Recording: Sexy Sadie

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

The Beatles began recording ‘Sexy Sadie’, John Lennon’s barbed tribute to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during this 7.30pm-4am session.

More than three tape reels were filled with rehearsals, as the group searched for a successful arrangement. Nothing was used from this session, although the recordings to offer a revealing insight into the various attitudes within The Beatles at the time.

The recordings featured Lennon on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, George Harrison on electric guitar, Paul McCartney playing an organ and Ringo Starr on drums. Each of the day’s takes lasted between 5’36” and 8’00”, partly because of the slower tempo.

Twenty-one takes of ‘Sexy Sadie’ were recorded, although it was clear that none would be given further overdubs. Take six was, however, released on 1996’s Anthology 3.

Several improvisations also made their way onto tape. At one stage Lennon sang an uncomplimentary song – later bootlegged as ‘Brian Epstein Blues’ – about The Beatles’ former manager.

What about Brian Epstein and his brother Sam?
They was workin’ in a coal mine, doing what I am.
And what about brother Andy, he’s shuttin’ down the fire.
But if you tell the time about his brother Sam,
Wah dap, a wah dap bop
Wah dup, a ba ba bow…

About his brother Clive, he’s a dirty old man,
Well what about Brian Epstein, he’s god damned in jail.
He’s working in the coal mine sittin’ dead as a fail (?).
His mother’s dirty Queenie, well she’s the queen of them all.

Lennon also sang to McCartney some crude alternative lyrics to ‘Sexy Sadie’:

Sexy Sadie, you little twat
Who the fuck do you think you are?
Who the fuck do you think you are?
Oh, you cunt.

After singing them he jokingly asked McCartney if that was how it should sound, and McCartney responds: “With a little more sympathy.”

Three days after The Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick quit working with the group in protest at the worsening atmosphere in the studio, the microphones captured a frosty exchange between George Harrison and George Martin.

Ken Scott: Sorry George, what did you say?
George Harrison: I said it’s no point in Mr Martin being uptight.
Paul McCartney: Right.
Harrison: You know, we’re all here to do this, and if you want to be uptight…
George Martin: I don’t know what to say to you, George.
Harrison: I mean, you’re very negative!

At another point on the tape, Yoko Ono suggested that The Beatles might be able to play the song better. Lennon, sensing the volatile situation within the group, responded by saying “Well, maybe I can.”

The Beatles continued work on ‘Sexy Sadie’ on 24 July 1968.

Last updated: 6 July 2022
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