Monday, January 22, 2024

Sexy Sadie


Who was ‘Sexy Sadie’ in The Beatles song?

Lucy Harbron

Far Out magazine

Sat 20 January 2024 20:15, UK

There have been a few instances in history where a song has proved dangerous, even deathly. But none have had as strange or as chilling of a legacy as ‘Sexy Sadie’, The Beatles’ track that has become forever tied to abuse and murder.

Sitting on the band’s 1968 The White Album, the song seems utterly harmless on the surface. “Sexy Sadie, the greatest of them all,” John Lennon sings on the track, with lyrics that could easily just be about an attractive ex-partner. Even the more cutting or critical lyrics could sit well within the realm of songs from scorned loves. However, the truth of the track is far darker than a bad breaker.

“However big you think you are / Sexy Sadie, ooh, you’ll get yours yet,” is perhaps the most telling lyric on the track. It sounds like a pointed finger or the band glaring someone down. Like the Liverpudlian quartet are calling upon karma to come after this person. 

That’s exactly what they’re doing. When the story of the song is revealed, ‘Sexy Sadie’ turns into a genuine threat. “We know the truth, we know what you did,” the band seem to be saying as they talk directly to a famous figure.

Who was ‘Sexy Sadie’?

‘Sexy Sadie’ was written after the band’s infamous trip to India to study the Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation. Part of the wave of 1960s counterculture figures fostering a new interest in hallucinogens, meditation and reality broadening, the whole band took off to the retreat along with other figures like actress Mia Farrow. 

However, they quickly felt uneasy. During their retreat, the band began to suspect that the Maharishi might not be an angelic spiritual figure guiding them to enlightenment but might simply be a crook. His followers began to feel like cult leaders, utterly controlled by the yogi who didn’t seem to practice what he preached. 

What went down on the trip inspired several songs on the record. At one point, Prudence Farrow heard that the supposedly celibate yogi had hit on and assaulted Mia Farrow, and that his advances were a common occurrence at the retreat.

It burst their bubble on the whole experience, suddenly looking at the Maharishi with mistrust and anger. To deal with the situation, Lennon picked up his pen. He said of the song, “That was inspired by Maharishi. I wrote it when we had our bags packed and were leaving.” Initially writing, “Maharishi, what have you done / You made a fool of everyone,” the name in the track was changed to stop the band from getting sued. But the pointed remarks maintain their target.

The Charles Manson connection to ‘Sexy Sadie’

If that story of deceit and abuse wasn’t enough to taint the track, the song’s dark history only got worse upon release.

The strange connection between cult leader Charles Manson and The Beatles is well documented. Manson seemed to think that the Liverpudlian band were communicating with him through secret messages throughout The White Album. He believed they were warning him of an upcoming race war that would end in an apocalypse that would make Manson and his followers the leaders and founders of a new world; he called this theory ‘Helter Skelter’. 

Manson found connections to almost every song. He believed ‘Honey Pie’ was telling him to write an album, and that that album would trigger the war. He thought ‘Piggies’’ was a warning to prepare for Black men overthrowing the establishment, to not trust the police and to take matters into his own hands. In ‘Revolution 9’, he heard warnings of an apocalypse, instructing him to dig a big hole and hide in it to emerge as the new world leader. 

But ‘Sexy Sadie’ was perhaps the track that pushed Manson’s entire theory over the edge. While the other songs were cryptic and nonspecific, leading to doubt from his followers about Manson’s message, this one felt direct and pointed. It seemed to mention one ‘family member’ by name.

Who was Susan Atkins?

Susan Atkins was one of the main members of Charles Manson’s ‘family’. She met Charles Manson in 1967 and quickly fell into his fold, where Manson would routinely drug and abuse his followers, whipping them into violent rages that he’d later use for murders.

Nicknamed Sadie Mae Glutz by Manson, upon hearing ‘Sexy Sadie’, they believed the track was directly about Atkins. Tex Watson, another member of the family, said that the lyrics fit Atkins so perfectly “that it made us all sure [the Beatles] had to be singing directly to us.” It was the final push Manson needed to enact the plot he believed the band was telling him.

In 1969, Susan Atkins, along with six other Manson family members, carried out the infamous murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski, along with Steven Parent, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. 

Atkins, despite being rehabilitated and making statements of repentance for her crimes later in her life, served a full life sentence. At the time of her death, she was the longest-serving female prisoner in California, with the record only being surpassed by her two fellow Manson family members, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. They claimed they were being held as political prisoners, receiving extended punishment due to the Manson family’s anti-establishment beliefs.

Original Article

Sexy Sadie lyrics

Yeah, it's getting better all the time

Is that right?

How fast John?

However you like, feel it

Sexy Sadie, what have you done

You made a fool of everyone

You made a fool of everyone

Sexy Sadie, ooh, what have you done

Sexy Sadie, you broke the rules

You laid it down for all to see

You laid it down for all to see

Sexy Sadie, ooh, you broke the rules

One sunny day the world was waiting for a lover

She came along to turn on everyone

Sexy Sadie, the greatest of them all

Sexy Sadie, how did you know?

