RECORD STORE TALES Part 4: A Word About B-Sides
My definition of a B-side:
A song that is found on the B-side of a vinyl or cassette single, but not on the album; or a song on a CD or digital single other than the main track, not found on the album.
A well known example: “Hey Hey What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin. Up until the release of the Led Zeppelin box set in 1990, this great song was only available on the 7″ single for “The Immigrant Song”.
I’d known about B-sides for a while thanks to George, the neighbor next door with the Kiss albums. He had a couple Iron Maiden 12″ singles such as “Aces High” with unreleased studio tracks on the B-side, usually two per 12″. I’d also been aware of Maiden tunes like “Women In Uniform” (technically an A-side) that weren’t on any albums that we’d ever seen.
Right from an early age I’d always been a collector. I had a massive collection of Lego. Then later on I had a collection of Star Wars figures that put all others in the neighborhood to shame. Then it was GI Joe and Transformers. I didn’t do anything small. When music came along, it inevitably became the next thing in this obsession. Quiet Riot was the first band I pledged to complete (still incomplete 27 years later). As I expanded out to more bands, I pledged to complete a lot of collections….
When Def Leppard came out with Hysteria I went wild for that album. Definitely still to this day my #1 album of 1987; and that was a year that included new records by Kiss, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and a band I hadn’t quite discovered yet at the time called Guns N’ Roses. Yes folks, I rank Hysteria higher than Appetite. But listen, I’m not going to get into that debate right this second. I’ll save it for another day. I’m just giving you the setting.
I was really passionate about the Hysteria album and early in 1988 I acquired the Animal EP on cassette. That 4-song EP contained three tracks not on the album: “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, “Tear It Down”, and an extended mix of the title song. I really got into “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, hard. It’s still a great track. That really set off a fire for me to collect these rare songs. This was the first really awesome B-side track that I’d found so far. If it was this good, there must be more coming…
I was in highschool, and on a weekly basis, I trekked into my local Zellers store to peruse the 7″ singles. Some you could get as cheap as 99 cents. Any time Def Leppard came out with a new video, I knew there was a new 7″ single to be had. Up next came “Hysteria” itself, and I rapidly found a copy at Zellers. On the flip side was a song called “Ride Into The Sun” (a re-recording of an early Def Leppard track) and it blew me away. It was fast and heavy, there was nothing else like it on Hysteria.
In the summer came “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which appeared at my Zellers soon after the video started running. The B-side was “Ring of Fire”, not a standout track, so I figured by now, Def Leppard were running out of good unreleased songs.
That fall, “Love Bites” started airing on Much, so I knew there would be another single to be had. This one proved to be more elusive. I finally tracked it down, not at my local Zellers, but at a Radio Shack store in Port Elgin, Ontario. They rarely had any, but they did have this. This time, the B-side was a live track. “Billy’s Got A Gun” was definitely my least favourite B-side so far. It wasn’t my favourite song on Pyromania, and it wasn’t a good live rendition either.
Hysteria continued to spawn singles. “Armageddon It” was yet another game-changer for me. Walking into Zellers I could barely believe my eyes: A picture disc 7″ single! I’d seen 12″ picture discs before, but I didn’t even know they made them in 7″. And best of all it was only $1 more than a regular single. I ran home with my prize, but puzzled over the B-side. It didn’t appear to be even by Def Leppard. The song was called “Release Me” and it was performed by Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys.
The notes on the flip side of the disc indicated that never in their travels had Def Leppard come across a talent as great as Stumpus Maximus. And there was a picture of him. A bald bearded man balancing a hat on his nose, with a backing band sillouetted behind him.
I cautiously played the single. The strains of the Engleburt Humperdinck cover poured out of my tinny, shitty equipment. It wasn’t even good! This sucked! Then it got weird. Stumpus started screaming the lyrics in the most gutteral scream I’ve ever heard. I’m telling you people he made Mike Patton sound sane. Stopping, burping, and picking it up again, Stumpus screamed all the way to the end.
I got the joke. But who was Stumpus? I noticed right away that the sillouette of Stumpus’ backing band matched a photo of Def Leppard on the previous single. A reading of the very long and small liner notes on the Hysteria album revealed that Stumpus Maximus was their roadie – real name Malvin Mortimer.
Hysteria was not dead yet. There was one more single to be had, and once again I picked it up in a 4 song cassette format. This single was “Rocket” which was presented in both remixed and extended remixed forms. The other two songs were live versions of “Women” (taken from the Def Leppard home video) and “Rock of Ages”. These versions were better than “Billy’s Got A Gun”, but I had a pretty clear idea that Def Leppard were not a great live band.
“Rock of Ages” however contained a little surprise. This extended live take included a medley of rock and roll classics right in the middle of the song! Def Leppard performed the most memorable moments of “Not Fade Away”, “Radar Love”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “My Generation”, and “Come Together”, changing the melodies and riffs slightly to meld seamlessly into “Rock of Ages”. I gotta tell you people, it’s a fucking brilliant version. Hunt it down. Do what you have to do. You’re listening to the tune thinking, “I know this part, what the fuck is it?” And then you realize it’s “Come Together”. It’s really cool.
That was the last of the singles off Hysteria. It would be years before my Def Leppard collection would pick up again. Sadly Steve Clarke died in January of 1991 — the first of my heroes to go.
So I’ll dedicate the blog to Steve, whose band Def Leppard is really responsible for why I have more CDs in my house than dollars in my bank account.