Friday, 14 December 2012

Music: Six B Sides Worth Checking Out

Or ‘bonus tracks’ as they’re known nowadays.

With the way music is packaged and sold nowadays B sides are becoming a dying concept, with downloads meaning that the necessity for a B side (or bonus track) to go with a single has been greatly diminished.  Many artists do still include B sides/bonus tracks as part of a single bundle, but they often simply include a few remixes or live versions of a previous song and the bonus tracks sometimes feel as if they are simply there to make the numbers up.  This is a shame as if you go back a few years, there were some excellent B sides to be found accompanying the ‘A’ sides on many singles.

So to highlight that point, here are six of my favourite B sides which I recommend checking out…

Never Want To See You Cry, found as one of
the bonus tracks to The Verve's Lucky Man.
1) The Verve – Never Want To See You Cry
Never Want To See You Cry featured as the second track on The Verve’s three track Lucky Man CD single, sandwiched between the brilliant ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘History’.  Between such illustrious company you would expect most songs to be well and truly put in the shade, but although Never Want To See You Cry is not quite in the very same league as Lucky Man and History it nevertheless comfortably holds its own.

It opens up with a simple but hauntingly beautiful violin melody before the acoustic guitar kicks in and like most songs by The Verve from that era it’s a song filled with emotion.  The whole song has a happy vibe to it but this is especially so when the violin riff plays during the chorus.  Never Want To See You Cry would fit in perfectly on The Verve’s Urban Hymns album and therefore it goes without saying that it’s definitely worth tracking down.

2) U2 – Lady With The Spinning Head
This is almost instantly recognisable as an early version of The Fly (with a little bit of Ultraviolet thrown in for good measure) and just demonstrates the ambition and vision of U2 to produce a track as good as this and yet still believe they could improve on it.  Most regular people would be absolutely chuffed to bits if they had created Lady With The Spinning Head, but U2 just thought, ‘No, we can do better.’  And ultimately they did, as the final version of this track, The Fly, is one of my favourite U2 songs. 

Although a forerunner of The Fly though, Lady With The Spinning Head is nevertheless different enough to justify a listen as more than just a curiosity piece.  After the bleeps and beeps of the intro, the song kicks in with a powerful guitar solo which combines well with the drums to produce an unusually dancey vibe for a U2 track.  If you like The Fly you’ll also love Lady With The Spinning Head, and overall this is worth checking out on two levels; both as an insight into the evolution of the U2 song writing process and as an excellent song in its own right.

3) The Charlatans – For Where There Is Love, There Will Always Be Miracles
For Where There Is Love, There Will Always Be Miracles was the B side to Up At The Lake, the lead single from The Charlatans’ album of the same name, and although Up At The Lake is a quality tune to jump around to, I actually prefer the slower more peaceful vibe of its B side.  Even before I had heard the song, the title instantly appealed to me and in actual fact the title gives you a clue as to what to expect from the overall sound of the song.  For Where There Is Love, There Will Always Be Miracles opens with acoustic guitar and then quickly settles into the classic Charlatans’ style of production and is well worth a listen for any Charlatans fans who it may previously have slipped the notice of.

Headset is the third track on Underworld's
excellent Two Months Off CD single.
4) Underworld – Headset
Headset for me is an excellent example of what musicians should do with their B sides.  It features a soothing chilled out synth riff with an almost random vibe to it, then over this a female voice reads out a selection of sentences.  ‘Today we shouted a lot but eventually it made us happy’ is a typical example of the type of sentences included and written down on paper these sentences would seem quite random but when combined with the music they fit really well. 

Headset is an experimental track in that it doesn’t really have a typical structure to it but Underworld have got the balance just right as it never ventures into the realms of being self-indulgent.  It’s found as the third track on Underworld’s Two Months Off CD single and its calming chilled out vibe make it well worth checking out.

5) Oasis – Won’t Let You Down
Oasis are the ultimate B side band so they had to feature in this list at some stage.  There are so many great Oasis B sides to choose from that it was almost a case of ‘throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty’ when deciding which one to include.  In the end though, I decided to avoid choosing any of their earlier B sides as most of these are familiar from the Oasis B side collection The Masterplan and instead I’ve gone for one of their later B sides, namely Won’t Let You Down which was the third track on the CD single of Lyla.  It has a very Beatles-esque sound to it with acoustic guitars and flutes mixing with Liam’s voice to good effect, and is another one with a nice chilled out vibe to it.

Lull, one of the excellent 'leftover' tracks from OK Computer,
can be found on Radiohead's Karma Police CD single.
6) Radiohead – Lull
When Radiohead produced their classic OK Computer album they were apparently in such good form that they came up with far too many brilliant tunes to fit on one album, and therefore several of the excellent ‘leftover’ tunes ended up as B sides to the singles from OK Computer.  It was therefore quite a difficult task deciding which B side to include on this list but in the end I decided to go for Lull which is found as the third track on Radiohead’s Karma Police CD single.  On Lull, Thom Yorke sings a melody very typical of Radiohead’s music from that golden era and this is backed up by a simple guitar riff which is also reminiscent of that classic The Bends/OK Computer period.  Short but sweet.

As a quick recap, this is a list of where the above B sides were originally found:

Never Want To See You Cry by The Verve – B side to Lucky Man
Lady With The Spinning Head by U2 – B side to One
For Where There Is Love, There Will Always Be Miracles by The Charlatans - B side to Up At The Lake
Headset by Underworld – B side to Two Months Off
Won’t Let You Down by Oasis – B side to Lyla
Lull by Radiohead – B side to Karma Police

Please note, some CD singles were available in two editions so if you want to hunt down any of these B side tracks then make sure you search out the correct version of the CD single.

Download these B sides/bonus tracks albums on iTunes:

You can find a couple of similar themed earlier posts here:
Music: Six Remixes Worth Checking Out 

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