She’s Leaving Home - The Beatles

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"She’s Leaving Home" - The Beatles (1967)

There are two versions of the origins of “She’s Leaving Home”:

The first is that Lennon and McCartney wrote the song after reading about a teenage runaway girl in the newspaper. However McCartney also claimed:

“It was just fiction, like the sea captain in Yellow Submarine; they weren’t real people. The man from the motor trade was just a typical sleazy character, the kind of guy that could pull a young bird by saying, ‘Would you like a ride in my car, darlin?’ Nice plush interior, that’s how you pulled birds. So it was just a nice little bit of sleaze.”

John and Paul contributed vocals, which were double-tracked to sound like a quartet. No Beatles played instruments on the track, which featured only session musicians who played a harp, violins, violas, cellos and a double bass. It was the only Beatle track that George Martin did not produce.

Engineer Geoff Emerick describes the atmosphere in the studio the day they recorded the song:

“The lights in the studio were turned off to set the mood; the sole source of illumination was a table lamp next to the wall. The two Beatles, lifelong friends and collaborators, sat on high stools, facing each other, studying each other’s lips intently for phrasing.”

American composer Ned Rorem remarked:

“This is a song equal to any song that Schubert ever wrote. It is equal in melancholy and melodic distinction to those of Chopin.”

The poignant arrangement of “She’s Leaving Home” captures the song’s heart-tugging sentiment as it might in a film music cue. It creates the connection between the sound design in narrative media and sound design in popular music.

The colorful choices of words and their clever vocal articulation for text-painting effect, as in the sneezing onomatopoeia of “kitchen,” “clutching,” and “handkerchief.” In terms of style the song is reminiscent of nineteenth-century chamber music with a mildly French fragrance As for genre, it has a bit of an art song about it because it presents a fine-turned relationship between lyrics and music.

“She’s Leaving Home” is cast in the mold of a sentimental Victorian ballad, its words and music filled with clichés of musical melodrama. The lush accompaniment - although not strictly Victorian or even “period-oriented” in style –completes the picture.

Whereas the content of the song depicts an intergenerational conflict, the musical synthesis ultimately embodies a certain reconciliation. Even the offended parents eventually achieve insight and “repent.”

Refusing to allow the song to become a shouting match or diatribe, The Beatles instead visit the so-called “generation gap” with a tenderness perhaps unique to the song.

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