There are many classic songs that were either originally B-sides or intended to be B-sides before being rescued from obscurity by savvy listeners. This article highlights ten of the best, including two of the most loved instrumentals ever recorded and several tracks that became signature tunes for the artists concerned.
“Rock Around the Clock” – Bill Haley and His Comets
|One of rock ‘n’ roll’s original anthems, “Rock Around the Clock,” was first issued as a B-side to “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)” in 1954. It was only moderately successful until the B-side appeared in the movie “Blackboard Jungle” the following year.
“Rock Around the Clock” went on to be a huge hit, becoming the first rock ‘n’ roll song to hit number one on the US charts and repeating this success around the world, including in the UK.
To cash in on the popularity of the song, Columbia pictures made “Rock Around the Clock” in 1956, which featured a cameo from Bill Haley and His Comets.
“Be-Bop-a-Lula” – Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
|Yes Gene Vincent’s most well known song was originally the B-side of “Woman Love.” “Be-Bop-a-Lula” was the DJs’ choice and it became Gene’s first hit in 1956.
“Be-Bop-a-Lula” was Vincent’s most successful song, reaching number seven on the US charts.
“Tequila” – The Champs
|The first instrumental on our list was originally released as the B-side of “Train to Nowhere” in 1958. Again, DJs were more impressed with the B-side and so it was “Tequila” that became the hit.
This must rank as one of the finest instrumentals ever to hit the charts and it was by far the Champs’ biggest hit.
“Move It” – Cliff Richard
|Cliff Richard’s breakthrough hit “Move It” was originally intended to be the B-side to the comparatively lightweight “Schoolboy Crush,” which had been a hit in America for Bobby Helms.
Luckily for all concerned, television producer Jack Good insisted that Cliff sing “Move It” on the television show Oh Boy! This prompted the record company to flip the single and make “Move It” the A-side.
“Move It” was not only Cliff Richard’s first major hit, but also the first really significant and authentic rock ‘n’ roll song from a British singer. This was thanks to the driving rhythm guitar, Cliff’s Elvis-influenced vocal delivery and the great rockabilly guitar lead and intro. Most assume that Hank Marvin played lead guitar on this, but it was in fact session guitarist Ernie Shear.
“I’m Sorry” – Brenda Lee
|This is another example of an artist’s biggest hit originally being relegated to the B-side. “I’m Sorry” was recorded with just a few minutes of studio time left at a 1960 session and was put out as the B-side of “That’s All You Gotta Do.”
The astute DJs once again had other ideas and “I’m Sorry” was soon Brenda Lee’s first US number one.
“Save the Last Dance for Me” – The Drifters
|This Drifters classic was going to be a B-side until Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” convinced Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler that it would be a hit.
Clark’s instincts were good as “Save the Last Dance for Me” became the Drifters’ most successful song, hitting number one in the US and number two in the UK in 1960. It was produced by the legendary songwriters/ producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and was one of the last Drifters hits to feature Ben E. King on lead vocals.
“Green Onions” – Booker T. & the MGs
|“Green Onions,” was a number three hit in the US in 1962 and become one of the best known instrumentals of all time.
The song was originally the B-side to “Behave Yourself” but DJs ignored the A-side and made “Green Onions” the hit.
“Unchained Melody” – The Righteous Brothers
|“Unchained Melody” had already been around for 10 years when the Righteous Brothers recorded it in 1965. It was originally an album cut and might have disappeared into obscurity if not put on the B-side of the single “Hung on You.” DJs preferred the B-side and it rose to number four in the US and number one in the UK.
Although always credited to the Righteous Brothers, “Unchained Melody” is a Bobby Hatfield solo performance. It became a huge worldwide hit again in 1990 when featured in the movie Ghost.
“Ruby Tuesday” – The Rolling Stones
|DJs intervened again, but this time because the lyrics of the A-side, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” were deemed too suggestive for the US market. As a result, the two songs charted separately in the US, with the original B-side, “Ruby Tuesday,” hitting number one and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” failing to dent the top 50.|
“Let’s Spend the Night Together” was also famously censored on the Ed Sullivan Show, with Mick Jagger required to sing “let’s spend some time together” instead.
“Whiskey in the Jar” – Thin Lizzy
|“Whiskey in the Jar” was Thin Lizzy’s biggest hit, but the band originally intended it to be the B-side of “Black Boys On The Corner.” Decca preferred “Whiskey in the Jar” and made it the A-side.
Decca got it right as the song made number six on the UK charts and number one in Ireland.
Tags: Bill Haley and His Comets, Booker T and the MGs, Brenda Lee, Cliff Richard, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, The Champs, The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy
Posted in 60s pop, British Invasion, Rock 'n' roll, Soul |