For this b-side series, I’m only counting material that wasn’t released on studio albums. For instance, ‘Black Water’ by The Doobie Brothers became a #1 single, after its original release as a b-side, but it was also included on the album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, so it doesn’t count. Likewise, my favourite Beatles song, ‘I Am The Walrus’, was originally released as the b-side of ‘Hello, Goodbye’, but it’s also included on Magical Mystery Tour, which is regarded as part of the group’s discography.
Instead, let’s look at a slightly more obscure entry in The Beatles catalogue, if any Beatles song can be referred to as obscure. ‘Rain’ was the b-side of ‘Paperback Writer’, a pair of songs recorded during the sessions for Revolver. Revolver marked the group’s growing interest in studio techniques, and they’re in full display on ‘Rain’. It’s the first use of backward vocals on a pop record, and along with the experiments with tape speed, it creates a psychedelic effect.
One of The Beatles’ strengths was their ability to corral relatively complex musical ideas into three minute pop songs, but this John Lennon song is one of the group’s more straightforward pieces. But it works well – ‘Rain’ is effectively a blank palette for the group’s burgeoning studio experimentation, and the droning melody suits the psychedelic treatment. Along with the studio trickery, it’s one of Ringo Starr’s most extroverted drumming performances, and Ringo himself regards it as his strongest drum track with the group. Its showy fills are the antithesis of Ringo’s usual drumming, but they work well here.
The song was inspired by landing in a rainy Australia, although some pundits have suggested that the song also contains LSD references – rain and sun are apparently states of the LSD trip experience.
Do you have a favourite Beatles b-side?