When was it recorded? Mar. 17 & 20, 1967
When was it first released, and on which album? Jun. 1, 1967 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Who wrote it? McCartney (with noteworthy contribution from Lennon)
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
“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. …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 (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
Oh, but real she was, Paul. Real she is, I should say, since my sources indicate she’s still alive. (This is great news to me because I always kind of assumed based on the song’s lyrics that she died or never turned up again. I’m morbid like that, I guess.)
In February 1967, 17-year-old Melanie Coe left ran away from her home in Stamford Hill, north London with a croupier she had met in a nightclub. The story of her disappearance made the front page of The Daily Mail. Ten days after its publication, Melanie’s parents found her and brought her home. My sources vary on whether Melanie got pregnant before or after she ran off, but upon returning home she had an abortion.
“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. As a 17-year-old I had everything money could buy – diamonds, furs, a car – but my father and mother never once told me they loved me. 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.” — Melanie Coe (Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write)
Melanie’s had quite an interesting life since then, moving whenever the wanderlust seems to set in. The recent-ish Daily Mail article I’ve linked to below is worth a read if you want to learn more.
Oddly enough, Melanie met the Beatles in 1963, four years before they wrote “She’s Leaving Home” about her. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “On 4 October 1963 she won a miming competition on the TV music show ‘Ready Steady Go.’ The Beatles were making their first appearance on the show that day, and Paul McCartney presented her with the award.”
Refocusing on the song, “She’s Leaving Home” features Paul and John on vocals only, and none of the Beatles play any of the instruments.
In kind of a series of dick moves, Paul asked George Martin to arrange the score on short notice, and when George was unavailable Paul hired freelance producer Mike Leander. According to Wikipedia, “It was the first time a Beatles song was not arranged by Martin (and the only time it was done with the Beatles’ consent).”
The strings recorded their part Mar. 17, 1967 in six takes. According to the Beatles Bible, “it is unlikely that The Beatles were present.” Paul and John recorded their vocals three days later.
We’ve looked at how radically the mono and stereo versions of most “Sgt. Pepper’s” song differ. “She’s Leaving Home” might be the most egregious example.
According to Mojo, the sped-up mono mix was created “to make Paul sound younger and tighten the track.” (Because a 25-year-old needs to sound so much younger? Go figure.)
“She’s Leaving Home” netted Paul and John the 1967 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically (Wikipedia).