original version of the mighty State of Independence, and a load of rather obtuse conceptual stuff about gangsters.
83 Yazoo ‘Winter Kills’ (c/w ‘’Don’t
At this stage in Yazoo’s career, most erstwhile ‘Pop Pickers’ were still expecting Vince Clarke to come up with jolly synthesized melodies; although, considering that the only previous offering from the duo had been their debut single ‘Only You’, nobody is quite certain of exactly how this state of affairs came about. Nonetheless, most listeners were pleasantly surprised by this dark, sombre ballad, written by Alison ‘Alf’ Moyet herself, which no doubt provided further impetus for the adolescent Pat Kane of Hue And Cry to wish for her to smother him with her sexuality (whatever that might actually mean). Erasure, French And Saunders and looking like The Olmecs from "Mysterious Cities Of Gold" whilst performing on Montreux ’87 may have lain ahead, but Yazoo were something to be treasured on account of their un-popstar like image (most atypical for the era of New Romanticism), their mounting of funny disco light display boxes in front of the requisite banks of synthesisers, and of course for their b-sides.
82 The Barry Gray Orchestra ‘Parker, Well Done!’ (c/w
For those who were too miserly to fork out the required shillings and pence for one of the innumerable TV21 EPs capturing Gerry Anderson's creations in new audio-only adventures, the reverse of the theme tune from "Thunderbirds" boasted what was, in effect, a cut down (in all respects) variation of this ethos. 'Parker, Well Done!' actually begins as a rather twee song, in which Lady Penelope establishes through a series of affirmative grumbles from her chauffeur that the famed pink Rolls Royce is actually capable of traversing an ordinary roadway. Some typically bombastic incidental music heralds the arrival of Jeff Tracy over the radio link, advising 'er ladyship that he has a "hot one" and wants her to "take care of it" (lines of dialogue that, hilariously, would later be sampled by Coldcut for 'Doctorin' The House'). Said "hot one" is a motor vehicle that the dynamic duo pursue through a rather messy melange of dramatic music, sound effects and snatches of near-dialogue ("now, m'lady?" - "now, Parker"), and finally shoot off the road before returning home to the accompaniment of a reprise of the opening song, in which Lady P apologises for having "messed up all your gear" ("you'll have to clean the guns again I fear"). This proves to be no skin off Parker's considerable nose, as he has apparently yet to fuel the gas bombs and sharpen up the spears(!?!??!?). A flimsy storyline derived from a series that was hardly ever exactly akin to "The Singing Detective" in terms of density of plot anyway, 'Parker, Well Done!' is nonetheless a perfectly charming piece as long as you're not expecting Thunderbird 2, The Hood, Braiman or any hint of actual excitement. For further Barry Gray-related b-side marvellousness, see 'Hijacked' (c/w 'Joe 90'), the Northern Soul purist-infuriating, Tamla Motown-beat driven elaboration on a short piece of music used in a single episode of an inferior Supermarionation effort.
81 Scott Walker ‘The Plague’ (c/w
Although his albums are legendary for their overorchestrated existential intensity, Scott Walker's contemporaneous solo singles are less well remembered. There's a good reason for this - most of them were little more than sugary mainstream fare aimed squarely at winning another appearance on "Saturday Night At The London Palladium" (in which, erm, he would probably have sung 'The Girls From The Streets' and frightened some pensioners and teenage girls). The one exception to this was 1968's 'Jackie', which perhaps predictably was immediately ‘banned’ by the BBC (well, they wouldn't let Simon Dee play it on "Midday Spin") for its use of rather 'colourful' language about drugs and harems and old grandmothers decked out like Christmas trees and the like. It's a good job, then, that Mr. Dee didn't decide to give in to the reputed sackfuls of listener requests by flipping the single over and playing its hauntingly choral Camus-influenced b-side, then, or his meteoric media rise and fall might have ended before it had actually begun. If ever there was a song that would strike fear into the hearts of all god-fearing men, it is ‘The Plague’, in which Scott Walker assumes the role of a Bible Belt preacher who delivers his message through the medium of Northern Soul, backed by the Shirelles. Opening with doomladen chimes, the track launches into plaintive female wails of "la-la-la-la-laaa" echoing around a desolate soundscape of screeching guitars, backed by a steady drumbeat. Then the Walker enters proceedings, vocally letting rip on this track, leaving his usual mellifluous tone behind in favour of a raw, R&B style. "I spent many a night laying on my back waiting for the dawn to pierce a crack in the ceiling hanging from the sky" sings Scott, doing his best Chris Farlowe impression, going on to accuse his libido of being a plague. "My nakedness exposed, and I can’t stand. Still I try to remember lips on lips, and hits on the hips" admits Scott, clearly recovering from last night’s action, before posing the age-old question: "how can I live an hour like this, when anguish strikes me like a fist?" - well, how indeed…? But in the middle of all the usual elliptical similies, there is one that hits the nail on the head: "Like a dead leaf scrapes the gravelled ground - my voice cries out, a gravelled sound, but no-one’s there to hear me but the plague". Yes Scott, but are you surprised that there’s no-one to hear you? Anyone who dropped their stylus on this in the late sixties would have ran screaming to the hills, frightened out of their wits! Thanks to the single's low sales, for many years this was one of the rarest Scott solo tracks, although Marc Almond and The Tindersticks clearly managed to find copies.
80 REM ‘Dark Globe’ (c/w ‘Orange
Cover versions have always enjoyed a giggly child-like place in the REM catalogue - an enjoyable by-product of having a bit too much spare studio time. Never an attempt to cynically latch onto the ready-made success of a 'classic' for its own gain, the band's shaky, unpolished and sometimes comical renditions of personal favourites have always offered a candid insight into its world as a neat alternative to those occasions when Michael Stipe indulges in one too many lyrical "Gravit-eeee" analogies. Notable examples of such innocent arsing-about making it to vinyl include a nice scratchy 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', and a drunkenly-crooned, so-laid-back-it's-practically-in-a-coma 'King Of The Road'. Live performances have also served up enjoyable covers, including their coy version of The Troggs' 'Love Is All Around' and a ridiculous thrashed-about reading of Iggy Pop's 'Fun Time', in which Stipe added new lyrics alluding to the fact that the band had been to see 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' in the cinema the night before. Apparently slightly miffed that they weren't asked to contribute to Imaginary Records' Syd Barrett-tribute 'Beyond The Wildwood' (which, to be fair, could have done with their presence), REM later offered up this startling cover of 'Dark Globe', from Barrett's 'The Madcap Laughs'. Wailing in what Chris Morris isolated as his trademark "Stipendian style" over a simple piano accompaniment (and using something approaching the actual melody!), Michael transforms the cautiously-strummed original into nothing less than an audition for a broadway musical, conjuring up images of an otherwise empty stage bathed in a single blue spotlight - and perhaps even a pair of camp producers in the stalls patiently waiting for the song to end so they can say "Thank you, we'll let you know!". Syd would be proud.
79 Jason Donovan ‘The Story Of My Life’ (c/w
Imagine Stock Aitken Waterman producing Nick Drake? Difficult, isn’t it? But listening to the B-side of Jason Donovan’s chirpy cover of ‘Rhythm Of The Rain’ might act as a good starting point. ‘The Story Of My Life’ finds our Jase in a melancholy mood – and this was a good ten years before he lost his hair and ended up singing in the Brannigan’s chain of pubs to earn a buck. The electric guitar-driven song kicks off with some fine wailing axe work (courtesy of Matt Aitken, whose superb guitar playing was overshadowed by SAW’s reliance upon keyboards and drum machines), then some piano riffs are added to the mix, followed by horns. Sounds an odd mix on paper, but it works, and although the song has a real energy about it, it’s not quite as joyous as the usual SAW fare. "And by the way, if you’re looking for sunshine / I ain’t the luckiest one", a feeling-sorry-for-himself Jason warns potential squeezes, "ff you come with me, there’d be cloud in the desert / or a total eclipse of the sun". Bloody hell! Who let Leonard Cohen into the PWL studios? The best thing about the track is that, for Stock Aitken Waterman, it was more adventurous in terms of arrangement and production, and as such harks back to the early vibrant days of the partnership, when they weren’t afraid to work across various genres, like guitar-driven pop (Brilliant), latin jazz (Mondo Kane, Georgie Fame) and soul (The Three Degrees, Princess). To be honest, if Stock Aitken Waterman had been brave enough to experiment a bit more in this fashion, then perhaps the music critics may have seen there was more to them than just Linn drum patterns and Fairlight synthesisers...
78 Madness ‘Fireball XL5’ (c/w ‘The Sun And The
Picture a ten year old boy who liked Gerry Anderson shows, especially those that had a summer holiday morning repeat two years before. Imagine that self-same boy thinking that the closing theme tune to Fireball XL5 – Don Spencer’s ‘Fireball’ – was a catchy little number. Imagine that boy’s disappointment at finding out that the song was not commercially available. But just imagine if the boy happened across the Madness single ‘The Sun And The Rain’ and discovered that the B-side was called ‘Fireball XL5’! Surely it had to be a cover of the closing theme – not even the Nutty Boys were nutty enough to cover the opening theme, were they? Imagine if the boy were to buy the single… and imagine his excitement at placing the stylus on the record… only to find it wasn’t a cover, but a baffling rockabilly workout – like a pissed Scatman John crossed with Elvis Presley and Tenpole Tudor. Still, at least the A-side was a good ‘un…
77 Queen ‘I’m In Love With My Car’ (c/w ‘Bohemian
That unique Roger ‘Fun In Space’ Taylor vocal tone gets (we think) its first work out on a 7" (albeit on the B-side of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) with ‘I'm In Love With My Car’. We always like to think of it as the cleansing gingery stuff to Bo Rap's three-course engorgement of hamaguri, hamo and hatahata (umm, that's three virulent types of sushi - or so we're told). Leaving tortured Japanese food metaphors to one side for a moment, ‘I'm In Love With My Car’ is as straightforward and basic as its flipside is dense and complex. A woozy rocker with some ace harmonies, and one of the best lines in the Queen canon ("told my girl I had to forget her, rather buy me a new carburettor") its sort of unremarkable but still rather good in a way that is both irritating and commendable. Elsewhere, 'See What A Fool I've Been' (c/w 'Seven Seas Of Rhye') is definitely the sound of a group still unsure of what they are meant to be. A slightly rambling incoherent tune, it's made all the more interesting thanks to the fact that it contains the first signs of Freddie Mercury's propensity for camp lyrics ("didn't give me no warning you naughty thing you!"). Around this time the ‘boys’ (as Brian May always referred to them) had their heads well and truly up their Tolkein arses, and as so ‘See What A Fool I've Been’ (which is really rather straightforward) is a welcome relief from the maddening prattle about gubbins such as the Fairy Feller's Master strokes (and of course light years away from the manifestation of Queen that would later become beloved of all dads and women who work in betting shops).
76 Kate Bush ‘Ken’ (c/w ‘Love And
A classic case of getting the record back to front. This was the third and last single culled from Kate Bush's 'Sensual World' album, and was the least radio-friendly (scraping the middle-aged end of the top forty for a couple of weeks before disappearing). Meanwhile, over on the flipside was a jaunty, instantly catchy power pop classic in the unlikely shape of 'Ken'. Originally recorded for the Comic Strip's 'GLC', it essentially follows the same pastiche format of the film (insofar as it marries the overblown with the heavily ironic), although actually ends up being all the better for it. No small achievement for a song about Ken Livingstone. Compared to the Mother Earth earnestness of the usual Kate Bush melodies, 'Ken' is a real let-your-hair-down shakeout (it opens with Sisters Of Mercy-style Linn drums, synth horns and a "waaaaah" straight out of the Wendy James book of screaming). But it's the lyrics that really sell the track. Where else in pop music will you hear the couplet "Ken is the funky sex machine, Ken is the leader of the GLC" or, indeed, half-inched lines from the theme tune to 'Rawhide' jammed in the bridge (no emails please, this correspondence is already closed)? This really should be played every single time the London Mayor appears on telly. Also worthy of note in the Bush b-side canon are the lusty re-recording of 'Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)' (c/w 'Experiment IV') and noodly bass ballad 'Walk Straight Down The Middle' (c/w 'The Sensual World'), the latter of which featured on a nifty double-grooved 12" of the a-side (and that, depending on where the stylus started, meant you either ended up listening to the vocal or instrumental versions of the song - neat!).
75 Fox ‘Silk Milk’ (c/w ‘ S-s-single
Ah, Fox! Nearly three decades on, and still no nearer being rediscovered, re-evaluated, or even noticed. But never mind. This song, along with the seductive slink of the unimpeachable a-side, sets out the stall of Kenny Young's oddball band as well as any - the lop-sided, jerky rhythm, the distinct lack of a restraining hand on the flanger, and of course the squeaky-husky, inch-high Marlene Deitrich vocals of Noosha Fox (nee Susan Traynor), breathily espousing the delights of... well, we won't analyse the lyrical symbolism here, if you don't mind. If no-one revives this act in the next eighteen months, we're going to have to do it ourselves.
