If I had to describe “Lovely Rita” in one word it would be…”busy.” There’s a lot going on here, and it all falls short of the sum of its parts. There’s a quirky kazoo sound that pops up a few times; a jaunty piano line; and John Lennon’s repetitive, borderline extraterrestrial “Lovely Rita, meter maid” backing vocals. But all of those elements aren’t enough to distract from the reality that this is kind of a novelty song, the story of a man attempting to woo a public servant. Well, I guess in fairness, that makes it sound a lot more boring than it actually is. You can probably make any Beatles song seem dull if you boil it down to the bare essentials:
- A guy refuses to dance with anyone besides the underage girl he saw from across the room.
- A med student uses a tool and hurts a bunch of people.
- A jilted cowboy tries to exact revenge on the man who stole his beloved, but he ends up getting shot and is subsequently treated by an alcoholic doctor.
I’m sorry. There’s just no way to not make “Rocky Raccoon” not seem awesome.
That said, this is yet another case of the Beatles being so darn good that a song like this ranks so low for me. Paul’s whimsical vocal really serves the breezy melody well, but my favorite part is the cosmic shift that takes place about 30 seconds before the song finishes, something so distant and strange compared to everything that came before it. The piano line suddenly turns ominous and the music gets overtaken by a desperate panting ala Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love.” It’s super-trippy, and it’s one of the best moments on Sgt. Pepper. (Fun fact: both sides of the “ah!” call and response in “Big Love” are performed by Lindsey Buckingham, not him and Stevie Nicks as is commonly thought. That man can do anything, except get a chance to speak on What Up With That.)