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  The bizarre beatitudes of the B side by Robert Wyatt - New Musical Express - October 5, 1974



The bizarre beatitudes of the B side

JOHN LENNON : "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night"(Apple).
Lennon's decided to put out a "no-nonsense rock single". Everything's played and recorded with real class — including Junior Walker imitations and the less predictable rhythm banjo. The words are pretty permissive for Lennon (ie, no finger-wagging) and could well have been written by one of the more affluent folk artists. As many people seem to feel that the world needs more no-nonsense rock singles, I expect this'll be very ... popular.

DANNY WHITE : "Cracked Up Over You"(MCA).
Recorded in 1966. I can't imagine anyone on the Radio apart from David Symonds or John Peel playing this unfortunately. It's the kind of thing the Stones, Kinks, Pretty Things etc, used to cover on their B sides and LPs before the all-our-own-chunes rule took over English Rock (which, funnily enough, was around the time musicians started to realise that about the only way they were going to get a sizeable chunk of the profits made on record sales was to call themselves composers).

THE CHI-LITES : "Too Good To Be Forgotten" (Brunswick).
There will never be any peace (until God is seated at the conference table). How's that for an all-embracing record review? No? Actually it's the title of the B side, and I am momentarily nonplussed.

THE SOUL CHILDREN : "Love Makes It Right" (Stax).
This really begins as a spoken monologue on the B side, and that's a great idea for a single, though the intended dramatic effect would be more apparent if you didn't have to turn the record over half way through. Nothing much happens I must admit, after that; but the overall effect reminds me of Gladys Knight, and I really like it.

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS : "Give It To The People" (Capitol).
Once it gets under way this could almost be the Walker Bros. Or indeed the Moss Bros, but I don't mind that. Their individual voices sound as impressive as ever, especially on the B side, "Love is Not a Dirty Word".

THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH : "I'm A Fool For You" (Motown).
Yet another frustrating record on which all the bright ideas are displayed in the first 15 seconds, after which sheer tunelessness renders the excellent performance and great musicianship er ... pointless. I wouldn't complain normally except that I really think Norman Whitfield could make more amazing records if he er ... um ... I don't know ... got Fred Frith to write the string parts or something. (Whoops! Still, that's a good excuse to turn to some altogether more British Artists).

KENNEY JONES : "Ready Or Not" (G.M.).

This really does what I suppose Music's meant to do: make you feel good. This particular combination of voice and instruments sounds really warm and friendly, the B side (performed by "KENNEY JONES AND A POP GROUP" complete with nice drum bits) is good as well. As its effect doesn't depend on novelty alone, I expect "Ready Or Not" to sound even better every time, so here's hoping it becomes one of those records "They" play several times a day on de radio.


GARY SHEARSTON : "I Get A Kick Out Of You" (Charisma).
Here's the exception which proves my "no dead composers" rule. This wistful rendition of the Cole Porter classic, and Hugh Murphy's imaginative production, should make anyone think again about turning away from our Commonwealth cousins in our mad scramble to join the Eurovision Community. I mean if it's a knock¬out contest between special import rates on Gary Shearston versus cut price Charles Aznavour, frankly our antipodean comrade wins hands down. (Tiny reservation: why change words like 'gal' to 'bird?').

ROXY MUSIC : "All I Want Is You" (Island).
First Paul Thomson's B side: another drummer tells his story, and a moving one it is too. I recommend this side myself. However, I've been asked to review the A side, gulp, ahem: "All I Want Is You" is Roxy Music's new single. Dear Ed. Will this do? "Anxious", Twickenham. (No. — Ed.) In other words, I recognise that this is meant to be an Important Single, only I just don't actually feel that it is. Maybe someone else should review this, as my head seems to be somewhere else this week.

SPARKS : "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth" (Island).
Once again, the B side first: the recognisable Mael 'Thunderclap Newman' approach to the piano helps make "Alabamy Right" sound very like a Sparks A side, which would be less perplexing if the A side itself didn't sound like a Roy Orbison B side. Be this as it may, me wife likes it, but then she likes the next one even more, so I don't really know what that means. (Where's my highly developed sense of camp gone now that I really need it?).

THE WOMBLES : "Minuetto Allegretto" (CBS).
I'd like to think that Mozart would have preferred these snappy lyrics to the usual inane libretti used in this opera by all those singers with wobbly voices you can hear every day on Radio Three, though he may well have been happier still to have left this particular piece as an instrumental under the circumstances. As it is we'll never know, of course, this being one of the premises upon which I base my general distaste for the interpretation of music by dead composers — or 'decomposers' if I may so call them. This sonic necrophilia seems even more beyond the bucket when tried by Englishmen on dead Austrians using Italian song titles; altogether a hopelessly dodgy set-up to my mind. However, looking on the bright side for a moment, I can only hope that the inevitable success of this disinterred minuet will lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the hitherto elitist fanaticism accorded the great Kenny Everett 'Jingle' cycle. And now, nothing if not concise, I turn to the next record.

