The terms A-SIDE and B-SIDE refer to the two sides of 78, 45, and 33 1/3 rpm phonograph records, whether singles , extended plays (EPs), or long-playing (LP) records. The A-side usually featured the recording that the artist, record producer, or the record company intended to receive the initial promotional effort and then receive radio airplay, hopefully, to become a "hit" record . The B-side (or "flip-side") is a secondary recording that has a history of its own: some artists released B-sides that were considered as strong as the A-side and became hits in their own right. Others took the opposite approach: producer Phil Spector was in the habit of filling B-sides with on-the-spot instrumentals that no one would confuse with the A-side. With this practice, Spector was assured that airplay was focused on the side he wanted to be the hit side.
Music recordings have moved away from records onto other formats such as CDs and digital downloads , which do not have "sides", but the terms are still used to describe the type of content, with B-side sometimes standing for "bonus" track.
* 1 History * 2 Significance * 3 Double A-side * 4 Double B-side * 5 Humorous implementations * 6 B/W * 7 B-side compilations * 8 Notes * 9 References
The first sound recordings at the end of the 19th century were made on cylinder records , which had a single round surface capable of holding approximately two minutes of sound. Early shellac disc records records only had recordings on one side of the disc, with a similar capacity (both media could hold between three and four minutes by 1910). Double-sided recordings, with one song on each side, were introduced in Europe by Columbia Records in 1908 and by the late 1910s they had become the norm in both Europe and the United States; the ability to effectively double the amount of sound on the disc was one major factor in it rising to dominance over the obsolete cylinder in the 1910s. There were no record charts until the 1930s, and radio stations (by and large) did not play recorded music until the 1950s (when top 40 radio overtook full-service network radio ). In this time, A-sides and B-sides existed, but neither side was considered more important; the "side" did not convey anything about the content of the record.
In 1948, Columbia Records introduced the 7, 10 and 12 inch 33 1/3 rpm long-playing (LP) vinyl record for commercial sales, and its rival RCA-Victor , in cooperation of the Radio Corporation of America, responded the next year with the seven-inch 45 rpm vinyl record, which would come to replace the 78 as the home of the single. The term "single" came into popular use with the advent of vinyl records in the early 1950s. At first, most record labels would randomly assign which song would be an A-side and which would be a B-side. (All records have specific identifiers for each side in addition to the catalog number for the record itself; the "A" side would typically be assigned a sequentially lower number.) Under this random system, many artists had so-called "double-sided hits", where both songs on a record made one of the national sales charts (in Billboard , Cashbox , or other magazines), or would be featured on jukeboxes in public places.
As time wore on, however, the convention for assigning songs to sides of the record changed. By the early sixties, the song on the A-side was the song that the record company wanted radio stations to play, as 45 records (or '45s') dominated the market in terms of cash sales. It was not until 1968, for instance, that the total production of albums on a unit basis finally surpassed that of singles in the United Kingdom. In the late 1960s stereo versions of pop and rock songs began to regularly appear on 45s. The majority of the 45s were played on AM radio stations, which were not equipped for stereo broadcast at the time, so stereo was not a priority. However, the FM rock stations did not like to play monaural content, so the record companies adopted a protocol for DJ versions with the mono version of the song on one side, and stereo version of the same song on the other.
By the early 1970s, double-sided hits had become rare.
With the advent of cassette and compact disc singles in the late 1980s, the A-side/B-side differentiation became much less meaningful. At first, cassette singles would often have one song on each side of the cassette, matching the arrangement of vinyl records, but eventually, cassette maxi-singles , containing more than two songs, became more popular. With the decline of cassette singles in the 1990s, the A-side/B-side dichotomy became virtually extinct, as the remaining dominant medium, the compact disc, lacked an equivalent physical distinction. However, the term "B-side" is still used to refer to the "bonus " tracks or "coupling" tracks on a CD single.
With the advent of downloading music via the Internet, sales of CD singles and other physical media have declined, and the term "B-side" is now less commonly used. Songs that were not part of an artist's collection of albums are made available through the same downloadable catalogs as tracks from their albums, and are usually referred to as "unreleased", "bonus", "non-album", "rare", "outtakes" or "exclusive" tracks, the latter in the case of a song being available solely from a certain provider of music.
B-side songs may be released on the same record as a single to provide extra "value for money". There are several types of material commonly released in this way, including a different version (e.g., instrumental, a cappella , live , acoustic , remixed version or in another language), or, in a concept record , a song that does not fit into the story line.
