Monday, February 16, 2009

The Wonderful World Of Kylie B-Sides

Kylie B-sides rank alongside sex and chocolate as one of life's great pleasures. In fact, they are probably the best of the lot. Listening to "Made Of Glass" on repeat won't make you fat or give you crabs. So what makes these rejects so intoxicating? Well, as any fan will tell you, many of Kylie's best songs have routinely (and quite inexplicably) missed the cut over the years. It's not uncommon for the B-side to be superior to the actual single. I gave up trying to understand the phenomenon long ago and just accept it now as a quirk of Kylie fandom. The other interesting thing about B-sides is the fascinating insight they provide into the evolution of an album. At least they did before we were drip fed every minor detail via the internet. The "Light Years" B-sides, for example, are mostly organic guitar driven songs - light years (excuse the bad pun) away from the album's upbeat disco-pop sound, while the "Body Language" B-sides show traces of a dance album that never eventuated. The situation would be unbearably frustrating if Kylie wasn't so generous with her bonus material. I count approximately 40 B-sides, not including leaked songs, bonus tracks or side projects. Here are my top twenty:

1. Ocean Blue (2000)

Making my mark on tomorrow, doing nothin' today

The amazing B-side to "On A Night Like This" has been one of my favourite songs since the first time I heard it and only seems to get more beautiful with each passing year. Written by Kylie and Steve Anderson, "Ocean Blue" is probably the most pared back track of Kylie's career. It's just her, a guitar and some strings toward the end. The result, however, is unexpectedly magical. I love Kylie's voice on this and the lyrics really touch a nerve with me. I've always interpreted it as a kind of mantra to chill out and live for the moment but it could just as easily be a straightforward love song or an ode to water sports. Ok, probably not the latter but whatever the case may be, "Ocean Blue" is exquisite and shows a very different side of Kylie.

2. Made In Heaven (1988)

When it calls me is it just like music and lights
Or is that just a fairytale?


"Made In Heaven" was apparently going to be a double A-side with "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi" but was relegated to B-side status at the last minute. An unfortunate decision given that "Made In Heaven" is arguably one of the best songs Stock/Aitken/Waterman ever wrote. The sense of wide-eyed innocence and wonderment captured on this track is palpable and the production is suitably joyous and sweet. SAW were notoriously stingy with B-sides, which makes this all the more special. The remix (which was amusingly re-titled "Maid In England", "Maid In Australia" and "Maid In Sweden" depending on the release territory - despite the fact that they are all exactly the same!) is also a fabulous 80s treat. Check out the amazingly cheap video clip below. What the hell is going on with Kylie's hair?!

3. Tightrope (2002)

These days I find, you're always on my mind

My friends are going to be pretty shocked to see "Tightrope" only come in at number three given the fact that I usually list it as my all time favourite Kylie track. Written by Pascal Gabriel, "Tightrope" is one of the most majestic pop songs of the decade. It's wistful, melancholic tone sets it apart from just about everything else in Kylie's amazing back catalogue. The reason for its relatively low placing on this countdown is the subtle but obvious difference between the version that features on the Australian edition of "Fever" and the inferior mix used as the B-side to "In Your Eyes". Given that I'm ranking B-sides, I have to focus on the latter. I don't think an explanation was ever given for the changes but they were definitely not an improvement. Some interesting production flourishes were lost and the backing vocals are much less prominent, robbing the song of it's unique gospel-pop sound. Nevertheless, this is still a magnificent track. It's just a shame someone decided to fuck with perfection. Fingers crossed that Kylie works with Pascal again in the future.

4. Glad To Be Alive (1987)

Life's so hard some days
You need something new to wear
Like a brand new hat


To paraphrase an earlier post, Kylie's output with Stock/Aitken/Waterman is rightly appreciated by pop fans around the globe but the Australian version of "Locomotion" and its fabulous B-side have been all but forgotten. It's a shame because the original 1987 "Locomotion" is superior to the hit factory produced "The Loco-Motion" and "Glad To Be Alive" remains one of my favourite Kylie songs to this very day. Written and produced by two members of Australian new wave band Kids In The Kitchen (another act signed to Mushroom at the time), the track is utterly joyful despite the dodgy lyrics about buying new headwear. It also offers an intriguing clue as to what Kylie's debut album would have sounded like if she hadn't jumped on that plane to England.

