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Rock’s Top 10 B-Sides

In the heyday of Top 40 radio, when the 45 was king, record labels typically put all their effort into only one side of single, the A-side. B-sides were considered throwaways. The Beatles were the exceptions as nearly all of their singles produced double-sided hits, but for the vast majority, “flip sides” were often only heard by the kids who purchased the singles and then, usually in the privacy of their bedrooms when they were alone – seldom shared when friends dropped into visit.

That said, some B-sides have gone on to far greater fame than their A-sides. Here are h=wht we consider the top 10:

  1. “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets – Yes, the song that’s often credited with launching rock into the mainstream begam life as the B-side to “13 Women.” Initially, the record was a two-sided flop. Then, movie producers used the B-side over the titles for the movie Blackboard Jungle. The single was re-issued with A & B sides reversing and the rest is rock & roll history!
  2. “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley – Hard to believe, but this all-time classic was actually released as the flip side of “Don’t Cruel. Now, “Don’t Be Cruel” is famous in its own right, but nowhere near as well known or remembered as “Hound Dog.”
  3. “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers – Yes, this little opus was considered a throwaway track by legendary producer Phil Spector. The A-side was supposed to be “Hung on You.” On that, Spector lavished his usual amount of time and attention. “Unchained Melody” was thrown together so quickly that it features only one, not both, of the Righteous Brothers (Bobby Hatfield) and was recorded fairly quickly. In truth, neither side found much initial success. It as only when the track was used as part of the 1990 film, Ghost, that it became the classic it is today.
  4. “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys – Hailed by many as Brian Wilson’s greatest composition and far and away the Boys most popular tune in the UK, this thoughtful ballad was the B-side and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was the A-side. Actually, both are still considered stone cold rock classics.
  5. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart – You read that correctly, the song that is probably Rod’s best remembered song was actually the B-ide of his breakout single, “Reason to Believe.” Reading both those titles, we know which one is currently playing in your mind. “Wake up, Maggie!”
  • “Beth” by KISS – The ultimate irony is that KISS achieved their greatest chart success with a soft, reflective ballad, rather than the uncomplicated head-banging music that makes up most of their oeuvre. “Beth” started out as the flip side to “Detroit Rock City,” but quickly became the side most deejays were playing.
  • “We Will Rock You” by Queen – This perennial favorite of sports stadiums and motivational speaker warm-ups, started out as the B-side to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” On FM radio, one is hardly played without the other.
  • “Colour My World” by Chicago – Why an American band wanted to use the British spelling of “color” may still be something of a mystery, but it’s obvious the band itself liked this song. They used as a B-side, not once, but twice – backing both “Beginnings” and “Make Me Smile.”
  • “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac – When the band was recording their monster LP, Rumours, “Silver Springs was the last song cut from the album’s final line-up. To make it up to composer Stevie Nicks, the band used it as the flip side to the first single off that album “Go Your Own Way.” The song also became a staple of the group’s live shows. That in turn led to it finally becoming an A-side when Mac released it as a single off their live double-set, The Dance.
  • “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones – Okay, the A-side, “Honky Tonk Women,” is still the best-known side of this single, but as B-sides go, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is pretty damn good!
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