Notes on "She's Leaving Home" (SLH)
KEY F Major (Mono) E Major (Stereo)
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- The Beatles were uncommonly sharp at coming up with surprising, unlikely stylistic blends or "bends." But from this point of their career onward, Paul, in particular, would ocassionally indulge a hankering stylistic "mimicry". The latter is much more difficult to pull off with artistic success because the attempt to sound "authentic" in such cases puts you at risk of sounding equally trite or "facile."
- A definite pattern emerges in those endless listener polls of most or least favorite McCartney songs where you find his more ingenious blends, such as "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," or "Penny Lane" high on the preferred list, and the more straight mimics, such as "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" or "Honey Pie," very much on the unfavored one.
- "She's Leaving Home" is, perhaps, closer to the mimicry end of the spectrum than it is to the blend end; hence its lingering controversiality among even usually strong fans, and the revisionist complaints about how it has not aged well. But, as we take our typically close look at the music, we find it's not at all that simply cribbed from cliches.
- I know that I myself get a bit irritated by the extent to which the cloying arrangement for strings and harp seems rather heavy-handedly chosen to underscore the old-fashioned cluelessness of father and his wife's take on what their baby's done. But I dare say, the *music* itself provides a nicely intruiguing, stylized spoof of that same semi-classical drawing room style, so popular at the turn-of-the-century, and to which it is said that ragtime and roaring 20s jazz were a direct and rebellious reaction.
Melody and Harmony
- An intentially overlush impression is created the operatic wide sweep of the tune, and the almost wall-to-wall usage of 7th and 9th chords.
- It is by his including the unexpectedly modal flat-VII and minor v chords here that Paul subtly reminds us that this IS a parody of sorts.
- The backing track is one of the more homogeneous ones you'll ever find on a Beatles track. The repeated sections show some amount of modernistic variation, but Mike Leander's hand here is more restrained and less inventive than was George Martin's in "Eleanor Rigby;" a shame the latter person's line was engaged when Paulie called him up for this one.
- The backing vocals for the refrains feature an unsual kind of antiphonal counterpoint. It's neither a hocket (where a single melodic line is arranged over two or more parts), nor your typical polyphony where the two or more lines move at the same time. Did you ever notice how some of the string parts which fill the spaces between verse phrases anticipate some of the melodic byplay of this refrain?
- I'm going to transcribe the song is a slow-spun 12/8, where four of what you'd otherwise parse as single measures in fast 3/4 make up one long measure.
- The intro here consists of just 1 such measure with an elaborated arpeggiation over the I chord. If you want to get picky, you can argue that end of each half measure implies a shift to the IV6/4 chord, but I believe your perception of the big picture is limited to the I chord.
- The verse is four measures long and parses into a three phrase pattern of ABB (2+1+1):
|E b f# |c# F# |
E: I v7 ii7 vi V9-of-V
|B |- |
4 3 4 3
- The harmonic rhythm continually slows down, making you feel by the end of each verse some combination of exceedingly relaxed and exhuasted.
- The use of D natural in both the chords and tune of the first phrase adds an unexpected Mixolydian modal touch.
- Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a more extreme example in a Beatles song (that we've studied to-date) of a single chord being not merely sustained, but embellished simultaneously with an appoggiatura and a 9th as is the B Major chord in the second half of this section.
- The refrain is an unusual 4.75 measures long, and the antiphony of the vocal parts makes a challenge of trying to parse out its subphrases:
|E |- |
|- D |c# F# |
flat-VII vi V7-of-V
|c# F# |
- The end of this refrain is surprising both metrically (because of that dropped quarter measure), and harmonically because of the way the V-of-V is allowed to resolve directly to I at the start of the next verse, without the benefit of the V chord intervening.
- The final refrain includes the missing quarter measure and procedes with the following two measures:
|c# F# |A E |
vi7 V-of-V IV I
- The V-of-V to IV is a much favored progression of the Beatles, though the "plagal" IV-I final cadence seems chosen for its cliche connotations of faintly religious sentimentality.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- The question of whether or not the Mono Pepper really has some authoritative precedence over the Stereo Pepper is sharpened by the fact that SLH appears mastered a complete half-step lower and slower on the Stereo mix of the album; we're talking what sounds like the exact take simply played back slower to sound in E rather than F Major.
- Yes, I know Lewisohn's quote of Richard Lush about how the mono version is the "only real" version. I'm even willing to be swayed in the case of the current song by the way in which the faster tempo makes it sound less corny and cloying. And yet, I wonder.
- I cannot believe that every single difference between the two mixes of the album is a matter of more care and forethought having been given to the Mono version. The one detail that tests the common wisdom for me in particular is the awkward splice on the Mono version between the last chicken cluck of the "Good Morning Good Morning" fadeout and the opening lead guitar lick of the Sgt.'s Reprise. For me, the Mono mix here remains an amusing "outtake" which they had the opportunity to fix at the last minute for the stereo mix.
- And if you're willing to admit even that *one* challenge to the Mono legend, then you're forced to admit at least a shadow of a doubt with respect to the two tempi of "She's Leaving Home." Is the slower one in Stereo to lugubrious, or did they think, in hindsight, that the higher version was simply too fast, too high, and too thin? Oh right; you're never too thin :-)
"I'm going parading before it's too late." 012196#111
Copyright (c) 1996 by Alan W. Pollack
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