Recording "She's Leaving Home"

Friday, March 17, 1967 • For The Beatles

Part of

Recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Nov 24, 1966 - Apr 20, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono) LP.
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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Paul McCartney wrote “She’s Leaving Home” after reading a report in the Daily Mail newspaper about a teenage runaway named Melanie Coe on February 27, 1967. John Lennon assisted him by contributing the chorus lines. Paul then felt that the song would be best suited for an orchestral arrangement.

Around March 10, he asked George Martin to write a score at short notice, but Martin was unavailable due to other commitments. Paul then approached Mike Leander, a producer and arranger he had met during an October 1965 session for Marianne Faithfull, who provided the string parts for the song. George Martin was hurt by this choice, but agreed to produce the session and conduct the orchestra.

On this day, March 17, George Martin conducted a small orchestra, consisting of Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, and Jose Luis Garcia on violins, John Underwood and Stephen Shingles on violas, Dennis Vigay and Alan Dalziel on cellos, Gordon Pearce on double-bass, and Sheila Bromberg on harp. Sheila was the first woman to play on a Beatles record.

Six complete takes of the basic track were recorded, making full use of the four tracks of the tape. The violas were on track one, the violins on track two, the cellos on track three, and the harp on track four. Take 1 and Take 6 were considered the best. They were later released in the 2017 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” box set.

Work on “She’s Leaving Home” continued on March 20, 1967.

I rang George Martin and said, “I’m really on to this song, George. I want to record it next week.” I’m really hot to record it, I’ve got one of those “I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go!” feelings and when you get them, you don’t want anything to stop you, you feel like if you lose this impetus, you’ll lose something valuable. So I rang him and I said, “I need you to arrange it.” He said, “I’m sorry, Paul, I’ve got a Cilla 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.” It is one of the first times I actually let anyone arrange something and then reviewed it later, which I don’t like as a practice. It’s much easier if I just stay with them. Anyway he took it away, did it, and George Martin was very hurt, apparently. Extremely hurt, but of course I was hurt that he didn’t have time for me but he had time for Cilla.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

Because Paul wanted to have a string section playing on the song, he rang up to ask if I could come round, take notes from him and then write up a score.

It so happened that I couldn’t. I was already immersed in a recording session, with Cilla Black. Even though the Beatles were the number one thing in my life, I still had a huge roster of other artists to record. These artists understood very well that the Beatles took priority, but there were moments, and this was one of them, when I just couldn’t drop everything and come running.

I was very surprised and rather hurt that Paul picked up the telephone and got hold of a fellow called Mike Leander, after I’d said I couldn’t go round on the spot. Mike was a good arranger, and Paul engaged him to do the score.

Until that moment I had done everything that either Paul or the Beatles had wanted in the way of orchestration. 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. Years later, in fact, he said, ‘I couldn’t understand why it was so important to you. It was in my mind, and I wanted to get it out, get it down. That’s all.’

It was just Paul being Paul.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

During the making of Pepper [Paul] was also to give me one of the biggest hurts of my life. It concerned the song ‘She’s Leaving Home’. At that time I was still having to record all my other artists. One day Paul rang me to say: ‘I’ve got a song I want you to work with me on. Can you come round tomorrow afternoon? I want to get it done quickly. We’ll book an orchestra, and you can score it.’

‘I can’t tomorrow, Paul. I’m recording Cilla [Black] at two-thirty.’

‘Come on. You can come round at two o’clock.’

‘No, I can’t, I’ve got a session on.’

‘All right, then,’ he said, and that ended the conversation.

What he did then, as I discovered later, was to get Neil Aspinall, the road manager, to ring round and find someone else to do the score for him, simply because I couldn’t do it at that short notice. In the end he found Mike Leander, who could. The following day Paul presented me with it and said, ‘Here we are. I’ve got a score. We can record it now.’

I recorded it, with a few alterations to make it work better, but I was hurt. I thought: Paul, you could have waited. For I really couldn’t have done it that afternoon, unless I had just devoted everything to The Beatles and never dealt with any other artist. Paul obviously didn’t think it was important that I should do everything. To me it was. I wasn’t getting much out of it from a financial point of view, but at least I was getting satisfaction. The score itself was good enough, and still holds up today, but it was the only score that was ever done by anyone else during all my time with The Beatles. However, it had happened, and there was nothing to be done about it.