74 Norman Greenbaum ‘Milk Cow Blues’ (c/w ‘Spirit In The
Practically everybody within eight miles of a recording studio had a go at covering this standard in the 1960s, from The Kinks all the way to sitar-wielding hallucinogen-guzzling garage band misfits Chocolate Watchband, and so as that decade gave way to the promise of a new one, what better way to illustrate the morning after the night before than having a heavy proto-prog rendition with hefty overtones of what was to follow over the next five years on the reverse of one of the biggest hit singles of 1970 (which, with its volume-distorted psychedelic guitar-riffing, was in itself something of a musical hangover from the previous decade)? Norman Greenbaum was a textbook One Hit Wonder, and famously so – in fact, such was the paucity of other familiar offerings from his back catalogue, that when ‘Spirit In The Sky’ was reissued by long-forgotten ‘Two Vintage Hits On One Single’ label Old Gold, they had to resort to simply sticking its original b-side on the reverse.
73 Sigue Sigue Sputnik ‘Buy EMI (£4 Million Mix)’ (c/w
‘21st Century Boy’)
Ahem. Making it in for the title more than any musical content (it's pretty indistinguishable to the b-side for their first single, which in turn is hardly a quantum leap in sound from the a-side), the James/Degville axis will always retain a soft spot in our hearts, with their tempting blend of vapid pro-capitalist rock 'n' roll "manifesto" slogans shouted over a "will this do? No? Well, tough" Giorgio Moroder backing with the odd obvious film dialogue sample thrown in, not to mention their dress sense, straight out of a mid-'80s straight-to-video sci-fi version of an exotic "nightclub of the future". Would you pay 75 pence for this twaddle? We did.
72 The Slits ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ (c/w
Might have been the a-side instead of Typical Girls, if Island Records had got their own way back in 1979 Frantic, sketchy punk-reggae Motown cover, outpointing Marvin Gaye's launderette soundtrack in our book, and potentially good enough to force John Walters to recant his famous quotation about regretting ever teaching the mud-smeared foul-mouthed teenagers to play their instruments properly; in fact, the whole performance is beautifully evocative of the days when Peel sessions were less about promoting new albums than they were about locking sparring bile-spitting members of The Television Personalities brandishing sharpened cymbals in different rooms in order to calm down enough to get something on tape. Fabulously demented vocals from Ari Up, especially brilliant when amending the lyrics to "I heard it through the bassline". Now revered in bootleg circles, apparently.
71 Patrick MacNee and Honor Blackman ‘Let’s Keep It
Friendly’ (c/w ‘Kinky Boots’)
Nothing more than Kinky Boots in a different tempo, ‘Let's Keep It Friendly’ is the same off-key voice battling for attention on this equally short slice of early Sixties pop. But the beauty of it is its Englishness – if you didn't know who it was it could be a couple of schoolteachers ticking each other off. And what could be more identifiably English in the Sixties than "The Avengers" and these two stars? It's all about just being pals, no kissing or anything like that, which to the legions of fans who watched the sexual tension between the two leads unfold week after week, must have come as something of a disappointment. She may have looked rather domineering in her leather gear, and he was up for it in his bowler hat and leering grin, but they were colleagues pure and simple. Even her kinky boots couldn't sway him, this relationship was purely professional and wasn't going to be jeopardised by sex, as flirtatious as this record sounds. More like father and daughter than Frank and Nancy ever were.
70 Jasper Carrot ‘Magic Roundabout’ (c/w ‘Funky
Later dismissed by Mr Carrott as 'an abysmal song' (a trifle unfair as it's actually a smashing bit of novelty pop), 'Funky Moped' was an attempt by DJM to break Carrott as a main player via a comedy single. It worked, but not in the way they'd originally planned. The flipside, a snatch of vintage live Carrott peeled off a self-pressed promo-only acetate called "Carrott In The Club" quickly became required underground/playground listening for those who relished its filthy (at least by 1975 standards) version of Serge Danot's classic creation, keen as they were to learn that the hitherto innocent girly-girl 'Florence' "drops 'em for certain". Despite indignant denials ("Noddy and I are just good friends!") the other inhabitants of the Magic Garden are far from convinced of Florence's virginity ("Rubbish - it's all over the canteen!"). Only Dylan the rabbit speaks out in her favour, although it becomes evident that he's only doing so as a covert attempt to experience her "horizontal pleasures" himself. "Boing! 'Time for bed', said Zebedee...". Much to the astonishment of the radio DJs who hadn't bothered playing the flip, and assumed 'Funky Moped' had taken the country by storm, the release soon became a top ten hit - leading to a memorable performance by Carrott on Top Of The Pops in which he attempted to send up his 'unlikely pop star' status by dancing around in a big white suit and succeeded only in baffling the teenage audience. Had he been allowed to narrate further tales of Toytown rudery he'd probably have fared a little better.
69 Feargal Sharkey ‘The Living Actor’ (c/w ‘You Little
When this came out, the ex-Undertone, Assemblee and future Radio Authority figurehead found himself a pig firmly stuck in the middle of two warring songwriters. Maria McKee had written his massive No.1 'A Good Heart' the previous year about her ex, only for the ex, Tom Petty stooge Benmont Tench, to co-write this A-side as a riposte. Not that Sharkey cared, with the natty suits, white frills and carefully layered hair gently easing him into a million middle-class LP collections. What made this B-side stand out was the way Sharkey, as writer and producer, used a gorgeous, galvanising, understated but still prevalent double-quaver parp of brass on all the verses, the sort so simplistic it could have been done by the cornet player in a passing majorette band. Musically, it's almost a mature nursery rhyme, it's so basic. Sharkey's raucous tones thereby provided an ear-catching topper, delivering a sensitive but scathing lyric which, at face value, digs at those who use good deeds to raise their public profile. "Then they call it a work of art; but I'm just queuing for the cinema" ends the first verse, before Sharkey raises the stakes in the chorus with "nothing beats the living actor, you can't defeat the living actor" twice over. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus etc, with that smart, child-like parp throughout and something for the wordwatcher to study on top. It doesn't have airs and graces or anything flamboyant to decorate it, because it doesn't need them. It has relevance. It has charm. And it's just great.
68 Prefab Sprout ‘Diana’ (c/w ‘When Love Breaks
"It’s about the deification of a girl", remarked Paddy McAloon in 1984 of his song about the tabloid press’ fawning elevation of their then-favourite Royal, and, erm, the fact that she "smells of apple strudel". Quite what the song’s lyrical subject thought of it is not on record, although the fact that it is so far removed from her supposed favourite record, Chicken Shed Theatre’s ‘I Am In Love With The World’ ("and its barriered bland-covered seas, let your world fall in love with Tony Hart, and Morph, and the white one too" or whatever it was) is possibly an indication of what her reaction might have been. Nonetheless, ‘Diana’ is a fine song, approaching a difficult subject from a thoughtful perspective and once again displaying McAloon’s supreme compositional skills. Its reputation was slightly sullied, however, when it suddenly resurfaced with endless plays on hundreds of commercial radio stations in the late summer of 1997 Can’t think why.
67 Saint Etienne ‘Filthy’ (c/w ‘Only Love Can Break Your
One of a rash of barely legal teen rappers to emerge at the dawn of the 1990s (see also Ya Kid K, Leila K, and… erm… some others with ‘K’ in their name), Sarf Londoner Q-Tee is probably most familiar to the majority of listeners from her appearances on various early Saint Etienne tracks, rapping over Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley’s post-Madchester electropop backings in that positive, soul-searching lyrical style ("feedin’ on my knowledge like a cake") that was everywhere in the immediate post-De La Soul era. Quite unlike the sort of track that might be suggested by its rather misplaced title, ‘Filthy’ is actually a gorgeous and delicate piece of music with Q-Tee murmuring about how "this is not a media hype, maybe I’m just not that type". In conjunction with it’s a-side, which the band have still yet to better, this was by far the best single of the pop gem-strewn summer of 1991 If you don’t count Pat’n’Mick’s ‘Gimmie Some’, that is.
66 The Four Bucketeers ‘Smello’ (c/w ‘The Bucket Of Water
"Yeah, CBS want us to go on tour to promote the album, maaaaaaaan!". Mysteriously absent from the Four Bucketeers’ long-playing slab of vinyl, ‘Smello’ – which, as the title suggests, was an ode to John Gorman’s odiferous layabout with a pronounced liking for eating chips in the bath – instead accompanied ‘The Bucket Of Water Song’ on its brief but glorious flirtation with chart success and not being allowed to throw water in the "Top Of The Pops" studio. The song basically outlined Smello’s manifesto for living, with lots words of praise of excessive bodily odour and tips for an unhealthy lifestyle, but to a generation of schoolchildren it served a much more pertinent purpose – providing them with a handy melodious insult to bellow across the playground at the top of their lungs on the appearance somewhere on the horizon of a not-particularly-malodorous schoolchum who had somehow become saddled with a reputation akin to that of Gorman’s string vest-wearer, much as their contemporaries might have shouted "Compost Corner!" from a car window whilst passing a particularly grubby-looking shop (or, indeed, Lenny Henry in downtown LA). See also ‘Wuwal Wetweats’ (c/w ‘Water Is Wonderful’), the aforementioned Henry’s speech impediment-heavy impersonation of David Bellamy, which was once confusingly performed on "Tiswas" by a bunch of children doing impersonations of Henry’s impersonation.
65 Supergrass ‘Melanie Davies’ (c/w ‘Going
As if the Ray Davies inspired title wasn’t enough to get you in the mood for a Sixties pastiche, the Grass go all out on a faithful replication of the Small Faces and give us two minutes and forty-one seconds of psychedelic bliss, observing the titular Melanie Davies as she "stands all alone in her room". The energetic chorus has Gaz asking Melanie "do you need someone?" and answering for her, "I need everyone!", as Hendrix-like guitars wail in the background. It’s so reminiscent of the Small Faces’ circa "Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake" that the only thing missing is a contribution from Stanley Unwin – "Mellie Davvy-davvy on her singledom in the uppy stairey beddy fourwaller…". Also notorious amongst Supergrass fans on account of Bobsie Coombs’ absent-minded tendency to insert an extra superfluous piano roll into bits of the song that neither request or require one, and then making an "ooops!" face.
64 Clive Dunn ‘I Play The Spoons’ (c/w
"I tap them here, I tap them there, with gay abandon, everywhere, on the table, or the chair!" The A-side may now be consigned to school choir member and Herbie Flowers doorbell anecdote purgatory, but the flipside, in which Clive's putative Grandad character reminisces over his musical prowess on the "cuttle-ry" is a surprisingly sprightly companion to its better known trundling partner. "It doesn't matter what they be, table, ladle, soup or tea!" Indeed. More disturbingly still, a later verse proudly if a little implausibly boasts that "the girls love me because, you see, I play the spoons". We haven't got a musicologist in to verify it, but we're pretty sure the sprightly tune formed the basis for the similarly great theme to the TV series "Grandad", containing as it did the unforgettable couplet "plays the pianner in the strangest manner, the tunes are right but the words are wrong".
63 Nik Kershaw ‘Monkey Business’ (c/w ‘Wouldn’t It Be
The Man with the Snood burst forth into chart fame early in 1984 with his first top ten single, which it’s strange to think was written off as throwaway chart fluff at the time but sounds far more adventurous than anything that would get anywhere near the upper reaches of the singles chart nowadays. Confirming that real talent was at work here, the flipside ‘Monkey Business’ was superbly melodious, quirky and catchy. It sounded like Nik had played all the instruments himself (which he probably did, given that his interviews with "Smash Hits" generally saw him being comically labelled a ‘muso’ – their quote marks, not TVC’s for once) and put it together in half an hour, but was none the worse for that. Pity that he descended into such as "Radio Musicola" within a couple of years. Now seldom heard anywhere outside of Chris Morris’ iPod.
62 Men Without Hats ‘Security’ (c/w ‘Safety
The rarely heard flipside of their lone supposedly-an-anti-nuclear-allegory-though-what-did-the-weird-"Wicker-Man"-meets-Martin-Clunes-in-‘Snakedance’-video-have-to-do-with-that-exactly hit single, Men Without Hats’ second most famous offering ‘Security’ starts off with a spoken commentary by a man going about his daily business (aptly noting that "I put on my coat and emit my hat", followed meaningfully by "get a grip on my umbrella, I’m not looking back"), over a gentle synthesized backing track. It soon transpires that this everyday routine is what gives the voice his "security" – coupled with the advantages of "a radio" for keeping in touch. The chorus gets rockier and rockier, until the track culminates in mad feedback from an electric guitar. So much so, in fact, that whenever you played it, your mother thought that the stylus must be knackered for such a distorted noise to be screeching out. Of course, it probably was, but then that was the joys of the ‘music centre’ for you.
