Song facts: Lovely Rita

Paul McCartney wrote Lovely Rita in 1967 for The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. 

It tells the story of the singer's fascination and fondness for a female traffic warden, also known as a meter maid in the US. Later, a London traffic warden by the name of Meta Davis claimed to have given Paul a parking ticket outside of Abbey Road Studios, and been the inspiration for the song. 

"His car was parked on a meter where the time had expired. I had to make out a ticket which, at the time, carried a 10 shilling fine. I'd just put it on the windscreen when Paul came along and took it off. He looked at it and read my signature which was in full, because there was another M Davies on the same unit. As he was walking away, he turned to me and said, 'Oh, is your name really Meta?' I told him that it was. We chatted for a few minutes and he said, 'That would be a good name for a song. Would you mind if I use it?' And that was that. Off he went."  - Meta Davis
"I remember one night just going for a walk and working on the words as I walked... It wasn't based on a real person but, as often happened, it was claimed by a girl called Rita, who was a traffic warden who apparently did give me a ticket, so that made the newspapers. I think it was more a question of coincidence: anyone called Rita who gave me a ticket would naturally think, 'It's me!' I didn't think, Wow, that woman gave me a ticket, I'll write a song about her - never happened like that." - Paul McCartney

Recording

Although the lyrics were still incomplete, The Beatles began recording Lovely Rita on February 23rd 1967. At this session the band used a four track recorder, with Lennon's guitar on track one, Harrison's guitar on track two, Ringo's drums on track three and McCartney's piano on track four. Eight takes were recorded in all; with take eight considered the best.

Later they added lead vocal, bass, and a three part backing vocal section featuring George, John, and session musician Shawn Phillips. George Martin added a second piano recording to the song and by March 21st the mono mix was finished. The stereo mix was completed a month later.

"I used to try out funny things in odd moments and I discovered that by putting sticky tape over the capstan of a tape machine you could wobble the tape on the echo machine, because we used to delay the feed into the echo chamber by tape. So I suggested we did this using a piano sound. The Beatles themselves couldn't think what should go into the song's middle eight and they didn't really like my idea at first, but it turned out fine in the end because of the effect. It gave the piano a sort of honky-tonk feel. In fact, Paul asked me to play the solo when I made the suggestion but I was too embarrassed." - Geoff Emerick

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – lead vocal, bass, piano, comb and tissue paper kazoo
  • John Lennon – backing vocal, vocal percussion, acoustic rhythm guitar, comb and tissue paper kazoo
  • George Harrison – backing vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, slide guitar, comb and tissue paper kazoo
  • Ringo Starr – drums
  • Shawn Phillips - backing vocals
  • George Martin – producer, piano
  • Geoff Emerick – engineer
 Paul McCartney 1967. 

Paul McCartney 1967. 

 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967.

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