My Favorite B-Sides of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties

11.15 colored-vinyl-row-5

I remember back when I was just a little bit cool, like in college, when the music of my youth was new and exciting, that I kept hearing about some very cool songs being released on the B-side, or the side of a 7-inch 45 rpm slice of vinyl with the A-side being the song traditionally played on the radio. Kids today have no idea about this kind of thing, which is a shame. From the beginning of the 7-inch record, there have always been gems placed on the B-side of a hit record. Some of those B-sides became hits in their own rights, such as The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” (B-side of “Hello Goodbye”), “Come Together (“Something”), among others. Sometimes, DJs often turned a record over and made a hit out of the B-side, as in the cases of the Doobie Brothers’ number one hit “Black Water,” and Kiss’ “Beth.”

11.15 led zeppelin
Led Zeppelin

As the punk/new wave era got going, more and more special B-sides were being released instead of cuts from an album. This practice was used to bolster sales of the single. In the meantime, artists were beginning to place new unreleased material on these B-sides. And when the Eighties rolled in, many of the B-sides became nearly as famous as their A-side counterparts. Suddenly, Gen X was caught up in a B-side frenzy, as these songs were often heard as much on the radio as the hit song.

11.15 the police
The Police

Then, at the height of the MTV revolution, artists began to make the single an artistic statement in its own right. In 1982, Marshall Crenshaw backed up “Someday, Someway” with his most brilliant statement “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time.” Prince followed suit by starting his huge Eighties run by putting some of his finest music on the B-sides of his singles in a way that complimented the supposed hit. By the time the summer of 1983 rolled around, everyone was putting special songs out as B-sides. The Pretenders had “My City Was Gone,” then The Police dropped the immortal “Murder by Numbers,” and we were off to the races, as it seemed as though everyone was jumping onto the bandwagon. Disparate artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and XTC were joining the ranks of the B-side craze.

11.15 xtc

Unfortunately, every great trend must come to an end. The single was slowly phased out as the CD rose to prominence, although we did get some brilliant non-album hits by the likes of Coolio, Weezer and Pearl Jam. But, this whole B-side faded somewhat during the advent of mp3s, though some artists continue to release some special tunes as electronic “B-sides.” But, since I’m an old geezer, I will stick to my wheelhouse of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. The pre-Seventies stuff is mostly foreign to me outside of the Beatles and Stones, while I lived these three decades.

11.15 Pearl-Jam
Pearl Jam

With all of that said, allow me to list for you 50 of my favorite B-sides of the Gen X era, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.

