Is Joan Lovely Rita?


The “Sgt. Pepper”/”Mad Men” theory has maintained its popularity in the social media world. (Credit: Capitol Records/E. Viviani)

Editor’s Note: Three weeks ago, our resident “Mad Men” expert Emily Viviani posited that the Beatles’ classic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is actually serving as a structural and thematic template for the fifth season of the series. The theory was quite a hit on “Mad Men” message boards and chat rooms across the country, and was even referenced in a recent article on New York Magazine’s website. Below is an update on the theory and how it fits into the season’s most recent episode, “Christmas Waltz.”


1. Within You Without You (Lady Lazarus)

2. When I’m Sixty-Four (Dark Shadows)

3. Lovely Rita (Christmas Waltz)

4. Good Morning, Good Morning (The Other Woman)

5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (Commissions and Fees)

6. A Day in the Life (The Phantom)

510: “Christmas Waltz” (“Lovely Rita”)

About the song: “Lovely Rita”

“This song is about a female traffic warden and the narrator’s affection for her. The term ‘meter-maid’ was largely unknown in the U.K. prior to the song’s release. It is American slang for a female traffic warden, now officially known by the gender-neutral term parking attendant. According to some sources, the song emanates from when a female traffic warden named Meta Davies issued a parking ticket to McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios. Instead of becoming angry, he accepted it with good grace and expressed his feelings in song. When asked why he had called her ‘Rita,’ McCartney replied ‘Well, she looked like a Rita to me.’[1]

How it relates to 510:

This episode explores Don’s relationship with Joan.  Their performance for the Jaguar salesmen and the innocent flirtation they exchange over cocktails mimics the whimsical musicality of McCartney’s improbable romantic fantasy about his muse for this song, the meter-maid he names Rita. I suspected that Joan would play Rita in this episode when Lane tells Joan in the Season 5 premiere that she was irreplaceable at SCDP because the other secretaries “Couldn’t operate a parking meter, they’re imbeciles!” (right before he tells her “it’s only a matter of time before they find out he’s a sham,” which also kind of works well with this episode). Don’s comment that Joan received so many flowers he used to think she was dating Aly Kahn (the name under which he sends her roses later in the episode) also relates to the song, since Aly Kahn was the husband of the Hollywood starlet Rita Hayworth. His suggestion that she was initially intimidating to him could also be a nod toward the lyric “made her look a little like a military man,” which could also be referenced through Roger’s “Cause the Army is treating you so well,” comment. Sadly, unlike in the song, Rita is the one who gets served in the episode.

Applicable lyrics:

Lovely Rita meter maid

Lovely Rita meter maid (Lane’s parking meter comment in “A Little Kiss”)


Made her look a little like a military man (“Cause the Army’s treating you so well.”/Intimidating Joan)


Took her out and tried to win her

Had a laugh and over dinner

Told her I would really like to see her again

Got the bill and Rita paid it

Took her home I nearly made it (Don to Joan: “I struck out.”)


Author: R. Byrnes

Ryan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Yi! News.

3 thoughts on “Is Joan Lovely Rita?”

  1. Actually, I believe they switched the running order of the album again. Episode 5:10 fits in much better with “Good Morning” and 5:11 is “Lovely Rita”. Can’t wait until the finale. “He blew his mind out in a car.” A Jaguar I’ll bet.

  2. Oooh good point, Matt (about the Jaguar)!

    I am anxiously awaiting your post for the most recent episode, “The Other Woman”! 🙂

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