16 March 2011
We Do Like To Be Beside The B-Side
I was having a discussion with a friend the other week about how, in idle moments of boredom on Sunday afternoons, no time is ever truly wasted flicking through those 50p sixties singles you picked up at the local junk shop and just quickly checking what's on the flip side. There's a modern aversion to the concept of the B-side, a lingering suspicion that the second division side of the disc will only be hiding rush-recorded, rush-written pieces of flannel, or something only the band's most ardent fans could love. In truth, not only did B-sides in the sixties frequently hide some uncharacteristically freaky jams - as with Dave Clark Five's "Concentration Baby" above, the flip to the monotonous middle-of-the-road ballad "Everybody Knows" - they were also often the place where established acts would leave the dancefloor friendly material, or up-and-coming acts would showcase some of their other quality tunes for the kids out there who might be tempted to dial the 200+ numbers on a jukebox out of curiosity.
Sitting neatly within the dancefloor groover category is "Hey Hey Girl", the flip to Amen Corner's number one single "If Paradise Is Half As Nice". The organ honks away on this like nobody's business, and the track itself has a repetitive, barn-storming energy which would be the envy of most sixties mod bands. My copy of "Paradise" has worn grooves and a below-average sound on the A-side, but the B-side still sounds crisp, fresh and ready to create a party in my living room - whoever owned it before clearly didn't think to pay closer attention to its other half. More fool them.
Taking their cues from the Dave Clark Five in the "somebody put something in their drinks" stakes are Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich of all people, with "The Sun Goes Down" resting on the B-side of "Zabadak". This is such an uncommercial piece of droning psychedelia that it's a wonder anybody at all captured it on disc, never mind DDDBMT. I suspect their tongues were firmly in their cheeks at the time of recording it, but that doesn't stop it from being a hugely eccentric outing, a noise-fest which seems one part Beatles, one part Rolf Harris circa "Sun Arise", another part BBC Sound Effects LP. Despite suffering from the reputation as being something of a mass-marketed "pop" act by the tail end of the decade, DDDBMT did actually issue a number of class singles - the lyrically interesting "Last Night In Soho" being a particular favourite of mine - but this is as psychedelic as they got.
Away from the stench of incense and back towards the sweaty, beery basements of London's swinging clubs, the flip side of Chris Andrews' rather oompah ridden piece of pop "Yesterday Man" is the distinctly more abrasive, howling rocker "Too Bad You Don't Want Me", which rips up a storm and makes the A-side seem like a limp entrant for "A Song For Europe". Andrews squawks and screeches his way through a tune about a girl who doesn't want his company, whilst guitars twang merrily along and the groove concocted is entirely infectious. Andrews wasn't averse to making loud, abrasive noises, and one of his later singles "Hold On" is well worth tracking down for this very reason - but the company "Too Bad" keeps itself in makes it seem like a decidedly pleasant surprise. That 50p need not have been spent on a chocolate bar after all.
If you're lucky enough to own a copy of The Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind" (which still only seems to retail for around the £5 mark at the cheapest, despite its hit single status) you've already got one of the best pieces of sixties freakbeat there is - on its flip, however, is "Made My Bed Gonna Lie In It", a tune which admittedly fails to top the A-side (few things would) but is a damn good showcase for the band in itself, with Shel Talmy's production sounding spectacularly akin to his work with The Who in this instance.
We could talk forever around this topic, even excluding obvious artists like The Beatles who seldom wasted the space afforded on B-sides. I could bring up The Kinks "Big Black Smoke", Herman's Hermits' surprisingly garagey "It's Alright" (not on YouTube yet, surprisingly), or any number of obscure artists whose B-sides represented their sound better than their Tin Pan Alley off-the-peg purchased A-sides - but perhaps I'll throw it over to you good readers for more suggestions, if you want to contribute in the comments. The best thing about these flips is that even if you're rummaging around the record bins in a charity shop or find yourself in a second-hand record store with no bank notes, just loose change, they still give you a ray of hope that you may walk out with something unexpectedly good.
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