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 Paul 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

The Cilla Black session was likely to have been for her single ‘What Good Am I?’ Released in the UK in June 1967, it was arranged and conducted by Mort Shuman, and produced by George Martin.

Martin was hurt by McCartney’s decision to enlist Mike Leander to arrange ‘She’s Leaving Home’, although he did produce the session and conduct the players.

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.

George Martin
All You Need Is Ears

Paul McCartney's lyrics for She's Leaving Home

The recording of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ 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 McCartney and John Lennon’s vocals were recorded, twice over to give the impression of more voices.

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