Better on the B-Side

Posted on Monday 25 August 2008

Back in the day, when I saved up my allowance to buy 45 rpms of the latest music, I always found myself drawn to the B-side song–that tune on the other side, the side that took up space simply to support the hit song. Sometimes these B-side songs were instrumental versions of the hits. Sometimes they were originals that sounded pretty similar to the golden song. Sometimes they stood all on their own. Now and then, the B-side tune would be “discovered” and a new hit would be born, only to need its own B-side.

My step sister–10 years my senior–gave me carte blanche access to her vast 45’s collection whenever she needed to spend hours setting her hair and doing her makeup before a big date. She had a pink record player that could stack six records at a time, a bowl full of plastic discs that you had to place just so in the middle of the 45 in order to play it on the pink record player, and the presence of mind to know that my willingness to change the 45’s as needed allowed her to sit that much longer under the bubble cap of her portable hair dryer.

I was nothing short of her personal DJ, and she would indulge me the B-sides of almost any record. I still have a place in my heart for “Baroque-a-Nova” by Mason Williams, although I am not sure if that song was really the B-side to “Classical Gas” or simply the never-celebrated sequel by a one-hit wonder.

A server at my restaurant is moving across country next week. A couple of the girl servers organized a going-away brunch for her and invited every other front-of-the-house girl to it–everyone, except me. They talked about the brunch for days before the big day; they regaled each other with mimosa stories after the fact. The other assistant manager assured me I had missed nothing because a couple of former servers who attended turned the talk to why they were glad they no longer worked at our restaurant, and she was made to feel exceedingly uncomfortable. Still, it would have nice to have been invited, to be on the A-side of the list. Because there is no B-side at my restaurant.

Today, quite surprisingly and suddenly, I was invited to breakfast at my beach bar, hours prior to its opening to the public, by the cute girl bartender who has also quite surprisingly and suddenly befriended me in an effort to, in her words, “Get you out more.” The beach bar GM cooks up quite a Sunday spread for his staff and a smattering of their significant others or relatives. Orange juice concoctions that should never be allowed near an open flame flow freely. How odd, I thought as I ate an incredible omelet and peppery hash browns, that I should be included on the A-side of the list at a place I don’t even work. How nice it felt to be so warmly welcomed there. Even if I was a B-lister in their midst, if for no other reason than I don’t work with them.

Tonight my GM worked the floor for a while. I am certain he figured he might as well work on what is supposed to be his day off, given I have to call him in most every Sunday for some disaster of the day. But tonight there were no disasters–no problem guests demanding to call the State Department and create an international incident if I didn’t allow their 14-year old kids to be served alcohol; no problem staffer binge drinking behind the bar or the sous chef opening up fresh stitches on his elbow and saying he couldn’t cook as I frantically applied multiple bandages to his wound and tried in vain to locate the executive chef at the height of the dinner rush.

“Maybe you really are the keeper of the gates of hell,” smirked my GM as he called it an early night tonight, but added that he’d be standing by for my call should all of that hell break loose as it always does on my Sunday-night watch. And as much as I wish I could be an A-side manager for my GM on Sunday nights, I was quite content to be the B-side assistant tonight, because the evening ran more smoothly than it ever has.

Some might view the B-side as inferior–a vague wannabe imitation of well-known success. Why then, am I so at peace with letting the B-side play on and on, at least for now?

6 Comments for 'Better on the B-Side'

  1.  
    August 25, 2008 | 9:25 am
     

    Unfortunately you realize there are a lot of people who have no idea what you are talking about when you talk of 45s and b-sides? I myself just squeak in there at the end of the era. I did have several “cassingles” though 🙂

    To further feed your love of “Killer B-Sides,” here’s a list from Spinner.com

  2.  
    August 25, 2008 | 12:12 pm
     

    I started buying 45s by the carload in 1967. No clue what happened to all of them. The LP collection is another story, I know exactly when much of it was stolen.

    Great list BA; thanks for the link. I owned several of those 45s, including some that were technically before my time — and bought many of them precisely to get that B side song. I am sure that I still have the 45 with Pink Cadillac on the B side. If I recall, Jersey Girl was also originally a Springsteen B side only.

  3.  
    August 25, 2008 | 12:33 pm
     

    I yearned to make it as far as the B-side, knowing the A-side was an impossible goal. In the end I had to strike out on my own

  4.  
    August 25, 2008 | 12:54 pm
     

    I know what you mean, “For now.” I’m so over-qualified for my job of nearly 5 years that it’s astounding. People constantly ask me, in effect, why I’m working so far below what they perceive as my potential. They don’t know the effect of all those years busting my ass to stay on the A-side.

    I just want to relax.

  5.  
    Rose Royce
    August 25, 2008 | 6:33 pm
     

    A list or B list; as long as you hear the music and stop to smell the flowers!

  6.  
    August 26, 2008 | 12:29 pm
     

    OH, that sounds too much like Classical Gas, just a little higher notes. Guess his B side was a poor copy of his A.
    It’s not always best to be included, sometimes better to be the boss, especially when the complaints start being passed around.

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