Initially Strawbs' management announced that "I'll Carry On Beside You" would be the A-side of the group's next single, a EP with non-album track "Let's Keep The Devil Outside" written by John Ford and a live cut from the QEH concert "We'll Meet Again Sometime". The scheduled release date was March 26. However, in Record Mirror in April 1971, Hud explained that the initial choice by the record company for the single was "I'll Carry On Beside You" (perhaps a more obvious choice). They:
"wanted a single out before the album, and so they were going to pull off a fairly commercial track from the album, but we weren't too happy about that. Suddenly, "Witchwood" came up and we all agreed to issue it."
However, even that fell through. A few weeks later, manager Mike Dolan had to explain to the press that the Witchwood single had been withdrawn after sending out review copies as it had been found to be faulty. Dolan:
"When we received copies of the single from the factory we found that they had been cut at half volume and sounded dreadful. We have now decided to withdraw the single completely as it would have clashed with the release of their album in May."
With hindsight, there were different explanations: Wakeman, in interview with Mark Plummer of Melody Maker, asserted that:
"the trouble over ironing out material led to the band paying out a fortune recording three times as much material as needed for "Witchwood" and the last minute withdrawal of the single. Simply no-one in the band could agree over what should be released as a single."
Not certain that there was "three times as much" - other than "Keep The Devil Outside" the only thing that might have been from that period is a band recording of "We'll Meet Again Sometime", which surfaced by mistake on the UK Halcyon Days but which, according to the Universal CD release of Dragonfly was recorded in June 1969. (Another very similar Top Gear session version from September 1969 was also on that reissue.) So any "hidden gems" from those sessions have stayed very successfully hidden!
Contrary to statements elsewhere, this single exists both as a promo single (pictured in the Record Collector article on the Strawbs) and as a standard brown label A&M release copy (both in my collection and pictured below). The copy of the promo copy I have was from Brian Cairney's collection, with a note from Dave on the card sleeve.
UK promo release
"Keep The Devil Outside" is correctly credited to John Ford here - when rescued for the b-side of "Benedictus", and for Japanese release as a 45 in its own right, it was incorrectly credited to Ford and Hudson.
"We'll Meet Again Sometime" is a live outtake from the QEH concert on 11 July 1970, probably the opening number. It was supposed to be included on the UK Halcyon Days CD, but what in fact appeared was a hitherto unreleased studio version, which, according to the Universal CD release of Dragonfly was recorded in June 1969. The live (just Cousins & Wakeman) version as performed at the QEH finally made it onto CD (in its rightful place) on the 1998 re-issue of Antiques And Curios.
New Zealand release
"Witchwood" was also released in New Zealand a year later with a different b-side "A Glimpse Of Heaven".
Australian release ??
Possible there may have been an Australian release?