Quite a few unique tracks have shown up on the flip side of solo Beatles singles through the decades. In Beatlefan #248, we flipped over many solo singles and presented some of our contributors’ favorite B-sides. However, due to space limitations, we weren’t able to run everyone’s complete comments. Here is an expanded version of what they had to say, including some second and third choices!
George Harrison: “Isn’t It a Pity” is a highlight of “All Things Must Pass,” and that has to be considered his strongest B-side. A majestic song that ranks among Harrison’s best. In his solo career, George did put out some B-sides that were not included on albums at the time, but unfortunately most of them were throwaways, along the lines of “I Don’t Care Anymore” or “Zig Zag.” However, “Deep Blue,” the B-side to “Bangla Desh,” is an endearingly simple acoustic number written in the wake of his mother’s death in 1970. It’s a treat.
Ringo Starr: “Snokeroo,” the B-side of “No No Song” in the United States, was such a good tune it was released as an A-side in the U.K. — probably not a bad call, considering that it was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who were at the zenith of their popularity in 1975. After that, Ringo’s best B-side would have to be “Early 1970,” which detailed Starr’s feelings about his bandmates just after The Beatles’ split.
John Lennon: Many of John’s B-sides were Yoko compositions, and, in many instances, the B-sides showcased some of her best work. A prime case is “Sisters O Sisters,” the flip side of 1972’s “Woman Is the N***** of the World.” A feminist anthem set to a reggae beat, it’s one of the best tracks on John and Yoko’s “Sometime in New York City.” Another top-tier Yoko track that ended up on a Lennon B-side is “Listen, the Snow Is Falling,” on the flip side of 1971’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
Of the Lennon B-sides that feature a Lennon composition, “What You Got,” the flip side of “#9 Dream,” would not have sounded out of place at all on the radio in 1975. Considering that some promotional singles were pressed for “What You Got,” it seems likely that Lennon himself and the powers that be at Capitol/EMI in those days recognized its commercial potential.
Paul McCartney: There are so many McCartney B-sides, it’s hard to narrow it down. The overall best would have to be “Let Me Roll It,” which was the B-side of the “Jet” single in 1974. Classic solo McCartney, it’s been a mainstay of Paul’s setlists through the years. In the 1970s, McCartney and Wings put out a series of top-notch B-sides that were not released on albums, including “Sally G,” “C Moon,” “The Mess,” “Little Woman Love,” “Daytime Nighttime Suffering” and “Country Dreamer.”
Later on, the CD-single bonus tracks that accompanied “Off the Ground” were, in many cases, superior to the songs that ended up on the album. “Long Leather Coat,” the animal rights offering that was on the “Hope of Deliverance” B-side, is a foot-stomping McCartney rocker in the tradition of “Hi Hi Hi” and “Junior’s Farm.”
Paul McCartney always has kept in mind The Beatles’ work ethic of giving value for money by offering exclusive B-sides. For me, the tracks “Girls School” and “Sally G” stand out, but, in the U.K., “Girls School” was a double A-side with the track “Mull of Kintyre.”
So, for me, there really was no contest for my fave McCartney B-side and, in fact, one of my favorite McCartney songs of all time, “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.”
The song was the result of a bet Paul made with the members of Wings — whoever could write the best song over the weekend would get the B-side of his next single. Paul, of course, won, with this slice of power pop.
Recorded in January, 1979, it is pure class, and it simply beggars belief that this was a B-side. It’s also amazing that “Daytime Nighttime Suffering”/“Goodnight Tonight” were not included on the album “Back to the Egg.” This B-side features some simply wonderful vocals from Paul and some great melodic bass playing.
For George Harrison, “What is Life.” George has some really great B-sides, such as “Writings on the Wall,” “Deep Blue” and “Miss O’Dell.” But, for me, the standout is “What Is Life.” The song has some very personal memories. I was lucky enough to see George play his only U.K. concert at the Albert Hall on the 6th April, 1992. I managed to fight my way down to the front of the gig just as George started playing “What Is Life.”
