“She’s Leaving Home” is a Beatles’ song from their “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Unusually, both George Harrison and Ringo Starr have no involvement in this song. In fact, this is one of those few Beatles’ songs where none of the Fab Four play any instruments at all.
Recorded: 17 March, 1967
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Baroque pop
Track Duration: 3:26 (mono, 2017 stereo), 3:35 (1967-2009 stereo)
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick, Richard Lush (2nd Engineer)
John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals
George Martin: conductor
Mike Leander: string arrangement
Erich Gruenberg, José Luis García, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams: violin
Stephen Shingles, John Underwood: viola
Peter Halling, Alan Dalziel, Dennis Vigay: cello
Gordon Pearce: double bass
Sheila Bromberg: harp
She’s Leaving Home
To begin with, we may as well show a Paul McCartney explanation for the “She’s Leaving Home” song:
“John and I wrote “She’s Leaving Home” together. It was my inspiration. We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who’d left home and not been found, there were a lot of those at the time, and that was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up … It was rather poignant. I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our song-writing we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.
While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view: “We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.” I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents. Then there’s the famous little line about a man from the motor trade; people have since said that was Terry Doran, who was a friend who worked in a car showroom, but it was just fiction, like the sea captain in “Yellow Submarine“, they weren’t real people.”
Paul McCartney and John Lennon read the Daily Mirror article which was about Melanie Coe who didn’t return home one day. The girl was only 17 at the time of her disappearance and Lennon and McCartney began inventing a song around the storyline. Indeed, Coe insists that most of the song is inaccurate. However, some of it was as she explains:
“The amazing thing about the song was how much it got right about my life. It quoted the parents as saying ‘We gave her everything money can buy,’ which was true in my case. I had two diamond rings, a mink coat, handmade clothes in silk and cashmere and even my own car.
Then there was the line ‘After living alone for so many years,’ which really struck home to me because I was an only child and I always felt alone. I never communicated with either of my parents. It was a constant battle…
I heard the song when it came out and thought it was about someone like me but never dreamed it was actually about me, I can remember thinking that I didn’t run off with a man from the motor trade, so it couldn’t have been me! I must have been in my twenties when my mother said she’d seen Paul on television and he’d said that the song was based on a story in a newspaper. That’s when I started telling my friends it was about me.”
A Hard Day’s Write, Steve Turner
Paul McCartney Meets Melanie Coe
In a weird twist to the story, Melanie Coe actually met Paul McCartney a few years earlier while she was taking part in a competition on ITV’s Ready Steady Go! Not only that but Paul McCartney voted her the winner and duly presented her with a prize which was an LP record.
The Beatles were making their first appearance on the famous show on the 4th October, 1963. On this part of the show, the band were the judges to a dancing contest where the contestants also mimed to Brenda Lee’s song, “Let’s Jump the Broomstick”. In the following video we see the contest in full:
The Beatles began recording “She’s Leaving Home” on the 17th March, 1967 at the EMI Studios in London during the 7.00pm-12.45am session. There were 6 takes that day with take one becoming the master recording. Just to point out that The Beatles didn’t play any instruments on this track, just like “Eleanor Rigby“.
George Martin wasn’t available to arrange the string section at short notice so Paul McCartney called in freelance producer and arranger, Mike Leander.
“I rang him [George Martin] and I said, ‘I need you to arrange it.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, Paul, I’ve got a Cilla [Black] session.’ And I thought, Fucking hell! After all this time working together, he ought to put himself out. It was probably unreasonable to expect him to. Anyway, I said, ‘Well, fine, thanks George,’ but I was so hot to trot that I called Mike Leander, another arranger. I got him to come over to Cavendish Avenue and I showed him what I wanted, strings, and he said, ‘Leave it with me.'”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
George Martin was not happy as this was the first time he didn’t arrange a Beatles’ song. Be that as it may, Martin did produce and conducted the pre-arranged string section. George Martin later said, “I couldn’t understand why he was so impatient all of a sudden. It obviously hadn’t occurred to him that I would be upset!”
On the 20th of March, both Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded the vocals for the overdubbing session.
First Female Musician
As well as George Martin not arranging the string section, “She’s Leaving Home” had another first. This song has another “first”. This was the first Beatles’ song to feature a female musician. But as she got in the studio early to tune her instrument she says:
“I walked in and there was Paul McCartney but I didn’t recognise him at first, I was concentrating on what was written on the manuscript, then I turned around, heard the Liverpool accent and realised it was him. I hadn’t got a clue, I had just talked to the other musicians and waited.
In actual fact he was quite difficult to work with because he wasn’t too sure what he actually wanted. He said ‘no I don’t want that, I want something…’ but he couldn’t describe what he wanted and I tried it all every which way.”
Sheila Bromberg, Harpist
“She’s Leaving Home” became the sixth song on side 1 of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. And the rest is history as they say!