Saturday, December 22, 2018

John Lennon - 1973 - Mind Games

John Lennon
Mind Games

01. Mind Games 4:10
02. Tight A$ 3:35
03. Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) 4:41
04. One Day (At A Time) 3:27
05. Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple) 4:11
06. Nutopian International Anthem 0:03
07. Intuition 3:05
08. Out The Blue 3:19
09. Only People 3:21
10. I Know (I Know) 3:56
11. You Are Here 4:06
12. Meat City 2:52

Released: 16 November 1973 (UK), 2 November 1973 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
David Spinozza: guitar
Peter E 'Sneaky Pete' Kleinow: pedal steel guitar
Ken Ascher: keyboards
Michael Brecker: saxophone
Gordon Edwards: bass guitar
Jim Keltner: drums
Rick Marotta: drums
Something Different: backing vocals

John Lennon's fourth solo album, Mind Games, was recorded at the beginning of the Lost Weekend, his separation from Yoko Ono. It showed Lennon moving away from the politics of Some Time In New York City, and a return to more introspective songwriting.

Bruised by the public and critical backlash against Some Time In New York City, John Lennon moved away from radical politics and activism. He retreated from recording music for more than a year and continued his efforts to remain in the United States.

In May 1973 he and Yoko Ono moved from Greenwich Village to a 12-room apartment at the Dakota near Manhattan's Central Park. The couple had been drifting apart, however, and she had busied herself recording the albums Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling The Space.

Lennon worked on a number of song ideas which he recorded in demo form, but was aware that his confidence as a musician had taken a knock. The boundless creativity which had driven his early solo works was lacking, yet he set about crafting a set of solid yet uninspired songs.

Using many of the same session musicians Ono had employed on Feeling The Space, Lennon entered New York's Record Plant East studio to begin work on the album. Mind Games was completed within a period lasting around two weeks, with Lennon producing himself. The band was credited as the Plastic U.F.Ono Band.

Significantly, the period also marked the beginning of Lennon's 16-month separation from Yoko Ono, and the start of his relationship with May Pang and the time he later dubbed the Lost Weekend. She had been the couple's personal assistant since 1971 and had been asked by Ono to become Lennon's partner in order to discourage him from seeing other women.

"Well, first I thought, Whoopee! Bachelor life! Whoopee, whoopee! And then I woke up one day and thought, What is this? I want to go home. But she wouldn't let me come home. That's why it was eighteen months instead of six."
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Mind Games captured this state of flux in Lennon's life. The songs ranged from aimless fillers (Intuition, Bring On The Lucie, Only People) to up-tempo rockers (Tight A$, Meat City). The lack of a unifying theme hadn't prevented Lennon from producing great work in the past, as demonstrated on Imagine, but Mind Games lacked enough great moments to mask the sense that this once-great composer and performer was treading water.

Several of the songs, inevitably, were about Ono, and were among the most effective on the album. Out The Blue, Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) and I Know (I Know) detailed his regret at losing her, while One Day (At A Time) and You Are Here explored the theme of two star-crossed lovers destined to be together.

The title track, along with Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) and Only People, showed that Lennon hadn't lost his belief in peace or the power of people to change the world, even if the results lacked the conviction and drive of his earlier solo work.

The three-second silent track Nutopian International Anthem, meanwhile, showed that even if he hadn't lost his skill at subverting expectations, there was little radical spirit to back it up. The conceptual country Nutopia had been announced by Lennon and Ono in a press release issued on 1 April 1973, and at a press conference the following day.

"[Mind Games] was originally called 'Make Love Not War, but that was such a cliché that you couldn't say it anymore, so I wrote it obscurely, but it's all the same story. How many times can you say the same thing over and over? When this came out, in the early Seventies, everybody was starting to say the Sixties was a joke, it didn't mean anything, those love-and-peaceniks were idiots. [Sarcastically] 'We all have to face the reality of being nasty human beings who are born evil and everything's gonna be lousy and rotten so boo-hoo-hoo...' 'We had fun in the Sixties,' they said, 'but the others took it away from us and spoiled it all for us.' And I was trying to say: 'No, just keep doin' it.'"
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Even Lennon's skill for wordplay had largely left him, with Tight A$ (itself a subversion of the phrase 'tight ass') and Meat City ("Chickinsuckin' mothertruckin' Meat City shookdown USA") the sole exceptions. The latter song also contained one of Lennon's favourite curses, "Fuck a pig," played backwards and sped up.