What amazed me was the fact that, after reading for years that George hated touring, when I made eye contact with him, how much he was actually enjoying singing this song. I will always remember his smile as he sang.
Certainly, it’s one of the highlights of his “All Things Must Pass” LP.
For Ringo Starr, “Early 1970.” Ringo sometimes is overlooked, but, if you look closely, there are some great and some frankly strange Ringo B-sides. From the spaghetti Western-themed “Blindman” to the disco romp of “Devil Woman” to the live favorite “No No Song.”
But, I must admit I really have a soft spot for the tongue-in-cheek “Early 1970,” which sums up Ringo’s feelings for his fellow bandmates just after the breakup. It originally was recorded under the title of “When Four Knights Come to Town” in October, 1970, during the sessions for the “Plastic Ono Band” album.
Ringo seems closest to George and John, with Paul coming very firmly third. Any record that features Ringo showing his prowess on the guitar and piano must be worth a listen. A track that always seems to put a smile on my face.
For John Lennon, “Move Over Ms. L.” There is no contest for what my favorite Lennon solo B-side, and it’s this wonderful rocker. Recorded for John’s LP “Walls and Bridges,” it was supposed to fit between “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradise)” and “What You Got” on the second side of the LP.
John decided to remove it from the track listing just before the album went to press. He later rerecorded it in October, 1974. It has the honor of being the only Lennon nonalbum B-side. Keith Moon, drummer of The Who, would record a version for his “Both Sides of the Moon” LP.
John Lennon, “Move Over Ms. L.” An enjoyable rocker from the “lost weekend” era.
George Harrison, “Deep Blue.” The bluesy B-side of “Bangla Desh” stems from a sad time in George’s life (the death of his mother) but is still an enjoyable listen.
Ringo Starr, “Early 1970.” Ringo’s musical “state of the (dis)union” commentary, which was the B-side of “It Don’t Come Easy.”
Paul McCartney, “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.” The B-side of “Goodnight Tonight” was a typical piece of expert Macca songcraft that Mark Lewisohn reported is one of McCartney’s own favorites.
John: “Move Over Ms. L.” This one wins by default, as it was the only nonalbum B-side of John’s career. However, it is a fine rocker, with some pointed lyrics toward Yoko: “Well, now to err is something human and forgiving so divine / I’ll forgive your trespasses, if you forgive me mine / Life’s a deal, you knew it, when you signed the dotted line.”
Fortunately, John and Yoko did forgive each other’s trespasses and were reunited for the last six years of his life. This was the B-side of John’s cover of “Stand By Me,” but it failed to make either the “Walls and Bridges” or “Rock and Roll” albums. Strangely enough, Keith Moon recorded a cover version!
Paul: “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.” So many great B-sides from Paul (& Wings), but this one sticks out for me. The B-side of the disco-flavored “Goodnight Tonight,” I felt this song better foreshadowed what was coming on the “Back to the Egg” album. Still, I can’t really imagine it on that album, either. It truly is an original song, meant to be heard all on its own. It opens and closes with great harmonies from the band, and, in between, really delivers a terrific tune. A great bass line and fine guitar work by Laurence Juber and Denny Laine. My favorite lyric is “Come on river, flow through me. Don’t be stopped by insanity.” Many claim that Paul released better quality songs on his B-sides than on his albums. This song is a perfect example of that.
George: “Miss O’Dell.” A real charmer of a song from the B-side of “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth).” I really enjoy the lightness of the tune, and how George did not take it too seriously. In fact, he ends up laughing in the middle of the verses more than once. It features some quirky lyrics, such as “And the smog that keeps polluting up our shores is boring me to tears.” A nice acoustic song, with rhythm backing by Klaus Voormann and Jim Keltner. More cowbell!
Ringo: “Down and Out.” The B-side of one of Ringo’s greatest songs, “Photograph.” Not included on the 1973 “Ringo” album, but it sure sounds like it would fit right in. A very catchy tune that is easy to sing along to, and gets stuck in your head. The lyrics aren’t particularly meaningful, but I’ve always wondered what fire Ringo was looking at here: “Looked in the fire, what did I see? I saw someone looking at me.” A little spooky, actually. Gary Wright contributes some nice piano and even gets a shout-out from Ringo. The horns add a nice punch to the song, as well.
