Sexy Sadie - The Beatles
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"Sexy Sadie" - The Beatles (1968)
"Sexy Sadie" describes Lennon’s total dissatisfaction with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
While at his retreat in India, somehow a rumour was spread that the Maharishi made sexual advances to actress Mia Farrow and/or her sister. Once Lennon learned of this, he said the group had to leave immediately. When Lennon announced they were all leaving and The Maharishi asked why. Lennon said, “If you’re so cosmic, you’ll know why.”
Years later McCartney commented:
“It’s really funny, John’s reaction to this sexual thing. To me it seemed a little prudish.”
In the mid-1990s- an alternative version of events surfaced and this was that the sexual accusations were nothing but a rumor started by one “Magic” Alex Mardas. Mardas wound up taking the Beatles for a huge amount of money in crazy schemes that John backed. He had his own personal reasons for wanting to get The Beatles to leave India.
As originally written, some of its lyrics were considered obscene, and had to be refined. Lennon had used the Maharishi’s name, but had to change it for fear of being sued.
The recording required 52 takes and a full day-and-a-half of studio time. Lennon spent much of time cussing his way through the sessions, deeply hurt after coming to the conclusion that the Maharishi was not as holy as he’d thought.
The track itself is, like its lyric, a sexy song, despite the fact that the sensual mood is deliberately undermined by a chord sequence that provokes a sense of unease, followed by out-and out lyrical threat.
David Quantick, who authored the only book on The White Album, wrote:
“It loses little in its transition from unveiled attack on a world religious leader to knowing put-down of a femme fatale, but is rather let down by a muggy production that buries the subtleties of the arrangement.”
Beatle scholar Alan Pollack adds:
“We have an intriguing mix of styles here that is not easily pigeon-holed; cutting edge lyrics on the one hand, and do-wop backing vocals and an almost Classical Era piano accompaniment on the other.”
Pollack says that as usual with Lennon, meaning and musical expression are integrally linked, from the dry chiding of the song’s opening phrase to its endlessly maneuvering chord sequence, shifting as evasively as its heroine slips between compromising situations.
Basing the lyric on a 1962 B-side by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles called "I’ve Been Good To You", Lennon does all he can to emulate Robinson’s vocal style. It’s not till the last verse that he lets on that he is truly not amused, vowing, “Sexy Sadie, you’ll get yours yet/However big you think you are.”
Professor Ken Womack points out that many Beatle songs work by creating a musical dilemma—they set up a problem and try to “work it out.” In Sexy Sadie, the lead guitar and piano work together musically, making upward steps toward a key change but never seeming to arrive at the next logical note—they tease us with that note, the progression being repeated but unresolved when the guitar takes us close to that note, arriving there only at the end of the song.
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