“Sexy Sadie” is a song by the English rock group the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). The song was written by John Lennon in India and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
Lennon originally wanted to title the song “Maharishi”, 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 towards Mia Farrow attending the course the Maharishi was teaching at his ashram. (Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Cynthia Lennon later said that they thought the story, which had come from Alexis Mardas, had been fabricated.) 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.” 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.”
After returning from India, Lennon scratched the lyrics into a piece of wood, with the original title “Maharishi”. The recorded version changed only after Harrison insisted that if the song were used he wanted the name changed and persuaded Lennon to change the title to “Sexy Sadie”. Harrison recounts the event in the director’s cut of the Anthology film. Derek Taylor remembered Lennon’s fiddling about scratching the wood in the Apple offices. The wood ended up in the possession of Maureen Starkey and was ultimately sold to a Beatles collector.
According to Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, 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.”
The song’s instrumental fade-out was originally longer and featured a breakdown based around the middle eight. This was edited out prior to mixing.
In a 1968 Rolling Stone interview, Lennon complimented the song “I’ve Been Good to You” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The Miracles song begins with the lines “Look what you’ve done/You made a fool out of someone”, compared to “Sexy Sadie”‘s “What have you done?/You made a fool of everyone”.
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