John: “Beef Jerky.” Although a throwaway track to some, it’s actually one of the most composed and complex Lennon tracks, even without a lead vocal on top of it. Love all the time signature shifts, the quasi-“Cold Turkey” guitar riff transitions, the horn charts, and, hands-down, the funkiest refrain ever laid down by a Beatle. The flip side of “Whatever Gets Thru the Night,” I played “Beef Jerky” countless times on Waffle House jukeboxes throughout the South.
Paul: “Secret Friend.” Ten and a half minutes of arpeggio’d and pitch-shifting piano loops, rhythm box and speed-accelerated Macca vocals that sound like they’re coming from deep within a jug of water. A beguiling little melody that fits somewhere in the “ambient” scheme of things. So many fans speak disparagingly of this track, but I love it! Pretty daring for 1980, too! Suffice it to say, I spun this tune quite a bit more than its “Temporary Secretary” A-side.
George: “Isn’t It a Pity.” My personal favorite from “All Things Must Pass,” and as luck would have it, all 7+ minutes are replicated on the flip of “My Sweet Lord” (here in the colonies, that is). What a melody, and a PERFECT production from both George and Phil Spector. And, it’s all verses, too — no chorus or refrain. Another “Waffle House” favorite!
Ringo: “Just a Dream.” The disco-flavored “Ringo the 4th” is no one’s favorite Ringo album, and this non-LP B-side (the disco-flavored flip side of both 1977’s “Drowning in the Sea of Love” and “Wings” 45s) probably won’t change anyone’s mind of that best-forgotten LP. But, there’s no denying that “Just a Dream” is a really great song, despite all the disco trappings heaped on it. Much like the Bee Gees’ disco-era songs have been reappraised for their composition and craftsmanship, I think Ringo’s “Just a Dream” deserves a similar revisit.
John: My favorite John Lennon solo B-side is “Beautiful Boy” (1981, A-side “Watching the Wheels”). The song, written for Sean, is one of the most touching in John’s catalog and a tribute to the loving father he had become. The lyrics on the verses are simple and childlike, as father talks to son and calms his fears. On the chorus, they change perspective, as John marvels at the life he has helped create. The bridge, with a reference to his sailing trip to Bermuda, is poignant now, expressing his happiness at the thought of watching Sean come of age. The melody moves from a nursery-rhyme quality on the verses to a joyful chorus and bridge, beautifully arranged with the sounds of a Tibetan wishing bell, a steel drum, and ocean waves. It’s no surprise that both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked “Beautiful Boy” as the one Lennon song they would take to a desert island.
In second place is “Woman,” released in 1981 as the B-side to “Starting Over.” John wrote many love songs for Yoko, but “Woman” rises above the rest, conveying a depth of emotion and a maturity about relationships. He himself said the song was “the grown-up version of ‘Girl.’” Words, music, and arrangement work together seamlessly, creating a Motown/early Beatles feeling with one of John’s most affecting vocals.
Paul: Among the dozens of songs Paul McCartney has released as a solo artist, my favorite B-side is “Mamunia” (1974, A-side “Jet,” released prior to the “Jet”/“Let Me Roll It” pairing, also released in 1974). Any of the songs on Paul’s acclaimed “Band on the Run”would make a fine single release, but “Mamunia” has a special charm. Inspired by a visit to Tunisia, it weaves lyrics ostensibly about rain around an Arabic word meaning “safe haven.” Like John Lennon’s “Rain,” “Mamunia” uses rain as a metaphor for life’s problems. Taking, as usual, a lighter approach than John, Paul creates an infectious melody, with African echoes and bright harmonies that make this a great singalong. “Mamunia” is one in a long line of underrated McCartney gems.
