|WEEEEEEELLLLLLL...as promised last time around,
here's the latest installment from the Lennon archives. This time we're spotlighting
1973's Mind Games. Released in the States on the 2nd of November, (on the
14th in the U.K.), Mind Games served as John's contribution to the Beatles' chart
domination of 1973. Delivered to the shops concurrently with Ringo's self-titled LP,
John's first ever solo production just couldn't compete with Ritchie's assembly of
infectious, upbeat pop songs, and stalled at number 9 on the charts. The sessions
took place over eight weeks in New York City at the Record Plant East during August and
September, 1973 while John was packing for an extended vacation on the West Coast.
He enlisted the musicians also used by Mrs. Lennon on here Feeling The Space LP,
including guitarist David Spinozza who was reportedly giving Yoko a little more than
creative input. The roster reads like a who's-who of the cream of New York City's
session man pool. Without further delay, let me introduce the Plastic U.F.Ono
Sneaky Pete Kleinow - Pedal Steel
Undoubtedly best known for his work with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Sneaky Pete
has also contributed to albums by Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Carly
Simon. John retained his services on Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats LP, and two
years later he appeared on Ringo's Rotogravure. Like the rest of the core
group of musicians, Sneaky Pete also worked with Yoko on here Feeling The Space
David Spinozza - Guitar
David's first session with an ex-Beatle was on Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram
LP. It was an experience he didn't relish, according to a sniping tell-all interview
published shortly after the album's release in Hit Parader magazine. As
mentioned previously, he worked extensively with Yoko and her next two album projects - Feeling
The Space and the previously unreleased A Story. The latter album
finally saw the light of day, first in parts on the Rykodisc retrospective Ono Box
and later, in 1997 as a full fledged CD. A consummate musician, David has appeared
on countless releases, some of the notable ones being those by Paul Simon, James Taylor,
Carly Simon and Ringo Starr. He also served as musical director of the Saturday
Night Live Band.
Ken Ascher - Piano, Organ, Mellotron
Ken also worked with Yoko on Feeling The Space and A Story, and
like Sneaky Pete, worked on the Pussy Cats LP, providing orchestrations as well
as keyboard work. He continued his association with John, working on both the Walls
And Bridges and Rock 'N' Roll albums. Traveling in the same musical
circles as his aforementioned associates, Paul Simon, James Taylor and Carly Simon have
all utilized Ken on their releases. He also went on to contribute to Johnny Winter's
John Dawson Winter III LP, a connection we'll investigate later.
Gordon Edwards - Bass
Not quite well known as some of the other musicians, Gordon too had contributed to
albums by Carly Simon and Paul Simon besides providing bass on Yoko's Feeling The
Space and A Story. He also worked on projects with the jazz fusion
group "Stuff" and vocalist Joe Cocker.
Arthur Jenkins - Percussion
Arthur has turned up on a number of John and Yoko's solo projects, in fact most of
them. Besides supplying percussion on Mind Games, Feeling The Space,
and A Story, he worked on Walls And Bridges, Rock 'N' Roll, Double
Fantasy, Milk And Honey and Season Of Glass.
Jim Keltner - Drums
Undoubtedly the most familiar of the Beatle sidemen, Jim (a.k.a. 'Lightning') has
kept time for many a solo Beatle project. He has provided drums for nearly every
George Harrison album as well as performing live at the Concert For Bangla Desh and on
George's 1974 North American Tour. Beside being a part of Ringo's 1989 All-Starr
Band, he drummed on the Ringo, Goodnight Vienna, Rotogravure
and Stop And Smell The Roses LP's. Jim's association with the Lennon's
started in 1971 on the Imagine and Fly LP's, and continued through the Rock
'N' Roll album. Stops along the way included the Some Time In New York City
LP, the "One To One" benefit concerts, Mind Games, Feeling The
Space and Walls And Bridges.
Rick Marotta - Drums ('Meat City' and 'Bring On The Lucie (Freda
Rick was brought in to complement drummer Jim Keltner on two tracks from Mind
Games and went on to handle drumming duties for Yoko on her Feeling The Space
LP. Albums by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Carly Simon and Paul Simon are among
Rick's recorded contributions.
Michael Brecker - Sax
One of the more in-demand session players around, Michael has contributed to
projects by Elton John, Eric Clapton, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen, Julian Lennon,
Carly Simon, Lou Reed, Bob James, Billy Joel, The Average White Band, Aretha Franklin,
Paul Simon and James Taylor just to name a few. Michael also appeared on Yoko's Feeling
The Space, A Story (with brother Randy) and Season On Glass, while
also soloing on Ringo's Rotogravure and Ringo The 4th LP's.
