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    Pop music would be a different beast without the B-side. Music history is riven with songs deemed throwaway that revolted against their lowly status and refused to be denied. Be it rock’n’roll’s national anthem (‘Rock Around The Clock’), disco’s enduring game-changer (‘I Feel Love’) or hip-hop’s most notorious dis track (‘Hit ’Em Up’), all three started life as the so-called ‘lesser’ track on releases primed for maximum chart impact. But the B-side has done much more than make stars of Bill Haley, Donna Summer and 2Pac.

    Whether it was the Beatles, the Kinks and the Yardbirds in the 60s, Elton John, the Who and Queen in the 70s, Depeche Mode, the Cure and Prince in the 80s, or Oasis, Pulp and Radiohead in the 90s, the B-side allowed many of the world’s greatest acts freedom to experiment with no commercial constraints in an age where physical product ruled the roost.

    My first book, B-Side: A Flipsided History of Pop, rounds up over 500 most important flips and is published by Headpress.com. This site is an adjunct to the book, bonus tracks if you like, where I’ll be gradually working my way through some personal favourites plus other B-sides I had to omit from the book for reasons of space.

    Buy B-Side here
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    Pop music would be a different beast without the B-Side. Music history is riven with songs deemed throwaway that revolted against their lowly status and refused to be denied. Be it rock’n’roll’s national anthem (‘Rock Around The Clock’), disco’s enduring game-changer (‘I Feel Love’) or hip-hop’s most notorious dis track (‘Hit ’Em Up’), all three started life as the so-called ‘lesser’ track on releases primed for maximum chart impact. But the B-side has done much more than make stars of Bill Haley, Donna Summer and 2Pac.

    ImageImage

    Andy Cowan graduated from cut-and-pasting fanzines Only A Rumour and White Lie in his teens to working on Hip-Hop Connection — the world’s first rap monthly — in the late 80s, becoming its editor in the 90s and publisher in the 00s. He has also contributed to podcasts, documentaries, museum exhibits and is MOJO’s jazz columnist. He has been a B-side obsessive since he first started buying singles in 1978.

    Can’t believe your favourite B-side is missing? Have a cool B-side tale to tell? Please get in touch. All suggestions taken into account for future editions.

    Buy B-Side here

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    ONE
    Billion
    Concurrent crypto meta NFTs minted today
    TWO
    TB
    Volume of cat pictures and memes archived
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    '‘Synthetic Substitution’ '
    Melvin Bliss
    SUNBURST 1973
    A-side: ‘Reward’
    He only released one single, but millions have heard Melvin Bliss’s music without realising it. A singer in naval bands with superstar aspirations, Bliss final got his break when New York songwriter/producer and ex-Exciter Herb Rooney sequestered him into a studio for his sole single. While A-side ‘Reward’ was a cultured slice of soulful yearning that brought Bliss’s vocal chops to the fore, B-side ‘Synthetic Substitution’ was an ahead-of-its time critique of a computerised future, it’s heartfelt plea “I’d be suspicious of a modern day scheme/Replacing a woman with a love machine” tapping into a similar android paranoia as Tubeway Army’s ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ six years later. While the single flopped, and Bliss’s label Sunburst soon went bankrupt, its instantly recognisable Bernard Purdie drum break gave it a second life, sampled so heavily by 80s rap producers – it’s the basis of Ultramagnetic MCs ‘Ego Trippin’’, Naughty By Nature ‘O.P.P.’, De La Soul’s ‘Potholes In My Lawn’, the Pharcyde’s ‘Ya Mama’ and Onyx’s ‘Throw Ya Gunz’, to name just five – it's practically part of hip-hop’s anatomy. While Bliss told <em>The Guardian</em> in 2010, just before his death, that he was yet to receive any recompense (“I’m sure I’ve got a lot of royalties coming from somewhere”), he was also endearingly modest about his and Rooney’s aspirations (“We just <em>needed</em> a B-side”), selling way short his incredible curveball creation – a great song in its own right, beyond all the heavy lifting its done for others.
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