Second for me among Paul’s B-sides is “Let Me Roll It” (1974, A-side “Jet”). Its dramatic, bass-fueled opening pulls the listener into a fine vocal that rises in strength and intensity. On their own, the lyrics are unexceptional, but they fit the sensual feel of the music. “Let Me Roll It” has shown up frequently in Paul’s concert set list, and rightfully so. (The song is just one example of the ways in which the solo Beatles inspired one another; Paul lifted the title phrase from a line of George Harrison’s “I’d Have You Anytime.”)
George: The George Harrison B-side that wins my vote is “Apple Scruffs” (1971, A-side “What Is Life”), his ode to the devoted fans who kept vigil outside Abbey Road Studios. Of the four Beatles, George took the kindest interest in them, sometimes stopping to have a word or taking tea out to them on cold days. His tribute to the girls who braved wind, rain and security guards for a glimpse of a Beatle is whimsical and affectionate, punctuated by a harmonica that evokes street music. As many times as I’ve heard the song, I always wipe away a tear when George sings the last verse: “While the years they come and go / Now, your love must surely show me /That beyond all time and space / We’re together face to face, my Apple Scruffs.” Like so many first-generation fans, I was an Apple Scruff in spirit, hanging out at Abbey Road in my heart.
Second to “Apple Scruffs,” I love George’s B-side “Miss O’Dell” (1973, A-side “Give Me Love”). The song is a delight, with clever lyrics and a playful arrangement, featuring harmonica, acoustic guitar and a cowbell. Each verse paints a different scene, from Bangladesh to an ocean-front home in California, as George waits for an overdue call from former Apple employee Chris O’Dell. Midway through, he dissolves into giggles and laughter, guaranteed to raise a smile on any listener. At the close of the song, he leaves a telephone number — Garston 6922 — that was Paul McCartney’s number on Forthlin Road in Liverpool. “Miss O’Dell” is George at his cheekiest.
Ringo: “Early 1970” (1971, A-side “It Don’t Come Easy”) is my favorite of Ringo Starr’s B-sides. One of his own compositions, the song features George Harrison on slide guitar and, according to some researchers, John Lennon also participated in the recording session. The tune has the country music vibe often identified with Ringo, and the lyrics are a charming sketch of his three former bandmates: Paul raising sheep on his farm in Scotland, John organizing bed-ins for peace with Yoko, George and Pattie settling in at Friar Park. With its autobiographical lyrics, “Early 1970” foreshadows compositions to come, such as “Liverpool 8” and “The Other Side of Liverpool.” When it was released, it brought hope to fans reeling from The Beatles’ breakup, assuring us that Ringo, at least, wanted to keep making music with the other three.
Runner-up in my affections among Ringo’s B-sides is “Step Lightly” (1974, A-side “Oh My My”), from the marvelous “Ringo”album. Another of his compositions, the song is light and bluesy, embellished on the instrumental bridge by the sound of tap dancing (credited to “the dancing feet of Richard Starkey, MBE”). Ringo’s songs are not covered often, but “Step Lightly” has been recorded by David Hentschel (1975) and the Beatles cover band Suburban Skies (2015). After the success of this single, and two others from the album, John Lennon sent Ringo a telegram: “Congratulations. How dare you? And please write me a hit song.”
Richard S. Ginell:
George: “I Don’t Care Anymore.” The title says it all — the lackadaisical spoken intro, the hoarse voice, the bored delivery, the goofy jaws-harp over the guitar, the raw sound quality, the publishing company (Oops Publishing Ltd.). For candor alone, this one is in a class of its own. It was the B-side of “Dark Horse” in the U.S. and “Ding Dong” in Europe, which is where I found a copy last year in Oslo, Norway.
John: “Do the Oz.” This weird little screamer is a B-side, but not for a Lennon single per se; rather, it’s the companion piece for Bill Elliot and the Elastic Oz Band’s “God Save Us.” While Lennon leaves the vocal to Elliot on the A-side, that’s John yelling over a lumbering heavy metal drone laced with Yoko’s electronically treated caterwauling. It’s just credited to the Elastic Oz Band, and it sank unnoticed somewhere below the Hot 100 in 1971.
