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 RevolverRevolver 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?

15 Comments

  1. I will be a Negative Nancy here and say that while the Beatles get an ‘A’ for creativity. this song – for me – is at best a B plus for listening purposes. Just never really been that crazy about it.

  2. The boys were really on a roll here. Rain, a B-side. Lol. That’s a good career for most.

  3. I like Rain better than Paperback Writer.
    Their ultimate B side to me would be Strawberry Fields Forever…B side to Penny Lane…another good one is Baby You’re a Rich Man…B side to All You Need Is Love. Both off of Magical Mystery Tour.

  4. Simply the best. Still swoon over Paul’s bass.

    • I always get caught by the drums and don’t notice the bass so much on this one – drumming is so un-Ringo. I love Paul’s bass on complex chord structures like Penny Lane.

  5. Rain is a good choice for your series. From the Past Masters double album, the stand-alone single (not b-side) “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” was a nice find as well.

    • That little clutch of four songs at the start of Past Masters Volume 2 – the 1965 and 1966 singles – is a beautiful stretch of music. Peak Beatles, which means some of the best pop music ever.

  6. Nice choice of Walrus as a favourite – Rocky Raccoon is mine!
    As for B-side, I suppose Strawberry Fields also ended up on Magical Mystery, but having Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields as a single surely has to be among the strongest ever!

  7. I saw U2 play a very good cover of this on their Pop tour to thank us all for not letting the torrential rain douse our enthusiasm.

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