61 New Kids On The Block ‘Valentine Girl’ (c/w ‘Step By
It was NKOTB, as we knew them, who kickstarted the boyband predisposition towards weedy meaningless unconvincing faux-raps. As such, slushy ballads were surprisingly thin on the ground in their output, but one notable exception was the overwhelmingly syrupy 'Valentine Girl'. Featuring a rare lead vocal performance from 'square jawed' Postman Pat-lookalike Danny Wood, the drippy ode to a girl who's more beautiful than "not a star in the sky" or something is included here largely on account of its disproportionate ubiquity. During the five minutes or so when younger sisters were fanatically enraptured by the five ridiculously-wide-smile-sporting heartthrobs, 'Valentine Girl' was not only played as often and as loudly as its flipside, but was lent extra inescapability quotient by appearing regularly not only as incidental music in the short-lived NKOTB cartoon series (with its ludicrous sub-Hanna Barbera storylines about Jordan being mistaken for a Sheik and L'il Joe wanting to go to proper school like a 'real boy' and so on), but also in one of their live videos where it played over footage of what appeared to be burning fan mail.
60 George Harrison ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ (c/w ‘My Sweet
The quiet one always had a great propensity for moroseness and we think this little ditty is definitely one of the more dour works in his repertoire. Its metronomic beat and extreme length (7:10) ensure the message that it's a shame how we are essentially horrible and mean to each other is well and truly drummed into our skulls by the time the needle has reached the little hole in the middle of the vinyl. However, like a lot of George's later good work, this one's a grower. Listen out for the bit when the big drums come in accompanied with the patented George Harrison shaking a bag of cornflakes sound (1:10). Similarly the orchestral rise-and-fall about 2 minutes 20 seconds in is the type of soaring shenanigans that we always love in a Beatles' slowie. Plus, the fact that this moment pretty much signals the start of this song's massive 5 minute fade-out makes for a piece of pop that is both extraordinary and entirely atypical of its composer all at the same time. Stuck on the B side of ‘My Sweet Lord’, you must have wondered back in 1970 (when it was released) why Georgie had bothered stick with those three other deadbeats for so long. See also ’I Don’t Care Any More’ (c/w ‘Ding Dong’), which given the stultifying lack of inspiration of the a-side was probably a fair summation of Mr. Harrison's attitude to music at that point.
59 The James Taylor Quartet ‘Indian Summer’ (c/w ‘Theme
From "Starsky And Hutch"’)
Yes, it would later throw up some of the most unlistenable disco-funk-lite workouts ever to disgrace the charts, but Acid Jazz was actually quite exciting when it first stamped its vintage-trainered foot onto the music scene in the late 1980s, courtesy of a dancefloor-scorching reworking of an inconsequential wah-wah heavy cop show theme, freshly and invigoratingly kitted out with car chase samples, James Brown’s old brass section, Chicago House programming and some of the wildest Hammond Organ ever committed to vinyl. As if to show that Acid Jazz wasn’t all retro-detective grooves, corduroy trousers and doing that weird standing-still-in-a-sort-of-crouching-position dance, the flipside was a more laid-back Samba-influenced instrumental with the emphasis on piano and flute, generally played as a chucking out time serenade in jazz venues mere seconds after its a-side had been played as the culmination to the evening’s frugging (which, in the pre-CD era, must have required no little dexterity on the part of the DJ). The only problem was that it bore such a startling (if entirely coincidental) resemblance to ‘Newsreel Past’, the ‘guidebook’ music from contemporaneous "Doctor Who" story ‘Paradise Towers’, which placed many a polo neck-sporting lapsed fan eager to forget the untrendy folly of their early teens in the difficult position of trying to avoid laughing at the memory of Sylvester McCoy wittering "rnyeeeeeeer this goo, what’s it for, aye, no, it’s not, unless it is" whilst simultaneously trying to concentrate on the Brand New Heavies doing their funky ‘thang’ onstage.
58 The Mel Smith Choir ‘Deck The Halls’ (c/w ‘Rockin’
Around The Christmas Tree’)
The art of the comedy record seems to have disappeared somewhat in recent years - presumably thanks to the chance to own your favourite telly show in sound and vision via VHS and DVD. In the seventies and eighties, though, vinyl was more or less the only way to have the likes of 'I Like Trucking' on tap. Thanks to the umpteen Not albums, Mel Smith knew all about the comedy record, and following the daft '(All The Little Flowers Are) Happy' by The Young Ones (cf), it was taken as read that the flip of the second Comic Relief single would also contain a new sketch. As with the previous effort, 'Deck The Halls' was set in a recording studio and largely spoken word. It begins with Mel introducing the concept ("welcome to the B-side... 'B' of course standing for 'boring'") and then attempting to sing the titular carol accompanied by a choir, but after a verse or two, Mel stops and complains that the choir are drowning him out when it's his single, and they should only come in on the refrain. Various attempts to sort this out follow - "OK, all I want you to sing is the 'fa-la-las', OK? So, altogether now... Deck the halls with bows of holly!", "Fa-la-la!" - until in the end Mel gets so fed up with them that he fires them on the spot so he can do the whole thing himself. Off they go, and Mel launches into it with gusto before becoming incredibly self-conscious and deciding to offer up a joke instead - "What spies are most active at Christmas? Mince spies" - before leaving the studio. Sadly, the next Comic Relief single, 'Help' by Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo, simply had 'Help' by Bananarama alone on the B-side, and an era had ended.
57 The Associates ‘AG It's You Again’ (c/w ‘Club
The "Week Ending"-soundtracking 'Party Fears Two' may have shared vinyl with the sublime 'It's Better This Way', but we're plumping for the odd, angular b-side to its effects-drenched and somewhat awkwardly titled follow-up ‘Club Country’. ‘AG It’s You Again’ is hardly typical Associates fare, granted; it's an instrumental for one thing, with Billy MacKenzie's Kevin Rowland/Bryan Ferry vocals notably absent, leaving multi-instrumental genius Alan Rankine free rein to lay on synth stabs and clattering syndrums as he sees fit. What we really like about the resultant, urgent track is that it sounds for all the world like a "Top of the Pops" chart rundown backing track from a parallel universe, higher praise than which, we're sure you'll agree, does not exist.
56 Kim Wilde ‘Tuning In Turning On’ (c/w ‘Kids In
If you weren't there, it's difficult to relate quite how tomboyish Kim Wilde was in 1981 With her debut 45, written by her dad and produced by her brother (and no doubt recorded in the garden shed with mum providing the lemonade and biscuits), both tracks have a synthetic, sterile feel that is completely unsexy. Whilst the a-side is an electropop take on Blondie (replete with a chorus of 'Call Me'-style shouty boys and the rhythmic disco-throb of 'Heart Of Glass', although we never saw Kim waving a chiffon scarf around and rapping in French), its accompanying b-side has more than a whiff of Tubeway Army about it. Presumably it was the male influence, but even the cover of the single pictured Kim in a make-up free above-the-neck-only shot (perhaps a nod to the pubescent "kids" of the title track). Thus, 'Tuning In Tuning On' is a hypnotic, almost Radiophonic, new wave reflection on the nature of sound as a potential life force, with futuristic synth riffs over an inexorable clockwork drumbeat and plenty of robotic plaintiveness in the vocals. On the evidence of this, and had she not grown up and gone all pop, Kim could've easily been another Kate Bush. It is without apology that we reprint part of the track's closing, 'Are Friends Electric'-style spoken outro: "I really believe that sound reaches infinity, do you know what I mean? I think it goes on and on forever, and if that's true and it was linked to the spiritual side of your lives, well, then sounds could be alive". Surely it can't be long before this track is sampled by Richard X for another Sugababes chart smash?
55 Paul Varney ‘If Only I Knew’ (c/w ‘So Proud Of
Something very weird happened with the ex-Yell! frontman and former star of "Children’s Ward" over the summer of 1991 Having been signed up by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, the Michael MacDonald soundalike escapee from a prototype boyband whose fifteen minutes of fame almost literally amounted to a mere fifteen minutes was poised to be launched as a huge star in waiting with his debut single ‘If Only I Knew’. Pitched in a manner that called to mind a hipper, swankier Rick Astley without the obvious sense of performance-related discomfort, Varney’s catchy debut was chock-full of chunky house rhythms and wailing soulful backing vocals (not to mention a bizarre intro that sounded like a cross between a grand piano and an uncoiling spring) and looked almost certain to become a huge smash. Which, erm, would presumably be why the release was pulled at the last minute, and the great lost hit single that never was only resurfaced as the b-side of the equally wondrous ‘So Proud Of You’ (which, confusingly, sported the exact same sleeve as its withdrawn counterpart) later in the year. Lost in a miserable world of Nirvana-mania and rubbishy rave outfits with names that punned on the letter ‘E’, ‘So Proud Of You’ vanished into obscurity and Paul Varney retreated into a career as a songwriter, although those that followed the strange saga retain an undiminishing faith that he will return in pop music’s hour of need. Although we’d better stop talking now, for fear of his former Yell! bandmate Daniel James trying to slap an injunction on us for saying that he breathes oxygen or something.
54 PiL ‘The Cowboy Song’ (c/w ‘Public
Image’) 53 Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘One September Monday’ (c/w
‘Relax’) 52 ABC ‘Theme From "The Mantrap"’ (c/w ‘Poison
Arrow’) 51 Howard Jones ‘Bounce Right Back’ (c/w ‘Like To Get To
Know You Well’) 50 New Order ‘Hurt’ (c/w
‘Temptation’) 49 The Wedding Present ‘Theme From "Shaft"’ (c/w
‘Boing’) 48 The Fall ‘Glam Racket’ (c/w ‘Why Are People
Grudgeful?’) 47 Tears For Fears ‘Ideas As Opiates’ (c/w ‘Mad
World’) 46 Tom Tom Club ‘On, On, On, On’ (c/w ‘Under The
Boardwalk’) 45 Propaganda ‘Dr Mabuse Der Spieler (An International
Incident)’ (c/w ‘Dr Mabuse’) 44 808 State ‘Olympic’ (c/w ‘Cubik’) 43 George Cole And Dennis Waterman ‘Quids’n’Quavers’ (c/w
‘What We Gonna Get For ‘Er Indoors?’) 42 T-Rex ‘Life’s A Gas’ (c/w
‘Jeepster’) 41 Buzzcocks ‘Noise Annoys’ (c/w ‘Love You
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? With such a masterpiece on the A-side, what could possibly be worthy enough to share the other face of the vinyl? Er, probably not 'The Cowboy Song', being as it is three-odd minutes of scratched record sound effects and Lydon coughing up his guts off-mic. Delightful! Well, with 99% of b-sides pretending to offer something of worth and turning out a complete waste of time, it's nice to have one that's honest about the wretched business. Their point made, they then tried to repeat the trick on their first LP, with the interminable 'Fodderstompf' ("I'm going to let off this fire extinguisher!"), and that's just not on - a lame album track's just a lame album track. As if to cement Lydon's strange relationship with the world of the b-side, a sterling cover version of 'Public Image' was once recorded as a flipside by no less likely a party than Britpop lynchpins Menswear.
Back in the days when the novelty of records having a separate ‘left’ and ‘right’ channel that could be listened to independently was still an exciting one, it was possible to effectively split up a pop single and hear two different ‘mixes’ (or, if you will, ‘takes’). ‘One September Monday’, for example, had one speaker’s worth of output taken up by a plodding ambient instrumental. The other, like some more tolerable post-punk equivalent of The Beatles’ ‘Revolution 9’, featured bizarre snatches of conversation, supposedly recorded in the early hours of a Monday morning in September 1983 Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford discussed their earlier career in Liverpool bands, and generally sounded rather (cough) ‘intoxicated’. Totally incomprehensible for much of the time, this undoubtedly sounded fresh and, er, different by the standards of the day. A similar methodology was adopted for ‘One February Friday’ (or something like that) on the b-side to the follow-up ‘Two Tribes’, this time featuring the ‘lads’ (Ped, Nash and Mark O’Toole). Whether or not this approach inspired Holly Johnson’s phoned-in contribution to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ ("Feed The World, ha ha ha ha ha… I can’t get the laugh right, Bob") is not known.