5. Love Takes Over Me (1998)

How did I fall prey to this?

I was floored the first time I heard "Love Takes Over Me". I couldn't understand why it wasn't the lead single from "Impossible Princess", let alone fathom how it could have been left off the album entirely. The B-side to "Cowboy Style" positively bubbles with urgency and foreboding. Kylie has never sounded so dark, sinister and irresistibly sexy - before or since. I particularly love the production on this, the electronic sound effects and intricate layering are dazzling. "Love Takes Over Me" still sounds as fresh and original as it did 11 years ago.

6. Good Like That (2002)

So take a chance and love me fast
I give you all, all that I have


The "Fever" era produced some of Kylie's best B-sides and "Good Like That" has always been one of my absolute favourites. This is a pure pop delight with an instantly catchy chorus and memorably sweet, if not particularly deep, lyrics. The track is also notable for being Kylie's first collaboration with producer Cutfather, one half of the Danish duo behind "Like A Drug" and "All I See" on "X". As much as I love the song, it's hard to argue that it actually belonged on "Fever". The American pop sound would have been jarring among the more synth heavy tracks but it doesn't change the fact that "Good Like That" is as cute as a button.

7. We Know The Meaning Of Love (1990)

This is the perfect example of a B-side compensating for a relatively shit single. "Tears On My Pillow" has never been one of my favourite Kylie songs but I absolutely adore "We Know The Meaning Of Love". It's a fairly standard Stock/Aitken/Waterman produced ode to young love but the song lacks the cynicism that mars some of their lazier moments and the upbeat production nicely juxtaposes the bittersweet lyrics. Many fans insist that "We Know The Meaning Of Love" was a #1 hit in Sweden but I'm yet to see any proof, so I'll put that down to urban legend. The song's phantom Swedish chart success aside, this would have made a lovely contribution to "Enjoy Yourself". Particularly to the ballad heavy second half. Check out a wonderful fan video for the extended version below. It's great to see all that old footage!

8. Never Spoken (2002)

Those three little words
Were they ready to be heard?


Another Collaboration between Kylie and Steve Anderson, "Never Spoken" is one of the four fantastic B-sides to emerge from the various releases of "In Your Eyes". This breezy slice of guitar pop isn't quite as majestic as "Tightrope" or as instantly catchy as "Good Like That" but I find myself coming back to it again and again. I love songs that capture an every day experience or emotion - like a brain fart that results in you telling someone you love them after a week. Not that I'm talking from experience anything. "Never Spoken" reminds me of a more upbeat version of "Ocean Blue" and I've often wondered if it evolved from those sessions. The track doesn't really fit the "Fever" sound at all, which might be why it stands out as such a fan favourite.

9. Soul On Fire (2003)

Forget all that I said
Can't we go back to bed?


I still remember how excited I was when I first got hold of "Slow". That stunning electro jam pushed all my buttons and the B-sides ("Soul On Fire" and "Sweet Music") promised even better things from the album. Talk about false advertising. While "Body Language" didn't quite live up to my expectations, my love for "Soul On Fire" has only deepened over time. Written by Kylie, Dan Carey and alternative pop princess Emiliana Torrini (the exact same team behind "Slow"), this seductive little number is an unexpected gem. Everything about the track is subtle and understated, from the beats to the chorus. "Soul On Fire" would have sounded amazing next to "Someday" or "Loving Days" but was cut in favour of trash like "After Dark". Go figure.

10. Carried Away (2008)

The heat of the dancefloor's just too sexy

The fabulous "X" B-sides have been conspicuously absent from my countdown thus far but I've tried to give extra to wait to songs that have already stood the test of time. "Wow" is generally considered to have delivered the best B-Sides since "In Your Eyes" with the tasty trio of "Do It Again", "Carried Away" and "Cherry Bomb". I'm fond of all three but the former is a little too Eurovision for my liking, while the latter suffers from Bloodshy & Avant's amazing ability to overproduce. "Carried Away", on the other hand, is a perfect example of what Kylie does better than any other diva - sing bright, shiny pop songs about having fun at the disco. Greg Kurstin's production is pure Eurodance, making this the closest Kylie will probably ever come to sounding like Kelly Llorenna. Which I consider to be a very good thing.

