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Notes on "Lovely Rita"


Notes on ... Series #115 (LR)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major (with an ending in a minor?!)
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Bridge | Verse | Verse (piano solo) |
                  | Bridge | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band",
            Track 10 (Parlophone CDP7 46442-2)
  Recorded: 23rd, 24th February, 7th, 21st March 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 1st June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")
US-release: 2nd June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Talk about your changes of pace; by track 10, can you remember even if you try hard (ah, ah ... no peeking), when was the last time you heard something even approximating explicitly "rock"-like music on this album? Especially following the likes of "Within You Without You" and "When I'm Sixty-Four" (not to mention "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite", "She's Leaving Home", et al), this tongue-in-cheek tale of work-a-day floating lust on the curbside is very much welcome by the time it now appears.
  Next note It's got an unusual form — we haven't seen one this difficult to call since, perhaps, "It Won't Be Long". The issue here isn't so much one of where to parse the section boundaries as much as it is one of how to characterize the sections labels. What I decided to call the verse can arguably be labeled as a refrain, except that the words are different each time except for the opening line. Similarly, I've labeled the intervening section as a bridge because of its wandering harmonic character; again, the words change each time. Yet, some people might be more comfortable labeling it as a verse, as long as you call the other section a refrain. Beyond a point, it's a matter of semantics more than anything else. One thing's for sure: I think the ordering of the sections still comes out the same.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note There's a large quotient of chord root movement by fifths and fourths which is very much at the heart of what gives the song its strong transitive sense of kinetic, physical action being expended. We even have the familiar "Hey Jude"-progression in prominent evidence!
  Next note The bridge section uses the so-called non-diatonic circle of fifths to stretch the harmonic plane almost to the point of breaking before it gives up and abruptly returns to the home key, creating those very much Beatlesque chromatic false relations in its wake. Tech Support Note: the "diatonic" circle of fifths uses only chords that are indigenous to the home key so that it cycles right back to I in the space of seven chords:
       I -» IV -» VII half-dim. -» iii -» vi -» ii -» V -» I
   E:  E    A     d#               g#     c#    f#    B    E

   [Figure 115.1]
  The "non-diatonic" circle of fifths ignores the key signature and slavishly moves by fifth each time, with each chord being a Major one. This cycle spans a full twelve chords and forcibly challenges your clear sense of home key for a large part of its mid-section:
       I -» IV -» flat-VII -» flat-III etc.
   E:  E    A     D           G   (C  F  Bb Eb  Ab  Db  Gb/F#  B  E)

   [Figure 115.2]


  Next note The arrangement is surrealistically traditional, and in keeping with the tone established for the rest of the album, it features and almost wall-to-wall overlay of special effects. I'll spare you one of my slavish detailed trackings for today, but I encourage you to keep your ears open for examples of the following:
  • The main vocal treated with a kind of ADT that makes it sound "peculiarly" single rather than "normally" double tracked.
  • Stray spoken comments on the backing track; is it a matter of hidden messages, sloppy work habits, or a desire to contrive a sense of informal live performance?
  • An electronically altered if not completely synthesized "kazoo".
  • Backing vocals of an ethereally far-away pristine sweetness.
  • Heavy breathing the likes of which would have been equally at home on "Day Tripper" as it is here.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note Parsing it in fast tempo, the intro weighs in as an eight-measure section in which the same phrase is repeated twice:
    ----------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
   |B      |-      |A      |-      |E      |-      |B      |-      |
    V               IV              I               V

   [Figure 115.3]
  Next note The texture is steadily thickened by staggered entrances. At the very opening you can actually savor the strumming of the acoustic guitar before Paul's lead vocal, drums, and backing vocals are added in sequence.
  Next note The harmonic shape of this section is convergent on the home key.


  Next note The verse is eight measures and is built of two four-measure phrases:
   |E               |D        A      |E               |B              |
    I                flat-VII IV      I                V

   |c#              |F#              |B               |-              |
    vi               V-of-V           V

   [Figure 115.4]
  Next note In contrast to the intro, both phrases here converge toward V. The predominance of root movement by fourth of fifth is manifested in the first phrase by the "Hey Jude"-progression, and in the second phrase by the interpolation of the secondary dominant chord.
  Next note The verse which precedes the piano solo is prolonged by what one of my teachers, George Rochberg, would call an "harmonic envelope" of the V chord; don't let all those ninth/eleventh/thirteenth passing dissonances fool you into thinking it's anything other than that.


  Next note The bridge is the most radical of the sections here, introducing uneven phrases as well as the non-diatonic cycle of fifths trick. You'd expect this bridge to be sixteen measures long, instead of the fourteen that it actually is. The sung phrases are essentially an identical AA couplet, but the two measures of "This Boy" cliché are included only the second time around.
   |E       |A       |D       |G       |E       |B       |
    I        IV       flat-VII flat-III I        V

   |E       |A       |D       |G       |E       |B       |
    I        IV       flat-VII flat-III I        V

   |E   c#  |f#  B   |
    I   vi   ii  V

   [Figure 115.5]
  Next note Those final couple measures at the end of each sung phrase here are the only place in the song where the rhythmic emphasis moves from being exclusively on the syncopated third beat of every measure to fall, albeit temporarily, with equal four-square emphasis on "one" and "three".
  Next note Also note the maracas being carefully saved for the second phrase in each bridge.

Piano Solo

  Next note I strongly suspect that this solo is not only played by George Martin but also recycles the "In My Life" trick of recording it played an octave lower at half speed in order to sound in normal range but at close to humanly impossible speed on playback.
  Next note Only this time the finishing scale flourish is also upside down :-)


  Next note The outro takes up a surprising almost one-third of the duration of the piece.
  Next note It starts off with a reprise of the two-phrase intro, scored with increasing complexity in the vocal parts.
  Next note Then, in a rather unprecedented move, it shifts into an extended twenty-odd measure long improvised vamp, the jazzy harmonic content of which is easily boiled down to yet another harmonic envelope; this one a i -» iv -» i cadence in the key of a minor.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Rather a non-sequitur of an ending. [**] And in the meanwhile, the Boys in the buckram are having a grand old time making funny noises and saying rude things with the sound turned way up for a change.
  [** Alan later changed his mind, and wrote an extended commentary on the outro at the beginning of his notes on "Good Morning, Good Morning".]
  Alan (042396#115)
Copyright © 1996 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.