In the early days of vinyl records, singles (45’s) were released with one song on each side of the record, to be played at 45 RPM. The side with the hit song was typically known as the “A-side,” while the other side was called the “B-side.”
The B-side of a vinyl record had a lesser known or filler track that was often not played on air since the focus would be on the A side of the record. However, over time, B-sides gained popularity among listeners and vinyl record collectors, and some B-sides even became hits, or favorites to music fans. In some cases the B side was not issued on the full length album, making the B side track rare.
One of the uses of the B-side was its potential for musical experimentation. Record labels often gave artists the ability to experiment on the B-side track, allowing the artist to try out new styles of music without risking their reputation or commercial success. Fans of the artist may seek out the harder to find tracks such as the B side of a single.
B-sides also gave fans an opportunity to hear more from the artist. The B-side, or flipside, was a part of their music listening experience. Some listeners preferred the B-side over the A-side since the radio stations would typically not play the B side, considering it a throw-away track not meant for air play. Sometimes the vinyl record would also be marked as promotional with a bb hole or stamp.
B sides could contain an additional hit track, but lesser know artists would not always have a second potential hit track to add to the B side. Some vinyl 45s may just have the A side as Stereo and the B side as Mono for the same track.
With digital music the concept of a B side does not exist. The track or tracks that could have been a B side on vinyl, would be added to the album release as bonus tracks. On some CDs the tracks would sometimes be ‘hidden’ tracks, with an extended silence between the last track of the CD and the bonus tracks.
The B side on vinyl records would serve as further insight to the artist with a rare track. With many vinyl records being converted to a digital streaming or download format, the B sides can often not make the conversion. This is one reason people collect vinyl records – to find and hear songs that seem to have been lost or forgotten. With some streaming services the actual full length CD may be missing tracks, while others may add extra tracks since the streaming of an album is not limited by vinyl or CD recording times. The B side tracks can be hard to find, so fans of a particular artist may spend years looking for a vinyl copy before they can actually listen to the hard to find track.
If you just listen to music for the hit songs, you may not be interested in the B side song. For avid music fans, the B side can seem like a rare lost track not heard by other music fans. If you are a fan of a band that no longer records music you just may want to research and find out if there could be a few B side lost tracks you have yet to hear.