A hard rain slapped the windshield forcing us to hit one of those off-road all-night diners between Tennessee and Arkansas and order a trucker’s plate of chicken fried steak; “meat grease” served with gravy and biscuits. Back in the shadows of the room stands a blessed ornate Wurlitzer Rockola juke box. Future years, the Wall-O-Matic 45’ diner bar wall box murmured just out of the corner of the eye, situated where menus come to rest and within “$.25” play reach. Most times it was about that seductive title; typewritten and framed in jukebox red — curiosity and whether the artist or band had more gas beyond the hit song. I mostly played the B-sides to the hits of the day. In fact, I was addicted to B-sides. Never wanted to conform, just reaffirm my “rebel without a cause” stance. You understood every cut by James Brown was an A & B side, Motown the same, STAX Records for the most part – after that, it got risky. That was the big fun! Remember the Byrds' “Bells of Rhymney?” That Dylan song was flipside the Byrds' hit “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I convinced my band mates in the Chateaus to cut this as a single.
Not all B-sides were created equal. Too often the criminal element of the business just stuck garbage backside with all of their names pasted on as writers hoping for an accidental play and a bit of publishing and writers royalties. Real bands engraved the B-side with the best the band had to offer — the A-side — the chance compromise – that one-armed cash bandit. Sometimes the unexpected occurred. The instrumental prowess of the players prevailed on the B-side. If you had chops and skills, you’d stamp it there. When I say “stamp it there” – remember the B-side to The Who’s “My Generation,” an old soul classic – “Shout & Shimmy” – drummer Keith Moon explodes on this as John Entwistle lays down some pumpin’ rhythm & soul bass. You knew these players were the real deal.
I spread the word around and asked my music friends about their experiences. Some said they couldn’t remember that far back – the younger ones, “what’s a 45?” yet, for those still blissfully under the spell of music, it was an easy step back in time. Here’s what they had to say.
Garth Richardson: Bill, the only one that comes to mind is “Undun” was the B-side to “Laughing” by The Guess Who. It became a hit when the DJ flipped it over and played it.
Lily Sazz: Although I owned the full length LP, I'm pretty sure that Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" was a B-side. "Old Man" would have been the A-side. I remember learning to play that song on guitar and could probably still perform it in a pinch. I'm pretty sure that Booker T's "Green Onions" was a B-side, too, thought I didn't own it, either, and I don't think that whatever was on the A-side was a hit.I honestly can't remember anymore what was on the B-side of most of the singles I owned, simply because it was too long ago! I'd have to dig out the ones I still own, somewhere in the depths of my basement archives to see if I could cough any more suggestions up for you, but that won't realistically happen any time soon! lol
Woody Graber (Miami): Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” B-Side was "I'm Not Like Anybody Else"- a hard and gritty tune that really rocked. Elvis Presley did “Mystery Train” as a B-Side - probably his best recording. Yardbirds had “Jeff's Boogie” as a B-side to “Over, Under, Sideways Down,”- though my fave Yardbirds is the cut “Train Keeps a Rollin,’” off the Blow Up Soundtrack.
Gerry Young: Two Beatles single B-sides: Penny Lane- the B-side of Strawberry Fields Forever and Revolution, the B-Side of Hey Jude.
Drew Birston: “All Day Sucker” is an awesome song on a 45 included in Songs in The Key of Life.
Ted Yates: Aside from the obvious double sided hit singles, off the top of my head, for me...”Here Today,” the B-side of “Darlin'” by The Beach Boys, “Surfer Dan,” the B-side of “Elenore” by The Turtles, “Sing A Simple Song,” the B side of “Everyday People” by Sly & The Family Stone, “The Boat That I Row,” the B-side of “To Sir With Love” by Lulu, “She Hangs Out,” the B-side of“A Little Bit Me” by The Monkees, “Commotion,” the B-side of “Green River” by CCR, and “Gee Girl,” the B-side of “Baby I Love You” by Andy Kim.
Gary Kendall: My introduction to the magic of B-sides came blasting out of the juke box at The Olympic Grill in Fort William in 1963. Someone had meant to play “Da Do Ron Ron” by the Crystals and pressed the wrong button getting the flip side of the hit. “Git' It,” a guitar instrumental played and from that day on my friends and I replayed it constantly.