11. All I Wanna Do Is Make You Mine (1988)

I all really wanna do is make you so, so happy
All I wanna do is make you smile


As much as I love giving "Especially For You" the occasional spin, I've always preferred the B-side. "All I Wanna Do Is Make You Mine" is a rambling epic that borrows strongly from (ie. blatantly rips off) "You're The One That I Want". Little more than a demo, this cute duet with Jason Donovan sounds strangely underdone but it never fails to lift my spirits. Stock/Aitken/Waterman definitely had a patent on slightly inane but utterly joyous pop music.

12. Paper Dolls (2000)

There's nothing more I can do
Than fall a little more in love with you


"Paper Dolls" is one of the most romantic songs Kylie has ever recorded. The lyrics are gorgeous and Kylie's voice has rarely sounded so beautiful and delicate. This lovely gem was the B-side to "Spinning Around" way back in 2000 and has held up considerably better than its iconic stablemate. Yet another Steven Anderson collaboration, I think "Paper Dolls" had the potential to be a hit - it would have sounded brilliant on radio - but it just didn't fit on "Light Years". Writing about (and listening to) all these stunning tracks, I can't help but hope someone puts together a "Hits+" type compilation for the Parlophone era. These songs deserve better.

13. B.P.M. (2004)

I wanna lose myself in your beats per minute

Everything I said about "Carried Away" equally applies to "B.P.M." - well, apart from the whole Kelly Llorenna thing. This is Kylie by numbers: A fun song with a great chorus that makes you want to move your feet. Written by Kylie, Richard Stanning and Julian Gallagher, "B.P.M." came to life during the "Body Language" sessions before finally appearing as the B-side to "I Believe In You". This would have brightened up "Body Language" no end but I guess it was too catchy and upbeat for that album. Interestingly, the song has already been covered - twice! Swedish diva Dani Evermore had some chart success with her lovely version in Poland, while according to the jokers at Wikipedia 70s folk icon Janis Ian apparently covered it in 2005! I'll believe that when I hear it.

14. Just Wanna Love You (1989)

I could make you happy
If you'd take a chance on me


The Stock/Aitken/Waterman produced B-side to "Hand On Your Heart" boasts what could be the worst vocal performance of Kylie's career. Her voice comes across as dull and lifeless, while the whole thing sounds like it could have been recorded on someone's answering machine. The lyrics aren't much better. I can't help but laugh every time I hear Kylie sing "there's nothing fatal in attraction, I'm just looking for some action". And yet, I always get a cheap thrill when this pops up on my Ipod. I'm a sucker for SAW Kylie and "Just Wanna Love You" really is quite fabulous in a so bad it's great kind of way.

15. Made Of Glass (2005)

It's like a million beats in a Parisian heart

After producing Kylie's worst ever single ("Giving You Up"), Xenomania redeemed themselves somewhat by coming up with this spectacular B-side. "Made Of Glass" is everything that "Giving You Up" wasn't - fresh, original and edgy. The largely nonsensical lyrics are undeniably pretty, while the spoken word verses counterbalance the subtle but effective chorus. From memory, this was only leaked when Rachel Stevens expressed interest in butchering it. Sneaky! "Made Of Glass" was actually released as a double A-side in Australia and this received the majority of radio airplay, becoming a top 10 hit.

16. Do You Dare? (New Rave Mix) (1992)

Do you dare?
Cause if you do I'll take you there


I used to think this was the coolest song ever released back in the 90s. Listening to it now, the trashtastic B-side to "Give Me Just A Little More Time" is little more than Kylie screaming the song's title over some incredibly dated beats - courtesy of Mike Stock and Pete Waterman. It doesn't matter, I still love every second of it. Put this on, grab some glowsticks and party like it's 1992!

