During the age of vinyl records, artists and their record labels often put fillers on the B sides of their 45 rpm single releases. Strong songs were reserved for A sides. However, the Beatles were an exception to this rule. Their B sides were often as strong or nearly as strong as the A sides. Music buyers didn’t usually purchase records to listen to the B side, but in the case of the Beatles, they often did. What were their Top 10 B sides?
10. “I Should Have Known Better” – This is the B side of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The harmonica solo on “I Should Have Known Better” is what sets it apart and makes it a great flip side.
9. “Come Together” – In 1969 George Harrison finally got an A side with “Something.” On the other side was “Come Together.” Both songs appeared on “Abbey Road,” the last album the Beatles recorded together. John Lennon wrote and sang “Come Together,” and although the lyrics were hard to decipher, the music certainly sounded good. “It was a funky record – it’s one of my favorite Beatles tracks. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, and I’m singing it pretty well,” Lennon said, according to “Rolling Stone” magazine.
8. “Old Brown Shoe” – Over the Beatles last three years as a group, George Harrison was writing songs at least as good as the Lennon-McCartney designation (Lennon and McCartney were writing separately but still using the team label). Harrison was rewarded for this vast improvement in his songwriting ability when “Old Brown Shoe” became the B side to “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” A strong case can be made that the B side was a better song than Lennon’s self-absorbed song about his travels with and marriage to Yoko Ono.
7. “You Can’t Do That” – This was the B side to “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a song that rose to number one in 1964 in a week in which the Beatles held the entire top five positions on the singles chart, an unprecedented feat. “You Can’t Do That” featured George Harrison trying out his new 12-string Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar, playing one of the first ones ever built.
6. “I Am the Walrus” – As the B side to “Hello Goodbye,” “I Am the Walrus” was a typical John Lennon tune of the period, with convoluted, puzzling lyrics and experimental, non-traditional sounds.
5. “Eleanor Rigby” – The children’s sing-along “Yellow Submarine,” with Ringo Starr on lead vocals, provided the A side. The sad, haunting sound of “Eleanor Rigby” featured a pair of string quartets that gave it a classical music quality. Luminaries such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin covered the song.
4. “Strawberry Fields Forever” – In its list of the “The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs,” “Rolling Stone” ranks “Strawberry Fields Forever” as high as number three, trailing only “A Day in the Life” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The song was John Lennon’s recollections of his childhood in Liverpool, and it was the B side to “Penny Lane,” which was Paul McCartney’s boyhood memories. As usual, Paul’s song was more accessible, going all the way to number one, while John’s lyrics were a lot deeper but much more difficult to understand.
3. “Day Tripper” – This one was actually considered a co-A side with “We Can Work It Out,” but because “We Can Work It Out” charted higher (number one vs. number five), it is usually regarded as the A side. “Day Tripper” was rumored to be a drug song, and Lennon confirmed to Rolling Stone in 1970 that this was true. He added, “I’ve always needed a drug to survive. The (other Beatles), too, but I always had more, I always took more pills and more of everything, ’cause I’m more crazy.”
2. “If I Fell” – Two of the most beautiful ballads the Beatles ever recorded were “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell.” Both tunes were part of “A Hard Day’s Night” movie and soundtrack. As a single, “And I Love Her” was the A side and the flip side was “If I Fell.” (This is fudging a little bit because “If I Fell” was also released as the A side.) Of the Lennon-penned “If I Fell,” Paul McCartney said, “People forget that John wrote some nice ballads. People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him, really, which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected.”
1. “I Saw Her Standing There” – On the American side of the pond, Beatlemania erupted in February 1964 when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” began a seven-week run at number one on the singles chart and the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for three consecutive Sundays. One of the songs they performed on the first show on February 9 was “I Saw Her Standing There,” the B side of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” “I Saw Her Standing There” was outstanding enough to be the very first track on the Beatles very first album “Please Please Me,” and it could well have been an A side of a single.
Note: An honorable mention could certainly be given to “Rain,” the B side of “Paperback Writer.” And not even the Beatles always hit a home run. “You Know My Name,” the B side to “Let It Be,” was an awful song that should never have been on a single, or released at all, for that matter. “You Know My Name” may have been the poorest effort the Beatles ever had.
Related articles: Beatles Top 10 Songs From Their Post-Beatles Careers
“The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Fifth Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010