"Sexy Sadie" is a song by the English rock group the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as "the White Album"). The song was written by John Lennon in India and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon wrote the song during the Beatles' stay in India in response to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's alleged sexual advance on actress Mia Farrow. The song has been considered an early example of a diss track.[1][2][3][4]

"Sexy Sadie"
Cover of the song's sheet music
Song by the Beatles
from the album The Beatles
PublishedNorthern Songs
Released22 November 1968
Recorded19 and 24 July, 13 and 21 August 1968
StudioEMI, London
Producer(s)George Martin

Composition edit

Lennon originally wanted to title the song "Maharishi",[5] but changed the title to "Sexy Sadie" at George Harrison's request. Lennon was disillusioned after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had allegedly made a sexual advance on Mia Farrow,[6] who was attending a course the Maharishi was teaching at his ashram in Rishikesh, India. Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Cynthia Lennon later said that they thought the story, which had come from Alexis Mardas, also known as "Magic Alex", had been fabricated.[7][8][9][10][11] Lennon once said of the song: "That was inspired by Maharishi. I wrote it when we had our bags packed and were leaving. It was the last piece I wrote before I left India. I just called him 'Sexy Sadie' instead of (sings) 'Maharishi what have you done, you made a fool...' I was just using the situation to write a song, rather calculatingly but also to express what I felt. I was leaving the Maharishi with a bad taste. You know, it seems that my partings are always not as nice as I'd like them to be."[12] He told Rolling Stone that when the Maharishi asked why he was leaving, he replied, "Well, if you're so cosmic, you'll know why."[13]

After returning from India, Lennon scratched the lyrics into a piece of wood, with the original title "Maharishi". According to Harrison's account in the director's cut of the Beatles Anthology (1995) documentary, the recorded version changed only after Harrison insisted that if the song was used its name must be changed and persuaded Lennon to retitle it "Sexy Sadie". Derek Taylor remembered Lennon's scratching the wood in the Apple offices.

According to Mark Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (1988), an early outtake of "Sexy Sadie" features Lennon demonstrating the song's original working lyrics to the rest of the band: "Maharishi, you little twat/Who the fuck do you think you are?/Who the fuck do you think you are?/Oh, you cunt."[14]

The song's instrumental fadeout was originally 39 seconds longer and featured a breakdown based around the middle eight. This was edited out before mixing.

In a 1968 Rolling Stone interview, Lennon compared the song to "I've Been Good to You" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.[15] The Miracles song begins with the lines "Look what you've done/You made a fool out of someone",[16] echoing "Sexy Sadie"'s "What have you done?/You made a fool of everyone".[17][15]

Legacy edit

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent listed "Sexy Sadie" at number six in his ranking of the White Album's 30 tracks. He wrote of the song: "To this day 'Sexy Sadie' drips with bittersweet disdain, its moody final minute—inspiring Radiohead's 'Karma Police' and 'Four Out of Five' by Arctic Monkeys—managing to spring hairs on end, however many times you've heard it."[18] Also in 2018, Time Out London ranked "Sexy Sadie" at number 14 on its list of the best Beatles songs.[19]

George Harrison commented years later, "Now, historically, there's the story that something went on that shouldn't have done – but nothing did." In 1992, Harrison gave a benefit concert for the Maharishi-associated Natural Law Party, and later apologised for the way the Maharishi had been treated by saying, "We were very young" and "It's probably in the history books that Maharishi 'tried to attack Mia Farrow' – but it's bullshit, total bullshit." Cynthia Lennon wrote in 2006 that she "hated leaving on a note of discord and mistrust, when we had enjoyed so much kindness from the Maharishi". Asked if he forgave the Beatles, the Maharishi replied, "I could never be upset with angels." McCartney took his daughter, Stella, to visit the Maharishi in the Netherlands in 2007, which renewed their friendship.[20]

Mia Farrow meanwhile maintains she was sexually harassed by the Maharishi, saying, “[s]uddenly I became aware of two surprisingly male, hairy arms going around me.” [21]

Personnel edit

Influence edit

Cover versions edit

When Mojo released The White Album Recovered in 2008, part of a continuing series of CDs of Beatles albums covered track-by-track by modern artists, the track was covered by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. The disc also featured a bonus track of the same song performed by Paul Weller.[26]

The song was also covered by Anderson .Paak on multi-instrumentalist and producer Kush Mody's first album Creature Comforts (2014).[27]

References edit

  1. ^ "10 Classic Rock Songs You Didn't Know Were Diss Tracks". Society Of Rock. 5 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Welkom | Stubru". Archived from the original on 21 January 2022. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Diss Tracks In Rock Music". Ultimate-guitar.com.
  4. ^ "The 10 most vicious songs about real people - BBC Music". Bbc.co.uk. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  5. ^ Harry, Bill (1985). The Book of Beatle Lists. Javelin. ISBN 0-7137-1521-9.
  6. ^ Wenner, Jann (2000) [1971]. Lennon Remembers. Verso, W.W. Norton & Co. p. 27. ISBN 1-85984-376-X. Yeah, there was a big hullabaloo about him trying to rape Mia Farrow or trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that.
  7. ^ Brown, Peter; Gaines, Steven (2002). The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of The Beatles. New York: New American Library. p. 264. ISBN 0-451-20735-1.
  8. ^ Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 755–757. ISBN 0-316-80352-9.
  9. ^ Lennon, Cynthia (1978). A Twist of Lennon. Avon. pp. 174–176.
  10. ^ The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. pp. 285–286. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
  11. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 429. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
  12. ^ Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Macmillan. p. 191. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
  13. ^ "93 – 'Sexy Sadie'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. 10 April 2020.
  14. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970. Hamlyn. p. 144. ISBN 0-681-03189-1.
  15. ^ a b Cott, Jonathan (23 November 1968). "The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  16. ^ ""I've Been Good to You" lyrics". 30 April 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  17. ^ ""Sexy Sadie" lyrics". Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  18. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob (22 November 2018). "The Beatles' White Album tracks, ranked – from Blackbird to While My Guitar Gently Weeps". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  19. ^ Time Out London Music (24 May 2018). "The 50 Best Beatles songs". Time Out London. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  20. ^ The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books. 2000. pp. 285–86. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
  21. ^ Elle Magazine (10 October 2018). "Mia Farrow Takes an Unflinching Look at Her Past in the Wake of the #MeToo Movement". Elle Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 January 2024. Retrieved 6 April 2024.
  22. ^ a b c Howlett, Kevin (2018). The Beatles (50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Version) (book). Apple Records.
  23. ^ Inglis, Ian (2010). The Words and Music of George Harrison. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-313-37532-3.
  24. ^ Leng, Simon (2006). While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. p. 151. ISBN 1-4234-0609-5.
  25. ^ Webb, Robert (15 September 2006). "Story of the Song: 'Karma Police' Radiohead (1997)". The Independent. Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  26. ^ "The White Album Recovered 2 - Track Listing | Mojo Cover CDS - the Definitive List". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  27. ^ Kush Mody - Topic (22 August 2015), Sexy Sadie (feat. Anderson .Paak), retrieved 6 June 2017[dead YouTube link]

External links edit