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Ten Great B-sides

You know the moment - very rare but infinitely sweet. Your mind is on another level. You let the CD single slip on to the extra  tracks you never bothered playing or you flip the vinyl to the perpetual shadow that is its b-side. Then - wallop - you are slapped out of your reverie by the throwaway song that pulls the punch the a-side forgot to chase. The powerful backyard generator with the sweet perfume of dripping diesel. Ten examples are tendered here for argument and awe.

Katrina & the Waves
'Going down to Liverpool'

U2
'Spanish Eyes'

A good decade and a half before they decided their mission was to save the UK from Eurovision shame, Katrina & the Waves were working with the man who moulded REM's early and great riffs - Scott Litt. One of the fruits of their Litt sessions was "Walkin on Sunshine" which is still guaranteed to have a conference of fish surgeons stomping the floor and hooting like a hyena in no time. But it was its b-side that really should be out there booming from the speakers. An understated, sublime piece of guitar heaven that will slowly turn your packed front room quiet if you just slip it unannounced on the stereo. The Bangles cover of it provides no reference point to the gentle genius of the original and doesn't even deserve to be alluded to here. One listen to the guitar break two thirds the way through the original and you will pass the rest of the day perplexed, pondering on the Greek tragedy that was their descent to Eurovision hell. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill) 1987, on top of the world with the Joshua Tree shipping in the thousands of millions, and the lads still had time to pack their singles with luscious guitar epics. We had "Luminous-Times" on the arse-end of With or Without you, there was the now ubiquitous "Sweetest Thing", but best of all, by an Irish mile, was Spanish eyes on the back of Where the Streets. It's U2's hookiest moment, where the Edge finally cops to what Abba and the Beatles meant by a catchy riff, Bono comes in roaring "Hey, Hey Hey!" and then we have the highest tempo, most lyrically acute crush song of the 80's. Bono belts it out like a man obsessed and by the end of the 3 minutes, you're half in love with this imaginary dark-eyed beauty too. Un-f**king-forgettable, and worth the ?40 or whatever it'll cost you to get your hands on this. (Submitted by Jim Clarke)

An Emotional Fish
'Grey Matter'

Oasis
'Acquiesce'

Back in the days before everything and your mother got remixed, when Irish acts had 4 members who played different instruments instead of 4 members who shaved their eyebrows, there was a remix of "Grey matter" on the back of 'Cry Like A Baby'. It's all deep bass and jangly guitars. And drug references 'I drilled a hole in my head to let the sunshine through'. And if that isn't a perfect lyric to have licked in your ear while cycling into work on a rainy Monday morning I don't know what is (submitted by Anais). "I dunno what it is that makes me feel aliiiivvvvve...." So sings Liam Gallagher at the beginning of Acquiesce, b-side to Oasis' first UK number one hit, 'Some Might Say'. Easily one of Oasis's best songs - a mixture of Liam's sneering Lennon-esque delivery, a soaring chorus sung by Noel ( "...cos we believe in one another..." ) and a driving rhythm and lead guitar attack.  The song is testament to Noel's belief that the B-side is no place for throw-away in-studio noodling... I could fill this entire Top10 with Oasis B-sides, especially songs from their earlier singles like "Talk Tonight" and "Cum On Feel The Noize", all of which have been collected on their 1998 compilation, "The Masterplan" (submitted by Steve McNulty).

Beatles
'Rain'

Radiohead
'How I made my millions'

The B-side to Paperback Writer (and the first Beatles tune to incorporate the use of backward tapes), this typically melodic John Lennon song with its simple, almost nursery-rhyme, lyric can be found on their Past Masters Vol 2 compilation. Released in 1966 when, of course, The Beatles were "..bigger than Jesus..." a promo video that the group shot for the song was shown on Top Of The Pops so does that make them the only group to have a B-side video shown on the Pops?!? Filmed in colour, but broadcast in black-and-white, the video consisted of several intercut sequences of the band lip-synching in front of some bushes (!), walking in a row through a conservatory and some quite bizarre close-ups of Ringo's eyes..... A revolutionary band but a truly vile video! (Submitted by Steve McNulty). This four track recording, allegedly committed to tape in Thom Yorke's house, is just voice and piano. Some would consider that Thom overdoes himself with the melancholy of his voice but the result is profoundly moving. It speaks a truth that adds credence to the argument that writing about music akin to 'performing ballet for architecture'. So with that I might as well stop writing.... (Listen closely to some bugger pour a bowl of Cornflakes in the background, surely thinking to him- or herself that there must be happier ways to begin the day then have to listen to this emotional cheer). (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill)

INXS
'PTAR speaks'

David Bowie
'Velvet Goldmine'

What's going on here? This was the band that produced a cacophony of radio friendly, post-live aid, self-indulgent poseur rock with a great big void at its heart. Then, out of nowhere, they furrow a song on the flip side of 1991's "Baby don't cry' that resembles Mike Oldfield recovering from an Absinthe hangover? The complicated atmosphere it creates is without precedence in their catalogue - a simple piano motif repeats occasionally over a shuffling drumbeat and voices in foreign tongues, Germanic or Asian - it is difficult to tell, melt with the synthesizer. It seems to tap closely to that place you journey to when waking at dawn from a mysterious dream. Some music captivates, but only very rarely does it draw you back to your reverie. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill) When Neil Armstrong was doing the zero gravity aided Triple Jump for all mankind, it was young Bowie who managed to capture the zeitgeist succinctly with "Space Oddity". However, its b-side was not without its own claim to a place in the stratosphere of music. Its initial signature guitar lick anticipates Mick Ronson's greatest moments on Ziggy Stardust five years later. It slowly moulds itself towards a killer chorus that by the end has degenerated into an ethereal humming, peppered with blissful melody. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill)

Manic Street Preachers
'Dead trees & Traffic Islands'

Cure
'The Exploding Boy'

One of three impressive b-sides that turned up on the CD single of "Design for Life". The firm and steady rhythm exists in precarious harmony with the fragility of the wind section. But forget about the fragile assertion there - this is a driven piece of music from the very first acoustic strums. "Paralysis through analysis" is the advice of the opening line so I may as well leave it at that for the moment. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill) B-side to 1985's "In Between Days". It seems like Bobby Smith and his medicine men had just got back from some Arab destination of choice and made it past HM Customs with some very strange instruments. That's only explanation I can muster for the twisted but haunting noise that kicks off this rustling, twisting piece of optimism that has its a-side well rattled. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill)

(bullet) Next time it'll be TEN great music videos. Send us your nominations now!

Also make sure you check out the other ten lists:
(bullet) ten great film soundtracks
(bullet) ten great one-hit wonders
(bullet) ten great hidden album tracks
(bullet) ten great debut albums
(bullet) ten great rock & pop instrumentals
(bullet) ten great naff songs of the eighties
(bullet) ten great cover versions
(bullet) ten great album openers
(bullet) ten great Irish singles that time forgot

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