Leaving aside the wisdom of this decision for a moment, what a load of absolute bollocks. There was no ‘fury’. I don’t even recall anyone being so much as mildly upset. I don’t recall anyone even considering that they might have been on the album. No one ever mentioned it, as my friend Chris Welch, a writer on Melody Maker at the time, confirms. Everyone simply assumed that ‘PL’/’SFF’ was The Beatles’ wonderful new single without any thought given to whether or not the songs might have been intended for an as yet unreleased album about which we knew nothing whatsoever. In any case, The Beatles were in the habit of releasing singles as separate entities to albums, an admirably generous practice long ago abandoned by the mercenary music business.
Newspapers are big on inventing ‘fury’. It’s a short, four-letter word easily absorbed into a headline. These days it’s usually right-wing pro-Brexit rags stoking up angst amongst their readers over delays in leaving the EU, or ‘massive’ benefits ‘handed out’ to those of whom they disapprove, like refugees, the LGBT community, drug casualties or unmarried mothers. It’s not usually the left-leaning Mirror over a Beatles story, but fake news is everywhere these days.
The only ‘fury’ I can see being aroused by this issue is whether or not it’s a good idea in the first place to include ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ on Pepper. No doubt purists will, indeed, be furious, while others, younger fans with no loyalty to tradition, won’t care at all. I belong in the former camp and although I’m not exactly furious, after 50 years it will take a while getting used to a different sequence of songs on Sgt Pepper, and I don’t really want to either. Also, strictly speaking, if the argument for including ‘PL’ and ‘SFF’ is based purely on the fact that they were recorded at the same time as the Pepper tracks, or immediately before, then George’s dreary and forgettable ‘Only A Northern Song’ must also be included, which I’m sure no one wants at all. Finally, with the increasing popularity – and cost – of vinyl, how will they fit all three on to a 12-inch vinyl edition, if there is one?
No new Pepper running order seems to be available, not on The Beatles’ official website anyway, so anything you might read elsewhere is probably speculative. It is the accepted practice to place ‘bonus tracks’ at the end of the original sequence of songs, as we did with all those extra tracks on Who albums back in the nineties (apart from Leeds, of course), but somehow it’ll seem wrong for Pepper to end with anything other than the massive piano chord that concludes ‘A Day In The Life’ (aside from the gibberish). This was why we didn’t mess with the sequencing of Tommy or Quadrophenia – they are unified works, as is Pepper to my mind. Ditto Dark Side Of The Moon for that matter. Remember the fuss the Floyd made when it became known that DSOTM tracks would be available individually on iTunes?
In the event, of course, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ were included on the Magical Mystery Tour album, firstly in the US and subsequently in the UK when the original MMT EP was discontinued. This, I believe, is where they ought to stay.