George Martin – From “All You Need Is Ears“, 1979

There was a bit of tension between Paul and George Martin at this session, because an outsider, Mike Leander, had been hired by Paul to do the string arrangement due to George’s unavailability (George was finishing up a Cilla Black album at the time). As a result, Paul stayed up in the control room while George Martin did the conducting downstairs. Frankly, I thought it was a bit of a power play on both their parts: George was saying to Paul, “You can’t expect me to drop everything I’m doing whenever you call,” and Paul was letting George know that he was expendable.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

I booked a small orchestra anyway: four violins, two violas, two cellos, a double-bass and a harp for Friday 17 March. The harpist was Sheila Bromberg — the first woman to appear on a Beatles record. We worked at it all evening, recording the ensemble live, and getting through eight takes trying to get it the way Paul wanted it. […]

As we worked away in reverse roles, Paul in the control room and me in the studio directing the orchestra, I made a mental note that there was not much wrong with our first take, and Take 6 was pretty good too. In the end, we did choose Take 1 as best, so all that extra work was for nothing. To prepare for the vocals, I did a four-track-to-four-track transfer the following day, mixing the original tracks down to stereo (two tracks) on a new tape.

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

Sheila, how were you chosen for the session?

There were people called fixers. This fixer phoned me up and said am I free from 9 o’clock at night till midnight, and I looked at the diary and, oh no, I had a jingle from 8 till 9, then I was on here from 10 till 1, then I was at Decca from 2:30 to 5:30. I thought, do I really want a session from 9 to midnight? But it was Alec and he gave me a lot of work so I didn’t want to turn him down and upset him. He didn’t tell me, at the time, that it was for the Beatles. You never knew who you were going to play with. I was sitting here [at Abbey Road Studio 2] at half past eight, tuning the harp, thinking of nothing in particular. Suddenly, a piece of music was plonked on my music stand. I gave it a brief look – “oh yeah right right” and then this voice said “uh well what you got on the dots?” meaning “What’s written on the music?” I recognized the Liverpool accent, turned around. Of course, it was Paul McCartney.

Well, first of all, I played exactly what was written. Then I stopped and he said “No, I don’t want that I want something…” So I thought how can I make it different. “No I don’t want that, I want something…” So I brought out the big guns…

I think he had an idea in his head of what he wanted it to sound like but he couldn’t describe it, he couldn’t express it and he was waiting for somebody to bring it out of the air. During the session after each time we played it, Paul McCartney would hear from the controls “No I don’t want that, I want something…”

So we played again. Came midnight and the string section was really fed up and eventually the leader of this string orchestra stood up. Erich Gruenberg. He tucked his violin under his arm says “No, it is midnight, we have to go home because we are working in the morning!”

So a voice from the control box said “Well, I suppose that’s that then,” and we all went home.

[After all that work, when Sheila heard the track, she realized they’d used the first take. What Paul McCartney had been after was a doubling effect of her playing that had been created by the engineers.]

Oh! that’s how they got the sound! That’s what he was after!

Sheila Bromberg – Interview with BBC, May 2011

From The Beatles Monthly Book, June 1967 – Paul plays over “She’s leaving home” to Northern Songs music publisher, Dick James, during the sessions for the LP. (Unknown date)

Beatles finish six album tracks

THE BEATLES — still at 1 the top with “Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Lane” — have completed six tracks for their next album which will not now be released before May.

The six completed titles include one recorded with a 41-piece orchestra. The group are at present working on four uncompleted tracks — including one number written and sung by George Harrison.

They hope to write and record two more tracks before the album is complete. Press officer Tony Barrow told the MM that the album — they are currently seeking a title — will probably contain only 12 tracks because several of the completed tracks are longer than usual.

“After the LP is completed, the Beatles will probably carry on recording for a summer single,” said Barrow.

“Penny Lane” has passed the 1,500,000 mark in America and is currently number one.

From Melody Maker – March 18, 1967
From Melody Maker – March 18, 1967

Last updated on December 31, 2023

Songs recorded


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1 - Recording strings only

Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset)


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2 - Recording strings only


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3 - Recording strings only


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 4 - Recording strings only


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 5 - Recording strings only


She's Leaving Home

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 6 - Recording strings only

Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset)



Production staff

George Martin:
Geoff Emerick:
Richard Lush:
Second Engineer

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The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

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The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)

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