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Notes on "Lovely Rita"

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Previous page: Notes on "When I'm Sixty-four" Next page: Notes On "Good Morning, Good Morning"

This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song

Notes on "Lovely Rita"

KEY E Major (with an ending in a minor?!)

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Verse (piano solo) ->
   Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)


General Points of Interest

Style and Form

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.

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 labelled as a Refrain, except that the words are different each time except for the opening line. Similarly, I've called labelled 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 labelling *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

There's a large quotient of chord root movement by 5ths and 4ths 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!

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 using only chords that are indigenous to the home key so that it cycles right back to I in the space of 7 chords:

 I->IV->VII half-dim.->iii->vi->ii->V->I
E: E  A   d#              g#  c#  f#  B  E

The "non-diatonic" circle of fifths ignores the key signature and slavishly moves by 5th each time, with each chord being a Major one. This cycle spans a full 12 chords and forcibly challenges your clear sense of home key for a large part of its mid-section:

 E  A  D  G  C  F  Bb Eb  Ab  Db  Gb/F#  B  E

Arrangement

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:

  1. - The main vocal treated with a kind of ADT that makes it sound "peculiarly" *single* rather than "normally" double tracked.
  2. - 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?
  3. - An electronically altered if not completely synthesized "kazoo."
  4. - Backing vocals of an ethereally far-away pristine sweetness.
  5. - Heavy breathing the likes of which would have been equally at home on Day Tripper as it is here.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

Intro

Parsing it in fast tempo, the outro weighs in as an eight-measure section in which the same phrase is repeated twice:

 ------------------------------ 2X -------------------------------
 |B |- |A |- |E |- |B |- |
E:  V   IV   I   V

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.

The harmonic shape of this section is convergent on the home key.

Verse

The verse is eight measures and is built of two four-measure phrases:

 |E |D   A |E |B |c# |F# |B |- |
  I  flat-VII IV  I  V  vi  V-of-V  V

In contrast to the intro, both phrases [I-VIIb-IV-I (V)] [vi-II-V] 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.

The verse which precedes the piano solo is prolonged by what one of my teaches, George Rochberg, would call an "harmonic envelope" of the V chord; don't let all those 9/11/13 passing dissonances fool you into thinking it's anything other than that.

Bridge

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 16 measures long, instead of the 14 that it actually is. The sung phrases are essentially an identical AA couplet, but the two measures of "This Boy" cliche are included only the second time around. [I-IV-VIIb-IIIb-I-(V)] [I-vi-ii-V].

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


 |E |A    |D |G |E    |B |E   c# |f#  B |
  I  IV    flat-VII flat-III I  V  I   vi  ii  V

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 3rd beat of every measure to fall, albeit temporarily, with equal four-square empahasis on 1 and 3.

Also now the marrcas being carefully saved for the *second* phrase in each bridge.

Piano Solo

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.

Only this time the finishing scale flourish is also upside down :-)

Outro

The outro takes up a surprising almost one-third of the duration of the piece.

It starts off with a reprise of the two-phrase intro, scored with increasing complexity in the vocal parts.

Then, in a rather unprecedented move, it shifts into an extended 20-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

Rather a non-sequitor of an ending. And in the meanwhile, the Boys in the backroom 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 the Good Morning, Good Morning note. The following is taken from this note:)

Rita's Outro Revisited

An uncommonly serious and thoughtful reader of these notes sent email asking why the previous note on "Lovely Rita" gave what he considered to be unfairly short shrift to the song's climactic outro. No, I responded, you shouldn't chalk this up to my necessarily being bored or tired of working on the series :-) But his underlying question forced me to carefully re-consider why, indeed, I had failed to remark, even in passing, on the rather blatantly sexual overtones of the song's closing section.

If I have it to do over again, I will at least acknowledge that the voluble, wordy rest of the song is capped by a virtually wordless outro that provides a modicum of release to the heretofore only "nearly" consumated build up of horny energy accumlated along the way. Indeed, I suppose most people have, at one time or other, come home for a "date" feeling "frustrated" and in need of some ultimate relief however solitary or makeshift. Fine, as far as it goes.

I split paths with my reader though when he goes on to chide me for not appreciating what he considers to be the Beethovenian and realistic passion of this song's climax. (Hey, for a change it was someone else other than *me* who mentioned LVB :-)).

Put simply, if the outro of "Lovely Rita" was intended to convey a sense of raw, overwhelming and inescapable climax, then I believe it is undermined by its own attempt to be simultaneously cute and realistic. "Less is more," I'd advise Paul. Beethoven manages with chord changes and harmonic rhythm, alone; no need to weaken it by making it so obvious with the moaning and heavily breathed vocal effects. On grounds of strictly musical technique, the use of i-iv-i (instead of the more kinetic V chord) plus the rather flacid application of harmonic rhythm in this song's outro work at cross-purposes with whatever build up of tension is happening elsewhere in the musical fabric.

Let's try and state it positively though. I more strongly suspect that, in keeping with the comic subtext of what precedes the outro, that this climax here is intended in the much the same arch spirit. No seed is literally spilt here, you should pardon the expression; no heart races wildly; we're just kidding around for shits and grins. "Playing tigers," Anthony Blanche called it. It's not that I personally believe there's no room for fun or humor in the midst of sharing sex, but I *do* believe that getting all the way there requires shifting ones focus to some level of serious concentration. (Oh, momma -- I can't believe I'm saying any of this, and on the Internet, no less!! :-)

Look it: if you cannot rely on personal experience in this regard, then at least consider the bridge section of "Day Tripper" as an object lesson.

At any rate, then, let us move onto the song which gives a whole new dimension of meaning to the phrase "rude awakening"? (Clear the throat, and wipe clean the slate ...)

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---
"... the little white boook."       042396#115
---

Copyright (c) 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.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group rec.music.beatles. The content from this newsgroup is archived at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/awp.html

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

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