What is a B-side? Most obviously, it is the song on the other side of a single (or, if we are being pedantic, the song(s) contained with a single release that aren’t the single). But I think it is more than that too. A B-side is a chance for a band to experiment (or, if they are lazy, ask Pendulum or Apollo 440 or whoever to do four similar shit remixes of their single). A B-side is a thing that only the ‘real fans’ (whatever that means) get to hear.
An A-side is an advert for an album but a B-side is a gift.
Without wanting to upset any of you, I wanted gifts. This wasn’t a week for songs that you knew that I knew about and we both knew were great. It definitely wasn’t a week for songs that you know everyone knows. I wanted your known unknowns. I wanted, “Ben, have you ever heard Everything Burns, the B-side to Poster Children’s 1993 single Clock Street?” or at worst, “Hey Ben, shall we bang on a bit of Respect Yo’ Delf?” It definitely definitely to the max wasn’t a week for recommending songs by artists who had already scored highly. Sorry. I really wanted lost classics. I wanted suprises. Should I have said this last week? Should I be more up front with what I want of you? Maybe. I just assumed it was implied.
Anyway, the following people are out…
- Bruno Di Gradi, Ben Thomas, Tom A and James Battisson who all chose the sublime Beach Boys song God Only Knows.
- Chris *Wear Your Damn Mask* and Sherri Turner who both chose David Bowie’s fanatastic Suffragette City.
- Skerret chose How Soon is Now? by The Smiths, one of only a handful of their songs that could genuinely be described as being ‘good’.
- Georgia Boon chose Billie Holiday’s perfect version of Solitude.
- James Beck chose the very good Talk Show Host by Radiohead
- Tom Mason chose Born Slippy by Underworld
When we get to the actual chart, you may notice that I have made some exceptions to my wanting more obscure choices, but that is only because I am mysterious and unknowable. The ten people mentioned above will have to console themselves with a bonus point each and the knowledge that yes, they picked good songs but no, they didn’t match up with my fickle moods this week. Soz and that.
- Which brings me to Mark G, who recommended Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, which again is technically a B-side but, you know, isn’t really a B-side. But in this case I’m upping the bonus points to seven because I had a nice sing along to it. I was concentrating so hard on holding the long notes that I threw my darts badly (I was playing darts at the time) but I didn’t even mind because the song was so nice.
As you can imagine, losing those big-hitters has freed up some space in the top thirty. That space will not be filled by any of the following songs, for reasons I will go into as we get to them.
- Rob Cutforth recommended Alex Descends into Hell for a Bottle of Milk by U2. Now, I’m not a U2 hater or anything but this song is shit. It sounds like something that would play during an episode of Buffy when a character is brooding about some mistake they’ve recently made. But not a major character (whose sadness would be more likely to match up, chronologically speaking, with a time when a decent band was playing at The Bronze) but a minor character, like Amy or Clem or someone like that. It’s a mopey pseudo-dramatic bullshit song. Utter hosepipe. No points.
- Adam Farrer managed to find a recording of Tom Waits doing something unspeakable to Fats Waller’s song, Crazy ‘Bout My Baby. I hated it, for obvious reasons.
- Plashing Vole recommended Dub Trek by The Firm and, for the first time in the history of this competition, I asked him if he would like to reconsider his choice. He said he wouldn’t. I wasn’t about to beg. The song is obviously crap but also (I think) borderline offensive, implying as it does that dub is just turning the volume up and down a bit. I’m probably reading too much into things here, so let’s concentrate on the fact that it is one of the worst songs ever recorded and move on.
- Desmond recommended A Man Inside My Mouth by The Cure. It sounds like a 1980s Weetabix advert. You know, the ones were the smallest Weetabix said, “OK!”
- Sex Police recommended Walk Away Renee by Billy Bragg which I found ‘interesting’ but not ‘enjoyable’, though the way Billy Bragg says “Mr Potato Head” is quite funny, and would be worth a bonus point if I had any left to give.
- Rebecca H recommended a live version of Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, which feels like an A-side by stealth to me, that. It feels like shenanigans is what it feels like. I can’t be having shenanigans. Oh no. No shenanigans for me. No sir.
