Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1968
Chords/Tabs: Sexy Sadie
Notes on "Sexy Sadie" (SS)
KEY G Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- We have an intruiging mix of styles here that is not easily pigeon-holed;
cutting edge lyrics on the one hand, and do-wop backing vocals and an almost
classical era piano accompaniment on the other.
- The form is the longer two-bridge model, with an unusual pair of sung
verses in the middle, and variations on the verse section used for the
- Throughout, the music (by way of the harmonic choices) suggests a
feeling of rallying ones energy to struggle up hill against tireless
forces that would appear to be doggedly ready and willing to push you
back and drag you down; an interesting effect in light of the lyrics.
Melody and Harmony
- The tune has wide a range and an especially high tessitura with the
melodic peak of the verse, in its final phrase, taking John all the way
up to an A->G appogiatura in falsetto territory.
- The home key is clearly established by the ample air time given to
the old I, IV, V, but other much less common chords such as iii,
V-of-ii, flat VII have more than just cameo roles.
- The progression of the G to F# Major chord becomes a genuine signature
of the piece, the gesture immediately and repeatedly suggestive of being
pushed back. This kind of downward chromatic progression is further
extended in the final phrases of both verse and bridge sections. The
latter is uncannily balanced out by the rising (this time diatonically)
chord stream at the beginning of the bridges.
- The bass, drum, and guitar work is very nice, but the backing track
remains dominated by the piano part, processed with surrealistically
heavy reverb. Dig that surprise upward flash in the treble during the
- The lead guitar takes over for the piano in the outro section, playing
stepwise chromatic lines that resonate with the harmony.
- John's lead vocal performance of the verses contains a larger than
usual amount of free variation over the series of repeats. Even more
unusual is the extent to which many of these variations appear already
in the Esher demo!
- The backing vocals are "absurdly lush" for the context, and also surreal
in their own way. "Wa-wa" for starters is pretty good, but when they
switch to "see-see" in the second verse (seemingly triggered by the
appearence of the secret word in the lead vocal), it truly goes over
- The intro is a single six-measure phrase that is harmonically
open at both ends. It starts away from the home key, converges
directly toward it, and finishes on the V chord, nicely motivating
the next section, which starts on the I chord.
|C |D |G |F# |F nat. |D |
G: IV V I (VII) bVII V
- This intro also happens to match the third phrase of the verse section.
- The intro on the A3 studio outtake interestingly turns out to be
the chromatic descending chord stream from the end of the bridge.
The Esher demo does not even appear to have any intro!
- The verse is an unusual 14 measures long in a 4 + 4 + 6 pattern:
|G |F# |b |- |
I V-of-iii iii
|C |D |G |F# |
IV V I V-of-iii
|C |D |G |F# |F nat. |D |
IV V I (VII) bVII V
- The IV -> V start in both second and third phrases adds rhetorical
emphasis; an effect that is reinforced by the lyrics. Similarly,
you subconsciously experience the G -> F# progression a bit differently
depending on whether it starts (phrase #1) or ends a phrase (#2 and 3).
- Furthermore, observe how the F# chord itself feels different depending
on what follows it:
- The resolution to b minor is the most "functional" of the three
alternatives toyed with; your ears make sense of it.
- The move to C Major creates an unusual root progression of a tritone,
but the rhetorical parallelism between second and third phrases causes
to overlook it, in favor of hearing a comma-like phrasing break between
the two chords.
- The move to F natural Major is the most audacious of the three,
putting the F# chord in the self-effacing role of being an intermediate
step in a chromatic stream.
- The move from bVII to V produces a classic cross relation. You'd be
amused to see John using the same trick (AND in the same key, no less)
way back in
"I'm A Loser."
This gambit is not so uncommon that you should
be "amazed" by this hyperlink, but it's hard to overlook completely.
- If you'll buy my notion that the last two measures of this section
elide with the start of the following verse (making that verse sound
as though it begins on the b minor chord!), the bridge turns out to
be 12 measures long in a pattern of AAB:
--------------- 2X --------------
|G |a |b |C |
I ii iii IV
|A |Ab G |F# |
V-of-V (bII) I V-of-III
- The run of 4 chromatic chords in a row is introduced by a C/C#
cross relation in the transition from IV to V-of-V.
- The fadeout is relatively gradual and allows for the exposition of
two full verse sections plus a good half of a third one. The
correspondence between these outro sub-sections and the verses
is somewhat disguised by the alternation between instrumental music
and occasionally sung interjections.
- The A3 studio outtake goes on for quite a bit longer than the
official version, including a third bridge followed by a reprise of
the first two verses performed, verbatim, into the fadeout. The Esher
demo, by contrast, forgoes any verse repetitions at the end, opting for
a couple repeats of the downward chromatic chord stream.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Looking back on it, it's hard to believe that none (okay, few) of
us suspected that this song "a clef" had anything to do with one
Maharishi at the time it was first released. Perhaps the use of
the "sexy" word in the title (the one unique place in all of officially
released Beatledom that the word is used in a lyric!) had something
to do with it.
- Compared to John's roast of Paul in "How Do You Sleep," this song
clearly bears the passage of time the more gracefully because, in addition
to its discreet protection of the victim, it remains remarkably
well restrained in spite of its confrontational, ridiculing, and
questioning stance; never an easy feat.
"You're a swine." 052098#149
Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and
otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains
intact and in place.
Ook op The Beatles [White Album]:
(c) 2020 Serge Girard