DOOBIE BROTHERS: "Long Train Runnin'" (Warner Bros.).
Relentless minor chords again, relatively conventional. Personally I prefer Boz Scaggs singing this kind of song, but The Doobies make no mistakes and I suppose they represent the younger generation's version of 'quality pop music' which has less chords than the Frank Sinatra kind due to the folk-based nature of the guitar as focal instrument. Ole! ... I mean, 'ello, I see a bright blue record coming.

THE METERS: "People Say" (Reprise).
Again, play both sides. Cor listen to this lot! Play it at 78 (always a good way to check up on bass lines) Play it at 33 ½ (for LP of the week). Any way you listen it's perfect. Only Sly Stone could follow Allen Toussaint onto the turntable — and indeed in a way he does, wearing his 'Sylvester Stewart' composer's uniform.

M.F.S.B. : "Family Affair" (CBS).
This sounds pretty much alright to me. Here's a game to get more out of it: Learn the words from the Family Stone original and then sing it over this new instrumental version. Then record yourself doing it. Astonish your friends at parties with your very own tapes. You can make any outrageous claims you like about how you made them, because nobody you know has heard of M.F.S.B. anyway. The B side features Zach Zachery on alto, on "Lay In Low", seedy nightclub music of my favourite kind.

CAROLE KING: " Jazzman " (Ode).
Carole King shares my affection for alto players who try to sound like Junior Walker, only she calls them 'jazzmen' and seems to take them pretty seriously as aural guides through spiritual pastures. The puzzle is, if those blokes are called 'Jazzmen' what do you call the deadly and debauched loonies, thinly disguised as The Blue Flames, recently seen at large roaming the night spots of the British Isles?

GEORGIE FAME: "Everlovin" Woman" (Island).
As you've probably gathered, I'm really looking forward to seeing the current Blue Flames — Alan Skidmore's impromptu drum breaks and all. Nobody can complain that there are no ravers left in rock music when there's a band with Elton Dean, Mitch Mitchell, Bernie Holland and Alan Skidmore on the loose. Meanwhile I'm quite happy to listen to Georgie Fame singing J. J. Cale — an obvious source of material, if you assume, as I do, that both musicians were brought up on such greats as Mose Allison.



BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS: "Natty Dread" (Island).

More excellent music from the colonies. I like the A side "So Jah Seh"you understand, but I prefer the B side, that's all. Either way it would be good to see one of Bob Marley's relentlessly unresolved minor keyed originals follow Clapton up the charts, wouldn't it? Yes, it would.

BRETT SMILEY: "Va Va Va Voo/Space Ace" (Anchor).
It says on the record 'play both sides'. Don't worry, with singles the price they are, I intend to. This is an Andrew Oldham production. There's a carefully made cover with the lyrics of both sides printed on it. Here are some of the lyrics of side 2: "Hats off to Mars/let's align our footsteps with the stars/in one hand lighting the other guitars/you can catch a glimpse of us as shooting stars/wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo." If you like that sample you probably want to buy this record. Er... next.

ZENDA JACKS: "Rub My Tummy" (Magnet).
This would probably seem quite nice and rude if I hadn't already heard Pip Pyle's spellbinding camp fire classic "Sit on my face little girl, sit on my face, If you don't sit on my face little girl, I'll sit on your face". I looked hopefully on the B side for the title "Now Leave My Tummy Alone And Get On With It". No such luck. Still tummies are pretty erogenous, for some people, if (like dead composers) handled with care.

THUNDERTHIGHS: "Dracula's Daughter" (Philips).
This also has a carefully made sleeve, but this time the words are on a separate piece of paper. I wonder if these ladies really do the things they say then they do on these cautiously deviant recordings. Wait a minute, silly me, it's just a jolly jape, i.e. horror films are really funny and don't frighten you at all, you know, getting stoned and going out with your gang to snigger at Hammer Films. I'm not trying to be condescending by the way, ladies; I mean we, too, have staggered out of "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls" saying "wow" and "farout" to each other.


CRYSTALS: "And Then He Kissed Me/Da Doo Ron Ron (Warner/Spector).
Come to think of it though, Phil Specter's throwaway B sides were often really good like Duane Eddy's, well not very like, but you know what I mean. These two songs were rightly popular all those years ago, but personally (how else?) I preferred some of the others which I am told are to be re-released as well Great. Buy them all folks!
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