Tim Thorney: I grew up during the time where 45s were transitioning to albums but I always loved the sound of a 45 as they were louder since the grooves were wider and you could get more level on the disc. I remember how the Beatles always had 2 sided singles that never appeared on albums except greatest hits packages. I always thought that was great but the first single I bought was “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum on A&M records. This was a band cloaked in mystery with a strange fusion of classical sounding tracks with great R&B vocals by Gary Brooker. I think I was so excited to hear more stuff by them. I took my single and immediately turned it over to hear something different by this band, then came through the speakers an even more powerful and aggressive fusion, a song called “Homburg.” It was like hearing music for the first time. Ever since that day I would always go to the B-side to get a picture of the band doing what the band likes as the record companies didn't give a shit what was on the B-sides. The band did, so you'd hear through their perspective ....I loved that. I'm sure you've got lots of stories about B-sides that actually turned to big singles so I went for Procol Harum.
Joey Cee: "You’ll Forget” by Neil Diamond. Flip side of “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” 1967 Bang Records. It was 1967 and Neil Diamond had just released “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon.” As music director of CKFH radio at the time and an aspiring recording artist myself at the same time, I was hooked on the B-side of the single title, “You’ll Forget.” I always felt that this would have been a hit single — even to this day. I mentioned this to Neil during a lunch I had with him. This was early on in his career as he was breaking out with hit after hit. He agreed with my assessment of this recording. Apparently this was considered but a technical mistake on the recording took it out of the running. “You’ll Forget” would have become another one of his classics.
Sandy Crawley: Sinatra: “You Gotta Have Heart” was the B side of “High Hopes” (that Frank recorded on a bet that he could make any song a hit, so the story goes) I got it when I was 7 years old.
Gord Sheard: I was pretty young in the 45 era, and my memory of that time isn't great, but one I do remember is the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" — I think I must have liked the way the verse felt like something out of a mythical British historical past shrouded in mystery (accentuated by recordersound), contrasted with a rock chorus with a great hook. I bought (or was given — can't remember) "Let's Spend the Night Together" and fell in love with the B- side.
Linwood Barclay: I'm drawing a total blank! I bought very few 45s as a kid -- went straight to albums. This might have been because I was a weird kid, not as taken with popular music as I was with soundtracks. I think the first album I ever bought -- I might have been nine -- was a Bond movie score.
Marty Forbes: God you're taxing my memory...used to happen in late 60's early 70's when MDs had local control and the original single was burning and we waited for record COs to get new material from a hot band. Lots of Beatles releases were like that. Most famous 45 story was, “American Pie.” Didn't fit on a single so did Side A and Side B at 4 mins. We would cue both up on turntable and try for a decent fade/mix which was nearly impossible. Album version was released later and we played it. Most famous song never released on a single? “Stairway to Heaven.” Too long. Radio started playing it on AOR radio and it obviously turned in to an iconic huge hit.
Don Gibbons: This came to mind when I was just in the shower, but Cynthia Collins Lane here on FB has a few groups dedicated to keeping the old stuff alive. I think she's in LA but has contributors from all over the place. One of her groups is dedicated to really old R&B stuff. Gonna send off a message to a drummer friend who is also into this. Jeff Salisbury played with Cold Blood and Albert Collins. Older than me, maybe even older than you........naw probably not. Jeff always comes out with good stuff from back in the day.
Antonia Zerbisias: We were lucky. My brother, sister and I are very close in age and were able to pool our resources at Steve's Record Store which was inthe same shopping centre (not mall!) that our parents restaurant was in. That meant we could have stacks of 45s, at least until we got our hands on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It allowed us to listen to CFCF, CKGM and CFOX, which then played Top 40 in Montreal, and record our favourites off the air. So no more B-sides. But, before then, we had everything from Gene Chandler's “Duke of Earl” to Paul Anka's slow dance classic, “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” to, of course, Chubby Checker's “The Twist.” (I'm dating myself.) After that, I got into the "Bobbys" for a while, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Curtola, but Bobby Vinton not so much. Too whiny. Anyway, on the flip side of Bobby Vee's “Run to Him” was “Walking with My Angel.” Very yea, yea, yea - I like to bop around to it (and other tunes) in our basement rec room.. By the way, we didn't stay with 45s very long. By 1964, we were on to the Beatles and, eventually, thanks to Montreal's CHOM, album-oriented rock.
Dave Young: When I was a R&B fan I was a serious collector of 78s and 45s. I ordered by mail from Stans Record Shoppe in Shreveport, La. I once received a Sonny Boy Wiliamson hit "Don't Start Me Talking" but on the flip side was “All My Love in Vain” — equally as good. Also had Little Richard with big hit “Tutti Frutti” but the flip side was was as good — don't remember the title — Specialty Records.
