Based on a poem vocalist Guy Garvey wrote about his first love and written and recorded on the Isle Of Mull, this minimalist track set the agenda both thematically and musically for Build a Rocket Boys!. The song features just Garvey's voice, a Rhodes keyboard and whispers of other players. Garvey explained on Elbow's website: "'Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl' couldn't be simpler musically and lyrically. It's a list of the details I remember from my life when I was 22 written with the knowledge of how things would unfold. 'Nothing to be proud of and nothing to regret, all of that to make as yet.'The music sounded to me like the muted heartbeat of someone restraining themselves, thesplashes of clumsy colour from the keyboards being general excitement bubbling up over the sides.At 22 I had been in the band for five years and we knew what we wanted to do. Life was general excitement, it was easy to remember. 'Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl' became the blueprint for the record."
Garvey recalled to Q magazine regarding the former flame he sings about in this song: "My girlfriend and my music collection were my saviours, cos I didn't have a pot to piss in. My first heartbreak was that girl. And being that age and having your own gaff - all the parties were at your place. That's where I met a lot of my friends."
Garvey was brought up a Catholic but had lost his faith by time he'd reached his 20s. He explained to Spin magazine why his former girlfriend Cath, whom he sings of in this song, became his 'saviour.' Recalled the Elbow singer: "I lived in this s---ty house with no heater. She was an angel that would come across and play records with me. We were in love. I'd lost my faith in God around that time as well and needed a new Jesus. She took that role."