The B-Side. In the scope of rock history, and depending upon who you ask, it’s either merely a filler to occupy the backside of a superior A-side, or track that complements and augments how great a single is as an entity to itself. And in the rare case of, say, the Beatles, a B-side can be just as popular and defining for a band as “Strawberry Fields Forever” backed with the B-side (and equally popular radio hit) “Penny Lane.” But what is most frustrating about the B-side is that A) acknowledging that the B-side even exists to most casual listeners is that the very phrase has been relegated to the crossword puzzles of the world, and B) these songs represent a kind of effort in songwriting that is equitable, and yet, oftentimes, overlooked and forgotten thanks to overwhelming popularity of an A-side that, more likely than not, far more catchy to a general audience.
But consider what happens when an audience forgets about the B-side, and an artist takes advantage of such a generalization. And in an instance of optimism, they release a song that is far more intimate, more true to the artists’ perspective, and less a show of their power and ability to conceptualize and edit their way to an A-side. And while some A-sides and singles can be as random and confusing as any other song ever released (consider David Lowery’s blog on Camper Van Beethoven’s wild success on “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” hosted on his ‘300 Songs’ blog that, unfortunately, is currently ‘unpublished’ for some reason or another), it doesn’t change the quality that most B-sides tend to have being something far more intense and personal and devoid of the qualities that make A-sides hits.
These are the songs that matter more to the superfans out there. The collectors, the geeks, the freaks, and off-beats. These are the songs that we search for, hopelessly, on every bar jukebox, sometimes successful and sometimes in futility (if you want to know a place where you can hear “Pinball Wizard” backed with “Dogs,” and you happen to be in Ithaca, NY, e-mail me), sometimes to incredible success. And even though I plan for this feature to stray to simply highlight forgotten singles in general, I stand by this promise: every band has a secret history, and it’s my mission to shine a light upon it as worthy of your regular musical diet.
With that in mind, let’s kick this off with a double shot of the White Stripes, and take a listen to an intense love song and a an angry split sider on pinball: “Red Bowling Ball Ruth” and “Hand Springs.”
After the jump: exactly what I said we were going to talk about.
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