Monday, 10 March 2014

Top Ten AAA Singles ('A' and 'B' Sides) (News, Views and Music 236)

We've rather lost sight of things in the past twenty years, now that we appendage them to the back of obscure album re-issues without a glance, but once upon a time the single was king. Two whole blasts of three-minute pop we knew wouldn't be popping up on an album any time soon and so much cheaper to buy you had half a chance of purchasing them with your pocket money or wage packets back in the days when albums were things you got as presents for Christmas (if you were lucky). We've talked a lot on this site about 'B' sides and my belief that it's on flipsides that you can hear the 'real' artist at work - especially in the 1960s when the single was at its peak - without the pressure of scoring a hit 'A' side or the slog of recording 12 album tracks in a day. What we've done this week, though, is study the 'A' and 'B' sides together, to see which singles were positively crackling with everything that was good and great about a band and a point in time and which singles in effect represent the best 'values for money'. Some 'A' sides have been given short shrift because the flipsides weren't much cop. Some of our 'B' sides are missing too because they were put out on the back of singles that for whatever reason weren't quite first rate. But here, limited to one representative per release, are what we consider ten releases of pure gold, listed in chronological order.

1) The Beach Boys: 'I Get Around' b/w 'Don't Worry Baby' 11/5/1964

So many people know 'Don't Worry Baby', that sweet Beach Boys song of worry and regret, that they assume it must have been a hit in its own right, especially given the ridiculous six-singles-a-year contract Capitol had given the band across the 1960s. It wasn't: amazingly this song was beaten to the 'A' side by one of the very few Beach Boys tracks that are even better known, 'I Get Around'. With a fast-paced 'A' side full of guts and confidence and a few references to surfing plus a 'B' side ballad worrying about letting other people down with a few references to cars, the Beach Boys really do show off all the sides of their 1964 arsenal on this track.

2) The Searchers: 'Goodbye, My Love' b/w 'Til' I Met You' ?/3/1965

The 'A' side is one last gasp masterpiece of crafted pop so un-missably good that even the dying trend of Merseybeat in 1965 got reversed by this magical song. 'Goodbye My Love' should have launched a whole new career for The Searchers as a 'thinking' band, with real gutsy emotion, a production to die for and harmonies that dazzle even by the band's high standards. Couple that with one of the band's greatest original compositions, though - a classy ballad that's warm and romantic with a hook to die for - and you have even more value for money. The fact that the 'A' side is a 'goobye' song and the 'B' side a 'hello' song only helps with the symmetry.

3) The Beatles: 'Ticket To Ride' b/w 'Yes It Is' 9/4/1965

There are many great Beatles pairings out there and most fans would probably plump for either 'Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out' or 'Hey Jude/Revolution', two releases often held up as being everything a single should be. For my money, though, this earlier one from 1965 is even better. Both songs have a mournful, claustrophobic, 'heavy' sound that's unique for the times but both achieve it in very different ways. 'Ticket To Ride' might be the most musically gifted song about being dumped ever, turning misery into an I'll-show-them powerhouse of pop perfection, full of hooks you can sing along to and enough something 'else' to make it interesting. The 'B' side is just as sad and just as revolutionary but in a quieter, reflective way. Only George's pedal steel gets in the way of hearing those Beatles harmonies in full flight on a song that manages to address the sadness that's in a good half of the Beatles' earlier catalogue but in darker, more adult tones. In turns denying and then wallowing in sadness, these two songs sound like they were made for each other.

4) The Hollies 'Look Through Any Window' b/w 'So Lonely' 27/8/1965

Even The Beatles were second to The Hollies in crafting a pop song into a production showcase and energising it into something exciting and vibrant. The Hollies do this lots of times during their career but their material is particularly strong on this single. 'Window' is a Graham Gouldmann song that sounds like it was born for the band: from the opening guitar lick to the last magical swirl of harmonies, this reflection on how other people live never lets up for a minute. The original 'B' side should have been an 'A' side too and is a real lost gem of the 1960s, filled with a real sadness and self-indulgent wail over a boy-girl split that's so intense it's almost painful to hear. The 'flipside' to 'Window' in more ways than one, together this is a glorious single made up of opposite subjects that are both subjected to the same shining sheen of guitars, harmonies and drums. Hollies fans might also want to check out the 1970 single 'Gasoline Alley Bred' b/w 'Mad Professor Blyth', which would have made this list too hads we not restricted it to one entry per band.

5) The Who: 'Substitute' b/w 'Circles' 4/3/1966

By the standards of their peers, The Who never cared much for 'B' sides: these tended to be either album tracks, cover versions or - on one memorable occasion - an instrumental named 'Waltz For A Pig' when copyright problems means the band weren't able to release one of their own songs. The band's fourth 45rpm release, though, is essential on both sides. 'Substitute' is the follow-up to 'My Generation' and just as groundbreaking in its own way. The band might have written it as a spoof after being fed up of newspaper reports calling them a 'substitute Rolling Stones' but the song cleverly straddles the line between earnestness and being mocking. Few songs are funnier, actually, with the narrator wishing he could substitute his new girlfriend for being back home with his mum ('at least I'll get my washing done!') and - in a line censored at the time - finding himself of mixed race even though his parents are both the same colour. No wonder this kid is mixed up. One possible reason for it is the character on the glorious 'B' side though with 'Circles' our candidate for the 'second ever psychedelic song ever written' during an earlier top ten (in as much as you can ever define a word like 'psychedelic'). This narrator is confused, a recent heartbreak leaving him so emotionally wrought he can't work out which way is up anymore. So there we have it - a clever twist on the 'sound' The Who are already becoming established for and a hint at what's to come the following year, but both - like quite a high percentage of Pete Townshend songs when you study them - are songs about being lost and hopelessly out of your depth, but being too afraid to let anyone find that fact out.

