This is the latest in a series of posts where I take a look at a classic album and explore what-might-have-been if contemporaneous single releases had been included on that album's track listing. So far, I've talked about: Rubber Soul; Highway 61 Revisited; and Revolver.
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a hell of an album to be piss-farting about with but I think it needs it. In previous posts in this series, I've been at pains to stress that the albums discussed are already super, but that adding one or two kick-arse songs would make them well, super-duper. However, in Sgt Pepper's case, the additions would be a necessary improvement.
Strawberry Fields Forever; Penny Lane
This double-A sided single, released three months before Sgt Pepper's, contains two quintessential Lennon and McCartney songs, the former written by Lennon and the latter by McCartney. These are intensely personal songs of a nostalgic nature that would not jar with the album's overall theme.
Strawberry Fields Forever started out as an acoustic guitar demo that everyone in the Abbey Road studio loved instantly when Lennon played it to them. The real Strawberry Fields was a Liverpool Salvation Army children's home with a garden that Lennon had played in as a child. The muted vocals are suggestive of a child's cry and the almost-nonsense-verse lyrics are designed to obscure the impact on Lennon of recent upheavals like the Bigger Than Jesus shitstorm, his marriage breakdown and LSD use. The songs haunting mellotron intro, combined with a languid melody and ominous orchestration evoked what George Martin described as a "hazy dreamworld".
There are no standout candidates for worst track on the album as such, but When I'm Sixty-Four has always got on my nerves. So off with its head. There, that's better.