17. If You Don't Love Me (1994)

You can tell me anything,
I'll believe you


The most famous "Confide In Me" B-side is unquestionably Kylie's version of St. Etienne's "Nothing Can Stop Us" but I've always found that fan favourite strangely underwhelming. I much prefer the other B-side, Kylie's acoustic cover of Prefab Sprout's 1992 single "If You Don't Love Me". I would have loved to hear an electronic version along the lines of the original but the song sounds amazing stripped back to basics. Kylie's voice is gorgeous on this, those high notes still give me goosebumps. It's relatively low ranking is only due to the fact that the song reminds me so strongly of the superior "Hits+" track "Stay This Way".

18. King Or Queen (2007)

Dancefloor royalty, that's what you are to me
I salute you!


Kylie, Karen Poole and Greg Kurstin apparently brainstormed "King Or Queen" in Ibiza and you can almost smell the Sangria and sweaty Spanish nightclubs. Another tale of disco shenanigans along the lines of "Carried Away" and "B.P.M.", the "2 Hearts" B-side stands out thanks to the overtly camp lyrics and the fabulous spoken interlude. I think this would have made a nice addition to "X" but it's not as glaring an omission as "Rippin' Up The Disco" or "Lose Control". Nevertheless, this is great fun and sorely underrated among Kylie fans.

19. Say The Word - I'll Be There (1991)

If you're deep in the jungle boy
caught in a winter storm
kidnapped by anyone
I'll set you free


No this isn't a cover of the Jackson 5 classic but a bad lyric (see above) filled epic written by Kylie and two thirds of Stock/Aitken/Waterman. Objectively, I know the "Word Is Out" B-side is sentimental crap without a redeeming feature but I've always found its shortcomings hugely appealing. Maybe it's the trash lover in me but I've played "Say The Word - I'll Be There" more times over the years than I care to admit. At the very least this should hold some interest to fans due to it being so different from everything else recorded in the "Let's Get To It" era. Don't judge me!

20. Cherry Bomb (2008)

The more I think of you, the more I melt like ice cream

I mentioned earlier that I'm not a huge fan of Bloodshy & Avant's heavily produced sound but "Cherry Bomb" is superior to their other "X" contributions and the song continues to grow on me with every listen. It's hypnotic, edgy and sexy - in a robotic kind of way. The sound is very now but I wonder how it will hold up in ten years time. In the meantime I plan to play this jam. A lot.

Worst B-Sides:

I've listed my 20 favourite Kylie B-sides. Here are 5 stinkers to avoid at all costs.

1. Love At First Sight (Live) (2004)

Utterly pointless.

2. Almost A Lover (2004)

Possibly the single most vile thing Kylie has ever recorded - after "You Make Me Feel".

3. I Don't Know What It Is (2007)

The worst "X" B-side by far.

4. Boy (2001)

Plodding, uninspired dance Kylie.

5. Cover Me With Kisses (2000)

Kylie channels Shirley Bassey. Badly.

29 comments:

Tommy said...

Great overview of the awesomeness of Kylie's B-sides! I feel like taking out all of my Kylie singles now..

I haven't heard all of the songs (mostly the earlier ones) you've mentioned, but you're so right on the money regarding quality of her B-sides. Like you, I'm astonished how many times her B-sides exceed their single A-sides. If she weren't so generous (and perhaps a bit more lazy), I've often wondered if she could have gotten away with saving some of the more recent ones up and assembling an album out of them. I suspect the result would be at least better received than "Body Language" was..

Great post as always!

Jay said...

My list would be completely different - though for the most part I find Kylie b-sides to be very hit or miss.

Incidentally, I'm sure you remember that Love Takes Over Me was first used as a b-side in 1997 for the Some Kind Of Bliss UK 7" and this version (that was also used for CS in 1998) is far better than the "finished" version that appeared on The Artists Collection & Impossible Princess Special Edition.

Robpop said...

Great post! Loved watching We Know The Meaning Of Love. Classic.