Purportedly the main title theme from a band-starring mini-feature film stroke live performance video that may or may not have actually existed (well, TVC has never seen a copy, put it that way), ABC’s ‘Theme From "The Mantrap"’ prefigured the subsequent 1980s craze for lazy ripoff paying-good-money-for-the-same-song-twice-only-not-as-good-the-second-time-around b-sides by virtue of essentially being the exact same song as ‘Poison Arrow’, lyrics and all, only slowed down and performed to a showtune-like piano accompaniment. To be fair, though, they probably had to cut quite a few corners after spending all that money on gold lame suits, half-page comic strip music press adverts, and that photo of Martin Fry playing a saxophone with fire coming out of it. The cause of many a confused question to irritable elder brothers and sisters, ‘Theme From "The Mantrap"’ is nonetheless markedly superior to the ‘Jazz Remix’ of ‘Poison Arrow’ that accompanied it on the CD reissue of "Lexicon Of Love".
Like many stars of the 1980s, High Wycombe's 'tronic tinkler got lumped into the lazy 'taste-free' categorisation, with references to bald mime artists and orange hair always currying favour with the snidier end of retrospective journalism. Away from the dyed and emulsioned heads, however, was a classically trained musician whose hits were aplenty and his experimentation a good measure more exploratory than most would even notice. HoJo (sorry, that was another cliche) was at his peak in the summer of 1984, and his good-egg status was further enhanced when he released the A-side here, flagging it as a dedication 'to the original spirit of the Olympic Games' and assuring his suitability for concert attendance in the eyes of parents. To tin lid it, he stuck the title on the cover in ten different languages (and helped TVC with our French conditional no end). Flip over the tale of finding the 'real you' and the notion that 'we can be one', however, and you find something wholly different. HoJo in rapping mode, with his 'best friend Luke' as they fell to the floor following a "flash like dynamite". Verses made reference to henchmen, a 'heavy scene' and the notion that his 'blood boiled hard', as a straight tale of protection and espionage unfurled, with Jones telling of innocent characters in the wrong place. Watch him doing it onstage and you'll see a confident pop star with his mimey mate, wearing trench coats and shades (Jed also in a bow tie and trilby) and choreographing the whole thing. Most brilliantly of all, the chorus was instrumentalised after each of the three verses, only finding lyrics late on, showing an arrogance and confidence in songwriting which the modest Jones always possessed but never chose to brag about. It was dark, dangerous, sinister (if anyone could find a sinister synth noise, it was this man) and very, very different from what we were used to, managing to maintain its own level of brilliance without diminishing the sunniness of all which we had known him for. If Robbie Robertson had done it he'd have been proclaimed a genius.
Prototype what-does-this-button-do "Granada Reports"-styled vision of futurism from the b-side of 1982's Temptation. Hooky's doomy slabs of bass and Barney's back of the roughbook lyrics pretty much map out the next two decades of Factory fantasia, with added whistly melodica bits and Load Runner-era dodgy speech synthesiser FX ("one-two-three-four!"). Number 63, FAC fans. See also ‘The Beach’ (c/w ‘Blue Monday’), a great track which invariably gets overlooked despite the fact that it was required to make up the requisite amount of vinyl on the world’s first 12" only single, and ‘1963’ (c/w ‘True Faith’), popular enough to later become an a-side in its own right despite containing some of the worst lyrics ever heard in the name of pop music ("I’ve bought it for you because it’s your birthday too") and not a single mention of William Hartnell.
With twenty four sides of 7" vinyl to fill for their Guinness Book Of Records-troubling 1992 'Hit Parade' campaign, after a rather sensible start David Gedge and his compatriots eventually resorted to filling up the b-sides with increasingly ridiculous cover versions, and this was the silliest of the lot by a long chalk. A note for note recreation of the elaborate arrangement of Isaac Hayes' definitive funk workout using only the wonders of multitracked scratchy guitars, the official Least Likely Cover Version Ever was only further enhanced by Gedge growling the lyrics in his trademark abrasive wimpy-indie-kid-with-laryngitis voice. Funny for the first couple of listens, and somewhat amazingly still enjoyable in its own right after that, and in its own peculiar way probably the closest that The Wedding Present ever got to making an 'indie-dance' record. Played more times on The Evening Session than its a-side. Further noteworthy hit parade b-sidery includes Julee Cruise's 'Falling' (c/w 'Silver Shorts'), The Monkees' 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' (c/w 'Come Play With Me'), Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas' (c/w 'No Christmas') and, erm, the theme from "UFO" (c/w 'Flying Saucer').
Arguments aplenty were had over which Fall b-side was to take the crown, so we've narrowed it down to four. 'Glam Racket' is a fine rant against the '90s trend for reviving the '70s, over the sort of dirged-up Glitter Band stomp the Fall do so well, Mark E Smith launches his tirade against the glam revivalists of the time ("you are entrenched in suede" - who could he be talking about?) and half-arsed ironists ("you hang around with camera crews in shell-suits, you lecture on sweets, you read "Viz" comic"). The result's topical yet somehow timeless - well, still very much listenable, at any rate. 'Tuff Life Boogie' backs on to their cover of The Kinks' 'Victoria', and the perky backing track (complete with always-welcome band member background yelps) does put you in mind of the Davieses' jauntier moments, at least until His Nibs cuts in with a soporific and impenetrable drawl ("with the balding man, you went to the Netherlands"). 'British People In Hot Weather' being the flipside of the chart-bottoming, Gretchen Franklin-mentioning Coldcut collaboration 'Telephone Thing', offsets the a-side's (relative) up-to-dateness with a disjointed, brass-heavy piece sounding like, of all things, '80s socialist punk-soulsters The Redskins. Smith, as ever, gets his notebook out to document the unlovely detritus of a London summer afternoon ("beached whale in Wapping, his armpit hairs are sprouting, serpentine - grrrr!") to hilarious effect. Better yet is 'Xmas With Simon' (c/w 'High Tension Line'), a Christmas song with the most anaemic electro backing available, with Smith, notionally ensconced by a warm fire in a "big old nice old house" cracking Godawful gags about old films being repeated on TV like Val Doonican never went away. Seasonal.
Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal And A Kangaroo weren’t always the stadium-straddling near-megastars who wanted to sow the seeds of love, shout shout let it all out and rule (and indeed run) the world. The first phase of their career saw them cast themselves as a typical early 1980s moody synth duo with arty literary leanings, with their name derived from a seminal book about Primal Therapy. Much of their debut album "The Hurting" was inspired by the same text, and rumours persist that they intended to use the royalties from it to pay to take a course in it themselves, but it was in fact so successful that they found they had no spare time in which to do so. Erm, boom boom, we think. Sort of. Anyway, one of the tracks that was heavily influenced by Primal Therapy was ‘Ideas As Opiates’, a deliciously lush and Korg-heavy wash of synth sounds with lyrics that seem like a primitive cave-drawing version of those of ‘Shout’ ("say what you want, say what you want… makes it easier"). Let’s see Gary Jules do an ‘emotive’ acoustic cover version of that.
Tom Tom Club had already surfaced in 1981 with the infectious ‘Wordy Rappinghood’, a track that not only pioneered a new angle in studio-based experimental electronic dance music but also prompted a drunken XTC to record a still-unreleased and highly politically incorrect tribute under the title ‘Wordy Rappaport’. Tom Tom Club followed up the debut hit the following summer with a gloriously funky version of ‘Under The Boardwalk’, an audacious makeover which caused no little consternation amongst Radio 1’s less open-minded disc jockeys during their top forty rundown presentation duties. But it was this record’s b-side, ‘On, On, On, On’ that really dazzled. Sounding like Bananarama with attitude, this was a relentless anthem with tedious lyrics ("on and on, we will come, there are mooooooore of us") and a camp but totally catchy bassline. Almost like the Scissor Sisters, but 20 years too early. And better.
As scant regard as TVC might have for the unrealistic, narrow-minded, Simon Bates-fixated insistence that pop music was inherently and intrinsically ‘better’ in the 1980s – a time when the selfsame people were insisting on bleating that pop music was inherently and intrinsically ‘better’ in the 1960s – it is true to say that bands as intelligent and imaginative as Propaganda (or indeed A-ha) would not be welcomed into the mainstream pop fold with open arms nowadays. Yet back in 1984 the Germanic synth-soundscapers were gleefully pitched into full-on chart battle with the more traditionally top ten-friendly acts of the day, and did surprisingly well. For evidence, look no further than the fact that ‘Dr Mabuse’, a song inspired Fritz Lang’s notoriously grim 1933 film, found its way into the upper reaches of the singles chart. For anyone who considered that to be annoyingly lightweight and chirpy bubblegum pop, there was always the b-side; a mental reshaping of the backing track that amusingly took its name from another instalment in the cinematic adventures of the X-Certificated Dr. The loathsome ‘remix’ culture had its beginnings here, but considering that at the time the idea of a reworked version of the a-side seemed novel and exciting rather than lazy it can just about be forgiven for all that. Plus, as they were on ZTT, it was probably Paul Morley’s idea.
Whether the decision was taken for artistic reasons or simply not wishing to be associated with the programme is unknown, but when the time came for Ambient House pioneers 808 State to release their theme music from "The Word", they opted to sort of split it in two and create a pair of subliminally interconnected but ultimately entirely different instrumentals. The frantic bassline and "Windmill"-esque clapping synth drums ended up buried beneath the apocalyptic speech samples and nods towards the incidental music from 'The Sea Devils' that formed follow-up single 'In Yer Face', but the sort of twisty-turny noises found their way into 'Olympic', a track that was oddly reminiscent of the music that backed the 'maze' round on contemporaneous computer-graphic heavy BBC daytime quiz show "Four Square", and which surfaced as the b-side to the mighty riff-tastic 'Cubik'. To the confusion of many a hapless local radio DJ, the sleeve of the single simply read 'Cubik Olympic', giving little indication of which track was which and often leading to 'Olympic' getting an airing by accident. By those who were intelligent enough not to play it and then announce it as "Paul Simon there with 'The Obvious Child'", that is.
They looked splendidly out of place performing the tuneless cross-talk wonder that was the A-side on TOTP, but for our hastily laundered money the sketch on the B is even better. At the start, Terry is wistfully strumming a love song which is evidently self-composed ("I don't only want a lover, my dear, I also want a mate") when, in true Little and Large style, Arfur interrupts him with sarky interrogations. Ridiculing the idea of a composition for Terry's "lady friend" ("You don't have lady friends! You have birds! Bints! Richards!") Arf takes umbrage when it turns out she's a policewoman ("that's tantamount to treachery!") but all is quickly forgotten as he inevitably begins scheming about a pop career for the hapless Terence, with Yours Truly in full managerial capacity, of course. "I'm no Dylan, you know" "I don't think you're much of a Dougal, either". Cue starry-eyed visions of hob-nobbing with "the extra-terrestrials of Tin Can Alley", and plans of world domination ("Couple of number ones, two-week world tour, we'll clean up"). Top fun apparently written by Waterman and Cole themselves, neatly deflating Den's "write the theme tune, sing the theme tune" ambitions twenty years before Lucas and Walliams.
Never mind that duetted version with ‘Our Cilla’ that always gets trotted out for television clip shows when they could have used that mental footage of Bolan and company performing ‘Ride A White Swan’ on German TV in some sort of multicolour-tinted CSO-induced hallucinogenic nightmare; the original version of his double-tracked ruminations on the fact that he could have built a house on the ocean but it really doesn’t matter at all is far and away the best. Amazingly, T-Rex never sanctioned the release of this album track as a b-side, and were reportedly less than impressed when it surfaced as the flipside to the record company’s unofficial issuing of ‘Jeepster’, but both songs were so good that even with no promotion from the band whatsoever the single still managed to vault into the upper reaches of the charts. Further b-side ubiquity came courtesy of its reappearance on the flipside of Teenage Fanclub’s early 1990s sixth form common room stereo favourite ‘What You Do To Me’.
Buzzcocks singles - invariably a superb combination of brilliantly energetic a-side and equally brilliantly energetic b-side - were treasured enough by punk fans in their day, but arguably even more so in the early 1980s by those who discovered them just a bit too late, from pre-pubescents who inherited entire runs of the singles in perfect condition from older relatives who no longer wanted them, to a teenage Richard Herring pogoing in a car park in Cheddar. 'Noise Annoys' does exactly what the title suggests, except that... erm... it isn't particularly annoying (unless, of course, you happen to be a pensioner objecting to the fact that you can "hear it going tk, tk tk" from old-skool walkman headphones on the lowest volume setting). Other Buzzcocks b-side marvels include 'Autonomy’ (c/w ‘I Don’t Mind’) and 'Oh Shit!’ (c/w ‘What Do I Get’), the latter of which reputedly led to one of those fabled 'pressing plant walkouts' when it was first being readied for release.
