Feb 162011

I’ve got a theory about why so many Beatles fans despise “She’s Leaving Home”: more than anything I think it’s in defense of George Martin, whose feelings were hurt when he was shut out of arranging the strings. That’s sweet of you, but really, the song’s not that bad! The way I hear my fellow Beatles fans talking about it I have to stop and check that they’re not actually talking about “Fool on the Hill” or one of Paul’s “Auntie” songs.

I think I’m onto something: your hatred of “She’s Leaving Home” is rooted in your desire to defend the honor of Sir George Martin.

As for substitute arranger Mike Leander, what is so bad about his work on that song? What might tasteful George Martin have done differently? I was surprised to learn that Leander had his hand in all sorts of records, most notably serving as Gary Glitter‘s partner in (musical) crime (eg, co-writing his hits, including “Rock ‘n Roll, pt 2”). I think he also did the saccharine string arrangements for The Rolling Stones‘ “As Tears Go By.” So there!


  22 Responses to “‘Fess Up: Why Do You Hate “She’s Leaving Home” as Much as You Do?”

  1. I actually like “She’s Leaving Home” so this topic has no interest to me.

    George is a big boy and can take care of himself.

  2. misterioso

    I’m with mrclean. George might well have come up with something a little more subtle, but whatever. Probably my least favorite song on the record but still quite ok with me. Coincidentally, I was just reading Paul’s account of this in the Miles biography.

  3. shawnkilroy

    i don’t hate it.
    it makes me desperately sad, but i don’t hate it.
    truth is, i just don’t listen to Sgt. Pepper that much.

    i listen to a Beatles record about once every 2 or 3 months.

    most likely, to least likely (to get a spin):
    Abbey Road
    Rubber Soul
    Yesterday & Today
    Hey Jude
    Magical Mystery Tour
    Sgt Pepper
    Let It Be

    so according to this data, i won’t be hearing Pepper again til 2034

  4. It’s encouraging to learn that you don’t all hate “She’s Leaving Home.” Encouraging, and slightly disappointing:) (I’m cool with it, but like kilroy, I can’t remember the last time I pulled out Sgt. Pepper’s.)

  5. I really like the song. No complaints here.

  6. The arrangement is definitely the worst thing about it, overtly emphasizing the sentimentality. The heavy reverb doesn’t help either. It would’ve been nice if Martin had a chance to write the string parts. Might have been more like a kitchen-sink drama version of “Eleanor Rigby”

    Like many people, I don’t hate it, but I’m not terribly compelled to listen to it.

  7. 2000 Man

    That’s on Sgt Pepper, too? Are there any good songs on that album?

  8. pudman13

    I think “She’s Leaving Home” is provocative, lyrically, so I’m willing to live with the sappy arrangement/melody a bit more than, say, something like “Long And Winding Road.” I think my biggest problem with it are Lennon’s backing vocals, which sound like they were imported from another song.

  9. I think it’s a great idea for a song, showing the generational divide from the parents’ viewpoint, but the Pet Sounds-era chord changes and the cinematic narrative just don’t quite work together.

    While I’m not a huge fan of the sentimentality of the song, I’ll give it points for honesty (although Randy Newman’s “So Long Dad” is far more honest and powerful on this topic).

  10. Yeah, supposedly he wrote (or helped write) the lines he sang, taking inspiration from his Aunt Mimi, but it sounds like he’s holding his nose the whole time.

  11. alexmagic

    Surprising no one, I also have no problem with “She’s Leaving Home”, though I’d rank it at the bottom of the album with “Within You Without You” (I am of the firm belief that Love You To and Inner Light run circles around WYWY).

    I could, however, see the harp being being the dealbreaker for people. I bet if you replace that with some mood-setting cellos or even a tasteful piano intro, it would have a more Rigby-esque reputation. Next time there’s a RTH audio compilation, someone should solicit an all-harp version of this one from Joanna Newsom.

  12. There may be nothing I’ll agree with more today in the Halls of Rock than what you ahve to say about “Love to You” and “The Inner Light.”

  13. Good points, dr john. I’m truly encouraged by the respect this song is getting. Hopefully tonight chickenfrank will come clean on why he hates it. (At least I think I remember him saying that recently.)

  14. pudman13

    So, harp haters…how do you feel about Neil Young’s “A Man Needs A Maid?”

  15. I really like “Within You, Without You:” it has a cool snakey melody line over top of the sitar drone. I’m a big fan of all of Harrison’s raga-esque songs (I’d include “Blue Jay Way” with “Love You To” and “The Inner Light”), they’re standout songs on the records.

    After my initial skepticism about Sgt. Peppers,’ I think it is a rather strong collection of songs, and that is why, for me, “She’s Leaving Home” comes off as unsuccessful when compared to songs like “With a Liitle Help from My Friends” and “Day in the Life.” “She’s Leaving Home,” like “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is ambitious, but both songs don’t quite make it.

  16. misterioso

    Me, I like all three, but I’ve always loved The Inner Light whereas the others I had to warm up to. I never understood why The Inner Light and some other non-lp b-side (like You Know My Name) weren’t on the Hey Jude lp instead of the rather inexplicable Can’t Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better.

    Saturnismine, can we start a long argument about this, posthaste?

  17. BigSteve

    I think it’s not a bad little song, but it gets blown out of proportion be being on Pepper. Just think of it as a small slice of life with a sweet melody, and keep it in perspective. The arrangement I think ‘works’ on aesthetic grounds, because it represents the world of her parents which she is escaping, but that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t always make for a good listening experience.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    “She’s Leaving Home” is brilliant. Love the Beatles version, but like Stevie Wonder/Syreeta’s 1972 take on it just as much:


  19. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, I INSIST that you switch out the video at the top of the thread with this one:


  20. shawnkilroy

    pudman asks:
    So, harp haters…how do you feel about Neil Young’s “A Man Needs A Maid?”

    I think the harp is supported much better in the orchestration of that song than in “she’s Leaving Home”, in which it sounds like a cheap soap opera.

  21. I don’t care who wrote the strings. The song is not good. It has a bad case of Simon-itis.

  22. I’m late to this party, but I like ‘She’s Leaving Home.”

    I also like “Maid.”


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