She’s Leaving Home

Twice in the past few weeks I’ve heard on the radio arrangements of an old song by the Beatles, She’s Leaving Home, made by people who would be generally regarded as serious composers. A friend tells me she has also heard orchestrations of Eleanor Rigby, and come to think of it I’m sure I have heard Norwegian Wood being treated in a similar fashion. The songs are similar, all operating in a minor key kind of way with lyrics dealing with kinds of what we used, rather portentously, to refer to as ‘alienation’, in particularly loneliness and loss. Listening to She’s Leaving Home, one is happy for the woman leaving to keep an appointment she made with a man from the motor trade (it’s hard for those of us who are not English to work out the degree of awareness of class that lies behind these words; doubtless there was more of it about in those days), but from the point of view of those whose feelings the lyrics express all is defeat, a feeling beautifully captured by the music which is more complex than that the Beatles had hitherto produced.

The collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney always had its tensions, and was not to last. But it may be that these songs, all collaborative works in various degrees, show how, at this early point in their passage away from musically uninteresting songs about young love, their talents operated in harmony, each adding value to the other. Perhaps the two Liverpudlians are destined to find a place among the composers of famous songs, indeed of melodies that everyone recognises without being able to put a name to.

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