I talk a lot about b-sides with Biff/Steve in the interviews for DSTP. How they came to be. Paper Dolls is especially special. Not only because of the fact there were two wonderful British (failed) girlbands called Paper Dolls, but because it was actually one of the first songs recorded for EMI. The history behind the Steve Anderson b-sides are brilliantly interesting. Love Takes Over Me..is perhaps the finest thing she has done with Decon. It could have been the sequel to Confide In Me.

When I First heard it on the Some Kind of Bliss 7"..I was like "this sooooo should be the lead single...not the a-side.

I think its worth to mention the lovely Cruise Control. It still makes me smile.

I also love Do It Again. I differ with you on I Don't Know What Is. Biff said that song isnt finished just yet. But even still, i love it. I also adore Cover Me With Kisses. That, rather than Spinning Around, introduced for me...what was to be expected on Light Years.

I also love Tears. The lyrics are brilliant.

Ultimately, the girl..and her record companies have generally been bloody brilliant with b-sides. I look at other acts..and i think..jeesh..in 20 years....you've had 5 b-sides-sucks 4 u.

Kylie, the songwriters, the publishers and all those involved in putting these out there for us fans have done a really good job.

Now for XI and all the wonderful bonus/b-sides!

Parker said...

I think that Made Of Glass truly marks Kylie as the ultimate and finnest gay icon cause she's obviously singing about cruising: We did it in the darkness, we did it in the cold.


My favourite Kylie bsides are:
Tightrope
Cherry Bomb
Carried Away
I'm Sorry
King Or Queen and I also enjoy Cover Me With Kisses

Janis Ian said...

I definitely did NOT record a version of this song - though it might have been cool... Janis Ian

Robpop said...

Isn't Janis Ian the name of the session singer?

By the way, i love Boy!

Justin said...

It's good to see that you mention some of my favourite b-sides but I must ask where is the fabulous Rendezvous At Sunset? I'm just a sucker for her collaborations with Richard "Biff" Stannard.

I'm really thrilled to see King Or Queen get a mention because it's absolutely fabulous and terribly underrated

Scott said...

Loved the list. I can only blame bad A&R for the fact that the X and Body Language b-sides and leaked tracks were far superior to much of the albums. What gives?

Say The Word is an awesome song - Let's Get To It suffered from dire single choices, despite it being a great album and this could only have helped it IMHO.

I always thought the entire (AMAZING) two lines of lyrics in Do You Dare could be dug up for a remix release.

Meanwhile, I disagree in that Lose Control is shiiiiiit and Cover Me With Kisses is fun fluff - the kind of song that b-sides were invented for. If You Don't Love Me could have been a little higher...

I never even noticed the difference in production between the two versions of Tightrope - and yet cleverly had both on my iPod. Point taken.

You have to do a leaked track list next ... has a good version of Aston Martin ever turned up?

Aaron said...

Great Work!!! - The problem with this is it's so hard to keep up! Throw in the Bonus Tracks and Leaked and Unreleased stuff and we're in a lot of trouble!

Now, I've not heard these (Damn Downloading being Illegal!) - but Tightrope (The bonus track version!) is just HEAVENLY and yes, I think it's my favourite Kylie track ever - Up there with Carried Away, which is so beautiful! I love King or Queen too!

I should mention that I can't quite see the appeal of Cherry Bomb - and either Boy or Rendevous At Sunset (I can't remember which!) pains me as well!

I really should pay more attention to her singles and older stuff!

Aaron said...

Ooh - forgot to mention! Would it be that hard to release a collection with all her b-sides and throw in her unreleased stuff? We'd KILL for that!

Like Tommy said, she could get away with that as an album in it's self!

The Prophet said...

STOP TALKING ABOUT KYLIE! SHE'S LAME!

And Mr, Body Language is her best album!!!! Giving You up is amazing to! At least we agree on Tightrope & Made Of Glass though... Oh, and BPM! But don't hate on Body Language, it's amazing! Her best album after Fever. I'd include X, but it gets let down by all that gay trash like The One. Everything else in her catalogue is lame... Oh wait What Do I have to do & Confide In Me are amazing... How dare you make me realise I like lots of her songs!

