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Mind Games
John Lennon

Apple 3414
Released: November 1973
Chart Peak: #9
Weeks Charted: 31
Certified Gold: 11/30/73

John LennonMind Games was perhaps John Lennon's most low-key collection to date. The general consensus was that the album had all the fine and familiar ingredients, only some of the fizz had gone out of the pop. Arriving at a time when scores of other superstars (like Ringo and Paul) were dealing out their Yuletide triumphs, the unassuming Mind Games unfortunately managed to get rather lost in the shuffle.

Nonetheless, to Lennon devotees, the album came as quite a relief after the strident bad vibes of Some Time In New York City. Most importantly, John seemed to have retrieved the sense of humor so lacking in all his deadly-serious earlier post-Beatle work.

John Lennon - Mind Games
Original album advertising art.
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While offering nothing spectacularly new or exciting, Mind Games did successfully make use of various styles that Lennon had trademarked in more creative times: the zany wordplay ("Tight A$," "Freda Peeple") and the songs of consciousness raising ("Mind Games," "Intuition"). Best of all, Mind Games gave us several more of John's poignantly honest and melodic ballads ("I Know" and "You Are Here" -- the latter being, you may recall, a favorite Lennon slogan dating back to his 1968 exhibition of White Art). Mind Games could almost have been a collecton of out-takes ranging over the past six years of Lennon's career.

The title song flashed back all the way to the John of 1967, with its invocations of "magic, the search for the grail" and its exhortations to "chant the mantra" and "raise the spirit of peace and love." Strange advice, perhaps, from the man who had launced his solo career with the declaration "I don't believe in magic... I don't believe in mantra." But by this time Lennon buffs know better than to expect their man to be consistent. In "Mind Games," as in the rest of the album and in "I'm the Greatest," John seemed determined above all to think positive for a change. What I'm back to," said Lennon, "is believing everything until it's disproved." "Yes is the answer," he now sang; and all the new songs were variations of that theme. Yet despite its uplifting melody, "Mind Games" fared rather modestly in the 45 rpm sweepstakes.

The inner sleeve of Mind Games included a fact sheet on the latest brainwave of the man who had sung "imagine no more countries": the "conceptual" nation of Nutopia. Everyone was cordially invited to pledge his allegiance to a state without boundaries or passports, governed only by "cosmic law." "Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness to Nutopia," the Lennons proclaimed. "All people of Nutopia are ambassadors of the country." But as the Nutopian anthem comes at the end of Side One and consists of three seconds of silence, most listeners remained blissfully unaware of its existence (or lack of it).

The Mind Games jacket is a montage of Lennon's own device, featuring an all-but-hairless John posing before a mountain range that consists of Yoko's profile turned on its side. Lennon had gotten himself scalped in time to startle reporters with his new look when he attended the Watergate hearings as a witness to the downfall of those officials who had so succeeded in disrupting his own life.

Mind Games first appeared on the Billboard chart on November 10, 1973, reaching #18 and spending a total of 13 weeks.

- Nicholas Shaffner, The Beatles Forever, pp. 163 & 165.

Bonus Reviews!

The finest set put together by Lennon since Imagine, running the complete gamut of his talents as singer and songwriter from the hard rock of "Tight As" and "Out The Blue" to beautiful acoustic material such as "Intuition." For those who thought this artist was running out of gas, the cohesiveness and skill in this LP should quickly change their minds.

- Billboard, 1973.

A step in the right direction, but only a step. It sounds like outtakes from Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, which may not seem so bad but means that Lennon is falling back on ideas that have lost their freshness for him. Still, the single works and I hope he keeps on stepping. Favorite Plastic Ono Band outtake: "One Day (at a Time)." Favorite Imagine outtake: "You Are Here." C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

John Lennon retreated from the political tone of Sometime in New York City and returned to solo work here, managing a fitting followup to "Imagine" with the piano-based title track and also turning in one of his better ballads with "One Day (At a Time)." * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

John Lennon's Mind Games was a retreat from its more political predecessor, 1972's Some Time in New York City, but it was still a reflection of its time. Lennon recorded the album during the summer of 1973, when the Watergate hearings (which he visited with Yoko Ono) were in high gear, and he was being threatened with deportation. Against that backdrop, the album can be heard as a calming, internal mantra -- Lennon's message of encouragement to himself. "Don't despair/Paranoia is everywhere/We can shake it with love when we're scared," he sings on "Bring On the Lucie (Freda Peeple)." Gently remixed and remastered by Ono, this new version brings out some welcome sonic detail on the first post-Beatles solo album Lennon made without Phil Spector's help. Lennon's previously unreleased home demos for "Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)," "Bring on the Lucie" and "Meat City" are also included, and, while not especially revealing, they're nice to have. * * * *

- Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone, 1/23/03.

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