“She’s Leaving Home” by Billy Bragg
(Words/Music: John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Album: Reaching To the Converted, Cooking Vinyl 1999)
Released as a single in 1988 before being collected on the b-sides and rareties album Reaching To the Converted in 1999, Billy Bragg’s version of “She’s Leaving Home” was a departure musically from his one man angst-ridden fusion of folk and punk. Originally from The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, an album marked with brutally honest, frank, and minutely detailed “story” songs like the title song, “A Day in the Life,” and “Lovely Rita,” “She’s Leaving Home” adds a few more characters to the well-populated album. Telling the tale of a girl who left home without discussing it with her parents (she only left a note), we see the reaction of confusion and pain felt by them without getting a solid glimpse at her side of the story. This was one of the more interesting characteristics of the band: the ability to give seemingly pointless details (dad snoring, mother’s dressing gown, her purse) while still being able to leave major parts of the story up to the listener. We assume that life at home wasn’t as memorable and fulfilling as her parents would suggest and that the girl perceived that leaving without speaking to them would be her only option. What we don’t know is why she’s actually leaving - she has an appointment with a man from the motor trade, but for what reason? Was she in love? Was it for a job? When people talk about the legacy of The Beatles, this song represents one of the ways that they changed pop music and Billy Bragg was one of the beneficiaries of their vision, adopting this frank story-telling style on such songs as “Levi Stubbs’ Tears,” “A New England,” and “Valentine’s Day Is Over.” Given that, “She’s Leaving Home,” although musically different from much of his music up to that point, is a perfect lyrical fit for Billy Bragg.