When released for the first time, a single usually suppose to have a hit on the A-side, and a secondary song not supposed to be a hit, on the B-side. That song was basically used to fill the B-side, and producers didn't give hight hopes on it.

The scope of my question doesn't include singles that knowingly featured two hits (sometimes called double A-side) like The Beatles' We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper or where the letter A or B doesn't appear on the label.

I'm focussing in singles where the B-side became a massive hit, and A-side almost forgotten.

Has a B-side unexpectedly overtake a A-side, in terms of success, popularity?

  • 3
    "We Will Rock You" was the B side of "We are the Champions", but that's really more of a double-A type situation. I'm certain I've head of other cases that are a better fit for your query, but I'm having trouble bringing them to mind. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    Do you want answers to be where the record company actually changed the A/B designation & started promoting the other side... or records that were bought because of the B-side, or received airplay on the B-side, without ever being officially 'turned over'.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:37
  • @Tetsujin, either could be good. My scope is when the B-side was neglected, by the disc company and/or the artists, in front of the A-side. Then the A-side is a failer compared to the success of the B-side.
    – Bebs
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:45

10 Answers 10


After a little research (A sides in parentheses):

  • “Rock Around the Clock” (“Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)”)– Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954.

  • “Tequila” (“Train to Nowhere") – The Champs

  • "Unchained Melody” ( “Hung on You.”) – The Righteous Brothers 1965.

  • "Ruby Tuesday”* (“Let’s Spend the Night Together”) – The Rolling Stones

  • “I Will Survive” (“Substitute”) - Gloria Gaynor

  • “Push It” (“Tramp”) - Salt-N-Pepa

  • "Dear God" ("Grass") - XTC

This only includes songs where the B side was substantially more popular than the A. I'm sure there are others, but these are some big ones.

* = became a hit after being re-released

  • If EPs are allowed (not clear), I would mention "Tous les garçons et les filles" by Francoise Hardy (1962), with the much less successful "Oh oh chéri" on the A-side.
    – njuffa
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 3:56
  • I'm not sure you can say that The sweetest thing is more of a hit than Where the streets have no name, which is still played at every U2 concert Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 8:39
  • Colloquially, The Sweetest Thing hit #6 in Australia on its rerelease in 1998, and I've heard it a million times on the radio for that reason, but barely know of Where the Streets Have No Name.
    – Coxy
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 13:17
  • @GuillaumeFache I just looked it up, and "Streets" was a substantially bigger hit (except in Canada), "Sweetest Thing" was just more recent. So, off the list it goes... Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 2:19

I've turned up a few more .. with notes as to which were officially turned over or re-released

  • I Am the Walrus (Hello Goodbye) - Beatles 1967
    Never turned over

  • Green Onions (Behave Yourself) - Booker T & The MGs 1962
    Re-released 1962.

  • Half The World Away (Whatever) - Oasis 1994
    [afaik] Never turned over

  • Suffragette City (Starman) - David Bowie 1972
    Released to promote ChangesOneBowie in 1976, was never a hit in its own right]

  • How Soon Is Now (William, It Was Really Nothing) - Smiths 1984
    Re-released 1985

  • God Only Knows (Wouln't It Be Nice) - Beach Boys 1966
    Released as the A-side in some countries, but as a B-side only, in the US.

  • Maggie May (Reason To Believe) - Rod Stewart 1971
    Never turned over

  • Into the Groove (Angel) - Madonna 1985
    Released as an A-side worldwide, but not in the US

  • Always on my Mind (Separate Ways) - Elvis Presley
    US possibly later changed to double-A [wikipedia unclear], UK A-side

  • The Model (Computer Love) - Kraftwerk 1978
    Re-issued 1981 with A&B reversed.

  • Rock'n'Roll Part 2 (Rock'n'Roll Part 1) - Gary Glitter 1972
    Unclear as to whether it was ever turned over - probably not.

  • You Can't Always Get What You Want (Honky Tonk Women) - Rolling Stones 1969
    Re-released 1973

Records purportedly bought for the B-Side, yet could not be played on the radio

  • There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards (Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick) Ian Dury & the Blockheads 1978

  • Magic Roundabout (Funky Moped) Jasper Carrott 1975

Near misses...

