The Beatles: ‘Lovely Rita’ the Most Famous of Meter Maids
By Isaiah Mouw and Leighton Trent
Parking vs. Pop Culture is a series of articles dedicated to significant parking references found in pop culture. The winner, either parking or pop culture, will be determined by whether parking ended as a positive or negative experience in the particular pop culture reference. This issue’s parking reference is taken from The Beatles’ song “Lovely Rita,” from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
The Beatles are the best-selling music group of all time, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered by many to be their greatest album. Even though they were together less than 10 years, The Beatles changed what we call rock ‘n’ roll.
Not many other modern musicians can be called as musically revolutionary as the Fab Four. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They were listed in Time magazine’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 Most Influential People.
Abbey Road Studios in London is where most of their magic happened – even outside it, too, in the form of a parking ticket. To McCartney, this parking ticket must have been a part of that magic they found in the studio. A song was born from this infamous parking ticket, and the woman who “… looked like a Rita …” became the most famous of all “meter maids.”
There is one universal truth among celebrities: No one is exempt from parking tickets. Just this year, the tabloids have witnessed LeAnn Rimes, Jennifer Garner and Madonna getting one.
But surely McCartney is exempt from this unwritten universal truth? Not according to Meta Davis, a former traffic warden who claims to have ticketed McCartney’s vehicle while it was illegally parked outside Abbey Road Studios in early 1967.
“I had to make out a ticket which, at that time, carried a 10 shilling fine. He [McCartney] looked at it and read my signature written in full – Meta Davis. He said, ‘Oh, is your name really Meta?’ I told him that it was. … 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.”
The number of negative slurs in “Lovely Rita,” although quite funny regardless of your profession, range from the overuse of the term “meter maid” to the verse “in a cap she looked much older, and the bag across her shoulder made her look a little like a military man.”
The Beatles, named by Rolling Stone as the Greatest Artists of All Time, presented an entire song, written by McCartney, about getting a parking ticket. At least the magazine’s second greatest artist of all time, Bob Dylan, warns everyone to “watch the parkin’ meters” in his song “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” (The meter maid could have been avoided if The Beatles had listened to more of Dylan’s music.)
Instead of becoming angry with her, McCartney accepted the ticket with good grace, Meta Davis said, and would go on to express his feelings in song. All in good fun, “Lovely Rita” put the “meter maid” job title on the radar and probably influenced a generation of angry motorists to turn from meter maid haters to meter maid suitors.
Besides, Meta Davis got the last laugh with her infamous quote, “I was never a Beatles’ fan.”
Pop Culture won last time (see “Cool Hand Luke,” September PT), but Parking easily wins this round, to even the score at one a piece.
Isaiah Mouw, who works for Republic Parking System, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leighton Trent, who attended a Los Angeles Film Studies Center, can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from October, 2010