There was only one outtake from the sessions. Rock And Roll People, was included on the 1986 posthumous collection Menlove Ave.

Cover artwork
John Lennon designed the artwork for Mind Games himself. The front cover pictured him alone in a wilderness, overshadowed by a mountain-sized rendering of Yoko Ono. The meaning was obvious: he was adrift without Ono, although her influence was still the dominant force in his life.

"I think I really needed some space because I was used to being an artist and free and all that, and when I got together with John, because we're always in the public eye, I lost the freedom. And also, both of us were together all the time, twenty-four hours a day. And the pressure was particularly strong on me because of being the one who stole John Lennon from the public or something... Whatever the reason is, I was under very strong pressure and I think my artwork suffered. I suffered a lot and so I thought I want to be free from all that. I needed the space to think. So I thought it would be a good idea that he would go to LA and just leave me alone for a while."
Yoko Ono, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The image also featured two suns were in the sky, symbolising the spirits of the pair. The same image was repeated on the rear cover, but with Lennon's figure slightly larger and with a rainbow in place of the suns.

The release
In contrast to Some Time In New York City, Mind Games was well received by the public. In the United States it peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200, was certified gold, and spent 31 weeks on the chart.

The album reached number 13 in the United Kingdom, and was also certified gold in May 1974. Mind Games was in the UK album chart for a total of 12 weeks.

Tony King, who worked as a promotions executive for Apple Records in Los Angeles, encouraged Lennon to give several print and radio interviews in support of the album.

"While he had been with Yoko he had been involved with all these semi-subversive activities, which had not given him a great reputation in America. He said to me at the time, 'Look, I've got this album, what do you think I should do?' I said, 'Honestly, you've got to go out and make a few friends, because you've lost a bit of support because you've been involved with things of a controversial nature.' So he said, 'Fine, you organise it, I'll do it.' And he did."
Tony King
Lennon And McCartney Together Alone
John Blaney

Mind Games was released in November 1973. The following month, Lennon and May Pang left New York for Los Angeles, where they remained until June 1974. Their spell on the West Coast saw Lennon embrace a drink-fuelled lifestyle which led to the often chaotic sessions for Walls And Bridges and Rock 'N' Roll. In comparison, the backdrop to Mind Games looked positively tranquil.

John Lennon - Mind Games Sessions

Misterclaudel / mccd - 405/406/407/408

Mind Games
101. Demo #1 (Make Love Not War) (1970)
102. Demo #2 (I Promise) (1970)
103. Alternate Take Rough Mix
104. Promo Mono 45" Version
Tight A$
105. Demo
106. Rough Mix
107. Rough Mix With Overdubs #1
108. Rough Mix With Overdubs #2
Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)
109. Demo #1 (Call My Name) (1971)
110. Demo #2 (Call My Name) (1971)
111. Demo #3 (Call My Name) (1971)
112. Demo #4 (Call My Name) (1971)
113. Demo #5 (Call My Name) (1971)
114. Demo #6 (Call My Name) (1971)
115. Demo #7 (Call My Name) (1971)
116. Demo #8 (Call My Name) (1971)
117. Rough Mix #1
118. Rough Mix #2 With Overdubs
One Day (At A Time)
119. Alternate Take
120. Rough Mix #1
121. Rough Mix #2 With Overdubs
Bring On Lucie (Freda People)
122. Demo (1971)
123. Alternate Take
124. Rough Mix With Guide Vocal

201. Demo Take 3 With 'How?' & 'God'
202. Demo Take 4
203. Rough Mix
Out Of The Blue
204. Rough Mix #1
205. Rough Mix #2
206. Rough Mix #3
Only People
207. Rough Mix #1
208. Rough Mix #2 With Overdubs
I Know (I Know)
209. Acoustic Demo #1
210. Acoustic Demo #2
211. Acoustic Demo #3
Vocal Overdub
212. Demo Take #1
213. Demo Take #2
214. Demo Take #3
215. Demo Take #4
216. Demo Take #5
217. Demo Take #6
218. Alternate Early Take
219. Alternate Take Rough Mix #1
220. Rough Mix #1
221. Rough Mix #2