53 Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘One September Monday’ (c/w
52 ABC ‘Theme From "The Mantrap"’ (c/w ‘Poison
51 Howard Jones ‘Bounce Right Back’ (c/w ‘Like To Get To
Know You Well’)
50 New Order ‘Hurt’ (c/w
49 The Wedding Present ‘Theme From "Shaft"’ (c/w
48 The Fall ‘Glam Racket’ (c/w ‘Why Are People
47 Tears For Fears ‘Ideas As Opiates’ (c/w ‘Mad
46 Tom Tom Club ‘On, On, On, On’ (c/w ‘Under The
45 Propaganda ‘Dr Mabuse Der Spieler (An International
Incident)’ (c/w ‘Dr Mabuse’)
44 808 State ‘Olympic’ (c/w ‘Cubik’)
43 George Cole And Dennis Waterman ‘Quids’n’Quavers’ (c/w
‘What We Gonna Get For ‘Er Indoors?’)
42 T-Rex ‘Life’s A Gas’ (c/w
41 Buzzcocks ‘Noise Annoys’ (c/w ‘Love You
40 Donovan ‘I Love My Shirt’ (c/w
"Do you have a shirt that you really love? One that you feel so groovy in?", asks Donovan Leitch in full bubblegum mode on the flip side of his dirgy, dingy, almost anti-pop doomfest ‘Atlantis’, itself notorious for featuring eight or so minutes of rambling monologue about where the fabled sunken city might now be, followed by about three seconds of the actual song. If anyone questions why Donovan is so often derided as a plastic Dylan and purveyor of wistful pap, ‘I Love My Shirt’ provides all the answers. That's not to say this nursery rhyme-like singalong, much like his singles ‘Jennifer Juniper’ and ‘Mellow Yellow’, isn't any good - it is. But to the non-fan it is precisely this sort of thing that undermines his reputation as one of the leaders of 1960s psychedelic pop. Yes it is still a throwaway slice of whimsy, but could it be perhaps a pastiche of 1960s fashion plates, or a paean to loneliness in which a man's only pal is a groovy garment, or just a piss-take of himself? Who knows, but it's more thank likely the latter. Donovan, so bored of not being taken seriously decided to give the people what they expected of him. Thankfully, he's being taken a bit more seriously nowadays, but if you're trying to convert a friend, stick to ‘Sunshine Superman’. Other Donovan b-side wonders include the baffling promises of Ford Mustangs, Chevrolets and Sugarcubes as presents in the bluesy ‘Hey Gyp! (Dig The Slowness)’, while ‘I Love My Shirt’ itself went on to enjoy a new lease of life when covered by Trevor and Simon’s Singing Corner.
39 Suede ‘To The Birds’/’My Insatiable One’ (c/w ‘The
Time was when the fact that Suede's debut single contained two b-sides that were every bit as good as its a-side was hailed as proof that perhaps British pop music wasn't in quite so parlous a state as it had seemed to be a couple of months previously. Now history allows us to see that what it actually led to was Noel Gallagher being praised for filling up every single b-side slot with a lazy acoustic strum painfully dependent on rhymes of 'street' and 'feet' (and, occasionally, 'meet'), but that shouldn't detract from the impact that it had at the time. Not only were Suede genuinely exciting for the fact that Brett Anderson was baiting fans of bland music and raising homophobic hackles simply by virtue of wearing one of Mick Robertson's old shirts, they were musically exciting too, as was more than adequately proved by these two exquisite odes to escalators, sixteen hole boots and bicycles that won't fly (so that would be, erm, all bicycles then). Another persistently great b-sides band - see also depression-induced lie-in anthem 'High Rising' (c/w 'So Young'), and the vitriolic 'Killing Of A Flashboy' (c/w 'We Are The Pigs').
38 Tracey Ullman ‘The B-Side’ (c/w ‘They Don’t
While none of her records, perhaps with the exception of the summery ‘Sunglasses’, were what could be officially classified as novelty records, there was something innately kitsch about Tracey Ullman's string of early Eighties hits. The video for ‘Breakaway’ saw her singing into a hairbrush, 1960s style, and ‘They Don't Know’, her superb cover of the Kirsty Macoll number which reached number three in the charts in the autumn of 1983, was seen as a similarly throwaway slice of pop. But while she was a comedienne - part of the successful "Three Of A Kind" team with David Copperfield and Lenny Henry - these were not intended solely as comedy records. That was confined to the b-side. And in this case it was called ‘The B-Side’. All her voices are here in (though there's not an American one in sight). In a vox-pop style, various people are asked their opinions on b-sides. "B-sides?", asks an Northern Irish woman (a nun?). "Never play 'em". Then follow a dimwitted Sloane and a chirpy Liverpudlian ("B-sides? G'way!"). Then we meet the woman who will take us through the rest of the track: "Hi, this is Val from the band". She's a world-weary, rock chickish thirtysomething, who talks us through her not so glittering career while the band tune up behind her. 'I bought my mum a little house - she loves playing with it", etc, etc. Then finally, it's a-one, two, three, four and the band are just about to strike up - when the track comes to an end. A showcase for her talents, and not overly fun at that.
37 Sandie Shaw ‘Steven (You Don’t Eat Meat)’ (c/w ‘Are
You Ready To Be Heartbroken?’)
"It should have been an a-side. It should have been an a-side". Thus spake Steven Morrissey to Janice Long on fabulous Radio One back in '86 But then he would, wouldn't he? Recorded by Shaw as a deliberate, if a self-confessedly pastiche, tribute to her unreliable miserablist buddy, it ended up playing second-fiddle to a by-numbers recording of Lloyd Cole classic, 'Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?', which didn't trouble the charts in any case. Shame, though, 'cause in here there's a pretty good mid-tempo indie guitar pop track, swinging between twiddly Johnny Marr-esque arpeggios and an inspired-by-‘All-Right-Now’ stomping chorus, and culminating in some slavishly devoted cries of "Are you still ill?" at the bridge. Musically, this could easily have been the theme tune to some contemporary vegetarian drama on BBC2 or C4, in actuality it was only the better half of a pair of "homage" tracks (the other being 'Go Johnny Go', the b-side to Shaw's cover of 'Frederick' by Patti Smith, whose lyrics conjured up the image of a stripped to the waist and fresh out of the shower Marr playing his Rickenbacker in the front room). In the long run both songs lack the portentous qualities of their corresponding a-sides, which makes them sound all the more fresh 20 years later. Even better, they're almost impossible to track down, which frustrates the Smiths' completists just that little bit more.
36 Neil ‘Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man’ (c/w ‘Hole In My
"Hurdy gurdy mushroom man, has locked me in a frying pan...". It was merely weeks after "The Young Ones" ended, complete with exploding double decker bus ("Phew! That was close!") and an unseen quartet of charred corpses, when somehow neil weedon watkins pye, lower case intentional, found himself reincarnated and releasing a fictional hippy version of a factual hippy anthem, which got to No.2 in the charts. While the A-side stuck to the amusingly-pathetic schtick which Nigel Planer had cut so impeccably in the coolest sitcom of a generation, the B-side went into all-out plot-free surrealism, with Planer's pitiful character droning through lines about frozen scarecrows and aunties coming for tea while the sitars and penny whistles wailed in the background, music's equivalent of a razor to the wrist, but made all the more funny for it. When on TOTP, Planer ad-libbed ‘Hole In My Shoe’ live, including one famous appearance in a red-sequinned waistcoat in honour of Freddie Mercury, who'd just been shown in that scarlet eye-covered costume in the ‘It's A Hard Life’ video. However, the B-side was clearly improvised in the studio too, before the genre really existed (hard to imagine Josie Lawrence doing this) as Planer told everyone what to do and then to shut up again ("now comes the verse bit") before asking, nervously, "shall we go on to the next bit now?". Planer came into his own when the prepared lyrics to the second act (including the outstanding "fluffy hair on a polar bear means more to me than a lavatory; you can't go far in a motor car with my front door key" and "take my hand in a magic van and we'll take a trip over seven seas; just a guy and a beauteous chick and a tropical disease" - sorry, but they're still funny) were dumped and the tracks were layered over his tones to the extent that he was drowned out and his improv took firm hold. It reached a peak when a kiddy choir started over-harmonising and Planer complained: "Can we have a few less children? This is all getting too commercial". The song ended ("that was the worst experience I've ever had") and took the character with it - Comic Relief stage shows and records (plus that bizarre 'ying and yang' BBC trailer irrelevantly filmed a generation on) notwithstanding - and we were left with a lot of fading belly laughs and the prospect of "Filthy, Rich and Catflap".
35 The La’s ‘Over’ (c/w ‘Timeless
Establishing its TVC-friendly credentials with an intro seemingly 'borrowed' from Mrs Honeyman's music from "Camberwick Green" (apparently a favourite trick of Lee Mavers - have you played 'There She Goes' and the theme song from "Orm And Cheep" back to back lately?), the reverse of their other hit was apparently the only released recording that the band were entirely happy with. The fact that it was recorded on a 'radio cassette recorder' in someone's back garden, and sounds like it, explains why. Yet these decidedly lo-fi origins actually work in its favour, as it sounds a lot better than the comparatively sterile album tracks, and is enough to make the listener start to think that maybe Mavers was on to something with all that stuff about not dusting guitars before playing them after all. On top of that, it's a top quality song.
34 The Rolling Stones ’Play With Fire’ (c/w ‘The Last
In which the ever charming Mick Jagger and company play the misogynist card (prior to dealing the entire deck with ‘Under My Thumb’) by threatening the fictional girlfriend the song is directed at. Jagger's calm, measured delivery makes the lyrics sound even more threatening than they do on paper - "but don't play with me, 'cause you're playing with fire" - clearly suggesting that the girlfriend's life will fall apart if Mick gives her the old "heave-ho". The low-key, almost folky, arrangement makes the whole thing sound a little spooky, and it certainly packs a greater punch than its more famous A-side. Other Rolling Stones B-sides in a similar vein include ‘Don't Burn Your Bra’, ‘Put The Tea On’ and ‘Female Eunuch, Schmemale Schmunuch’. Those with weaker constitutions might prefer to try ‘The Spider And The Fly’ (c/w ‘It’s All Over Now’), and the influentially pastoral 'Ruby Tuesday' (c/w ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’).
33 Letitia Dean And Paul J Medford ‘Time Square’ (c/w
‘Somethin’ Outta Nothin’’)
Well, not strictly Letitia Dean And Paul J. Medford, as the erstwhile vocalists with The Banned/Dog Market do not actually feature on their b-side at all. Rather it sounds as though Simon May and company just programmed the sequencer to change key every so often, improvised a bit of supermarket muzak over the top, and went off and had a sit down for five minutes or so; the end result sounding not unlike the garbled version of ‘Something Outta Nothing’ that Billy Bragg-alike Banned manager ‘Harroi’ tricked the band into playing at a talent show in the hope that it would expose the artifice of pop music and allow him to stay true to his political ideals or something. So while the two "EastEnders" stars were plugging the single on TV pop shows wearing those funny leopardskin print outfits, they were actually persuading the record-buying public to buy a single for which they only got half the royalties. Nonetheless, suspicion still lingers that the majority of sales of the single and its messy injection-moulded silver BBC Records label were to adolescent boys who had developed an unhealthy attachment to Sharon Watts and her substantial frontage.
32 The BBC Radiophonic Workshop ‘Reg’ (c/w ‘Doctor
First sighted on Paddy Kingsland's showcase album "Fourth Dimension", which not so long ago second hand record dealers were unable to even give away but now routinely fetches a small fortune on eBay on account of featuring "moogs funks breaks", the long-lost Radiophonic signature tune from the BBC African Service was dusted down and given a second outing when the BBC decided to issue their own 7" of the theme from Popular Children's TV Show Doctor Who. The previous release on Decca records had, oddly, featured a straightforward pop duet by 'Brenda' and 'Johnny' called 'This Can't Be Love', which sounded typical of an age when all girls were called Billie and had beehive hairdos and stamped their Cuban heels whilst singing "we want to be Smiths Crisps" or something. As such, it didn't sit well with the Pioneering Electronic Wizardry ((c) Jan Vincent-Rudzki/Jean-Marc L'Officier/J. Jeremy Bentham/everyone who's copied them since) of the a-side, but 'Reg' was a far more suitable choice. So much so, in fact, that many a young fan without the benefit of Andrew Pixley's Archives features simply assumed that it had once served as music in the series itself, and had presumably acted as the soundtrack to some dramatic scene or other featuring The Delegates, Sir Colin Thackeray or A Fish Person. 'Reg' will also be familiar to anyone who visited Blackpool Pleasure Beach during the 1980s, as for many years it was used as the backing music on the heavily-queued 'Alice In Wonderland' ride. But is it canon?
