Hit Songs that Were B-Sides!

In the long-gone days when vinyl records were king, an “A-Side” of a 7” (and later even 12”) single signified the star of the show, the song that an artist was pushing for radio play.  In order to gain higher chart positions as well as more sales from die-hard fans and completists, many artists included non-album tracks and special versions exclusive to a single release.  Hence the “B-Side” was born.

Even with the advent of one-sided CDs in the 80s and 90s, the term stuck.  And although the “B-Side” is synonymous with extra, sometimes throwaway material, here are some that have outshined their respective A-Sides to become hits in their own right!

Prince “Erotic City”

“Erotic City” may quite possibly be one of the most famous B-Sides of all-time.  It was originally released as the B-Side to “Let’s go Crazy” and was not included on the classic Purple Rain Soundtrack, though it would have easily found a home there.  Featuring the recording debut of Sheila E., the song is notorious for its sexual references and the use of the word “fuck”…there is debate on whether the word “fuck” or “funk” is used, so much so that the song has been played unedited on the radio.  Strangely enough (or business as usual as far as Prince is concerned), Prince has blocked any future release of the song.  An edited version appears on the Hits/B-Sides compilation from the mid-90s, but the full 7min version has yet to appear on any digital format (other than a rare Germany-only CD single released in 1989). The only version of the song that even closely resembles the Prince version on YouTube is a solo version by Sheila E., although it’s been covered by George Clinton, Berlin, Semisonic, Yo La Tengo, Beck and many others.

Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive”

One of disco’s iconic feminist anthems, “I Will Survive” was originally released as the B-Side to a cover version of the Righteous Brothers song “Substitute.” When DJs started playing B-Side instead, Gaynor’s label quickly pressed new copies of the single with “I Will Survive” as the A-side.  “I Will Survive” remains Gaynor’s signature song and has been covered on numerous occasions by artists such as Diana Ross and Cake.

Salt-N-Pepa “Push It”

The original version of “Push It” was first released as the B-Side to the 12″ single “Tramp” in 1987. The 7” single contained a remix of “Push It” by San Francisco DJ and producer Cameron Paul that DJs started playing instead of the intended A-Side.  The remixed version of “Push It” was quickly added to SNP’s debut album Hot Cool & Vicious, which gave Rap’s first all-girl group their first platinum album and most enduring hit.

Blondie “In the Flesh”

“In the Flesh” was originally the B-Side to Blondie’s debut single “X-Offender.” In Australia, the influential music program Countdown played the B-Side by mistake and it quickly became a hit.  Blondie’s label quickly repressed the single, putting “In the Flesh” on the A-Side.  As a result, almost overnight, Blondie went from playing tiny clubs in NYC to a crowd of 5000 adoring Australian fans.

The Smiths “How Soon is Now”

One of The Smiths’ most popular songs, “How Soon is Now” was originally the B-Side of the 1984 12” single “William, It Was Really Nothing”.  It received it’s own release in 1985 and was added to the UK and US editions of The Smiths’ Meat is Murder album.  Although not typical of the majority of The Smiths material, it became a favorite among alternative club DJs in the 80s.

Rod Stewart “Maggie May”

Initially released as the B-Side of the single “Reason to Believe,” “Maggie May” became Rod Stewart’s first big hit thanks to DJs flipping the single and playing the B-Side. However, unlike in the cases of “I Will Survive” or “In the Flesh” where the record company repressed the single to switch the sides, the “Reason to Believe” single continued to be pressed with “Maggie May” as the B-Side. It remains one of his best-known songs.

Robbie Williams “Sexed Up”

“Sexed Up” was originally written for singer Natalie Imbruglia who turned it down. The original demo was released in 1998 as the B-Side to Williams’ single “No Regrets.”  Needing material for his 5th studio album Escapology, “Sexed Up” was re-recorded and released as the album’s 4th and final single.  The song made the Top 10 in the UK and throughout Europe, and topped the charts in Brazil for three weeks.  Guess you shouldn’t have turned it down, eh Natalie?

Madonna “Into the Groove”

One of Madonna’s most iconic and enduring songs, “Into the Groove” was recorded for the film Desperately Seeking Susan, however the song did not appear on its soundtrack.  In fact, the song was originally released the B-Side to the Like a Virgin album track “Angel”.  And although remixed versions were released on Madonna compilation albums in 1987, 1990 & 2003, and live versions released in 2004 & 2008, the original version of the song did not see an official release until 2009’s Celebration hits collection.

Honorable Mentions:

The following songs were intended as B-Sides, but never actually released as B-Sides.

Madonna “Vogue”

In 1990, Madonna’s 4th single from her Like a Prayer album, “Oh Father” stalled at #20 on the charts, so she decided to record a b-side for the album’s 5th single “Keep It Together” in order to boost sales. She and producer Shep Pettibone recorded “Vogue.” Sire Records saw the hit potential in “Vogue” and quickly tacked it on to the then newly-released Dick Tracy Movie Soundtrack (which Madonna also starred in) complete with a 1940’s Hollywood-inspired video.  The single’s sides were flipped – “Keep It Together” became the b-side (although it still received an A-Side release in some countries) and “Vogue” went on to become one of Madonna’s biggest international hits, topping the charts in over 30 countries. It became the world’s best-selling single of 1990, selling over six million copies.

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Peek-a-boo”

The Banshees’ first US chart hit, and the first #1 song on Billboard’s then-newly introduced Modern Rock Chart, “Peek-a-boo” started life as a potential B-Side to their 1987 single “The Passenger” a cover of the Iggy Pop classic.  The song was based on a reversed loop of the brass section on their recording of John Cale’s “Gun,” also from their Through the Looking Glass covers album.  Deemed by the band as too good to be a B-Sides, “Peek-a-Boo” went on to become one of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ most popular singles and it’s parent album Peepshow, one of their top selling albums.

New Order “True Faith”

The songs “True Faith” and “1963″ were written as new material for New Order’s first singles compilation album, Substance 1987. The band wanted to release “1963” as the A-Side, but the band’s management convinced them that “True Faith” was the stronger of the two. Also released on the soundtrack to the Michael J. Fox film Bright Lights Big City, “True Faith” became one of New Order’s biggest hits and has been covered numerous times, by artists such as George Michael and The Boo Radleys.  “1963″ was later remixed and issued as a single in its own right in 1994, with the Shep Pettibone remix of “True Faith” as one of the B-Sides. Take that!

Can you think of anymore?  Let us know in the comments!

About nakedhighway

Naked Highway is a multimedia electro-glam outfit from NYC, and most definitely the club-kid of the #plusheartstar family! Skating a thin line between clubby beats & new wave sensibilities, Naked Highway’s recent string of DJ-friendly singles & viral music videos provide a blueprint for group’s impending world domination.