You Are Here
301. Alternate Take
302. Rough Mix
Meat City
303. Demo
304. Demo #1
305. Demo #2
306. Rough Mix
307. Single Version
Rock 'N' Roll People
308. Piano Demo (1970)
309. Piano Demo (1973)
August 1 1973 Session
310. Take 6
311. Take 7
August 4 1973 Session
312. Take 5
313. Take 6
314. Take 7
I'm The Greatest
1970 Demos
315. Piano Demo #1
316. Piano Demo #2
1971 Rehearsal
317. Studio Demo #1
318. Studio Demo #2
1973 Session For 'Ringo' LP
319. Take 1 (Breakdown)
320. Take 2 (Breakdown)
321. Take 3 (Breakdown)
322. Take 4 (Breakdown)
323. Take 5
324. Take 6 (Breakdown)
325. Take 7 (Breakdown)
326. Take 8
327. Take 9 (Breakdown)
328. Take 10
329. Take 11

401. Takes Unknown
402. Rough Mix
1973-1974 Pussy Cats Session
Mucho Mungo
403. Demo Take 1
404. Demo Breakdown
405. Demo Take 2
Demo Taping With Harry Nilsson
406. Demo Sequence #1
407. Demo Sequence #2
408. Demo Sequence #3
Mt. Elga
409. Rehearsal
Record Plant Jam Session - March 28 1974
410. A Toot And A Snore/Never Trust A Bugger With Your Mother
411. Little Bitty Pretty One/Jam
412. Lucille
413. Sleepwalk - 'Nightmares' Jam
414. Stand By Me #1 (Breakdown)
415. Stand By Me #2 (Breakdown)
416. Stand By Me #3 (Breakdown)
417. Stand By Me #4
418. Cupid/Chain Gang/Take This Hammer

Featuring – Bobby Keys (tracks: 4-10 - 4-18), George Harrison (tracks: 3-19 - 3-29), Harry Nilsson (tracks: 4-6 - 4-8), Jesse Ed Davis (tracks: 4-10 - 4-18), Paul McCartney (tracks: 4-10 - 4-18), Ringo Starr (tracks: 3-19 - 3-29), Stevie Wonder (tracks: 4-10 - 4-18)

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Imagine. Some Time in New York City. What next? Yes, it was called Mind Games.

John Lennon's early solo career was a series of large size cultural/musical happenings. Think about the world peace manifestation of "Give Peace a Chance", the political stand-taking on "Working Class Hero" and "Power to the People", the sugar-coated communist manifesto also known as "Imagine", the radical left wing frenzy of Some Time in New York City, the 'Lost Weekend' stamp of Walls and Bridges, the close circle abusing songs ("How Do You Sleep", "Steel and Glass") as well as the famous personal-to-universal, universal-to-personal love declarations ("Love" & "Oh My Love"). What I am trying to say is that each and every John Lennon recording of those days was a socio-cultural manifestation, a movement, a special act. That is why, if it is Lennon, it is at least three stars (well, if it is full standard music, let's add). Some Time in New York City does not deserve more than three because "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" was the only fine performance on it. But even though Mind Games lacks songs I would call true classics (in terms of my own classification, again), it has the John Lennon quality. Three and half because of that.

The 'classic' songs on this album are among the first – the title track, naturally, and "One Day (at a Time)." The opening title track is a nice piece of music, and it makes clear that John's most furious NY radical period is over. I am not sure because I wasn't even born at the date but I guess many "All You Need Is Love" / "Imagine" hippies must have been relieved hearing the artist sing about 'mind games' and declare 'love is the answer' (or even 'yes is the answer' – despite the fierce radicalism, John was still the person they knew from The Beatles, he who fell in love with that Japanese woman and pursued a solo career). "One Day (at a Time)", then, is my favourite song on the album. It isn't "Oh My Love" or "Bless You", but musically, you can certainly draw a line from the former to the latter via this one. Beside the rockers, John always (except on Some Time, say) had those sensitive loving moments which he, for some reason, began to shape into more and more nightclubbing form. Interesting!