Paul said...

ah great write up young Mike. I have to say my favourite Kylie bsides are the S/A/W ones (All I Wanna Do, Made In Heaven, and Say The Word are all particular favourites of mine and just lovely) and the ones from Light Years which are almost worthy of a separate EP of acoustic-y goodness. Magnificent.

BTW - i adore both those b-sides from Confide in Me, though like you prefer the Prefab Sprout cover. Her St Etienne track is just delicious though.

Peibols said...

Posts like this make me love you even more. But also, make me realise that our marriage is impossible.

I'll make the same (but only with DeConstruction an Parlophone eras) and you'll see why.

But, as usual, an amazing must-read post.
Next time, try to write it in mexican.

Anonymous said...

I had to always justify to my mother why I bought 7" singles in the 80's, for the god darn b-sides, what do most kids have these days, wow...instrumentals! I always melt when i play ocean blue, I was on my 'she's done a complete gay album' when light years came out, and being gay, I hated most of that album, but ocean blue came out of the dark when i needed it, thank god for on a night like this then!
Meaning Of Love is amazing...I always wonder whether that was meant to be the single that was once quoted as 'The Greatest Love' by Smash Hits in 89, has that ever been proven? Thank you for this post, you covered all aspects...

John said...

I'm in awe and don't know where to start, other than to say brilliant entry. You never disappoint.

Cyber said...

I love 3 of the 5 songs you've mentioned in the Worst Section. Ha! That's Kylie for you - splitting the fans.

Jennifer said...

Mike this list is A-MAZING!

I have a fondness for "Tightrope" as well as "Made Of Glass". I also fully agree that "Giving You Up" was a load of crap that should of never had the privilege to get pressed on a CD...how in hell did "MOG" miss the mark?

Some of my favorite B-sides that aren't on here, such as "City Games", "For All I'm Worth", "Slo Motion" and "Harmony" but it's your list Mike, so I bow down and worship :)

D'luv said...

What a great post! It makes me want to see you naked and wearing a Wonder Woman mask now more than ever!

"Say The World - I'll Be There" is indeed a guilty pleasure. So low brow yet such a subtly uplifting chorus. I'd never heard it till those remix cds of hers came out 10 years ago (!!!).

"Tightrope" just might be my alltime fave Kylie B-side. "We Know THe Meaning Of Love" is a close second...again, another I hadn't heard till the remix CDs.

And you really did use the word 'eventuating,' didn't you...? Yeah, I thought so. Whore.

Mike said...

Thanks for all your comments. Kylie B-sides bring people together! I was really happy to see some appreciation for "Say The Word - I'll Be There" (I thought I was the only one giving that a spin) and it's good to know the love "Tightrope" is almost universal! X

Yuяi said...

I think you have "Boy" on the wrong list!

Jamie_movietrip said...

Cover Me With Kisses is great!

Adem With An E said...

Now THIS was such an incredible, joyous read. I've forgotten how intensely good a lot of Kylie's B-Side's were. In my top 10 favourite Kylie songs of all time, both "Tightrope" and "Made Of Glass" are in there. Classy, dignified pop songs.

I do love "Giving You Up" a lot though. It was the film clip that made me cry though.

Peibols said...

La siento dentro!

Anonymous said...

I love this post!!! As for the b-sides, what about On the up?? "Not the disco, I'm a dancer" is such a classic line

notofthisworld said...

No mention of "Closer", the b-side to "Finer Feelings"? It's one of my favourites.

Eric said...

I've made my own CDs of these B-Sides and unreleased tracks (As I'm sure most Kylie fans have). The only song on which I differ is "Almost a Lover." For some reason, I've always liked it. Right now I'm listening to my Good Like That CD:

Good Like That
Baby
I'm Just Here for the Music
Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head
Loving You
My Image Unlimited
Almost a Lover
I Believe In You
Made of Glass
I Know
Giving You Up
B.P.M.

Give it a try. It totally works!

Anonymous said...

BOYS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

you have BOY on the wrong list!

VANESSA FRANCO said...

I love the b-sides Kylie mionogue, she's all to me.