Asking a Beatles fanatic to choose their favourite song is a bit like asking them to name their favourite time of day to breathe. It’s a hard enough question with most artists, so when it comes The Beatles, it’s a thousand times more difficult. So it may seem crazy to even attempt to write about my ‘favourite’ Beatles songs. Yet that’s exactly what I’m going to do, starting now. These posts will appear on the blog every Friday for at least the next few weeks. I’m starting off this week with ‘She’s Leaving Home’.
‘She’s Leaving Home’ is the sixth track on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It’s a well-known fact that John and Paul often wrote separately as time went on, despite the famous Lennon-McCartney credit on each and every song. However, this is a classic example of those occasions when they each contributed bits of their own magic during the writing process. Inspired by a newspaper story about a girl who had run away from home, McCartney wrote and sang the verses, which set the scene, while Lennon wrote and sang the chorus, giving the parents’ point of view, underneath McCartney’s sustained high notes. Vocally and lyrically, it’s a beautiful contrast.
Neither George nor Ringo appeared on ‘She’s Leaving Home’, while none of the four Beatles actually played an instrument on it either. Instead it featured a string arrangement by Mike Leander, who was asked to step in due to George Martin’s unavailability (Martin was hurt that McCartney had asked someone else to arrange the song instead of waiting for him; he did, however, conduct the musicians). The harp part was played by Sheila Bromberg, who interestingly was the first female musician to play on a Beatles record. When Ringo Starr appeared on The One Show a few years back, Sheila Bromberg also made an appearance and performed the song on harp especially for him. It was a cool moment!
Sgt Pepper is rightly regarded as a classic album, and I do love all of it. But this song has always been the one that I’ve loved most of all. Everything about it, from the music to the lyrics, is brilliant. It tells a story about family life that is easy to identify with. The arrangement is lovely, and the moment when John and Paul’s voices combine for the chorus is just perfection.
‘A Day in the Life’ is seen by many as the standout track on Sgt Pepper, and it’s kind of similar in terms of John and Paul each contributing vital sections to the song. However, ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is the one that always has the biggest emotional impact on me with every single listen.