The following songs just missed the cut but for no greater reason than that now the schools have reopened I want to keep my weekends free, so I am experimenting with writing these posts on a Friday (hence the soft launch of the 11.59pm on a Thursday deadline over the last few weeks) and a top thirty is quicker to write than a top forty. In a nutshell, I liked your songs but I have to do the school run and cook tea, and the weekends are so supposed to be a time to relax so… you know… sorry…
BUT IF YOU ARE ON THIS NEXT LIST, READ THE BIT AFTER THE LIST. I HAVE A NICE(ISH) SURPRISE FOR YOU ALL!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!
- Richard Jones recommended Emaline by Ben Folds
- Mellow Yellow recommended Michael Booth’s Talking Bum by Splodgenessabounds
- Nick Garrard recommended Kenneth Anger’s Bad Dream by The Auteurs
- Nick Portnell recommended Cadillac by T. Rex
- Justin Chisnall recommended Everything is the Same (except No One Believes Me) by dEUS
- Geisterhaus recommended Balbo’s Theme by Mclusky
- Chris Bissette recommended Big Cheese by Nirvana
- Graeme recommended Into the White by Pixies
- Jummo70 recommended Honey Power by My Bloody Valentine
- Mike recommended The Offer by Wire
- Dan recommended Social Psychotics by Gunshot
- Steven Moss recommended Velocity Girl by Primal Scream
- Al Kennedy recommended Love Always Remains by MGMT
OK. So, due an administrative error, I thought I had 29 bonus points to give away this week but I only had eight and, as I have already stretched the definition of ‘eight’ to breaking point this week, my best laid plan to divide the 29 points between you lot has gang agley. SO… NEXT WEEK… when I do have 29 bonus points available, they will be won by one of the thirteen of you. AND THAT IS GUARANTEED!!! Whoever scores highest next week will ALSO get the 29 bonus points. Which means you could, potentially, if you won next week, end up with 69 points. In fact, I’ll round that up to 70 to make things that little bit less smutty. Quite exciting, I think you’ll agree.
OK. No more faffing about. It’s…
THE TOP THIRTY
Dan Williams and Em both recommended songs by the Pet Shop Boys (Jack the Lad, and Miserablism respectively) and you won’t go far wrong doing a thing like that, will you? They’re only getting two points because I’m (sort of) frowning on b-sides from bands that have previously scored highly and Pet Shop Boys won last week, so…
And also getting two points is Sal Page, who recommended Maidstone by Squeeze. I’ve never really investigated Squeeze, as a thing. Their proximity to Jools Holland has always given me pause. [Though Holland did play piano on Jayne County’s ‘Fuck Off’ so he can’t be all bad] Anyway, if twitter has taught me anything it is that Sal does like Squeeze, and so I’m giving them two points. Does that make sense? Not really. I’m just being nice is all.
Benjo recommended Not Sport, Martial Art by Jim O’Rourke, and at the risk of losing any street cred I [probably don’t] have, it sounded *a bit* Electric Russell to me. But I did appreciate its something or other, I don’t know, I liked that it was picked from a desire to share something loved as opposed to win points. That’s a good thing, no? So only three points, which isn’t amazing, sure, but it is more than some people have got, so… err… honestly, I have no idea where I am going with this. Have some Electric Russell while I try to get my shit together.
Scout Tzofiya picked All For You and Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth picked Wine in the Afternoon, both songs by Franz Ferdinand. I don’t think I had ever heard a Franz Ferdinand B-side before this week but if ever a band were likely to have a few up their sleeves it was them. Interesting and accessible, your Franz Ferdinand, which is a winning combination in my eyes. Eleanor Put Your Boots On and Outsiders would have made excellent B-sides imo. Outsiders would have made an excellent A-side for that matter…
erm… yeah… I really like Outsiders. That’s the whole anecdote. Sorry. Oh, and you get four points each.
I have put Michael Conley‘s choice of Put Yourself in My Place by The Supremes and Dan Edmonds pick of I’ll Be Around by The (Detroit) Spinners together because I couldn’t split them, quality-wise. I’m giving them both five points. [I’m also pondering whether I should rethink Michigan week – there is a lot of potential for a massive draw. I could always flip a coin, I suppose. Or lots of coins. But not today. Today we’ll call it a draw.]
