I don’t know about you, but as righteous a practice as I know it is, I’ve never been obsessive about flipping a 45 over and checking out the B-side. Part of it may be my Darwinian leanings. Why should I get too worked up about “sloppy seconds?” Part of it may be because I like to act cool and later be surprised. Eventually I will get around to checking out the B-side, even it it takes me 40-some years, as was the case this past week.
While completing the digital transfer of the plastic orange singles box I’ve dragged through time and space, I decided to burn a lot of the B-sides as well as the better-loved sides. In some cases, I aborted the burn in mid-song. The B-side to “The Hustle,” for instance, was the lowest form of disco-era clock punching ever put to tape. “The A-side is going to buy us some swimming pools,” I imagined Van McCoy saying to his session players, “the B-side can skim for bugs and leaves!” I forget the name of the B-side. It was so bad it wasn’t even funny.
There are singles I’ve bought by favorite artists in their prime that I couldn’t wait to flip over: Elvis Costello & the Attractions‘ singles from my teenage years, for instance, always delivered the goods. The flipside of Dave Edmunds‘ version of “Girls Talk,” the Graham Parker-penned “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” is another one I couldn’t wait to hear—for good reason, as it turned out.
Then there are singles I’ve bought specifically for the hit song on the A-side, often by a 1-hit wonder or an artist whose deep cutz I have learned to put no stock in. Take Elton John. Long ago I realized that anything that’s not worthy of appearing on his Greatest Hits albums has not been worth my time. I’ve bought a couple of full Elton John albums over the years, and the album cuts never stick with me. The last thing I need to do is check out the B-side to “Someone Saved My My Life Tonight,” which come to think of it must have slipped from my orange singles box into another space in the cabinet in which I’ve loaded 45s, cassettes, DAT tapes, and other oddities.
What I’ve learned while burning singles over the past couple of weeks is that it is wise to B-ware the B-side. In some cases, I discovered or was reminded of a relative gem. In others, I thanked my lucky stars that I escaped childhood relatively untraumatized from ever having heard the lesser side.
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