  • Mustang Sally (Good Lovin) - The Young Rascals
    Never a hit for them, the Wilson Pickett cover beat them to it.
  • "Hello Goodbye" reached #1 on the charts; "I Am the Walrus" did not. I also feel like I've heard "Starman" a lot more than "Suffragette City," but that's anecdotal. Certainly neither of those A-sides are "almost forgotten" per the original question! How are you judging popularity here? Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 22:57
  • I am the Walrus could never chart, as I said; they never turned it over. It's the one that's still played to this day, though - plus it has a video, so it is used on TV too. Suffragette City hasn't been off the playlists since last year. Interesting you missed the most striking one - Maggie May was also never turned over.. however it was performed on Top of the Pops, which almost never played anything that wasn't an actual of the moment hit.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 7:16
  • When you say "turned over", do you mean re-released as an A-side? Since the charts are largely (even primarily?) based on airplay, why would it be necessary for a song to be released as an A-side to chart? Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 14:59
  • Whose charts are based on airplay? Though that might have been charged in recent years [since the demise of the 45 rpm single as the mainstay of the charts] in the UK it was always based entirely on sales, airplay was no factor. ...and yes 'turned over' == specifically re-released as a A, with the original A as the B-side.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 15:51
  • I just wiki'd charts and read a little bit about them. It sounds like the Billboard charts (an Americanism, admittedly) are primarily based on airplay, though I could be misunderstanding the article. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Record_chart Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 17:44

Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" was the B-side of "Donna". While Donna reached #2 and "La Bamba" only #22 on Billboard Hot 100, I think "La Bamba" could be considered "more popular" in the long term. Valens was credited with a #1 hit when the Los Lobos version reached #1. Also "La Bamba" ranked No. 98 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll in 1999.

However, I don't think "Donna" was "almost forgotten".


Ice Ice Baby was initially released as the B-side to Vanilla Ice's cover of Play That Funky Music.
Source from Wikipedia.


Green Day's Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) initially appeared as a B-side on their Brain Stew / Jaded single from their album Insomniac.

It eventually was re-released as the second single on Nimrod and became a massive hit.

  • Thanks for taking the time to answer. I've been checking for Brain Stew / Jaded single on Discogs, but I can't find any issue that features Time of your Life. Do you have a link to confirm it has been a B-Side?
    – Bebs
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 12:38
  • 3
    The song is actually called "Good Riddance". Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 13:18
  • Could you confirm @JanJohannsen is right and edit your question?
    – Bebs
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 11:06

Its actually kind of tough to tell for sure, at least from sales figures, since a B side was (obviously) sold as an inseparable package with its A side. Probably the best way to tell would be from the imperfect measure of radio airplay time.

My personal favorite instance of a B side getting more airplay is Led Zepplin's Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?. It was a B-side for the released single of The Immigrant Song. That song got no little airplay itself, but there was definitely a period in the early 80's when I was hearing Hey, Hey on the radio way more. Also, since Immigrant Song was originally on Led Zeppelin II, its a fair bet that rather a lot of the sales of the single to your typical hardcore Zeppelin fan were to acquire the B side, not the A side.

But even more interestingly, Public Enemy wrote a (freaking great) song about B-sides doing better than A-sides: B Side Wins Again.

You roll in your ride, the DJ decides to play it on the radio; the A side. He gives it a try, but never gives it a try and the people request the best on the B side.

That song itself sampled several B-sides.


Already mentioned in another answer, but I wanted to add a little more detail: Dear God by XTC was originally a B-side-only release on the single Grass, and became so popular so quickly that it supplanted an original album track, Mermaid Smiled, on the US release of the album Skylarking:

Then Dear God was released as A-side.


Some additional ones to supplement @Briller and @ChrisSunami's answers:

  • "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris, original A-Side was "Surfer Joe"
  • "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart, original A-Side was "Reason To Believe"
  • "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter, original A-Side was "Rock and Roll Part 1"
  • "Fingertips - Part 2" by Little Stevie Wonder, original A-Side was "Fingertips - Part 1"

More surprise hit B-Sides can be found in these links.


Cliff Nobles recorded a song called "Love Is All Right" in 1968, and the B-side was called "The Horse." The latter was just "Love Is All Right" without Nobles' vocal track. The vocal version of the song didn't get much airplay, but the instrumental version was a hit in 1968.



Pearl Jam's "Yellow Ledbetter" was the B-side to Jeremy, and it went on to be one of the band's biggest songs

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. My question was about B-sides that became popular, and you're right, Yellow Ledbetter was popular, but it was also about A-sides that were not as popular as expected. Jeremy is a very popular song.
    – Bebs
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 11:05
  • 1
    That's true, but I'd still say Yellow Ledbetter is a lot more well known tham Jeremy to non-PJ fans
    – Tom_Anks
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 12:17
  • 2
    Not so sure of that. I'm not a Pearl Jam fan, but I sure do know Jeremy, I could probably sing it by heart. It was all over the radio for ages. I just checked out the video to Yellow Ledbetter, I don't think I've ever heard it before. According to wikipedia, it didn't crack the Billboard Hot 100, and only reached a max of 21st spot on the rock charts. Jeremy reached #5 on both Mainstream and Modern rock charts, and #79 in the Hot 100. (Why do I suddenly feel like I'm in "High Fidelity"?)
    – John Smith
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 20:06

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