Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 17, 20 March 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 1 June 1967 (UK), 2 June 1967 (US)

Paul McCartney: lead vocals, backing vocals
John Lennon: vocals, backing vocals
Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams, José Luis Garcia: violin
John Underwood, Stephen Shingles: viola
Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel: cello
Gordon Pearce: double bass
Sheila Bromberg: harp

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Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Inspired by a story in the Daily Mail about a teenage runaway, She's Leaving Home was described by George Martin as "not, strictly speaking, a Beatles song at all," and "pure McCartney, from start to finish".

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In February 1967 McCartney read about Melanie Coe, a 17-year-old A-level schoolgirl from Stamford Hill, north London. She went missing without her car, cheque book and spare clothes. Her father was quoted as saying, "I cannot imagine why she should run away. She has everything here."

Coe briefly rented a flat in Paddington with a croupier she had met in a nightclub, and returned home around 10 days after the newspaper report was published.

McCartney wrote the music and the initial lyrics, which were later completed with John Lennon.

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...

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
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

Coincidentally, Coe had met The Beatles some time before. 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.

I spent that day in the studios going through rehearsals, so I was around The Beatles most of that time. Paul wasn't particularly chatty and John seemed distant but I did spend time talking to George and Ringo.
Melanie Coe
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

The 'man from the motor trade' in She's Leaving Home was taken by some to be Terry Doran, Brian Epstein's partner in Brydor Cars, an automobile company operating from Hounslow. Others took it as a euphemism for an abortionist. In fact it was neither of these.

It was just fiction, like the sea captain in Yellow Submarine; they weren't real people. The man from the motor trade was just a typical sleazy characer, the kind of guy that could pull a young bird by saying, 'Would you like a ride in my car, darlin'?' Nice plush interior, that's how you pulled birds. So it was just a nice little bit of sleaze.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

Like Eleanor Rigby before it, She's Leaving Home did not feature any musical instruments played by The Beatles. Instead it had a string backing, with a harp, violins, violas, cellos and a double bass. It was scored by Mike Leander, a freelance producer and arranger, because George Martin was unavailable at the short notice demanded by McCartney.

I rang him and I said, 'I need you to arrange it.' He said, 'I'm sorry, Paul, I've got a Cilla [Black] 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.'
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

George Martin saw McCartney's actions as a slight and was very hurt, although he did produce the session and conduct the players.

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.
George Martin

Recording took place over two days. The first was on 17 March 1967, which featured just the strings. Six takes were recorded; Paul McCartney was present in the studio.

I got to the studio early to tune the instrument. I walked in and there was Paul McCartney but I didn't recognise him at first. I was concentrating on what was written on the manuscript, then I turned around, heard the Liverpool accent and realised it was him. I hadn't got a clue, I had just talked to the other musicians and waited.

In actual fact he was quite difficult to work with because he wasn't too sure what he actually wanted. He said 'no I don't want that, I want something...' but he couldn't describe what he wanted and I tried it all every which way.

Sheila Bromberg, Harpist

On 20 March it was decided that take one had been the best, and so Paul and John's vocals were recorded, twice over to give the impression of more voices.