Mind Games is John Lennon's fourth post-Beatles solo album, and was recorded and released in 1973. This release of the album marked the beginning of Lennon's fourteen-month separation from Yoko Ono and the end of his period of political activism which was prompted in part by the re-election of Richard Nixon. As a result of it being a purely solo release (with no involvement from Ono) and a return to relative normality after the politically-heavy Some Time in New York City, Mind Games was much more warmly received by the public and Lennon's critics, with the album reaching #13 in the UK and #9 in the US, where it went gold.
After Yoko Ono had completed her solo album Feeling the Space in mid-1973, and a few months after they had moved into The Dakota, she and Lennon decided to split for over a year in order to reclaim their individual selves and see if their relationship was strong enough to warrant a reunion. It was during the summer months when Lennon quickly wrote the songs that would grace Mind Games, recording them at New York's Record Plant Studios with the Lennons' assistant May Pang in attendance, acting as production co-ordinator for the album. Under the banner of 'The Plastic U.F.Ono Band', Lennon engaged the services of session drummer and friend Jim Keltner, young ace guitarist David Spinozza and the vocal backing of Something Different. With Ono's approval, Pang would become Lennon's lover during the sessions, both embarking that Fall to Los Angeles and into Lennon's fabled 'lost weekend' during an eighteen-month liaison.
The tone of several of the songs was mournful and even apologetic towards Ono ("Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)", "One Day at a Time", "Out The Blue", and "You Are Here"), while others explored Lennon's affinity for pure rock 'n' roll (the Tex Mex-like "Tight A$" and "Meat City"). In a surprising move, Lennon produced the entire album on his own, without Phil Spector's aid.
The title track with its "love is the answer" refrain and call to "make love not war" was Lennon's latest in a succession of songs for the good of humanity ("Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" being its predecessors). "Mind Games" subsequently became a Top 20 US hit and an enduring Lennon favourite. "Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)" and "Only People" were Lennon's only political moments on Mind Games, followed by the three-second "Nutopian International Anthem" - which is symbolically mute. Before the announcement of their split, Lennon and Ono had optimistically declared the creation of Nutopia, a country of no boundaries and perpetual peace, designating '1 White Street, New York, N.Y.' as its embassy.
In a moment of cheekiness, Mind Games's closer, "Meat City", contains a favourite Lennon curse, ("Fuck a pig!"), sped up and backwards-masked, while the mix used as "Mind Games"'s single B-Side gives the same treatment to the phrase "Check the album!"
The cover of Mind Games, designed by Lennon himself, was seen by many to represent his symbolic walking away from Ono and her apparent mountain-like influence on Lennon.
Due to its inconsistency in style and its pleasant and unprovocative nature, Mind Games is not considered as vital as some of Lennon's other solo releases (namely John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine) and has often been overlooked for these reasons. However, it remains a firm fan favourite for Lennon devotees.
In 2002, Yoko Ono supervised a remixing of Mind Games for its remastered reissue with three previously unreleased demo recordings. It was reissued in 2005 by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab on audiophile grade Gold CD and 180 gram 1/2 speed mastered vinyl. On this remixed version the title track is extended by a few seconds before fading out, and the last few seconds of 'Meat City' (constituting most of Lennon's spoken tag) have been cut. No explanation for these alterations has been forthcoming.
All songs by John Lennon, except where noted.
Written, composed, arranged and produced by John Lennon.