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She's Leaving Home

"She's Leaving Home" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and released on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Paul McCartney wrote and sang the verse and John Lennon wrote the chorus, which they sang together. Neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr was involved in the recording. The song's instrumental background was performed entirely by a small string orchestra arranged by Mike Leander, and was one of only a handful of Beatles songs in which the members did not play any instruments on the recording.

Background

Paul McCartney said of the song in his Playboy magazine interview in December 1984:The newspaper story McCartney mentioned was from the front page of the Daily Mirror, about a girl named Melanie Coe. Although McCartney invented most of the content in the song, Coe, who was 17 at the time, has said that most of it was accurate. In actuality, Coe left with her boyfriend, a croupier. She did not "meet a man from the motor trade", although her boyfriend previously had been in that trade. She left in the afternoon while her parents were at work, while the girl in the song leaves early in the morning as her parents sleep. Coe was found ten days later because she had let slip where her boyfriend worked. When she returned home, she was pregnant and had an abortion.

By coincidence, Coe had actually met McCartney three years earlier, in 1963 when he chose her as the prize winner in a dancing contest on ITV's Ready Steady Go!. An update on Coe appeared in The Guardian in December 2008, and she was interviewed about the song on the BBC programme The One Show on 24 November 2010. In May 2017, Rolling Stone magazine carried an interview with Coe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the album's release.

Recording

"She's Leaving Home" was recorded during the sessions for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The day before McCartney wanted to work on the song's score, he learned that George Martin, who usually handled the Beatles' string arrangements, was not available. McCartney contacted Mike Leander, who did it in Martin's place. This was the first time a Beatles song was not arranged by Martin. Martin, though hurt by this, produced the song and conducted the string section in a session on 17 March 1967 that generated six takes. The melody is composed in a modal scale, typical of English traditional music. The harp was played by Sheila Bromberg, the first female musician to appear on a Beatles record. Three days later, McCartney's lead vocal and Lennon's backing vocal were recorded, with the two singing together on each of two vocal tracks, their voices overlapping to match the narrative.

The stereo version of the song, finalised on 17 April 1967, runs at a slower speed than the mono mix, completed on 20 March 1967, and consequently is a semitone lower in pitch. A 2007 Mojo magazine article revealed that the final mono mix was sped up to make McCartney sound younger. The subsequent stereo mix was not sped up, remaining in the original tempo and key. In 2017, for the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Giles Martin and Sam Okell remixed the stereo version of the song to match the adjusted speed of the mono version. The six-disc version of the anniversary edition also included the previously unreleased first mono mix of "She's Leaving Home", which contains a brief cello phrase at the end of the first two choruses that was removed from the released mixes of the song.

Critical reception

In April 1967, McCartney visited Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in Los Angeles, where McCartney played "She's Leaving Home" on the piano for Wilson and his wife. Wilson recalled: "We both just cried. It was beautiful." As the credited composers of "She's Leaving Home", Lennon and McCartney received the 1967 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

Composer Ned Rorem once described "She's Leaving Home" as "equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote". In one of the few non-laudatory contemporary reviews of Sgt. Pepper, Richard Goldstein, writing in The New York Times, cited the song as an example of the album's reliance on production over quality songwriting. Goldstein said: She's Leaving Home' preserves all the orchestrated grandeur of 'Eleanor Rigby', but its framework is emaciated ... Where 'Eleanor Rigby' compressed tragedy into poignant detail, 'She's Leaving Home' is uninspired narrative, and nothing more." Author Ian MacDonald considered "She's Leaving Home" to be one of the two best songs on the album, along with "A Day in the Life". In his comments on Sgt. Pepper and its legacy, musicologist Allan Moore highlights these contrasting views as two music critics judging the work from "opposing criteria", with Goldstein opining during the dawn of the counterculture of the 1960s, whereas MacDonald, writing in the 1990s, is "intensely aware of [the movement's] failings".

In 2018, the music staff of Time Out London ranked "She's Leaving Home" at number 5 on their list of the best Beatles songs.

Personnel

According to Ian MacDonald:

  • Paul McCartneydouble-tracked lead vocal
  • John Lennon – double-tracked alternate lead vocals on chorus
  • Mike Leander – string arrangement
  • George Martinconductor, producer
  • Erich Gruenbergviolin
  • Derek Jacobs – violin
  • Trevor Williams – violin
  • José Luis García – violin
  • John Underwood – viola
  • Stephen Shingles – viola
  • Dennis Vigay – cello
  • Alan Dalziel – cello
  • Peter Halling – cello
  • Gordon Pearce – double bass
  • Sheila Bromberg – harp

    Live performances

    Paul McCartney performed the song live for the first time by any Beatle on the (North America) second leg of his 2002 Driving World Tour. He later reprised the song on his 2003 Back in the World Tour.

    Cover versions



  • Harry Nilsson on his album Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967).
  • Syreeta on her album Syreeta_(1972_album) (1972).
  • Bee Gees, from the soundtrack Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978). Only the first two verses were sung, with the sound of an actress, playing the mother, saying: "Daddy, our baby's gone!".
  • Steven Tyler, The Bee Gees, Jay MacIntosh and John Wheeler in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
  • Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey on the tribute album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father (1988).
  • McCoy Tyner on the tribute album (I Got No Kick Against) Modern Jazz (1995).
  • Brad Mehldau Trio on their album Day Is Done (2005).
  • Cheap Trick on their album Sgt. Pepper Live (2009).