In Part One of today’s ‘Uncool Grunge or Grunge Adjacent Bands That Are Actually Pretty Good When You Think About It’ section, Mark P recommended Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam. They get a lot of hate, your Pearl Jams, largely based on that first album, I think, because it was everywhere for a while (and is a bit wet at times, admittedly) but Given To Fly is one of the great singles of the 1990s and sometimes they do songs about bugs crawling under your skin and that. Six points, is what I’m saying.
And in Part Two of today’s ‘Uncool Grunge or Grunge Adjacent Bands That Are Actually Pretty Good When You Think About It’ section, Nick Rayney recommended Set the Day to Jerry, and Sam Bail recommended The Boy, by The Smashing Pumpkins. They get a lot of hate, your Smashing Pumpkins, largely based on Billy Corgan’s uncanny ability to rub people up the wrong way, but Disarm is one of the great singles of the 1990s and sometimes they do songs about shouting into jackals’ faces and that. Seven points is what I’m saying.
David Hartley picked up eight points when he recommended Skeleton by Bloc Party because the drums on it are right up my street. You know what, Bloc Party and Hot Chip should have been Blur and Oasis big, what with them being better bands with better albums and better singles and oh all right Blur had their moments and Damon Albarn has done quite a lot of good stuff since then like have you ever heard that soundtrack he did with Michael Nyman for the film Ravenous it’s very good isn’t it?
For a second while listening to Sam Whyte‘s choice of Dear God by XTC I wondered where I had heard it before. It was really familiar. “Huh,” I thought, “why do I know this song?” And then I realised it was because I own, and have listened to on many occasions, their album Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-92. Has anyone else spent far too long over the last twelve months in their own house slowly going mad? Blimey, eh? Nine points.
A wave of nostalgia waved over me as I listened to Graham Watt‘s choice of Ansaphone by Pulp. I hadn’t heard the song since the last time I listened to the cassette that came free with a magazine (I want to say Select?) that it was on. And while I didn’t get the same eerie emotional response to Martin SFP Bryant‘s choice of Seconds, the song is as good (possibly better – though the debilitating affect of memory on rational thought prevents me from stating so definitively). They both get ten points anyway.
When is a B-side not a B-side? Or an A-side a B-side. And more importantly where is an A-side a B-side? Sleepy recommended (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea by Elvis Costello & The Attractions which, living in the US, he can. [for the record, any of you could – I’m just pointing out he lives in the US and it was a B-side there – in fact the song was even left off the album because it was deemed not ‘American enough’, whatever that means).
Sure, potentially I should have put this with your God Only Knowses and How Soon is Now?s but I didn’t, because of reasons. Eleven points.
Daniel Carpenter recommended Rage Against The Machine’s cover of The Ghost of Tom Joad. It shouldn’t work, as a song, but it does, but it really shouldn’t, but it really does. It should be terrible, but it isn’t terrible, it’s good. The sound of Rage Against The Machine shouldn’t lend itself to a cover o-
You get the idea. Twelve points.
Manic Street Preacher’s The Holy Bible helped me through one of the darker periods of my life, and as a consequence of that I simultaneously can’t listen to the album ever again and hate anything they did after it as a matter of (misguided) principle. That song where he sings a line and then someone else sings it three times? I don’t like that one at all. So, to cut a long story short, I expected to hate Jeanette Greaves‘ choice of Horses Under Starlight and Frozendiva29‘s choice of Prologue to History, but I didn’t, which probably tells us something profound about the nature of B-sides or my idiocy. I guess we’ll never know which though. Thirteen points
If ever a band were set up to produce a decent B-Side, it was The Small Faces. Let’s be honest with our selves, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake is about 87% B-side [though I wouldn’t want anyone to see that as a statement on its quality one way or another]. So, Andy C was on to something when he recommended I’m Only Dreaming. Specifically he was onto fourteen somethings because he gets fourteen points! Sorry, that ‘fourteen somethings’ bit didn’t sound as cool as I had hoped. Sorry. He gets fourteen points.
