Monday, 8 May 2017

Ten SAW B-Sides I'd Have Made The A-Side! [Part 1]

As a Stock Aitken Waterman fan in the 1980s and early 1990s, one would become resigned to the fact that the B-side of many single releases would be an instrumental version of the A-side. As my love of all things SAW has deepened over the years, I’m now delighted to have so many instrumental versions that allow me to listen closely and pick out the different elements which make up the song.

As a teenager desperate for original SAW material, I was a bit frustrated by this reliance upon the instrumentals – but I guess this made the appearance of a brand new original SAW track on the B-side a VERY EXCITING EVENT!

Sure, some tracks would impress more than others, but every so often you’d get a SAW B-side which was just as good as the A-side, and in some cases, even better than the A-side.

So here is my – admittedly personal – list of the 10 SAW B-sides which I would have made the A-side!

The criteria for the list is:
  • Written (and/or co-written) by SAW
  • Standalone tracks not belonging to an original artist album
  • A full song with lyrics

The latter point means that tracks such as I Wanna Be Your Everything by Delage, Just Call Me Up by Jason Donovan, and Do You Dare? by Kylie Minogue are excluded. As are the instrumental pieces SAW created for the Pat & Mick B-sides (although a separate article on these will follow).

Likewise, instrumental and dub mixes of the A-side are also excluded.

Hopefully, you will find some of your favourites in this list, but I’m equally as certain that you may be aggrieved that I have missed some obvious choices out. Yes, I’ve left out certain Kylie and Jason tracks which I love, but I don’t want this to be a list full of their tracks.

So here goes, in reverse order!

10) I Wanna Shout About It – Delage
[B-side to Running Back For More]

This infectious slab of dance pop from early 1990s SAW girl band Delage appears to have had an interesting genesis. As lovely as the A-side Running Back For More is, this meaty, utterly contemporary banger is probably the more commercial cut of the two tracks, and it is a mystery why this was consigned to B-side status. That said, the recent re-issue of Running Back For More carries additional mixes of I Wanna Shout About It, including 7” and 12” mixes, which suggests that it was considered as an A-side. So we have two key versions: a full vocal single version, and the version that made the B-side of Running Back For More, which omits the verses. The full vocal version is just glorious, with a strong lead vocal and some great backing harmonies, but the official B-side version heads more in the direction of the limited vocal style of contemporaneous dance tracks. A big dirty synth riff and some frantic house piano kicks off proceedings, whilst the solid beat and shifting synth pads give this track a real edge which takes it away from the standard SAW sound of the time towards the tough dance sounds dominating the charts at the time.  A great marriage of pop sensibilities and house influences, this was a real missed opportunity for both the band and producers. One of the emerging themes from this top 10 list of B-sides is how S(A)W were able to demonstrate they were still more than capable of remaining current and up-to-date in the early 1990s, but maybe there was a lack of confidence somewhere in terms of being more adventurous in choices of single material.

9) Say The Word – I’ll Be There - Kylie Minogue
[B-Side to Word Is Out]

Whilst Word Is Out still appears to be a polarising song for S(A)W and Kylie fans, its B-side Say The Word – I’ll Be There garners a much warmer reception. Composed by Stock, Waterman and Minogue, this smooth, mature mid-tempo ballad is worlds away from the beat-led and brass-boasting affair on the A-side. Underpinned by rich, rolling piano and made all the sweeter by the glorious backing vocals, Say The Word sees Kylie in pining mode as she makes her case to the object of her affections. It’s a further development of the Kylie sound; however, where the listener can hear the S(A)W DNA deep within Word Is Out, one could be forgiven for thinking that Say The Word had been produced by a different production team. It’s lush, with a real organic feel to its arrangement and production, with little in the way of electronic sounding synths and percussion to betray the trademark sound of its producers. Certainly Mike Stock, in his recent interview with Nick Moon, cited this track as one of his favourite B-sides. Whilst it perhaps wouldn’t have been the best choice for the first single of Kylie’s fourth album campaign, it would have made for a good third or fourth single and perhaps indicated a new direction for S&W and Kylie had they continued to work together. I would add though that it is almost a crime that the track didn’t make the Let’s Get To It album.

8) Story of My Life - Jason Donovan
[B-side of Rhythm of the Rain]

B-sides often allowed SAW to try something a little different, and during their imperial pure pop phase of 1988-1990, such experimentation was very welcome. So it was that the B-side of Jason’s Rhythm of the Rain gave us Baggy Jason (baggy, of course, being the early 1990s term to describe what would later be called indie). Story of My Life is a standard Jason tale of bad luck in love (“And by the way, if you’re looking for sunshine, I ain’t the luckiest one / If you come with me, there’d be cloud in the desert / or a total eclipse of the sun”), but the arrangement and production presents a real change to the SAW sonic palette of the time. Kicking off with wailing guitars, Jason’s tale of woe is backed by a solid electric guitar riff, honky-tonk piano and a thumping beat, whilst the inclusion of brass and organ enlivens proceedings further. As Tom Parker points out in his excellent sleeve notes for the Between the Lines Deluxe reissue, this track finally gives Jason the Happy Mondays-style track he’d coveted for some time, and surely he must have been pleased with the outcome. That’s why I think it’s a crying shame this languished on a B-side; it’s a million times more adventurous than the pleasant cover version that made the A-side. This track would have really benefited Donovan’s profile – it’s poppy enough to keep the SAW and Jason fanbase, but also different enough to pull in a wider audience – and would have been a good direction for both parties to head for.

7) Another Lover – Bananarama
[B-side of Last Thing On My Mind]

Please Yourself, Bananarama’s 1993 album with Stock & Waterman, received mixed reactions upon its original release, and actually remains a polarising collection amongst S(A)W and Bananarama fans to this day. I can’t help but wonder if that reception would have been improved at all by the inclusion of this track, which was on the flipside of Last Thing On My Mind but omitted from the album. It’s a decision which beggars belief, as this is a superior slab of 70’s disco-styled pop. The use of real strings (no doubt recorded in the same sessions as those for Give It All Up For Love and Is She Good To You?) creates an authenticity of the sound, whilst the addition of brass, funky rhythm guitar and rattling drums just adds to the joyous feel – even if lyrically it’s a tale of Keren and Sara telling a straying lover to pack their bags and go. Happily, the track eventually made it to the album on subsequent reissues, thus righting the original wrong, but for my money, this should have been an A-side back in 1992/1993.

6) Better Than Ever - Sonia
[B-side to Listen To Your Heart]

This sparky uptempo track had a former life, planned as it was to be a fourth Stock Aitken Waterman-branded single in 1989, featuring sometime PWL singer Lisa Fabien as guest vocalist. That version was never released at that time (although was finally issued as part of the PWL iTunes releases many years later), but you can’t keep a good SAW tune down, so it was eventually recorded by Sonia – but insanely was consigned to B-side status. It only takes one listen to know this is a hit record not given the chance to be one. Driven by a solid beat and a mean bass, the track is a perfect concoction of synth fx, brass riffs and guitar licks, providing a thrilling backdrop to Sonia’s tale of her sickeningly perfect relationship. As much as I love the A-side – a moody, house-influenced affair and much underrated – I do think Better Than Ever was a missed opportunity for another hit for Sonia.

Next time: we count down from 5 to 1…


  1. Thanks for the fantastic article. I think the full 7" version (with complete vocals) of I Wanna Shout About It by Delage is one of the best S(A)W tracks ever!

  2. I love these reviews and articles - Couldn't agree more with everything you've said :)