Additionally, it was common in the 1960s and 1970s for longer songs, especially by soul, funk, and R&B acts, to be broken into two parts for single release. Examples of this include Ray Charles 's "What\'d I Say ", the Isley Brothers ' "Shout ", and a number of records by James Brown , including "Papa\'s Got a Brand New Bag " and "Say It Loud - I\'m Black and I\'m Proud ". Typically, "part one" would be the chart hit, while "part two" would be a continuation of the same performance. A notable example of a non-R"> Similarly, it has also been alleged that owners of pirate radio stations operating off the British coast in the 1960s would buy the publishing rights to the B-sides of records they expected to be hits, and then plug the A-sides in the hope of driving up sales and increasing their share of the royalties.
On a few occasions, the B-side became the more popular song. This was
usually because a DJ preferred the B-side to its A-side and played it
instead. Examples include "
I Will Survive " by Gloria Gaynor
(originally the B-side of "Substitute"), "I\'ll Be Around " by the
Spinners (originally the B-side of "
How Could I Let You Get Away ")
The song " How Soon Is Now? " by the Smiths started out as the extra track on the 12-inch of William, It Was Really Nothing but later gained a separate release as an A-side in its own right, as did Oasis 's " Acquiesce ", which originally appeared as a B-side to "Some Might Say " in 1995, but gained subsequent release in 2006 as part of an EP to promote their forthcoming compilation album, Stop the Clocks . Feeder in 2001 and 2005 had the B-sides "Just a Day" from "Seven Days in the Sun", and "Shatter" from "Tumble and Fall " released as A-sides after fan petitions and official website and fansite message board hype, and both charted at No. 12 and No. 11 in the UK. In 1986, the first single from XTC 's record Skylarking , "Grass", was eclipsed in the United States by its B-side, "Dear God " – so much so that the record was almost immediately re-released with one song ("Mermaid Smiled") removed and "Dear God" put in its place, becoming one of the band's better-known hits.
On some reissued singles the A- and B-sides are by completely different artists, or two songs from different albums that would not normally have been released together. These were sometimes made for the jukebox , as one record with two popular songs on it would make more money, or to promote an artist to the fans of another. For example, in 1981 Kraftwerk released their new single "Computer Love " coupled with the B-side " The Model ", from their 1978 LP The Man-Machine . With synthpop increasingly dominating the UK charts, the single was re-released with the sides reversed. In early 1982 "The Model" reached number one.
A "double A-side" is a single where both sides are designated the A-side; there is no B-side on such a single. The double A-sided single was invented in December 1965 by the Beatles for their single of "Day Tripper " and " We Can Work It Out ", where both were designated A-sides. Other groups followed suit, notably the Rolling Stones in early 1967 with "Let\'s Spend the Night Together " and "Ruby Tuesday " as a double-A single.
A double A-sided single is often confused with a single where both
sides, the A and the B, became hits. Although many artists in the late
1950s and early 1960s like
In the UK, before the advent of digital downloads, both A-sides were
accredited with the same chart position, as the singles' chart was
compiled entirely from physical sales. In the UK, the biggest-selling
non-charity single of all time was a double A-side, Wings ' 1977
release "Mull of Kintyre "/"Girls\' School ", which sold over two
million copies. It was also the UK Christmas No. 1 that year, one of
only two occasions on which a double A-side has topped that chart, the
other being Queen\'s 1991 re-release of "
Bohemian Rhapsody " with
These Are the Days of Our Lives
Queen released their first double-A single, "
Killer Queen "/"Flick of
the Wrist ", in 1974. "Killer Queen" became a hit, while "Flick of the
Wrist" was all but ignored for lack of promotion. Three years later,
they released "
We Are the Champions " with "
We Will Rock You
Occasionally double-A-sided singles were released with each side
targeting a different market. During the late 1970s, for example,
Dolly Parton released a number of double-A-sided singles, in which one
side was released to pop radio, and the other side to country,
Two Doors Down "/"It\'s All Wrong, But It\'s All Right "
and "Baby I\'m Burning "/"
I Really Got the Feeling ". In 1978, the Bee
Gees also used this method when they released "
Too Much Heaven
Many artists continue to release double A-sided singles outside of the US where it is seen as more popular. Examples of this include Oasis's "Little by Little "/" She Is Love " (2002), Bloc Party 's "So Here We Are"/"Positive Tension" (2005) and Gorillaz 's "El Mañana" /" Kids with Guns " (2006).
Artists having the most US double-sided singles on which each side charted in the US Hot 100 , according to Billboard :
The Beatles 26
Fats Domino 24
Pat Boone 21
Ricky Nelson 19
Brenda Lee 16
Ray Charles 16
Perry Como 12
Brook Benton 12
Bill Haley ">'s pre-1955 charts.