Fat Roland stopped pissing about with choices that make little or no sense, and instead searched the electronic music hemisphere of his brain for the goodness that is Laughable Butane Bob by Aphex Twin (AFX). He has tried many tactics over the last twelve months, everything from proclaiming Talking Heads as the epitome of Scottishness to just plain old cheating. But when he isn’t being daft he does things like getting fifteen points. He’s an enigma, that one.
Sometimes I sit on my own for a bit and wonder how many times Smooth from Nice and Smooth has said the line, “He’s Nice, and I’m Smooth,” in his lifetime. Quite a few, I reckon. Anyway, Tom Glennie recommended DWYCK by Gang Starr ft Nice and Smooth and he got sixteen points for it.
I was a bit worried when David N Atkinson recommended Erotic City by Prince that it would be one of those Prince songs where he does all the sex noises and everything. I avoid anything that features the word ‘erotic’ as a rule as it usually seems to mean something that in theory should be sexy but in reality isn’t. Can you imagine an actual erotic city? Thousands and thousands of people wearing those masks that only cover your eyes, dressed in uncomfortable-looking black-and-red underwear and wielding fluffy handcuffs? Ugh. Makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? However, the song was very good and Prince (mostly) kept a lid on it. Seventeen points.
Stephen May talked something of a big game as he recommended Don’t Step On The Cracks by Wah! HeatHe claimed (incorrectly, I feel compelled to add) that it was a better song than Rain by The Beatles. It is a better recommendation than Rain by The Beatles though, and it is a very good song, so it is getting eighteen points but it doesn’t, and I can’t say this strongly enough, “piss all over rain.” That’s just the facts.
When you’re right, you’re right.
I was very much delighted by the turn-it-up-to-eleven daftness of Living After Midnight by Disturbed, which was recommended by Mallen 181. I don’t listen to anywhere near as much metal as I used to. Partly that is just my tastes changing, but partly it is not having a place to find new stuff. A lot of the new metal that ‘places on the internet’ like is either really really bleak or crap metal instrumentals (Pitchfork in particular seem to lose their mind over albums of crap metal instrumentals – as if not having somebody sing, “lick my steel codpiece as the devil cries / everybody hates me and I don’t know why!” over the music somehow makes it worthy of intellectual investigation. I dunno. I prefer fun myself. This was fun. Twenty points
And yes, obviously I should write lyrics for metal bands.
OK. I’m going to show you something that some of you will find disturbing. If you are especially precious about vinyl you might not want to see what Graham Cox‘s parents did to his copy of Ian Dury and the Blockheads There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards. They did this…
…Now, before anyone starts sharpening their pikes, it should be pointed out that this was so their three-year-old Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick loving son could own his first single. They did evil out of love, like, errr, Kathy Bates in Misery? No, that doesn’t sound right, does it? Twenty-two points.
David Coates almost went with a Suede song but at the last minute chose Androgynous Girls by Girls Aloud. It was a sage move that. Not that a Suede B-side couldn’t have scored well, there are some absolute crackers in that back catalogue, but because Androgynous Girls is an absolute twenty-four points-getting banger.
And speaking of people who changed their minds, Picky Bastards went as far as recommending Talk Show Host by Radiohead before changing his mind and picking Candles by Daughter. A better song (there I said it) and a better recommendation all round. Nice. Bring me something great that I haven’t heard before and I’ll reach for my points wallet. Twenty-six points for you.
I saw Feeder live once, supporting REM. I say ‘I saw Feeder live’ but I actually mean ‘I watched Feeder walk onto the stage and immediately went to get a burger. The queue was the longest I have ever seen to buy food but, partially out of earshot of the stage, nobody seemed particularly impatient to get served. Queue-jumping was tolerated with great equanimity. Everyone was just happy to be there. We knew the noise in the background was an idiot shouting, “CD player player player,” but you couldn’t prove it. You could pretend it was a rhino farting if you wanted to.
