For holding the esteemed title of "most important rock album of all time" there is a surprising little amount of straight rock n roll on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Beginning with "Fixing A Hole", the album runs skittishly along a number of genres, from carnivalesque to vaudeville to chamber music to Indian raga, but offers almost no rocking songs, a strange and perhaps endearing contrast to the large amount of rock-oriented albums coming out that day. At track 10, "Lovely Rita" provides a wonderful exception to this rule, and besides being this author's favorite song on the album, serves as one of the most colorful releases of the band's career, while maintaining the artistic challenge and complexity that this album required from all of its songs.

Musically, the song takes advantage of the confusion between fifths and fourths and their relationship to other chords to move around the chordbook with frequency and courage; remnants of songs like "Hey Jude", "Back in the U.S.S.R.", and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" can be found hiding in the structure of this song. Beginning with its kinetic intro, staggering all of the instruments and voices in turn to give a druggy, reverberating feel, the song has one of the most interesting progressions on the album, with its I-bVII-IV-I-V, vi-II-V and the ensuing harmonic resolution to the first (the "ahh"s at the end of the verse) which give way to the refrain ("Standing by a parking meter...") Notice that the wax combs the band plays on are highly electronically altered, but still play off as a natural "live vaudeville band" adding them in. The song plays even further within its own structure on the refrain, and despite numerous attempts to move away from it, always resolves naturally to the fifth on each line. Finally, this leads to the overly cloy piano solo (played by George Martin at half-speed), the final chorus, and then the strange flip to E minor (!) for the breathy, playful finish by Paul and company.

Lyrically, the song is similar to most of the other output of both Paul in general and Sgt. Pepper's in particular: clever rhymes ("older" and "shoulder") and witty storytelling ("when it gets dark I tow your heart away") suffice when morals and deep thoughts won't do. While comparing Rita to a "military man" might seem harsh, it's nothing compared to the implications of the lines "Took her home I nearly made it/sitting on a sofa with a sister or two"; Paul, you cad! Much like "When I'm Sixty-Four", this song has a very staccato official feel to it - Paul's enunciations on this song and that one are highly pronounced and make for a livelier performance. Of course, since Paul only "nearly made it", we can only guess at what the heavy breathing and sudden minor key and change of pace are making a reference to. Ringo's shout at the end of "They'll never believe it" probably encapsulates the entire dichotomy of Sgt. Pepper's: is it just one big joke by the greatest band ever, or a serious work that totally defied the expectations of a rock band in 1967?

This song can be viewed as heavily influenced by the Paul is dead mythos surrounding The Beatles at the time, describing in further detail the accident that took Paul's life. "Standing by a parking meter," Paul "caught a glimpse of Rita," which took his eyes off the car that killed him. Was there a real Rita, meter maid? One may never know.

The year after its release, the song was covered by Fats Domino (who also covered Paul's Fats tribute "Lady Madonna", creating an endless loop of tribute cover tribute ad infinitum), The Nields, Roy Young, and perhaps slightly infamous, Michelle Shocked, who turned the lyrics into a seductive lesbian love song.

The bulk of the song was recorded on February 23, 1967, with Paul on piano and lead vocals, Ringo on drums, and George on acoustic guitar. The following day backup vocals were recorded, and George Martin played the honky-tonk solo. Finally, on March 7, the wax comb effects were added by George, John, and Paul, and the famous closing vocals by John were added.

Lovely Rita
(Lennon/McCartney)

Lovely Rita meter maid
Lovely Rita meter maid

Lovely Rita meter maid
Nothing can come between us
When it gets dark I tow your heart away

Standing by a parking meter
When I caught a glimpse of Rita
Filling in a ticket in her little white book
In a cap she looked much older
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man

Lovely Rita meter maid
May I inquire discreetly
When are you free to take some tea with me

Took her out and tried to win her
Had a laugh and over dinner
Told her I would really like to see her again
Got the bill and Rita paid it
Took her home I nearly made it
Sitting on the sofa with a sister or two

Oh, lovely Rita meter maid
Where would I be without you
Give us a wink and make me think of you

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
When I'm Sixty-Four | Good Morning, Good Morning

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