Kris King: Christmas 1956, I was seven years old, six when Elvis Presley's song "Hound Dog" first came out in July of that year. Music was everything to me even at that young age. I was very hip to music, had my own red plastic record player with a weird grey felt turn table. I also had a newspaper clipping of a photo of Elvis taped on my bedroom wall I kissed goodnight, every night. All I wanted Santa to bring me that Christmas was the Elvis Presley record "Hound Dog" and a crinoline slip. I come from a Swedish family that celebrates Christmas Eve, so after midnight we open presents and I get the crinoline slip AND the Elvis Presley record. I ran into my parents bedroom with my record player, shut the door, put on the crinoline slip and danced with the bed post to “Hound Dog” for hours, eventually curious, I decided to see what song was on the other side, it was "Don't Be Cruel." I liked it too and spent the rest of the night dancing with the bedpost to Don't Be Cruel".
Lisa Hartt: One of my earliest influences when I was learning to sing was singing R&B . My mother was a civil rights activist due to her work in Montreal "Negro theatre Arts" and Sam Cooke was our favorite male singer. I remember clearly the sad news of his death and Mom came home with 1) Shake -The B-side was "A Change is Gonna Come"- the two of us sat on my bed weeping as we listened to this anthem which still survives today. It really influenced me to keep singing for change. 2) The Rolling Stones A-Side was "Let's Spend the Night Together" but when I turned it over to the B-Side I was riveted by the madrigal quality of the recorder played by Brian Jones in "Ruby Tuesday" ...what a line "Goodbye Ruby Tuesday who could hang a name on you when you change with every new day, still I'm gonna miss you?" 3) Following with my trend to loving southern songwriters, Leon Russell was a revelation and I loved Tightrope but the B-Side was a marvel - "This Masquerade"; what an opening line! "Are we really happy with this lonely game we play, looking for words to say?" Of course, the Beatles were always good value for money with song after song on both sides being mind blowing. However, I think you have enough to go on from me. Sorry if I was a bit long-winded but it was a great exercise to unearth these from the files of my youth.
Peter Boyd: “Rain” was the B-side of Paperback Writer, probably the first B-side to jump out at me, but the most amazing was the flip side of “Purple Haze,” which was “The Wind Cries Mary.” So melodic and spacy yet so compelling, especially with the solo playing over a separate chord structure. First time I'd seen that and it blew my mind. I was at boarding school while my parents were blowing up at home and I came back after Xmas break full of the Beatles and Stones only to have someone put that on the record player and it changed my life. Nothing like it before! The other one that stands out came later: the B-side of “Let's Get It On” really spoke to me: “I Wish It Would Rain.” Just what I was going through at the time, I guess. Just a sweet pensive song.
Lee Eckley: I Am The Walrus - I was nine years old and didn't get it. It taught me the most enduring art takes time to seep in.
Michael Robert Wycraft: The only ones I can think of are “The Only Living Boy in New York” (love this tune!!!) on the b-side of Simon & Garfunkel's “Cecilia” and “Colour My World” on the b-side of Chicago's Beginnings. “Colour My World” was a very popular slow dance tune.
Louise Pitre: I can't think of a 45 B-side. I did buy some of those but was buying mostly albums. But when I bought an album it was for some song or songs in particular and then discovered some gems on the album. I know that when I bought the Beatles White Album I fell in love with this little song, "Goodbye". It was a total surprise to me. I love that lullaby. Written by Lennon for his son Julian and he wanted Starr to sing it. Love that!!!! The other one is "The Greatest Discovery" on the ELTON JOHN album. I bought that album because of "Your Song" and found this gem. I learned it at the piano and sang it so many times! It was my go-to song when I was in high school and I was asked to play and sing (that song and "Natural Woman"- ha)
Marlene Weller: 1 Ella Fitzgerald – Hotta Chocolotta, 2 Bond – Mardi Gras, 3 Ames Bros – Shadrack and Swing Low Sweet Chariot W, 4 The Seekers – Open Up Them Pearly Gates, 5 Helen Reddy – Long Time Looking, 6 Frank Sinatra – If I Had Three Wishes, 7 David Bowie – Tumble and Twirl, 8 Pete Wingfield – Shadow of a Doubt, 9 Patsy Gallant – Angie, 10 Art Garfunkel – Looking for the Right One, 11 Elton John – Sugar on the Floor , 12 Fats Domino – I'm in Love Again, 13 Stevie Wonder – Purple Rain Drops, 14 Bobby Darin – Walking in the Shadow of Love, 15 Lennie Tristano – Sax of a Kind & Digression, 16 Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston – It's Got to be a Miracle, 17 Sly and the Family Stone – Small Talk, 18 England Dan and John Ford Coley – It's not the Same, 19 Ringo Starr – Down and Out, 20 KC and the Sunshine Band – You Don't Know.