31 The Beastie Boys ‘Time To Get Ill’ (c/w ‘Fight For
Your Right (To Party)’)
With a sizeable proportion of their audience denied the opportunity to own parent album "License To Ill" due to a combination of tabloid outrage suggesting that Mike D, MCA and Ad Rock were about to lead the nation's innocent youth down an irreversible road of depravity, attendant parental concern, and jumped up acne ridden Saturday boy scum in WH Smiths who refused to allow fourteen year olds to buy it, many Beastie Boys fans had to resort to getting their kicks wherever they could. And if that meant the b-side of the single that appeared before the storm broke, then so be it. Featuring the surely unique boast of having "more rhymes than Phyllis Diller", 'Time To Get Ill' was the soundtrack of many an ill-advised attempt by gawky middle class kids to start wearing baseball caps and stolen Volkswagen badges and saying "yo" a lot (ouch!), and was often to be seen scrawled on the outside of ring binders belonging to sixth-formers who liked to present the illusion that they somehow understood and empathised with what the phrase actually meant.
30 St Winifred’s School Choir ‘Pinocchio’ (c/w ‘There’s
No-one Quite Like Grandma’)
Remarkable how undiscerning young children are when it comes to music. For all the acres of articles about how ‘tweenies’ are an important demographic, for the first six years or so of your life, you're perfectly happy to play stuff your parents bought. Hence 'There's No One Quite Like Grandma' represents virtually the last single our parents bought as active record buyers - and probably most peoples' parents, given everyone who bought it must have been at least in their thirties. To be honest, we never much cared for the A-side, plodding on and with a solo from the most adenoidal, lisping member of the choir they could find (or, as she was cruelly nicknamed by TVC's sister, "the girl whose tongue is too big for her head"). 'Pinocchio' was much more our scene, with the whole choir singing an ode to Gepetto's mate, with ultra-catchy 'La la la la-la-la-la-la' refrain, and it cracked on at a fair old speed as well. Presumably the last single on Music For Pleasure to get to number one (and probably the first, come to that), the B-side got stuck in our brains, and for that the single could still be found between the Bucks Fizz and Shaky singles down the side of the radiogram come the mid-80s.
29 The Beach Boys ‘You’re Welcome’ (c/w ‘Heroes And
It is a well known 'rock fact', if you are given to believing salacious and unlikely-sounding 'facts', that The Beach Boys' "Smile", an album that was conceived as a 'teenage symphony to god' and the definitive pop music statement, was pulled from release when Mike Love threw a tantrum about 'Brian's ego music' and Brian Wilson went bonkers after hearing coded messages to Charles Manson embedded in a song called 'Fire', and that subsequent attempts to ready the album for release went out of the window when he saw Phil Spector and a snake in a film or something. While the jumped-up 3AM girls of the rock journalism world are busy telling their tales of madness, however, they always forget to mention that some of tracks originally intended for "Smile" did indeed find their way into subsequent Beach Boys releases. For a start there was 'Heroes And Villains', and more importantly its jaunty choral flipside, consisting of little more than the title repeated over and over again, conjuring up images of Bruce Johnston and Al 'BBC Globe' Jardine sporting monastic robes over their trademark stripey shirts. Hardly surprisingly, even the most scratched and battered copy was treasured by lovers of Wilson's Unfinished (Teenage) Symphony for a great many years. Extra points for being totally impossible for the flippant fans of earlier Beach Boys material who don't like it when they went all 'flower power' to do their wacky ironic sixties dance to.
28 My Bloody Valentine ‘I Believe’ (c/w ‘Feed Me With
Fuelled by the kind of excitement that can only come with the first flushes of adolescent exposure to John Peel's Radio 1 show, and by association a whole world of music that you had never previously known existed, the fan-deafening foursome take a break from trying to make their audiences faint with bass guitar sounds to drench an urgent, infectious pop song in disorientating feedback, guitars that seem to go on even after they've finished, cute girly 'oooh-oooh!' backing vocals and the merest hint of acid house-styled electronic programming. This was where the sound that would culminate in "Loveless" - the Alan McGee-frustrating shoegazing masterpiece that is pretty much synonymous with the real golden age of the NME (it wasn't all Newman and Baddiel and long-sleeved t-shirts back then, you know), and which for many inescapably soundtracked the rite of passage into A-levels and studentdom - began in earnest.
27 Not The Nine O’Clock News ‘Gob On You’ (c/w ‘The
'Gob On You' was Not The Nine O'Clock News' first foray into the world of the 'comedy song'. First broadcast in the fifth show of their first series in 1979, this crashing parody of nihilistic punk was intended as a long-overdue kick aimed at the arse of the traditional Stilgoe-style humorous ditty, and boasted a set of lyrics which rivalled what it set out to pillory: "sex is boring, pain is fun, I wanna cut my fingers off one by one, there ain’t no point in staying alive, I wanna be dead when I'm twenty five". The song is one of several compositions from erstwhile Van Der Graff Generator bod Chris Judge-Smith (his less well-remembered contributions included a scatological attack on high-profile vocational ambition called '(I Wanna Do) Big Jobs', and a rocked-up tribute to Prince Charles entitled 'Mod Monarch'). Importantly 'Gob On You' also marked the arrival on the show of Howard Goodall who was initially called in to arrange the song to best accentuate the meagre musical talents of performers Mel Smith, Chris Langham, Pamela Stephenson and Rowan Atkinson (although it should be added that Atkinson was a highly proficient drummer in his spare time anyway) and to add a delightful offering to the God of juxtaposition in the form of a string quartet boosting the middle eight. Goodall would later become a regular and prolific contributor to the show. Coupled with the feyly controversial Curtis/Goodall composition 'Ayatollah Song' (from Series 2), both tracks on the 7" also appeared on the first "Not The Nine O'Clock News" LP. The songs were mono dubs (with audience laughter intact) from the TV shows - a factor which itself shows something of the hit-and-run punk 'ethos'. And even if you don't agree that a middle-aged actor singing a song penned by a prog-rocker could ever equal 'anarchy', bear in mind that the song was certainly considered enough of a 'punk classic' for Chaos UK to include a cover version on their 1998 offering 'Heard It, Seen It, Done It'.
26 Elastica ‘Blue’ (c/w ‘Connection’)
Not least amongst the many varied achievements of Britpop (which included making Radio 1 listenable again to the annoyance of people who could never understand why we couldn't just have "the greatest, broadcaster ever!! " Dave Lee Travis twenty four hours a day, revitalising homegrown guitar pop to the annoyance of uptight metalheads and snobbish elistist fans of dance music and American lo-fi, and... erm... just being great generally) was its return to the traditional values of the b-side, from the days before it became tarnished by the effects of the remix and the dreaded 'multi-formatting'. A prime example was to be found lurking on the reverse of Elastica's abrasive anthem for girls with hairgrips 'Connection'; a million miles away from the thrashy album version, here 'Blue' was presented as the original spectral four-track acoustic demo recorded by Donna Matthews in her bedroom, coming across as Britpop's equivalent to 'That's Entertainment'. Note how Dom Joly's "vast record collection" seemingly only stretches as far as the a-side.
25 The Specials ‘Why?’/’Friday Night And Saturday
Morning’ (c/w ‘Ghost Town’)
Why Craggy Island’s mobile disco didn’t flip over the lone record in their possession - ‘Ghost Town’ ("now, please stand for our National Anthem") - instead of just playing the a-side over and over again will always be a mystery, as the b-side featured not one but two superb tracks - evocative descriptions of "piss stains on my shoes" and "bouncers bouncing through the night, trying to stop or start a fight" in ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ and Lynval Golding bluntly asking ‘Why?’ of all the right-wing violence that was so effectively berated by the a-side. The eerie flipside to the generally upbeat and carefree public image of ska, and the grim dawn of Thatcher’s Britain captured harrowingly and hauntingly in three songs tackling the same subject from different perspectives - a UK equivalent to ‘The Message’ in more ways than one - which really only makes you wonder why no bands are getting quite so agitated about ‘New’ Labour. For more gangs-of-teenagers-hanging-around-on-street-corners-wearing-white-socks-and-doing-that-running-on-the-spot-dance memories, check out ‘The Guns Of Navarone’ (c/w ‘Too Much Too Young’) and ‘Nite Klub’ (c/w ‘A Message To You Rudi’).
24 Elvis Costello And The Attractions ‘Girls Talk’ (c/w
‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’)
Later much beloved of Simon Bates’ listener-pleasing ‘phone in and tell us the records that you want to hear’ features, Elvis Costello’s catchy rumination on what women really natter about when they go to the toilets in groups of three was so successful in outperforming its flipside in permeating the nation’s consciousness that many remain convinced that it actually was an a-side. One of those songs that, once upon a time, always seemed to be issuing from a distant kitchen radio or hovering over the PA in the background at some outdoor public function or other, with the effect that there are probably millions who can hum along to the track without ever realising or understanding how they know it. The question remains, however, of why Mr. Costello was quite so keen to hear ‘Girls Talk’ (excepting maybe that he was looking for ideas for future lyrics), and whether or not he hid in a cubicle crouched on top of the lavatory seat in an attempt to do so.
23 Blur ‘One Born Every Minute’ (c/w ‘Country
Originally written for "Modern Life Is Rubbish" but held over because there were eight hundred and forty three tracks on that album already, ‘One Born Every Minute’ captures Blur at their most blatantly and unashamedly Kinks-influenced (as opposed to all those ‘shameless Kinks ripoffs’ that their detractors kept going on about despite their sounding absolutely nothing like Kinks) and boasts a stomping cockney singalong melody with some unexpected and nicely understated chord changes, noisy pub piano, and best of all, the band apparently having raided the same percussion cupboard that was used for the theme from "Jigsaw". Indeed, stuck for a proper ending for the song, they simply resort to shaking as many of said percussion instruments at once as is physically possible. Many punters found that they preferred the b-side to the plodding and far less interesting a-side once they got home after registering their vote in the rather pointless Blur vs. Oasis chart battle - an affair from which, with no small irony, this jokey combination of guitar and duck call emerged as the only musical item of any lasting appeal or substance. For more evidence of Blur’s mastery of the b-side, see ‘Luminous’ (c/w ‘Bang’), ‘When The Cows Come Home’ (c/w ‘For Tomorrow’), ‘Young And Lovely’ (c/w ‘Chemical World’) and ‘All We Want’ (c/w ‘Tender’). Don’t, however, make the mistake of chasing up jokey filler like ‘Red Necks’ or ‘Alex’s Song’ (both c/w ‘End Of A Century’).
22 Adam And The Ants ‘Beat My Guest’ (c/w ‘Stand And
Clumsy punning titles ahoy as the family-friendly purveyor of Burundi Beat backs the Dandy Highwayman’s manifesto for spending cash on looking flash with a thinly veiled (oh, alright, not actually veiled at all) ode to the joys of sadomasochistic sex, with Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, Gary Tibbs and Yours Truly whipping up a musical storm quite at odds with their Royal Variety Performance-friendly sound whilst Mr. Ant urges his dominatrix to "use a truncheon or a household brick", and offers to "be your dog for just one flog", with nary an utterance of "fah diddly qua qua" in earshot. Perhaps intentionally, the true lyrical reference sailed straight over the heads of the legions of youngsters who were given their own personal copy of ‘Stand And Deliver’ after being dazzled by the video on Saturday morning television, and as the sub-"I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue" drollery of the title was nowhere near explicit enough to attract parental disdain, it never quite had reason to join ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ at the cunningly-obscured rear recesses of the inevitable ‘singles carry case’.
21 The Monkees ‘Take A Giant Step’ (c/w ‘Last Train To
For many, Monkees b-sides are known by their more accurate name of ‘songs that they did at the end of the show that weren’t ‘Last Train To Clarkesville’ or ‘I’m A Believer’ (and had Peter Tork playing an organ even though there doesn’t appear to be an organ on the track)’. Hailing from the only episode many people can remember the storyline of, in which Mickey dresses up as a female chaperone so that Davy can go on a date with a posh girl (and subsequently becomes the object of her father’s misdirected romantic intentions), the part mind-expanding, part fey and tinkly pop song ‘Take A Giant Step’ and its bafflingly clumsy lyrics ("there’s just no percentage in remembering the past"???) originally appeared as the b-side of too-subtle-for-its-own-good anti-Vietnam protest song ‘Last Train To Clarkesville’, but is now most widely remembered through a haze of early morning BBC summer holiday schedules and Ceefaxised representations of Davy Jones’ face. For a more polished take on the same concept, see the later ‘As We Go Along’ (c/w ‘The Porpoise Song’), from the band’s notorious big screen weird-out "Head".
