Notes on "Sexy Sadie" (SS)

KEY	G Major
METER	4/4
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 outro.

- 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.


Arrangement

- 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 fourth verse.

- 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 top.

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- 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!


Verse

- 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 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.


Bridge

- 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.


Outro

- 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.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

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"You're a swine."                                         052098#149


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Copyright (c) 1998 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.
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