The world was waiting just for you

The world was waiting just for you

Sexy Sadie, ooh, how did you know

Sexy Sadie, you'll get yours yet

However big you think you are

However big you think you are

Sexy Sadie, ooh, you'll get yours yet

We gave her everything we owned just to sit at her table

Just a smile would lighten everything

Sexy Sadie, the greatest of them all


brownrice said...

The whole "Maharishi as groping guru" schtick has been rewritten in recent years. John Lennon first told the story in his famous "dream is over" Rolling Stone interview in late '70 (published in early '71). In the same interview, he pretty much dumped on many folks (he'd just finished some Primal Therapy sessions and was feeling particularly bitter it seems) much of which he later retracted. Nevertheless, it was a good interview with lots of insightful and painfully honest but funny diatribes from John.... including the one about the Maharishi. It remained the conventional wisdom for a few decades but since then both McCartney & Harrison (2 other members of the Beatles for those who are too young to know or too addled to remember) have made statements that it was an unfair and untrue story that originated with a "friend" of theirs called Alex Mardas (Magic Alex) who was also present at the ashram in Rishikesh. Prior to the Maharishi, Alex had enjoyed a similar "guru" role with John and resented losing his influence (according to George & Paul and most contemporary historians). Allegedly, he invented the whole rave to disillusion the Beatles belief in the yogi and get them to leave the ashram. Whatever the truth of it all, it was definitely written with the Maharishi in mind. Great song though.

grimtraveller said...

It's one of my favourite Beatle songs, along with the one that directly follows it on the album.......
It was written about the Maharishi and it was, according to Paul, George that got John to change the title. The whole Mia Farrow bit was straight out of Magic Alex's imagination and when John gave that infamous Rolling Stone interview, he pretty much attacked everyone connected with the Beatles' years except Ringo, Mal Evans and Allen Klein. He was vicious about the Maharishi, even just before he died but by then, he was honest enough to admit that he had been looking for a "Daddy" and was pissed off at Maharishi for not fitting the bill.
Truth be told, John was a train wreck of a man throughout his life.....a train wreck that wrote some great songs {many that wouldn't have been written had he been balanced and happy} and provided some wonderful singing.
For a really interesting view of the whole Maharishi debacle, Barry Miles' biography of Paul, "Many years from now", contains probably the sanest story, although the Beatles' anthology is worth a glance too.

Jenn said...

Grim wrote:

“It's one of my favourite Beatle songs, along with the one that directly follows it on the album....”

That would be Helter Skelter, of course.

It seems that John got right with himself and the world toward the end of his life. Sadly, he had too little time to enjoy that peace.

Personal trivia: I’m one degree of separation from all of the Beatles except John. Fun!

SixtiesRockRules! said...

"Personal trivia: I'm one degree of separation from all of the Beatles except John" Expand please.

Jenn said...


My friend, colleague, and guitar sensei is Laurence Juber, the last lead guitarist of Wings. Besides recording and touring with McCartney, he recorded with Ringo and George as a studio player.

SixtiesRockRules! said...

@Jenn...that's interesting, but in my understanding of the whole "degree of separation" idea it actually would only count if you were a blood relative of Mr. Juber. So, close but no cigar.

Peter said...

I thought you would have to have been in a movie with someone who was in a movie with them.

orwhut said...

grimtraveller said...

brownrice said:

The whole "Maharishi as groping guru" schtick has been rewritten in recent years

grimtraveller said:

The whole Mia Farrow bit was straight out of Magic Alex's imagination

According to the American flute player, Paul Horn, who was in Rishikesh at the same time that the Beatles were there, it was some schoolteacher from New York who was trying to get in with the Beatles that were left {George and John} that began the rumours about the Maharishi, saying that he was making passes at her.
When John told the story to Rolling Stone 2½ years later, he elaborated to give it an edge that it never truly possessed.

Jenn said:

It seems that John got right with himself and the world toward the end of his life

That's the general wisdom. But if one reads his interviews with Newsweek, Playboy and Andy Peebles, then takes into account what May Pang and Thelma Pickles said, I don't think he was any closer to peace than he actually was in 1970. When talking about his Mum, he said of her that she just couldn't deal with real life. I think that was also applicable to him, in many ways.

Jenn said...

No, not actually.

Jenn said...



SixtiesRockRules! said...

Yes, actually. (And that concludes my intention to engage in any further dialogues with you on this subject, so please don't waste your time by responding as you will not be receiving any further ones from myself)

Unknown said...

... what have you done?
You made a fool of everyone

Jenn said...


OK. I’m just using the phrase as it is used in common practice, as well as according to Whut’s reference. No need to be sensitive about it.


J-Dog said...

''Imagine six apartments, it isn't hard to do, one is full of fur coats, another's full of shoes.’”

ColScott said...

J-Dog- we get it- you are a proud idiot. Now go play in your swill

J-Dog said...

Thanks for taking the time to insult me.