I’ve recently developed this thing for underwhelming Rolling Stones B-side tracks from the ’60s, particularly “Sad Day” and “I Don’t Know Why.” I love that almost-but-not-quite quality. Very few Stones’ songs are about loser attitudes and self-pity, but these two qualify in spades. The great Richie Unterberger of allmusic.com has tapped out some excellent notes on both [after the jump].

I Don’t Know Why“: “[This] was an odd cover choice for the Rolling Stones in 1969, being a Stevie Wonder song that had been only a moderate hit (its flipside, ‘My Cherie Amour’, later became a much bigger smash for Wonder). It was recorded at a time when the Stones were getting much deeper into blues-rock, and not exhibiting much of a direct Motown or soul influence, either directly via covers or indirectly via influence on their own original material.

“It’s not a very impressive arrangement, heavy on the kind of oddly hollow reverbing guitar the group were using prominently at the time on songs like ‘Gimme Shelter.”\’ Mick Jagger’s vocal sounds more mannered than usual, as if he’s trying too hard to emote, and the blues-rock electric guitar riffs that cut into the song after a while are at odds with its soul core.

“To quote Roy Carr‘s appraisal of the Rolling Stones’ crack at the song (from The Rolling Stones: An Illustrated Record, ‘It’s obvious to see why the Stones’ run-through of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Don’t Know Why’ was never given approval for release, because quite simply, it doesn’t cut it.’ But it was released, of course, on the 1975 outtakes collection Metamorphosis. In fact, it was chosen as the A-side for a single, though it only made #42, and didn’t even chart in Britain.

“The session at which the song was recorded, however, would end up being a little notorious, as the date was July 2, 1969; shortly after midnight that evening, Brian Jones, who’d left the group just a month before, would drown in his swimming pool.”

Sad Day“: “Issued as the American non-LP B-side to ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ in 1966, ‘Sad Day’ is one of the least-known early Rolling Stones songs. It was never even issued in their native U.K. until 1973, and it didn’t make it onto an American album until it appeared on the 1989 box set Singles Collection: The London Years.

“While this Mick Jagger-Keith Richards composition was very much in the jeering, sarcastic style they were mining heavily in the Aftermath era, it wasn’t one of their stronger such efforts, and would have been one of the less important filler tracks had it made it onto Aftermath itself.

“To be sure, however, some of the Aftermath elements are there: a sort of pop-R&B fusion, a dash of folk-rock influence (particularly in the sound of the acoustic guitars in the brief opening instrumental section), the sad decorous piano (by Jack Nitzsche), and the gnarly, high-pitched guitar. Although ‘Sad Day’ is sung like a putdown song of a girl, in fact it’s a breakup song, the ‘Sad Day’ being occasioned by the woman leaving. As a song, however, it isn’t as solidly constructed as the better Jagger-Richards efforts of the time, with a bumbling, average-at-best melody and a repetitious lilting chorus that verges on both the boring and the wimpy.

“[On top of which] the lament that if there’s one thing Jagger can’t understand in the world, it’s a girl, has an adolescent whiny quality that was on the verge of getting ironed out of the Jagger-Richards catalog. However, there are some interesting violin-like guitar textures (particularly near the end), perhaps produced by the tone-pedal guitar effect that was enjoying a brief vogue in British rock at the time.”\\

Gotta Get Awat