6) The Kinks: 'Dead End Street' b/w 'Big Black Smoke' 18/11/1966

These two songs are so similar they sounded like they belonged together even when spread 20 tracks apart across some Kinks Kompilation. 'Dead End Street' is my candidate for the single greatest Kinks single anyway (along with 'See My Friends' perhaps), a gloriously dark singalong about what it means to live on the poverty-line with no hope of escape that tells it exactly how it is. Had this been a film (it was in fact an early music video that few people saw because its 'carry on with coffins' humour was a bit risque for the age) it would have been a bleak noir classic. The 'B' side 'Big Black Smoke' is a song about a parent's fears for her child as she gets sucked up into the London underworld, a gloriously dark singalong about what it means to live on the poverty-line with no hope of escape. Both songs seem to be inspired by Ray Davies actually moving out of his home-area of Muswell Hill for the first time and acknowledging the influence on his writing of the 'ordinary' people who walked past his window there. Two songs very much coming from the same place and with the same hallmark of quality.

7) The Rolling Stones: 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' b/w 'Child Of The Moon' 24/5/1968

The Rolling Stones had been losing headway somewhat in 1967, with drug busts, commercial flop singles (although I still consider the band's releases of the year to be amongst their greatest ever work) and Brian Jones' decline rather getting in their way. 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' was very much intended as a 'comeback' single and boy did it deliver: it singlehandedly sounded straight and focussed and returned the band to the slightly subversive sound they'd made their own. The flip side, though, proved that they were just reaching their peak as a psychedelic unit too with a song as beautiful and other-worldly as any in their canon. As good a 'hello' and 'goodbye' as any in music, this single had everything.

8) Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young "Ohio" b/w "Find The Cost Of Freedom" ?/6/1970

We keep mentioning this classic single, but then we need to: the fight against 'Nixon and Tin Soldiers' might have changed over the years but fight it we still do. Can there ever have been a single more moving than this one, inspired by the Nixon-sanctioned shooting of a group of anti-Vietnam protestors at Ohio University? Written the day of the shootings, recorded the day after and in the shops just outside a fortnight, 'Ohio' wasn't just a single but a battle cry, almost as immediate as a newspaper but a hundred times as influential. Needing an appropriate B-side at short notice, Stephen Stills offered up an unfinished song that started with a ghostly acoustic intro, went into a single prophetic verse and ended in a golden climax of harmonic unison (the song was 'finished' as the title track of CSN's 1982 LP 'Daylight Again'). The two go together as if they were always meant that way, one a battle cry and one a requiem for those fallen, the 'A' side tied to a specific moment in time and a 'B' side that shows how timeless the fight is (Stills wrote it about the American Civil War). It was CSNY's peak moment - they even killed off sales for 'Teach Your Children' which would almost certainly have got to #1 - and shows how moving, courageous and intelligent music can be at its best.

9) Lindisfarne: 'Lady Eleanor' b/w 'Nothing But The Marvellous Is Beautiful' ?/1/1971

Most fans, if they bought 'Lady Eleanor' at all, bought it as a double 'A' side with 'Meet Me On The Corner' on the back of it (it was this 1971 re-issue, closely on the heels of 'Fog On The Tyne', that became a runaway hit). But this original release - Lindisfarne's debut in fact - is even better. The 'A' side is a flowing Elizabethan ballad that hypnotises and entrances almost as much as the mysterious lady at its core and is clearly about the heart ruling the head, for all the narrator's attempts to stop himself falling in love. The 'B' side is a stop-start prog rock epic before the genre properly existed, musing on how to make the most out of life (the answer 'if you shut your eyes you'll know without even knowing'). The 'head' to the 'A' song's heart it's another classic Alan Hull song and while clearly not as magical or unforgettable as the 'A' side makes for a fitting companion, figuring that regardless of outward consequences our hearts will always tell us what's 'beautiful' and tell us we're on the right path.

10) Oasis: 'Some Might Say' backed with 'Acquiesce' 'Headshrinker' and 'Talk Tonight' 24/4/1995

The single took a bit of a hit in the 1970s when album sales began to grow and singles tended to feature what songs were on a forthcoming album anyway. Gloriously bucking the trends and turning the clock back 30 years in so many ways were Oasis, whose love of a good 'B' side (releasing at least two, usually three, with every single across their career) has often been remarked on by this site. Had we stuck with simply the 'A' side and the 'lead' 'B' side then clearly 'Wonderwall' b/w 'Masterplan' (most fans' choice as their greatest flipside) deserves a mention. However just look at the sheer eclecticism and sizzling songs on this single: 'Acquiesce' is a concert favourite, a stunning song that features the Gallagher's contrasting 'voices' at their best on a song about 'brotherly love' that might apply to them or humans everywhere. 'Headshrinker' is the loudest, rawest, most raucous recording Oasis ever made and the song I always play people who moan to me that Oasis couldn't really play. 'Talk Tonight' is another of my all-time Oasis favourites, a reflective acoustic ballad sung by Noel written when oasis seemed to have broken up, about a fan who calmed him down and encouraged him all the pain and worrying were worth it (she's right, given exquisite songs like this one). And I haven't even mentioned the 'A' side yet, 'Some Might Say', a song that isn't the most obvious Oasis single then or now but was crucial in persuading the public that Oasis could 'do' complex and 'structured' as well as play across a wall of noise. Like many of the band's 1990 releases, it's infectiously enthusiastic and hopeful but brave enough to still paint life the way it really is. All in all not bad for a £1.99 single.

And that's that. Join us for a discussion of more album tracks and - ooh - all sorts of other good stuff same time, same place, next week!

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

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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

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