On February 28, 1967, the story goes, Paul McCartney came across a newspaper story about a runaway named Melanie Coe who had been missing for some time. Her father was quoted in the paper as saying, "I don't understand why she ran away; she had everything here." This became the inspiration for one The Beatles' most poignant and elegant tunes, showing off Paul's knack for 3 minute storytelling.

Recorded in two days at Abbey Road Studios, the song's baroque chamber pop feel and exaggerated melodramatic string and harp melodies (playing in weepy minor sevenths and ninths and constantly arpeggiating in opposite directions to create full-bodied instrumental swells) seems well-fit for the song set of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song itself was arranged by Mike Leander, due to George Martin's unavailability. Evoking ragtime, classical music, and pre-big band jazz, the drawing room atmosphere of the music gives an extra weight (some critics point to this as the high point of Paul's orchestral mimicry, which later descended into songs like "Honey Pie" and the schmaltzy "The Long and Winding Road.") The backing polyphonic harmonies on the refrain (written and performed by John) serving as a subtle commentary over the single notes being held by Paul.

The lyrics themselves lend to the simple sincerity that always backed the more meaningful McCartney tunes. When the girl leaves the note "she hoped would say more", the single line shows she's leaving with a heavy heart, and that she must really be at her wit's end to leave such a loving place that would cause her to write a note. The puns on "bye" and "buy" are cutesy at first, but when the song reaches its ultimate refrain (the staccato major fifth begging for resolution) and Paul and crew intimate that "fun is the one thing money can't buy", it serves as both a moral and a happy ending to a sad story. A minor complaint might be that the father and mother are portrayed rather poorly through the whole thing ("snoring" and the line-by-line contradiction of "How could she do this to me/We never thought of ourselves"), a kind of pale, condescending stereotype versus the conflicted and rich "She" of the title.

On a completely different note, the "man from the motor trade" has been popularly linked as slang for an abortionist. Another rumor has it as a subtle reference to longtime Beatle friend and mechanic Terry Doran. Both of these are untrue. In a 1997 interview with Barry Miles, Paul recounts:

The man from the motor trade was just a typical sleazy character, 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 little bit of sleaze. It was largely mine, with help from John.

Since its release in 1967, the song has been covered by, among others, The Bee Gees, Billy Bragg, Al Jarreau, Harry Nilsson, Tori Amos, and Rick Wakeman. Amazingly, despite its lonely content, it appeared on a 1977 Capitol compilation of The Beatles entitled Love Songs. So much for thoughtful sequencing.

For those of you looking for "Paul is dead" mythology, this song is rather thin, but the opening line ("Wednesday morning at five o'clock") is allegedly the time the infamous car accident that never was occurred. This is amplified by George's mysterious "extra finger" on the back of the LP sleeve, pointing to this lyrical line, and the line "people running around, it's five o'clock' in "Good Morning, Good Morning."

She's Leaving Home

Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the back door key
Stepping outside she is free

She (We gave her most of our lives)
Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)

She's leaving home after living alone for so many years
Bye, bye

Farther snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that's lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband,
"Our baby's gone"

Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly
How could she do this to me

She (We never thought of ourselves)
Is (Never a thought for ourselves)
Home (We struggled hard all our lives to get by)

She's leaving home after living alone for so many years
Bye, bye

Friday morning at nine o'clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the apointment she made
Meeting a man from the motor trade

She (What did we do that was wrong)
Is having (We didn't know it was wrong)
Fun (Fun is the one thing that money can't buy)

Something inside that was always denied
For so many years
Bye, bye
She's leaving home
Bye, bye

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Fixing A Hole | Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite

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