Less loved than their A-side brethren, B-sides gave artists an opportunity to trial new and exploratory sounds, air studio leftovers or throw the bass player a bone with a minor songwriting credit. Deluxe reissues and streaming services mean many of these lost gems are now easily accessible to the average music consumer.
Here we look at 10 of the best B-sides from 35 years ago, casting the net back to the glory days of 1985…
The Cure –The Exploding Boy
Featuring Robert Smith’s opening request ‘Now wash your hands!’, The Cure’s B-side to their top 20 hit "In Between Days" suddenly seems more pertinent than ever. With washes of guitar and woozy saxophone, it’s an upbeat offcut from The Head On The Door sessions.
Kate Bush – Under The Ivy
Found on the "Running Up That Hill" single, "Under The Ivy" is quite simply one of the finest songs Kate Bush ever released. Two minutes of significant beauty, it’s arguably the piano-based blueprint for artists such as Tori Amos, Regina Spektor and Amanda Palmer who followed in Bush’s wake. Currently only readily available on the Kate Bush LP and CD reissues of 2018, "Under The Ivy" was rehearsed for Kate’s 2014 Before The Dawn performances at the London Apollo, but didn’t make it to the final setlist.
The Pogues - A Pistol For Paddy Garcia
An instrumental taken from the London-based band’s critically acclaimed Rum, Sodomy & The Lash era, "A Pistol For Paddy Garcia" was the B-side to the group’s cover of "Dirty Old Town". With Elvis Costello in the production chair, the track was written by the band’s banjo played Jem Finer as a tribute to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns. According to Pogues member James Fearnley’s excellent autobiography Here Comes Everybody, “We were not yet teenagers when Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly were released. Morricone’s soundtracks – the whips, whistles, chanting, trumpets and electric guitar – were embedded in all of us.”
Prince – She’s Always In My Hair
Released just a year after Purple Rain, Prince’s follow-up album Around The World In A Day’s standout moments included some playful ‘60s throwbacks. The B-side to Prince’s beloved "Raspberry Beret" is a similarly warm and psychedelic production in an era when Prince Rogers Nelson could do no wrong. "She’s Always In My Hair" was later revived for the compilation The Hits /The B-Sides, and was still in Prince’s setlists up to 2015.
The Sisters Of Mercy – Blood Money
How would Ian Curtis have turned out if he’d watched more Hammer Horror instead of Werner Herzog? Found on the flip of The Sisters Of Mercy’s "No Time To Cry" single, "Blood Money" is a deliciously camp piece of over-the-top doom pop from Andrew Eldritch's Gothic mob.
Echo & The Bunnymen – Over Your Shoulder
Its A-side "Bring On The Dancing Horses" limped into the Australian chart at #78, but the B-side "Over Your Shoulder" is still worth another listen. Backed by churning guitar elements which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jesus & Mary Chain release, Ian McCulloch broods about stars shining, doors closing and ghosts descending like a well-versed Ian Curtis disciple.
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Head
Speaking of fellow Scots The Jesus & Mary Chain, in 1985 core duo William and Jim Reid were turning heads with riotous 15-minute gigs and eye-opening debut album Psychocandy’s guitar squall. "Just Like Honey"’s B-side finds Jim howling over what can only be described as angle grinders plugged into a stack of Marshalls. "Head" was included on their B-sides collection Barbed Wire Kisses before also earning a reappraisal on Psychocandy’s deluxe reissue.
The Smiths – Asleep
While Johnny Marr’s distinct guitar was a staple of much of The Smiths’ back catalogue, here he leaves the Rickenbacker on the stand in favour of a sorrowful piano motif. Originally "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side"’s B-side, it was included on 1987’s compilations Louder Than Bombs and The World Won’t Listen. While Asleep’s maudlin lyrics hint at suicide, Morrissey would later sell pillowcases featuring a line from the song at solo shows.
a-ha - Stop! And Make Your Mind Up
While it might not have had an era-defining, record-breaking animated video to complement it, "Take On Me"’s B-side "Stop! And Make Your Mind Up" was a buoyant slice of ‘80s electro-pop confection. The band included the song on their expansive 30th anniversary edition of their debut Hunting High And Low, which also featured an impressive eight versions of – what else? – "Take On Me"...
Eurythmics – Grown Up Girls
After toying with darker sounds on their 1984 soundtrack, Eurythmics rebounded with the upbeat and catchy sounds of 1985’s Be Yourself Tonight. Sounding like Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox’s attempt at a Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder collaboration, Lennox’s heavily treated vocals flip from French to English on the quirky Grown Up Girls, the B-side to the hit "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)".
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