The song had been written after Paul McCartney read a report about a teenage runaway named Melanie Coe in the 27 February 1967 edition of the Daily Mail newspaper. John Lennon contributed the chorus lines, and the pair decided that a string arrangement would suit it.
George Martin was unable to write a score after McCartney asked him to at short notice. Instead, McCartney approached freelance producer and arranger Mike Leander, who provided the string parts for the song. Martin saw the move as a slight, but later acknowledged that McCartney's impatience had been the key factor.
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.
All You Need Is Ears
Martin agreed to conduct the musician during this session. They were Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams and José Luis Garcia on violin; John Underwood and Stephen Shingles on viola; Dennis Vigay and Alan Dalziel on cello; Gordon Pearce on double bass; and Sheila Bromberg on harp.
The recording was completed in six takes, with the first becoming the basis for further overdubs. This had the harp on track one, double bass on track two, violins on three, and violas and cellos on track four.