Which is a(n im)polite way of saying, I’m not a fan of Feeder. I’ve always considered them a poor man’s A (and yes, I know that is a bit harsh, and yes, my mother did raise me better than to say things like that – Hi mom btw. Happy Mother’s Day – but I stand by it). So Tom. recommending Just a Day should have been a recipe for a third week of little or no points for him. And yet somehow, it isn’t. Life is full of surprises. I didn’t hate Just a Day. That was my surprise. My awarding it twenty-eight points is yours.
Last year’s winner, William Mallin has had something of a bad month in this competition (by his standards at least) but he turned a corner this week when he recommended O telefone tocou novamente by Jorge Ben. It’s possible the A-Z format of last year’s competition better suited his record collection than the geographical themes this year (though if I did a Sau Paolo or Lagos week. I’m quietly confident he would walk it) (I’m not doing them though, so don’t plan for them or anything) but theme’s like today’s should see him challenging for the crown. Thirty points should help with that.
I had never heard the song before. I had never heard the band before. I loved both.
That’s how you get yourself thirty-two points that is.
I know I said that B-sides by previously high-scoring artists would be frowned upon but Slugger recommended Under the Ivy by Kate Bush and it is so beautiful that I can’t see how I can give it any less than thirty-four points.
I hope you all understand.
I haven’t updated my spreadsheet yet, but the thirty-six points that Mat Pringle is getting for recommending Red Lady by Phil Cordell would, you imagine, see him becoming the fourth person in four weeks to top the leader board. It’s a hearty vindication for my scoring system, sure, but the real news is how cracking a song Red Lady is. There are seven songs in this week’s top ten that I had never heard before and this was (controversially, when you think about it, as I haven’t made it the winner) my favourite. Top top recommending.
I hadn’t heard the next two songs before either, and while neither of them was Red Lady, each had a certain something that pushed them to the top of the chart.
I know what you are thinking, B-seite by Rio Reiser wasn’t even a B-side, so why is it getting thirty eight points, eh? Eh? Eh? To which I reply, first of all calm down a bit, yeah? Blimey. This is supposed to be a bit of fun. Secondly, I liked the song a lot. And lastly, B-side was a theme, not a command, you are free to interpret things as you see fit. And sure, I will sometimes disqualify you for doing that, but not always. Not every time. Sometimes ingenuity will you get lots of points, like Henriette Pleiger did this week.
We have, let’s not be polite when it isn’t merited, had some absolute stinkers of recommendations over the last year or so. Remember that song that was just someone rattling a couple of metal tubes for nine minutes? Oh my. However, in all those weeks, and from all those categories, nobody has managed to find a song quite as ghastly as Donna Morris did this week when she recommended All I Want Is You by Take That. I like to make a playlist of all your choices then listen to them while doing something broadly meditative, a jigsaw or a crossword or what have you. The songs that pique my interest during that first listen are often (but not always) the ones that score highly on this list each week. All I Want Is You piqued my interest. As it’s resident-singer-in-the-seventeenth-best-hotel-in-Bilbao beats started up (electronic marimba no less) I thought, “Hello. Somebody’s being ironic.” But then Gary Barlow started singing and I realised that no, no they weren’t. Barlow was having a go at doing a Manillow, and failing quite badly. My thoughts while listening to the song were as follows: “Oh wow that is bad. Oh wow. Oh, wow.”
So why am I giving it, and Donna, forty points? Well, It was the B-side to Babe, which was the fourth single from Everything Changes. We are talking peak Take That. I’m sure a lot of you will hate Take That, and that’s fine, but only a fool would claim that they weren’t extremely good at what they did. Singing, dancing, Robbie Williams in a big hat giving it all that. They knew pop. They were pop. They popped. So for a band at that level to produce something as cack as All I Want Is You, well, it certainly isn’t the best B-side of all time but it might well be the most B-side of all time. And that’s why it’s getting the big points.
Wednesday is St Patrick’s Day* so next week the theme is IRELAND. Interpret it however you like (as long as it doesn’t involve recommending The Corrs, yeah?)
Have fun picking something out and I’ll see you next week.
*I put quite a lot of thought into planning these weeks then forgot to say why we were doing them. Did you know we did musicals week on Bernadette Peters’ birthday? No. Because I didn’t mention it, did I?