Tuesday, 3 February 2009

In Praise of the 80's B Side

Thought I'd while away today - we're snowed in - by posting a few of my favourite B sides; all of which were deemed acceptable in the eighties.

I've posted the A sides as well just for continuity sake, but it's the flips that make it; and ain't that often the case.

In the dying days of roots and reggae, Smiley Culture had a big hit with 'Police Officer', and for a moment it seemed as if a new wave of artists, other than UB40, might revive a moribund genre.

It did kind of resuscitate it, but reggae was busily transmogrifying; morphing into dancehall: the old school was being majorly renovated.

This release captures the transitional stage; primarily dancehall songs but both tracks included extended dub mixes (not something that was played on the UK Chart Show), revealing Smiley Culture's roots and the connection he still had with the waning genre.

'Shan A Shan', the flip, is by far the better song, as it doesn't rely on a jokey narrative like 'Police Officer'; it also has the best dub outro.

Crank it up, and go skank in the snow.
Why not.
Police Officer
Shan A Shan

Released 1984
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

This release needs little introduction.
Except to say this sounds to me like summer - not a bad thing on a day like today! - not in a Beach Boys kind of way, but it takes me back; straight back to the summer of 1984, before an awful lot of shitty things happened; turning out just as Orwell suggested it might!

The B side of this release is an instrumental; allowing that most recognisable of pulsating bass lines to reverberate without propagandic intrusion.

Turn it up and let the vibrations knock all the snow off your roof.

White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)

Released 1983
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

I've always loved Dee Snider - I haven't always been the greatest fan of his music, but I was always a big fan of his.

As a showman and metal performer you couldn't really ask for anything else; and this B side highlights Snider's rapport with a London Marquee crowd and includes what I believe is one of the greatest talk to audience recordings ever.

The A side is very throw away; typical of the over produced metal that was coming out of the States at this time.
Except Twisted Sister were always more Slade than Slayer, and for me, that gave Sister the edge.

The B side features a Slade-like opener in 'Tear it Loose', a very 'eavy number entitled 'Destroyer', and then back to Slade mode for the crowd pleasing cover of 'It's Only Rock n Roll'.
And its during the middle section of that song that Snider delivers his lecture on why it is he doesn't go home and ax his family to death; defining the essential difference between the 'sick motherfuckers' (Snider, his band and their audience) and the 'straight motherfuckers' (everybody else).

Cracks me up every time.

I Am (I'm Me)
Tear It Loose
It's Only Rock n Roll

Released 1983
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

And finally, another distinctly iconic bass line, and one of the most extraordinary noncommercial B sides ever found on a most commercial release (not including 'Beck's Bolero' of course).

You may well have found this on initial release rather irritating, as it was very nearly played to death. But on hearing it now (27 years later [fuck!]), it actually sounds pretty good.
And if you never had a copy of this, turn it up real loud on the fade... always worth a chuckle.

The B side is what seems like work in progress, and under the heading 'Strawberry Dross' we actually get to hear nine different tracks: some very short (around twenty seconds), some very funny, and some that sound a little like Gordon Giltrap numbers!

Hippies are addressed, as are hats, and Maggie T (not Maggoty, as easily assumed, although...).
So, not your normal Captain Sensible fare, and a very very long way away from 'Happy Talk'.

Strawberry Dross

Released 1982
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here


Richard said...

I could have lived without the sight of Captain Sensible's arse, but that's quite a mix there...

Many years ago I used to do a show that was only b-sides on a local pirate station - and I agree that you'll often find better music there, I think largely because the record companies don't need to worry about how 'commercial' it is... they just view it as filler, but the artist more often than not sees it as a way to say what they want to say rather than what the boss demands they say... there's all manner of treasure to be found for those who can be bothered to look.



Anonymous said...

Cheers for the Smiley Culture!! Andy

Señor said...

Thanks for the Twisted Sister. I had this EP and another one like it back in the '80s. I went looking for them recently and couldn't find them. Nice to hear this again.

Captain Sensible said...

The 'B' side... yes - a bit off the wall I admit, but I'd just purchased a 4 track cassette portastudio and you've no idea how liberating that was for a humble muso back in the early 80s. Studio time cost an arm and a leg so experimentation like 'Strawberry Dross' would have been positively frowned on by the label.

So - I started recording my flip sides at home. What fun!

AND, sorry about the name dropping but when we was out on tour together (T Rex / Damned tour) I remember Marc Bolan telling me to give the fans value for money.... like 2 'b' sides instead of one. That sort of thing.

So being the daft sod that I am I thought I'd see how many I could cram on the other side of a single and this is the result.

Obviously the 12" version had more than the 7" but I don't recall how many.

Thanks for delving into my work - but if you want psychedelic pop why not give a listen to my 'The Universe Of Geoffrey Brown' concept album.... or the wig out prog on 'Meathead'.

cheers - Captain S.

roy rocket said...

How can I not?

Thanks for your comment; glad to hear from you.
Shanti, roy

roy rocket said...

Hey Cap,
If you're still out there, been trying to track down a copy of the 'Geoffrey Brown' album; seems it's hard to find.
Any ideas?