If you’re a bassist and looking for an insight into Paul McCartney’s style, look no further: this isolated version of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s cut ‘Lovely Rita’ is here to aid you in your quest.
Released on the first of June 1967, ‘Lovely Rita’ is one of the haziest recordings from Sgt. Pepper’s. Infused with a hefty dose of reverb, the track simmers with the heat of high summer. It was originally written by Paul McCartney as a satirical swipe at authority figures, with the titular female traffic warden representing the banal bureaucracy of modern life. But as McCartney would later explain: “I was thinking it should be a hate song… but then I thought it would be better to love her.”
Today, traffic wardens are as commonplace as traffic, but back in ’67, they were a relatively new feature of the urban landscape. McCartney first came across the title for ‘Lovely Rita’ from a newspaper article about ‘Lovely Rita, The Meter Maid’, ‘meter maid’ being how Americans initially referred to female traffic wardens. The contrast between the mundane and the erotic in that phrase appealed to McCartney: “To me, a ‘maid’ was always a little sexy thing,” he said in Anthology. “‘Meter maid. Hey, come and check my meter, baby.’ I saw a bit of that, and then I saw that she looked like a ‘military man'”.
According to McCartney, the song’s lyrics were written in the Wirral near Liverpool while he was walking near his brother Michael’s house. “I remember one night just going for a walk and working on the words as I walked,” McCartney told Barry Miles. “It wasn’t based on a real person but, as often happened, it was claimed by a girl called Rita [sic] 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.”
The Beatles took ‘Lovely Rita’ into Studio Two of Abbey Road on February 23rd, 1967. The group recorded eight takes of the rhythm track in total, with George Harrison and John Lennon on acoustic guitars, Ringo Starr on drums and Paul McCartney on piano. After the eighth take was deemed worthy, McCartney added the bass part you can hear above. With its velvety analogue warmth, McCartney’s bassline slinks along muddily, underpinning the oozing sonic landscape with its dense rhythmic churn.
Make sure you check it out below if you haven’t already.