20 Aztec Camera ‘Jump’ (c/w ‘All I Need Is
Roddy Frame takes Van Halen’s synths-and-squiggly-guitars stadium rock anthem and retools it as a folky acoustic guitar ballad. And, amazingly, it works. So much so, that even the legions of mulletted European teenagers who display such unfailing Pavlovian air-punching and air-guitaring reactions to the original (and indeed to The Scorpions’ post-Iron Curtain ballad ‘Wind Of Change’, which never fails to provoke an alarming spectacle of tearful linking of arms when played at chucking out time at ‘Rok Diner Club’) would have to swallow their pride and admit that he did a very good job indeed. Most impressive of all, it actually comes across as a really good song in this gentle stripped-down format, free from all the wacky irony associated with Tori Amos doing a formal piano arrangement of a Nirvana song or Travis covering Britney Spears whilst saying "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" loudly in a Tony Parsons voice.
19 David Bowie 'Queen Bitch' (c/w 'Rebel
‘No, I’ve never heard ‘Substitute’, honest’-acoustic riffing ahoy as the Laughing Gnome himself, still several years away from ‘decamping’ to Berlin with Eno, gets angry at a tarty girl in satin, tat, frock coat and ‘bipperty bopperty’ hat ("oh god, I could do better than that") for making him fancy her. So, that’s what they probably wore back then instead of puffa jackets and bad perms, which if nothing else would have made the average edition of "Trisha" less visually repugnant. David Bowie, of course, has a rich heritage of b-sides, with essential highlights of his vast catalogue including ‘The Gospel According To Tony Day’ (c/w ‘The Laughing Gnome’), ‘Suffragette City’ (c/w ‘Starman’), ‘Amsterdam’ (c/w ‘Sorrow’), ‘Panic In Detroit (Live)’ (c/w ‘Knock On Wood’) and ‘Crystal Japan’ (c/w ‘Up The Hill Backwards’), and the amazing cautionary tale ‘The London Boys’ (c/w ‘Rubber Band’), a sombre look at the downside of pill-popping, club-hopping Swinging London. Which would be why most of the current CD reissues of his most popular albums contain absolutely no bonus tracks whatsoever, then.
18 The Small Faces ‘Grow Your Own’ (c/w 'Sha La La La
The house-sharing, Carnaby-Street-boutique-stock-depleting mods were always keen to use their b-sides as an opportunity to cut loose in the studio and create more raucous sounds than were permitted for their polished chart-friendly a-sides (which were raucous enough as it was), and this was by far the best of the lot. A wild, volume-crazed organ instrumental with more than a hint of the influence of ‘certain substances’ in both its sound and its title, the television advert soundtrack-friendly ‘Grow Your Own’ sounds like an entire party scene from a 1960s film crammed into a single muffled vinyl groove, and is essentially what Paul Weller has been trying and miserably failing to sound like for far too many years now. For further mop-haired paisley-jacketed Acid Jazz-influencing organ grooves, see the equally ragged and shouty ‘Understanding’ (c/w ‘All Or Nothing’), with its intriguing use of a referee’s whistle, and ‘Rollin’ Over’ (c/w ‘Lazy Sunday’).
17 The Kinks ‘She’s Got Everything’ (c/w
Sufficiently raucous to be left off the reissue of Ray Davies’ contemporaneous pastoral masterwork "The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society", ‘She’s Got Everything’ temporarily abandoned all the trappings of pub piano-accompanied odes to cats, steam trains and friends who don’t play cricket any more and returned to the classic shouty Kinks style complete with a trademark topsy-turvy guitar riff, almost as if a bunch of raucous teenagers are having the archetypal ‘rave-up’ in the Village Hall whilst Walter, Monica Moonshine, Wicked Arabella and company enjoy their little shops and china cups on the green outside. As anyone who has bought a halfway decent Kinks compilation will know, ‘She’s Got Everything’ is merely the r’n’b-tinged icing on a considerable b-sides cake, other notable examples including 'Berkley Mews' (c/w 'Lola'), 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' (c/w 'Till The End Of The Day'), 'Sittin' On My Sofa' (c/w 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'), 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else' (c/w 'Sunny Afternoon'), and fellow Preservation escapee 'Mr. Pleasant' (c/w 'Autumn Almanac').
16 Sly And The Family Stone ‘Everybody Is A Star’ (c/w
'Thankyou (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)').
Not that you’d know it in these days of carefully co-ordinated transatlantic ‘launch stratagems’, but it was once entirely possible for an act to be massive in the UK but virtually unknown in the US, and vice versa. The versa was certainly true of Sly And The Family Stone, who had a mere one hit single in the UK before tabloid hoo-hah over an exaggerated ‘drug bust’ en route to "Top Of The Pops" or something put paid to their career trajectory. So while a long procession of frankly ace singles enjoyed a near permanent residency atop the American charts, they were more likely to be found languishing in bargain bins over in ‘Blighty’. Amazingly, this single was one of the ones that missed the chart in the UK despite topping the American chart for weeks on end, yet some would dare to call this the greatest coupling of songs ever found on a seven inch slab of vinyl - the a-side a witty, self-referential slice of anthemic funk with a fragmented backing (which, if Bill Oddie is to be believed, inspired the arrangement of The Goodies’ ‘Funky Gibbon’), and the b-side a heartstring-tugging song of loving someone for who they are (not for being the one they think they ought to be), from an age when even a straightforward love song could sound drenched in social comment and calls for peace and unity. Better still, despite the Family Stone’s liking for natty attire apparently fashioned from old carpet, this didn’t have any drippy nonsense about smiling on your brother or wearing flowers in your hair. Perfect material for inserting into compilation tapes as an ‘esoteric’ selection, and miles better than that dreary melodica-puffing Primal Scream number of the same name (and indeed, suspiciously samey melody and lyrics).
15 The Beatles ‘Rain’ (c/w 'Paperback
In the days before they spent too much time with surrey mystics and decided that weighing down albums with tedious tuneless George Harrison drones, unfinished McCartney ‘song sketches’ and the frankly inexcusable ‘Revolution 9’ was a good idea, The Beatles pretty much wrote the rulebook for psychedelia and made some exciting music in the process. Give or take the odd (with the emphasis on ‘odd’) selection on "Rubber Soul", it all started with this epochal b-side, which married John Lennon’s rather Rod, Jane and Freddy-like lyrics about how people instinctively react to basic weather conditions to an expanding and contracting melody and a fair smattering of backward tape sounds. So popular in its day that it was even granted its own full colour promotional film, which featured the Fab Four staring wistfully at cameras in leafy surroundings and thereby set the template for just about every video by a jangly indie band ever made since. Other noteworthy Beatle B-Sidery includes 'This Boy' (c/w 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'), 'Yes It Is' (c/w 'Ticket To Ride'), and the baffling 'You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)' (c/w 'Let It Be').
14 Pink Floyd ‘The Scarecrow’ (c/w 'See Emily
Years before they started making overlong ‘concept’ albums with extremely tenuous conceptual links, flying inflatable pigs over Battersea Power Station and generally being championed by far too many berks who think that the key to appreciating music lies in smoking suspiciously thick cigarettes, Pink Floyd started out much the same as any noisy avant-garde indie band might do today. In the weird cultural hinterland between the closure of the pirate radio stations and the launch of Onederful Radio 1, they were often to be found appearing on "Top Of The Pops" for several weeks running, arguing with pompous Germanic musicologists on "Late Night Line-Up" ("why does it all have to be so terribly loud?"), and recording songs that were actually short enough to fit onto the b-side of a single. From the reverse of the biggest hit of their short dalliance with the world of singles chart stardom, ‘The Scarecrow’ (note the ‘The’ - you didn’t get that with the album version, oh no) is a short but charming clip-clopping tale of a sentient scarecrow who sensibly chooses to stand in a field where barley grows rather than singing dismal songs about cups of tea and slices of cake or falling over and saying "daaaaaaaaaaaaa". A hefty and under-acknowledged influence on the David Bowies of this world, which still regularly crops up in the most unexpected of places (including, most unexpected of all, backing a feature on scarecrows on "Good Morning With Anne And Nick"). Connoisseurs of The Pink Floyd (note the ‘The’ - you didn’t get that with your Dark Side Of The Moons, oh no) rate the version recorded in session for Radio 1 highly, but like all of the Floyd’s BBC recordings this has yet to be released as you’re only allowed to hear them once or something.
13 The Grange Hill Mob ‘Just Say No (Rap Version)’ (c/w
'Just Say No')
A bit of a mystery, this. Whenever "Blue Peter" would run one of their seemingly endless procession of features on the release of the single and the cast’s meeting with Nancy Reagan (the first of many celebrity Americans who have had to have the concept of ‘Danny Kendall’ explained to them), the presenters would go out of their way to subtly encourage purchase of the single by suggesting that "the b-side features a rap by Mmoloki". Although its meaning is now all but lost in the mists of time, the implication of this statement was that the flipside featured some kind of extension of the laid-back pseudo-rap ("so what was it made you do it, you had no need, first a taste, then a craving, then it turned to greed, calling me your main man, you didn’t really understand, after all you did to me, expected me to shake your hand… no!!!") performed on the a-side by TV’s Kevin Baylon (and later Frazz off of "Press Gang") Mmoloki Christie. However, all of the copies that TV Cream has managed to turn up have simply listed the b-side as ‘Just Say No (Instrumental)’, suggesting some kind of bizarre Stalinist drive to purge Mr. Christie’s rapping talents from history has taken place without us realising. Nonetheless, even in its pure instrumental incarnation, ‘Just Say No’ makes the chart for three very good reasons; its inextricable linking with a golden age of Children’s BBC output, its status as a definitive ‘BBC Records And Tapes’ single (so much so that you can almost smell the silver and black injection-moulded label on hearing it), and the fact that it omits the excruciating sub-Stefan Dennis ‘soulful’ crooning ("all you godda doooooo is be yourself") of Ricky ‘Ant Jones On Saturday Superstore’ Simmonds, once (and in fact probably still) guaranteed to provoke outbursts from elder siblings containing expletives and the words ‘you’, ‘up’, ‘ponce’ and ‘shut’.
12 The Housemartins ‘The Mighty Ship’ (c/w 'Happy
Back in the mid-1980s, when it was still entirely possible for semi-acoustic jangly indie bands sporting ‘smart sweater’ chic to get on "The Wide Awake Club" singing a song with viciously anti-Royal lyrics, The Housemartins enjoyed a level of permeation of the mainstream without compromising their music or ideals that the likes of Coldplay and The Coral haven’t even had nightmares about. Welcome everywhere from "Wogan" to "Whistle Test", their catchy right-on left-wing indiepop songs were generally bolstered by short throwaway harmonica-driven instrumentals that sounded uncannily similar to the theme music from "Cool It!". Arguably the best of the lot was this tribute to the band’s favourite acapella gospel choir (anyone noticing a theme emerging there?), which gains extra points for being used to back a comedy montage in "Jossy’s Giants". See also ‘Step Outside’ (c/w ‘Me And The Farmer’), a gentle ballad berating the cultural dominance of the "LA Law"-styled American Saxophone ("my fingers are always in my ears, but the reed’s always in their mouth").
11 EMF ‘EMF (Live At The Bilson)’ (c/w
"What you sayin’, DB?". Supposedly recorded live at the Forest Of Dean pub where the band had played their first gigs (although some of those crowd noises seem to recur a suspicious amount), EMF’s shouty signature tune caused something of a minor tabloid outrage - as if upsetting Phillip Schofield by overturning a keyboard on live television hadn’t been enough - when concerned parents the length and breadth of the country discovered its somewhat free and easy use of profanity. Best remembered, of course, for its distinctive refrain "E! Ecstasy, M! Motherfuckermotherfucker, F! From us to you", but it remains top-notch indie/techno crossover fare with a wonderfully silly rap from wildman keyboard player Derry Brownson ("music from the underground, I’m out of my head to the pounding sound") and guitar from ‘the live I.D.’ to boot. See Also: the squelchy ‘When You’re Mine’ (c/w 'I Believe'), and from after the teenyboppers had got tired of them and their more serious efforts were cherished by the post-Madchester pre-Britpop crowd, ever so slightly unhinged covers of Cream’s ‘Strange Brew’ (c/w 'Children'), Traffic’s ‘Low Spark Of The High Heeled Boys’ (c/w 'They're Here') and The Stooges’ ‘Search And Destroy’ (c/w 'Getting Through'). And not that terrible Vic Reeves collaboration.
