Song facts: Sexy Sadie

While The Beatles were on retreat in India studying meditation, a rumour started to spread about their spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was suggested the Maharishi was seeking sexual favours from some of the female members of their camp. On April 12th 1968, having been convinced the allegations were true, John Lennon and George Harrison decided to leave India along with Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Harrison. When the Maharishi asked why they were leaving, John looked at him and said: Well, if you're so cosmic, you'll know why.

"A couple of weeks before we were due to leave, Magic Alex accused the Maharishi of behaving improperly with a young American girl, who was a fellow student. Without allowing the Maharishi an opportunity to defend himself, John and George chose to believe Alex and decided we must all leave.
I was upset. I had seen Alex with the girl, who was young and impressionable, and I wondered whether he - whom I had never once seen meditating - was being rather mischievous. I was surprised that John and George had both chosen to believe him. It was only when John and I talked later that he told me he had begun to feel disenchanted with the Maharishi's behaviour. He felt that, for a spiritual man, the Maharishi had too much interest in public recognition, celebrities and money." - Cynthia Lennon
 Paul McCartney and John Lennon in India, 1968. 

Paul McCartney and John Lennon in India, 1968. 

"There was a big hullabaloo about [Maharishi] trying to rape Mia Farrow or trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that. And we went down to him and we'd stayed up all night discussing, was it true or not true. And when George started thinking it might be true, I thought, 'Well it must be true, 'cause if George is doubting it, there must be something in it.' So we went to see Maharishi, the whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. And I was the spokesman - as usual, when the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader, whatever the scene was, when it came to the nitty gritty I had to do the speaking. And I said, 'We're leaving.'

'Why?' Hee-hee, all that shit. And I said, 'Well if you're so cosmic, you'll know why. He was always intimating, and there were all his right hand men intimating that he did miracles. He said, 'I don't know why, you must tell me.' And I just kept saying, 'You know why' - and he gave me a look like, 'I'll kill you, bastard.' He gave me such a look, and I knew then when he looked at me, because I'd called his bluff. And I was a bit rough to him." - John Lennon

While they were waiting to leave John Lennon began to sing and write Sexy Sadie; a direct attack on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The song would later appear on The Beatles' White Album, along with most of the content written during their stay in India. John was also disillusioned with the guru, who he felt was more interested in money and celebrities than spirituality; and expressed this in Sexy Sadie.

That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: 'They're deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can't escape from this madman's camp.' And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, 'It's black magic, black magic. They're gonna keep you here forever.' I must have got away because I'm here. - John Lennon

John originally wanted to call the song Maharishi, but George convinced him to change the name. 

"John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: 'Maharishi, what have you done?' and I said, 'You can't say that, it's ridiculous.' I came up with the title of Sexy Sadie and John changed 'Maharishi' to 'Sexy Sadie'. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the south of India and spent another few weeks there." - George Harrison
 Anthology 3. 

Anthology 3. 

Recording

Recording began on July 19th and 24th; with overdubs carried out the following month on August 13th and 21st of 1968. 

On July 19th The Beatles recorded twenty-one takes of the song, while the band tried to figure out the style and tempo. None of the recordings for this session would find their way onto The White Album, but take six was issued on Anthology 3 in 1996.

 George Harrison with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967. 

George Harrison with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967. 

Personnel

  • John Lennon – lead and harmony vocals, rhythm guitar, Hammond organ
  • George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Paul McCartney – piano, bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
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