The Beatles

Lovely Rita

Composed by John Lennon / Paul McCartney

Song Review by

"Lovely Rita" was one of the more lighthearted songs on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and consequently one of the more critically overlooked. It was among the more tuneful tracks on the album, though, and while it wasn't singles material or something destined to become a standard, it was a good example of principal composer Paul McCartney's knack for ingratiating character sketches. (As one of the less exotic songs on the album, it also stood by itself, out of context from its surrounding compositions, more sturdily than some of the other selections did.) Like some of McCartney's late-'60s compositions (such as "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), there was a possible influence from Ray Davies of the Kinks in its jauntily British, wryly humorous tale of an everyday scenario in which there might be more than meets the eye. To stretch that Davies similarity a bit further, there is a hint of odd gender ambiguity and reversal in the description of the meter maid who is "Lovely Rita," with a uniform that makes her look a little like a military man. It's also odd that Rita pays the bill when the narrator takes her out to dinner (this is just pre-women's liberation, remember) and that he implies he almost manages to seduce her while sitting on a sofa with a sister or two. Another of the very subtle naughty sexual references the Beatles put in their songs from time to time? (And if you want to really stretch the Davies comparison, note that Ray Davies had written a Kinks B-side in 1966 called "Sitting on My Sofa.") McCartney's upbeat vocal is supported by some very nice Beatles harmonies on the chorus and a bit of deftly woven counterpoint harmony in the verse. Producer George Martin, always on hand to provide the appropriate extra bit, does a suitable honky tonk piano in the instrumental break (as he had done in a previous upbeat Beatles cut, "Good Day Sunshine"). The odd instrumental tag, in contrast to the rest of the song, goes into a bit of melancholy melody that is daft in a slightly menacing fashion, whereas the rest of the song is daft in a good-natured manner. Against the sad piano chording, the Beatles make strange animal-like noises, as well as blowing on combs covered with toilet papers to produce kazoo-like tones, ending with stuttering piano notes before coming to a conclusion with a grand flourish down the keys. Fats Domino did a none-too-thrilling soul cover of "Lovely Rita" on his 1968 comeback album Fats Is Back, a record more noted for its cover of "Lady Madonna."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967 EMI Catalogue 2:42
Sessions 1990 Capitol 2:34
No Image 1992 Toshiba EMI
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 EMI Catalogue 2:42
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol 2:42
The Beatles in Mono [Vinyl Box Set] 2014 Capitol
blue highlight denotes editor's pick