Paul: “The Mess.” While most record buyers and McCartney fans of 1973 swooned to the No. 1 hit A-side “My Love,” I flipped the single over and rocked on to the unsung B-side, “The Mess.” It’s the first edition of Wings unleashed live in Antwerp, grinding through several changes of pace in hard rock fashion as Paul treats his voice with echo delay. That’s as far as the track got until it finally turned up in the archive CD edition of “Red Rose Speedway” more than 40 years later — and, for me, it beats anything on the originally-released album.
“Secret Friend.” The third single from “McCartney II” was not released in the U.S.; it came out in Britain as a 12-inch single. So, Americans never heard this wonderful, sprawling electronic samba that occupied the B-side of the goofy “Temporary Secretary.” Paul found an irresistible groove on his drum machine and just let it run for over 10 1/2 minutes, pasting a compressed vocal on top. It resulted in one of his longest, and certainly most offbeat inspirations — not to be heard in the U.S. until it wound up on the “McCartney II” archive CD edition. It was a memorable pickup for me, since I bought it at a flea market in Birkinhead, England, right across the Mersey from Liverpool.
“Check My Machine.” Another bit of solo Beatle lunacy in the spirit of “You Know My Name” — with Yosemite Sam thrown in. McCartney once said that “You Know My Name” was his favorite Beatles song, and this is the closest thing I can think of as a sequel. Again, nowhere to be found on an album until the “McCartney II” archive edition came out, and running twice as long there.
Ringo: “Coochy Coochy.” The B-side of the title track of “Beaucoup Of Blues,” Ringo’s 1970 excursion to Nashville, is a swinging jam session with the crack Nashville sidemen assembled by Pete Drake, whose pedal steel guitar figures in the mix. It didn’t make its way onto the album until the CD edition in the 1990s, yet for me these 4 minutes and 48 seconds of exuberant Ringo vocals and joyous jamming eclipse anything on the LP. Of all of the solo Beatle B-sides, this is my favorite. A 28-minute version of “Coochy” is rumored to exist; I anticipate hearing that just as many Beatles fans are lusting after the 27-minute version of “Helter Skelter.”
John: It is a bit of a problem to pick favorite John B-sides, because so many of them have Yoko on the flip side. “Move Over Ms. L” was the B-side to “Stand By Me.” This track is an all-out rocker reminiscent of Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie” (unlike the recording of the song on Lennon’s “Anthology” set, which has a Western swing feeling). And, for those wanted to get up and dance, there’s always “Do the Oz,” which was the B-side to “God Save Us” by Bill Elliot and Elastic Oz Band. The B-side features John singing and Yoko wailing.
Paul: Paul McCartney has put out many quality B-sides pulled from albums, but I limited my choices to outright B-sides. “Oh Woman, Oh Why” was the flip side to and opposite of the carefully crafted pop tune “Another Day.” It developed out of a studio jam with lyrics that are “Hey Joe” in reverse, with the singer getting shot, instead. I also like “Girls School,” which is a silly rocker that was the B-side to “Mull of Kintyre” in the U.K. (although the A-side in the States).
George: My favorite George B-side is “Miss O’Dell,” a delightful throwaway song, with George laughing through parts of his vocal and giving out Paul’s old phone number at the end (Garston 6922). It makes for a perfect pairing with “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” His worst is a tune whose title appears to describe George’s attitude toward recording this particular B-side, “I Don’t Care Anymore,” which was on the back of “Dark Horse.”
Ringo: His most interesting and charming B-side is “Early 1970,” with Ringo singing about his bandmates and his own limited musical abilities on guitar, bass and piano (“if it’s in C”). This B-side to “It Don’t Come Easy” was written during the time The Beatles were breaking apart. At its end, Ringo sings “When I go to town, I want to see all three.” His worst B-side is “Blindman,” which was the flip side to “Back Off Boogaloo.” I doubt many people flipped the disc over to hear this muddy-sounding dirge more than once.