  1. Billy Joel – “Elvis Presley Boulevard” (“Allentown,” 1982)
  2. Bruce Springsteen – “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” (“I’m Going Down,” 1985)
  3. Bruce Springsteen – “Jersey Girl (live)” (“Cover Me,” 1984)
  4. Bruce Springsteen – “Johnny Bye Bye” (“I’m on Fire,” 1984)
  5. Bruce Springsteen – “Pink Cadillac” (“Dancing in the Dark,” 1984). This one was a radio hit in its own right.
  6. Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (live)” (“My Hometown,” 1985). My favorite Christmas song to this day.
  7. Bruce Springsteen – “Shut Out the Lights” (“Born in the U.S.A.,” 1984)
  8. Bruce Springsteen – “Stand on It” (“Glory Days,” 1985)
  9. Chicago – “Colour My World” (“Beginnings,” 1971)
  10. Coolio – “Gangsta’s Paradise” (“Too Hot,” 1995). That’s right! It’s life began as a B-side.
  11. Depeche Mode – “Route 66” (“Behind the Wheel,” 1988)
  12. Fleetwood Mac – “Silver Springs” (“Go Your Own Way,” 1977). Can you believe this song was left off Rumours? On the other hand, which song on that album would it replace?
  13. Green Day – “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” (“Brain Stew,” 1996). Of course, this song was re-recorded for the Nimrod album.
  14. John Cougar Mellencamp – “Under the Boardwalk” (“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” 1985)
  15. John Fogerty – “Centerfield” (“Old Man Down the Road,” 1985). Technically, this was on Fogerty’s 1985 comeback album, but few remember the A-side.
  16. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes” (“Shake Your Booty,” 1976). That’s right! This disco gem’s life began as a B-side.
  17. KISS – “Beth” (“Detroit Rock City,” 1976). Everyone’s favorite slow dance number who were in middle school when this song was released.
  18. Led Zeppelin – “Hey Hey What Can I Do” (“The Immigrant Song,” 1970). How did this song never make a Zeppelin album?
  19. Madonna – “Into the Groove” (“Angel,” 1985). If “Into the Groove” had been released as an A-side, it would have become a HUGE hit.
  20. Marshall Crenshaw – “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” (“Someday, Someway,” 1982). I simply love this song.
  21. Nirvana – “Aneurysm” (“Smells like Teen Spirit,” 1991)
  22. Paul McCartney – “Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)” (“Coming Up,” 1980). This is a case of the B-side being WAY better than the studio version. That’s why radio played it to death in 1980.
  23. Paul McCartney & Wings – “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” (“Band on the Run,” 1974)
  24. Pearl Jam – “Yellow Ledbetter” (“Jeremy,” 1992). Who wasn’t blown away by this gem?
  25. Prince – “17 Days” (“When Doves Cry,” 1984)
  26. Prince – “Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)” (“Let’s Work,” 1982)
  27. Prince – “Horny Toad” (“Delirious,” 1983)
  28. Prince – “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” (“1999,” 1982)
  29. Prince – “I Love U in Me” (“The Arms of Orion,” 1989)
  30. Prince – “Irresistible Bitch” (“Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” 1983)
  31. Prince – “La, La, La, He, He, Hee” (“Sign o’ the Times,” 1987)
  32. Prince – “Love or Money” (“Kiss,” 1986)
  33. Prince – “Rock and Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives in Minneapolis)” (“Gold,” 1995)
  34. Prince – “Scarlet Pussy” (“I Wish U Heaven,” 1988)
  35. Prince – “Shockadelica” (“If I Was Your Girlfriend,” 1987). Yes, Prince copped this title from former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson’s excellent album. Yet, it is a brilliant mixture of psychedelia, funk and rock.
  36. Prince & the Revolution – “Alexa de Paris” (“Mountains,” 1986)
  37. Prince & the Revolution – “Another Lonely Christmas” (“I Would Die 4 U,” 1984)
  38. Prince & the Revolution – “Erotic City” (“Let’s Go Crazy,” 1984). Sheila E. says they were singing “funk” not the f-word. I guess she gets the final word.
  39. Prince & the Revolution – “Hello” (“Pop Life,” 1985)
  40. Prince & the Revolution – “She’s Always in My Hair” (“Raspberry Beret,” 1985)
  41. R.E.M. – “Last Date” (“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” 1987)
  42. Talking Heads – “Get Wild – Wild Gravity” (“Burning Down the House,” 1983)
  43. The Police – “Murder by Numbers” (“Every Breath You Take,” 1983). Sometimes, I would much rather hear this side than the other one, that’s how good it is!
  44. The Pretenders – “2000 Miles” (“Middle of the Road,” 1983)
  45. The Pretenders – “My City Was Gone” (“Back on the Chain Gang,” 1982). Remember the days before Rush Limbaugh and his fat ass copping this song for his stupid radio show? This song was so exciting as a back-up to The Pretenders’ biggest hit.
  46. The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now?” (“William, It Was Really Nothing,” 1984). This actually started as a B-side because some label idiot thought it didn’t sound enough like The Smiths! This is the band’s calling card to greatness.
  47. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Heartbreakers’ Beach Party” (“You Got Lucky,” 1982). Wanna hear Petty and his mates at their most relaxed and fun? This is the place.
  48. U2 – “The Sweetest Thing” (“Where the Streets Have No Name,” 1987). Long before U2 released this one as a hit in the late-Nineties, it was relegated to a B-side during The Joshua Tree era. Like with “Silver Springs,” where would have this song fit on that perfect album?
  49. Weezer – “Holiday” (“Undone (The Sweater Song),” 1994)
  50. XTC – “Dear God” (“Grass,” 1986). Once again, another example of the B-side getting flipped to become the hit. Then, XTC’s classic Skylarking had to be reprinted with this song added to it. And the album actually improved with its inclusion!

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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