Artists having the most US double-sided singles on which each side reached the Billboard Top 40 , according to Billboard:
Elvis Presley 26
The Beatles 14
Ricky Nelson 11
Pat Boone 10
Fats Domino 9
Brenda Lee 6
Connie Francis 6
Everly Brothers 6
Perry Como 6
Nat King Cole 5
The Beach Boys 5
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On vinyl, double A-sided singles had one song on either side of the record, while double B-sides contained two songs on the same side (on the B-side, making three songs in all). When such singles were introduced in the 1970s, the popular term for them was "maxi single ", though this term is now used more ambiguously for a variety of formats. These would not quite qualify as EPs – as that is generally four songs on a 45. The term is also sometimes used in a derogatory fashion for a release with no A-side at all, suggesting neither side is of high quality.
Examples include "Styrafoam"/"Texas Chainsaw Massacre Boogie" by Tyla
Gang (1976), and "Jack Rabbit "/"Whenever You\'re Ready (We\'ll Go
Steady Again) " by
Genesis 's 1978 7-inch single "Many Too Many" featured two B-sides, "The Day the Light Went Out" and "Vancouver", both of them being outtakes from the ...And Then There Were Three... album. There was no 12-inch equivalent. The band released two 7in singles with three tracks apiece, Spot the Pigeon and 3X3 (AKA "PAPERLATE"), WHICH WERE EXPLICITLY MARKED AS EPS. "SPOT THE PIGEON WAS ALSO AVAILABLE IN A 12-INCH VERSION, AND ALSO SUBVERTED THIS FORMAT A BIT, BY HAVING TWO TRACKS ON THE A-SIDE AND ONE TRACK ON THE B-SIDE. THE B-SIDE, "INSIDE AND OUT", WAS ALSO CONSIDERED THE SELLING POINT OF THE EP, BEING STEVE HACKETT\'S LAST CONTRIBUTION TO THE BAND, AND REMAINS A FAVORITE OF MANY FANS.
The singles from U2 's album The Joshua Tree were released with two B-side songs each, which were pressed at 33 1⁄3 rpm. Versions for jukeboxes included only one of those songs, which played at 45.
The B-52\'s UK 7-inch single of " Love Shack " was released with live versions of "Planet Claire" and "Rock Lobster" on the B-side, the B-side playing at 33 1/3rpm. The follow-up "Roam " followed suit, including live versions of "Whammy Kiss" and "Dance This Mess Around" on the B-side playing at 33 1/3rpm.
The Rolling Stones released "Brown Sugar " from their album Sticky Fingers in May 1971. While the American single featured only "Bitch " as the B-side, the British single added a third track, a live rendition of "Let It Rock ", the Chuck Berry classic, recorded at the University of Leeds during the 1971 tour of the UK.
The concept of the B-side has become so well known that many performers have released parody versions, including:
* The 1988 "Stutter Rap (No Sleep \'Til Bedtime) " by parody band
Morris Minor and the Majors featured a B-side titled "Another Boring
* Parody band Bad News recorded a video B-side to the VHS version of
their single "
Bohemian Rhapsody " titled "Every Mistake Imaginable" in
which the band discusses that they have to record an extra three
minutes of footage for the single to be chart eligible.
Tracey Ullman 's hit "They Don\'t Know " was backed in the UK by a
song entitled "The B Side" and featured Ullman in a variety of comic
monologues, many of which bemoaned the uselessness of B-sides. (The US
release used the album's title track, "You Broke My Heart in 17
Places", as the B-side.)
* Paul and
"b/w" redirects here. For the shortened form of "black and white", see black-and-white . For other uses, see B">
* ^ Plasketes, Professor George (January 28, 2013). B-Sides, Undercurrents and Overtones: Peripheries to Popular in Music, 1960 to the Present. Ashgate Publishing. * ^ MacDonald, p. 296 * ^ Hutchins, Chris. "Music Capitals of the World" Billboard December 4, 1965: 26 * ^ 1977-12-24 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive Official Charts * ^ Nirvana – UK Singles Chart Archive officialcharts.com. Retrieved October 23, 2013. * ^ User needs to do an artist search for "Nirvana" irishcharts.ie. Retrieved October 23, 2013. * ^ A B Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles 1955–2006, Record Research Inc., 2007 * ^ Whitburn, Joel, Pop Memories 1890–1954, Record Research Inc., 1986 * ^ It was typical of Goodman's records to feature throwaway tunes on the reverse, often with different names. In fact, "Ruthie's Theme" is the same tune as "Problems", which appears on the B-side of the Goodman-produced "Super Fly Meets Shaft" by John and Ernest. * ^ "The Straight Dope: In the record business, what do "b/w" and "c/w" mean?". Retrieved 2009-01-12.
* MacDonald, Ian. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles\' Records and the Sixties – ISBN 1-84413-828-3 * "A History of the 45rpm record" Martland, Peter. EMI: The First 100 Years – ISBN 0-7134-6207-8
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