Monday 27 April 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 29 (Top Five): Rolling Stones B-Sides

And now the latest in our series of top fives: the five best Rolling Stones B-sides! Now, unlike the Beatles and the Hollies, who used their flipsides to experiment with early songwriting attempts and gave them an opportunity to hone in on their own writing style without the hoo-hah of being played a million times on radio, the Stones actively used their B-sides to carve out a new niche for themselves away from their rock and rolling image. Very few of the Stones’ 60s B-sides are rock and rollers – instead we get one blues jam, a rockabilly instrumental, a throwaway comedy and oodles of passionate heart-warming ballads. For the purposes of this review, we’re sticking to non-album B-sides here and we’re also missing the double ‘A’ side of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together/Ruby Tuesday’, simply because its too well known (and which one was the flipside anyway? They both got over-the-counter-request sales). So which other definitive B-sides should you own? Well, blue may turn to grey and we may well be playing with fire here, but we think we might just have the answer.   

5) As Tears Go By (B-side of ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).

Marianne Faithful has been doing the rounds again recently and everyone seems to have trotted out this gossamer light ballad asbeing perfect for the young Marianne and somehow less than excellent in the Rolling Stones’ fans. Actually this Jagger/Richards ballad suits the Stones like a glove – they were always better at ballads than their hell-raising reputation and it’s generally the ballads that stand out on their more recent CDs. ‘As Tears Go By’ is simple and workmanlike in places but it sports a pretty tune and Jagger has a convincing air as the narrator here, half genuine in his sadness and half sending the whole thing up, giving this recording an edge that Marianne was simply too young and inexperienced to give to her version.  

4) The Spider And The Fly (B-side of ‘Satisfaction’, available on ‘Rolling  Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).

          Wow, clever wordplay, a fine blues-rock riff and some storytelling lyrics – why wasn’t this is a single in its own right? It would have sparked off quite a new phase in the Stones repertoire, a million miles away from the relentless angst of the A-side. The story is this – the young, inexperienced narrator gets seduced Mrs Robinson-style by an older woman, unable to escape her charms as he falls into her trap. The song was hilariously revived for the band’s mid-90s tours where the age of the female in question went from ‘dirty, flirty, she looked about 30’ to ‘thrifty, nifty, she looked about 60’. Brian Jones seems to be having fun on this track too, a rarity in this period of Stones history, something the sweet blues riff must have had something to do with.

3) Play With Fire (B-side of ‘The Last Time’, available on ‘Rolling Stones – Singles Collection – The London Years’).

          Hmm, nice. The Stones might have only just begun writing A-sides in this period, but already they’re writing genius cast-offs for their B-sides too. A spooky Mick Jagger vocal and a surprising amount of restraint in the instrumentation (considering the clatterbang of musicians on the A-side anyway) make this drama-queen ballad almost unique in the Stones’ back catalogue. Richards’ riff is a low grumble, taught as any of his killer electric riffs, and Jagger’s lyrics are up a notch from normal in this early period, warning off his latest girlfriend with a menace not heard outside ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.

2) Dandelion (B-side of ‘We Love You’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).

          For my money, ‘We Love You’ is the best single the Stones ever made, even though hardly anybody mentions it anymore (it didn’t sell as well as some of the others, which might be why it was unceremoniously booted off the ’40 Licks’ compilation in favour of such, err, classics as ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (too right!) and ‘Fool To Cry’ (yuk!) The B-side is lighter, fluffier but equally devastating in the scary-choral harmony stakes, with some terrific drum rolls from Charlie Watts and an emphatic Jagger lead. A close cousin of ‘She’s A Rainbow’, this is the Stones in commercial spot-on catchy pop phase, but this template pop song is performed with such force and wild abandon that it still ends up sounding like a drum-heavy rocker. The lyrics are more typical Jagger fare, with the narrator trying to get rid of his girlfriend without having to tell her directly (a la most of the songs on 1966’s ‘Aftermath’ and 1967’s ‘Between the Buttons’ albums), hoping that she would ‘blow away dandelion!’ Despite its low visibility on the Rolling Stones radar these days, the band were seemingly fond of this song at the time – Keith Richards even named his daughter ‘Dandelion’ until she decided to rebel in teenager-hood and started calling herself after another Rolling Stones song from the ‘Goats Head Soup’ album (see review no 58 again; clue: it’s not ‘Mr D’ or ‘Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo’).


1) Child Of the Moon (B-side of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).

          An absolute classic, this sweet and swirling slab of psychedelia shows just how good the Stones could be at this sort of thing when they put their minds to it. Jagger sings to Brian Jones’ mellotron accompaniment and like many of Brian Jones’ parts, it’s the bit that makes the song, pulsating and rumbling underneath some more of those scary but beautiful Stones harmonies. Jagger’s at his best in this song too, sneering his way through the verses as if in disdain of the weakness of the song’s character and the way he/she (we never find out which!) keeps breaking down at the slightest thing, but the gorgeous choruses find the singer letting down his guard and showing some real compassion and warmth to his subject. Given the unusual subject matter and the unusual lack of gender here, I’d hazard a guess that this is Jagger/Richards’ parting gift to Brian Jones, offering him almost the last opportunity to solo on a Stones record before the band get back to rocking and rolling and leave him behind for good (as per the A side). If so, it’s a fine farewell, with Richards’ melodic guitar passages and Wyman’s angular bass finding the perfect complement in Jones’ sweeping keyboard parts, creating one of the most ethereal and romantic feelings the Stones have conjured up since the similarly constructed ‘Lady Jane’. An absolute gem and – dare I say it – a song that beats its more famous A-side companion hands down.   

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

What difference does a name make? Arguably not much if you’re already a collector of a certain group, for whom the names on the album sleeves just...

This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock


  1. Actually, I'm rather fond of "Through the Lonely Nights".

  2. Me too now I've finally discovered it! It's blooming hard to track down though - don't think I owned the 'Rarities' set back when I wrote this, too expensive at the time! 8>)