Rockers, by the way, exist on Mind Games within the shape of "Tight A$" and "Meat City." The latter contains a couple of nice beat-and-chord changes, but the point is that the rockers are not the point. The most distinct social comments on the album can be heard on "Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)" and "Only People"; however, they aren't among the most essential Lennon protest songs. In fact, "Only People" sounds a bit like the New Seekers' Coca-Cola hit, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." "You Are Here" surprises the listener while it is quite much country but despite that (and the nightclub feel that appears in "One Day (at a Time)" now and then), on Mind Games, musical crossoverism is not the point. "Out the Blue", "Intuition" and "Aisumasen" are absolutely nice songs but in a case like this even that seems not to be the point either.

So, what is the substance of the matter on Mind Games? I think the main point is that Mind Games was – back in 1973 – a new true John Lennon album on which the artist showed the world he was not over, neither as a musician nor as a person who walked the road he had chosen. Mind Games is the continuity. And while it is so, Mind Games is also one of the biggest cultural/musical happenings of 1973, like George Harrison's Living in the Material World in its own category. Because of that, the """""track""""" which almost seems to describe the album's nature best is "Nutopian International Anthem": a song that doesn't exist (or three seconds of nothing), being a bold socio-political comment because it doesn't exist (and this isn't a hoot – just think of the title, Nutopian International Anthem, can you see?). Funnily perhaps, Mind Games is an album whose greatest meaning is its existence, not its content. Thank you for making it, John, even though unfortunately my thankyou may be a little late, like, over 45 years.

Mind Games is, to my knowledge, the first release from the conceptual country Nutopia, whose existence John and Yoko proclaim in a Declaration on the lyric sheet. Oddly enough, it isn’t all that different from the records he has been making in America these last few years. Those have revealed a steady decline from the high points of his post-Beatle work, Plastic Ono Band and “Instant Karma.” There, he distilled his simplistic humanism into a single moving statement of belief — at once his most accessible and intelligent attempt at autobiography and philosophy.

With Imagine he began affecting attitudes bereft of emotional force. As he turned to petty gossip and didactic social commentary, his gambit of combining simple thoughts with simple music backfired. What was moving when applied to his own life was unbearably pretentious when used to offer aphorisms concerning larger issues.

Musically, Mind Games is a return to the form of Plastic Ono Band, employing some of the same simple chord progressions, similar instrumentation, and tunes that on closer inspection prove devoid of melodies, consisting only of pleasant collections of pop song, gospel and folk-rock cliches, particularly dependent on Dylan’s apocalyptic mid-Sixties style.

The album’s music might have served as the basis for a good LP if it had been paired with some new lyrical insight and passion. But instead, Lennon has come up with his worst writing yet. With lines like, “A million heads are better than one/So come on, get it on,” a listener can only accept or reject them. I’ve done the latter.

Lennon’s lyrics aren’t offensive, per se — just misguided in so underrating his audience’s intelligence. John Lennon’s admirers do not need to be preached at about the importance of love. They might even be able to withstand something more challenging than the repetition of the hollow shells of ideas they already share. But then, perhaps Lennon’s didacticism, preaching and banality are part of the mind game of the album’s title, yet another attempt to push his luck to the brink of self-annihilation.

Mind Games remains listenable, which is certainly more than can be said for Some Time in New York City. Lennon’s voice is in good shape, his production a cut above average and his performance occasionally forces us to take him more seriously than we would if he seemed less determined. “Mind Games,” “One Day,” “Intuition” and “Only People” (with some lines remarkably reminiscent of “Revolution”) all have one or another touch to recommend at least a few listenings.

Mind Games reveals another major artist of the Sixties lost in the changing social and musical environment of the Seventies, helplessly trying to impose his own gargantuan ego upon an audience that has already absorbed his insights and is now waiting hopefully for him to chart a new course.