10 Spitting Image ‘I’ve Never Met A Nice South African’
(c/w 'The Chicken Song')
"And that's not bladdy surprising, mon". Like The Young Ones, another case of a comedy act hitting the musical big time with an amiable and heavily diluted a-side accompanied by a b-side that pulled significantly fewer punches; in this case, an unambiguous anti-Apartheid tirade against "tyrannous murderers who smell like baboons", that carried considerably more ideological clout for impressionable pop fans than spectacle-sporting students handing out leaflets with a modified Yin-Yang symbol on them. Over a jaunty world music backing, the lyrics detailed how the unnamed narrator had remained nonplussed by such unlikely incidences as "a flying pig in a quite convincing wig" (not to mention having lunch with Rowan Atkinson when he paid and wasn't late) but had still to meet a nice South African. Far less likely to have been sung in the street by annoyingly loud children than 'The Chicken Song', all told. More joyously still, as was discovered by winners of the huge "Smash Hits" Chicken Song competition, the 12" came accompanied by two delicious laughs at the expense of the Live Aid crowd - 'We're Scared Of Bob' ("we're scared of Geldof, we're scared that if we try to turn him down, we'll all get telled off"), and the two-fingered salute to 'nonce sense'-talker Phil Collins 'Hello, You Must Be Going'. See also the wonderful flipside to the less successful but more widely treasured follow-up single, 'The First Atheist Tabernacle Choir' (c/w 'Santa Claus Is On The Dole').
9 The Smiths ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I
Want’ (c/w 'William It Was Really Nothing')
John Hughes' favourite Smiths track, we're guessing, thanks to its appearance on the soundtrack to "Pretty In Pink" (during the scene where Duckie's flicking cards at an upturned hat - maybe it was a hatful of hollow, eh? - ha ha ha), and again in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (re-recorded by Dream Academy and credited during the end titles to Steve Morrissey and Johnny Marr). There's a case for claiming ‘Please Please Please...’ is The Smiths' 'Yesterday', as it features on no fewer than four of the band's compilation albums and it has been covered by at least a dozen other bands since, a feat equalled only by 'How Soon Is Now' (the additional 12" b-side for this single - not a bad package for £199). And, if you'll allow us to go all Ian MacDonald on yo ass, the Beatles comparisons don't end there, as the title always looked to us like an attempt to up the ante on the Fab Four's debut album title track. Yet, as his rather idiosyncratic taste in cover versions showed, Morrissey understood the value and mythology of the b-side, and presumably hated the idea of filling the flipsides of his pop group's singles with throwaway rubbish. See also 'London'/'Sweet And Tender Hooligan'/'Half A Person'/'Rubber Ring'/pretty much all of them (except that gadawful Twinkle cover). The entire recording clocks in around 1'50", including an instrumental mandolin break, which is barely enough time to read the title aloud never mind sing it, but that doesn't stop it being a cracking little song. Morrissey himself likened this b-side to "a very brief punch in the face" which is, ironically, all he deserves nowadays for putting out a-sides of infinitely inferior quality by comparison. And whilst we're on the subject of violence, The Smiths were, unlike say Duran Duran or Wham!, one of those bands that wouldn't get you kicked in at school (although any perceived devotion to Morrissey would earn you the "gay" tag), particularly as we remember even Sixth Formers happy to sit and peruse the sleeve of 'William' on the bus journey home.
8 The Charlatans ‘Everything Changed’ (c/w 'The Only One
Back in the days when major league indie bands only ever played academic institutions and it cost less than a fiver to see them, it was possible to tell the difference between someone who actually liked The Charlatans (normally limited to girls whom everyone else in school said that they’d find attractive if they didn’t look so ‘indie’, and, erm, boys whom everyone else in school said that they’d find attractive if they didn’t look so ‘indie’, neither of whom ever seemed to find the other attractive for some strange reason) and someone who simply wanted to be seen to like them because they'd been namechecked in The Face that month on the basis of whether or not they had bothered to listen to the b-side of the band's breakthrough hit. As 1990 as it's possible to sound without actually shouting "1990" all the way through (whither Guru Josh?), this is the hooded-tops-and-hi-tech-psychedelic-lights world of indie-dance captured effortlessly in musical form. Dismissed by pluralists as 'pure late 1980s Granadaland', but what's so wrong with that?
7 The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band ‘Canyons Of Your Mind’ (c/w
'I'm The Urban Spaceman')
"This is the b-side of our platter, sports fans". The flipside to Neil Innes extolling the virtues of his status as an Urban Spaceman, and a rarity on this list in that it is probably just as famous as the a-side. In the guise of a Las Vegas crooner, Vivian Stanshall belches loudly and sings of the "sweet essence of giraffe" and how love causes him pain in "the wardrobes of my soul, in the section labelled shirts", while Innes plays a disjointed guitar solo to hordes of screaming fans. Bizarrely, on the back of this composition, Stanshall was asked to provide a song for real-life crooner Matt Monro. His eventual offering, a tale of a pygmy and a gorilla being introduced by a dating agency, was unsurprisingly rejected. As funny now as it was then, which is a good thing because Radio 2's "Sounds Of The Sixties" appear to have their copy permanently stuck in a CD player. Trivia hounds might like to note that there are two different pressing of the single featuring entirely different vocal melodies on ‘Canyons Of Your Mind’. Well, you can’t say that they didn’t know how to experiment in ‘the sixties’.
6 Ian Dury And The Blockheads ‘There Ain’t Half Been Some
Clever Bastards’ (c/w 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick')
Perhaps it wasn’t quite on the same level as the epochal ‘Fuck Off Noddy’, but the title of the b-side alone was enough to ensure that the dog puppet-adorned picture sleeve of Dury’s one and only chart-topper was kept carefully hidden from parental view (as with all hidden singles, normally in a place so vinyl-unfriendly that it would promptly warp and become unplayable). Like so many others on this list, ‘There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards’ is even more tuneful and witty than its more familiar a-side, featuring wonderfully understated musings on the likelihood of Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Goch ("he didn’t do the Mona Lisa, that was some Italian geezer") and Noel Coward having had "help from their mum" in their pioneering endeavours. Now, of course, the presence of huge great "Parental Advisory - Explicit Lyrics" stickers all over everything terminates the joy of such illicit entertainment back at the music store.
5 XTC ‘The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul’ (c/w 'The
The right-wing Christian-baiting ‘Dear God’ might have been the one that got all the attention from XTC’s "Skylarking", an album that was bought by few but appears to be loved by everyone, but ‘The Meeting Place’ was the real star single. For evidence of this, look no further than the fact that the band performed its glorious b-side, the jazzy secret agent film theme-like ‘The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul’, on a special edition of "The Tube" filmed in Portmerion and featuring Jools Holland re-enacting "The Prisoner". Effortlessly straddling pop and indie in a manner that makes Busted and their ilk look risible, frankly, XTC could always be relied on to put something worthwhile on the b-side of their singles. See also the gloriously scathing pairing of ‘Blame The Weather’ and ‘Tissue Tigers (The Arguers)’ (c/w ‘Senses Working Overtime’), ‘Happy Families’ (c/w ‘King For A Day’) which scores extra Cream-era points for appearing on the soundtrack of "She’s Having A Baby", and if you’re feeling particularly brave and angular experimental art-new wave is your ‘bag’, ‘Pulsing Pulsing’ and ‘Bushman President’ (c/w ‘Making Plans For Nigel’).
4 The Young Ones ‘All The Little Flowers Are Happy’ (c/w
"'I’ll probably say something crazy like ‘oh blummin’ flip, let’s get on with it!’". If ‘Living Doll’, while enjoyable, had reduced The Young Ones into a sort of sanitised airplay-friendly comic strip (no pun intended) version of themselves for the benefit of Cliff and charity, and lay miles away from the content of the programme that most people were ‘banned’ from watching and the book that was regularly confiscated on the playground, its b-side was, reassuringly, the real thing. Like some demented alternative comedy take on "The Troggs Tape" (which, to all intents and purposes, it actually was), ‘All The Little Flowers Are Happy’ is basically five minutes of violence, mock-swearing, musical incompetence and saxophones rammed down throats as Neil, Rick, Mike and Vyv struggle to commit their punk nursery rhyme to tape. No doubt the cause of genuine horror for parents who had unwittingly bought the Comic Relief single with the funny shouting men for their genteel offspring, but for many more a rare haven where they could savour "The Young Ones" without censorious interference. Pass the detonator…
3 Blondie ‘Sunday Girl (French Version)’ (c/w 'Sunday
Instantly evocative of the days when an entire generation became aware that they found Debbie Harry weirdly interesting and couldn’t quite understand why, this cooler-than-cool foreign language rendition of the exquisite ode to the girl who’s "cold as ice cream but still as sweet" (sorry, "froide comme glace mais tout aussi sucre") was for many their first real exposure to Gallic culture, and a more potent one than all of that secondary school nonsense about "Tricolore", Max Bellancourt and writing imaginary penpal letters to ‘Guy’. The alluring sultry overtones also had the somewhat unwelcome effect of making said awkward adolescents feel even more weirdly uncomfortable still in the presence, dear, of Debbie Harry, with nervous shuffling during the top forty quite possibly eventually giving way to deluded fantasies amongst confused teenage girls and boys about the erstwhile Wind In The Willows vocalist and serial killer escapee ‘doing things’ whilst speaking to them in hushed French tones. TVC, however, has no time for such shameful behaviour, and instead would like to award ‘Sunday Girl (French Version)’ extra points for being most often heard whenever Simon Bates played the wrong side by accident.
2 Duran Duran ‘The Chauffeur (Blue Silver)’ (c/w
In 1982, Le Bon and co. were slap bang in the middle of seeming indecision about whether or not to pursue art-rock sci-fi (the b-movie schlock which informed their early lyrics) or succumb to the glam playboy hedonism (epitomised by sun, sea and sand promo clips) on offer post-'Girls On Film' chart success. Hardly intending to ever become your younger sister's favourite pin-ups, it was arguably Ver Duran's embracing of the pop video that cast them as jetset pretty boys (and embracing the idea of having plenty of nudie girls in 'em certainly didn't harm the videos' appeal to spotty adolescent boys). That aside, the 'Rio' single was a rolling bundle of Chic-inspired bass matched with exemplary '80s synth-pop, guaranteed to fill disco-roped assembly hall dancefloors with wannabe New Romantics the length and breadth of the land. Issued long after the album's Athena-print cover had first been slipped into HMV bags, the 7" did at least contain on the flipside the lyrically dense, acoustic version of 'The Chauffeur'. Surely the last place to find a piece of music so much the antithesis of pastel-suited yacht-strutting-era Duran, where the original LP cut had been haunted by the ghost of Roxy Music, 'Rio's b-side strips out Nick Rhodes' bank of Korg synth shimmers and faux pan-pipes and comes on like an MTV Unplugged session ten years before they were invented. Thus, the guitars fill the gaps with mucho Spanish flourishes and Simon gets to layer the vocals a bit more with melancholy "ah-ahh"s. Although it's not the best Duran b-side (that honour falls to their live cover of Steve Harley's '(Come Up And See Me) Make Me Smile'), it's their best original composition and a rare treat. As if to emphasise its legendary status within the b-side world, early Duran Duran CD reissues featured this version of 'The Chauffeur' as a bonus track. However, due to incompetence worthy of the BBC, the original master had been long lost so the track was dubbed straight from vinyl and labelled as 'The Chauffeur (acoustic demo)' in an attempt to mask the inadequacies of the source material.
C/W BRITAIN's NUMBER ONE
1 A-ha ‘Maybe Maybe’ (c/w 'Cry Wolf')
If A-ha had arrived on the pop scene a decade or so later, chances are that they would have been marketed not as teen heartthrob pop sensations but as charming European indie eccentrics in the manner of The Cardigans or The Wannadies. Their hit singles were often weird enough (how many other teen idols have boasted lyrics like "he came from where the winds are cold and truth is seen through keyholes" or "once there was a sea here but there never was a door"?), but their b-sides were weirder still and ‘Maybe Maybe’ is the most peculiar of the lot. Over a lightweight bouncy synth track, the undisputed mid-1980s pop kings churn out what appears on first glance to be yet another of the fey, upbeat love songs that were often to be found lurking on their b-sides. In the second verse, however, with the listener lulled into a false sense of security, Morten ‘Horten Forten’ Harket muses "maybe it was over when you chucked me out the Rover at full speed". As if that wasn’t enough, the song then appears to change into a completely different song altogether, consisting of little more than a weird Dadaist yelp and a bright synth melody that sounds like escaped incidental music from Pat Sharpe’s "Fun House". This kind of combination of tunefulness and experimentalism for experimentalism’s sake is exactly what b-sides were invented for, harking back to the pre-iPod days when the last word in enjoyment of a pop single was recording both tracks onto the start of a C90 and listening to them before leaving for school in the morning, and proves conclusively that ‘exclusive’ remixes are nothing more than a waste of everyone’s time and money. For this reason, and many more besides, TV Cream has no hesitation in crowning A-Ha as kings of the b-side. We could be wrong, so wrong… but we’re not.
|Still listening out for that rap by Mmoloki – TJ Worthington, Steve Williams, Steve Berry, Stephen O’Brien, Joe Champniss, Matthew Rudd, Jack Kibble-White, Michael Hoskin, Jon Peake, Chris Hughes|