Mind Games and Absolute Elsewhere
Mind Games, the album, can be summarized as being a collection of
leftover political statements from the Some Time In New York City LP, fleshed out
with love songs/apologies to Yoko with a pair of rockers thrown in for good measure.
Not quite up to one's expectations, but certainly a step in the right direction
after the previous year's offering. Twenty plus years later, one can't help but
wince at some of the dated production techniques and the lack of dynamics on the
All of the studio tracks included here with the exception of 'Rock 'N'
Roll People" are the backing tracks of the commercially released recordings.
Therefore, the differences lie in the stage of the overdubbing, editing and mixing when
these recordings were committed to tape. A close comparison with the commercial CD
will indicate how the "wide stage" backing tracks were reduced almost to mono on
the final mixes, with just the vocals and a little instrumental sweetening panned
off-center. In addition, John, having learned a few bad habits from Phil Spector,
slashed away the high and low ends, leaving only the murky middle. The versions
appearing here are pre-production recordings and although they show a few signs of their
age, they exhibit few of the detriments present on the commercial release.
Evolution of the Music:
Mind Games first surfaced as two distinct compositions on
a late 1970 piano demo tape recorded at John's Tittenhurst Park residence. Make
Love, Not War was John's attempt at putting the anti-war slogan to song. It
comprised the melody which eventually became the chorus of Mind Games
(there were no true verses); you hear John give the original lyrics a nod as the track
fades away. The middle eight "love is the answer...", was taken in whole
from I Promise - apparently John was already apologizing to Yoko in song
- long before the split. As you can hear, John's vocals weren't the best of shape at
the time - fortunately he recovered. It resurfaced during the June, 1971 Imagine
sessions, where during a break in the recording of Oh My Love, John can
be heard re-styling the middle eight to the reggae-tinged version heard on the commercial
release. The studio version appearing here is a rough mix of the released version
with a guide vocal. Note that the precision of Jim Keltner's drumming is no longer
lost in the wash of slapback echo present on the commercial version. John recalled
the session with the BBC's Andy Peebles on December 6, 1980: "That was a fun track
because the voice is in stereo and the seeming orchestra on it is just me playing three
notes with a slide guitar. And the middle eight is reggae. Trying again to
explain to American musicians what reggae was in 1973 was pretty hard, but it's basically
a reggae middle eight if you listen to it. But it was hard telling these, you know,
they didn't know what reggae was then." He expounded on the impetus of the
single and album for David Sheff a few months earlier: "It was originally called Make
Love, Not War, but it was such a cliche that you couldn't say it anymore, so I
wrote it in the obscure - mind guerrillas, mind games, it's all the same story though as
Imagine or anything else. I was thinking in terms of guerrilla warfare,
only instead of a physical guerrilla, a mind guerrilla, a conceptual guerrilla. It's
a nice track though, I always liked the sound of the track. In a way it was trying
to express whatever we were saying in the sixties, all of us, not me, or me and Yoko, but
all of us about love and peace again, without saying the words love and peace. I
wanna make love not war, 'cause that was the original, I know you heard it before, love in
a flower, you gotta let it grow. But how many times can you say the same thing over
and over? So this is another attempt to say it. 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. 'We all have to face the reality of
all 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, but the others took it away from us and
spoiled it for all of us'. And I was just trying to say: 'No, just keep doin' it'.
The Mind Games single is fine, there's just no energy to sustain
through the album, and there was no clarity of vision, there's a few pieces all right, but
as a whole piece, there's no clarity. The title was taken from a book that was out
at that time period called Mind Games, by somebody from Houston, (Robert
Masters and Jean Houston) I think who used to be an LSD experimenter so then found
out how to do it without LSD and it was a very interesting, impressive book and I used
their title, course anybody who wants to know what mind games really are should buy the
book - play a few. The cover art is sort of like a prediction, there's me, Yoko
lying down like that, and there's me walking away with a briefcase, and after that is when
we split so it's sort of apparent in the Mind Games period, although it wasn't
apparent on a conscious level."
Tight A$ was described by John in 1973 as being a stream
of consciousness composition, i.e. "tight as this, tight as that".
Apparently John's appreciation of the tune waned over the past seven years as he described
it to Playboy's David Sheff in September of 1980 "Just a throwaway track. I
just felt like doing that kind of song. Sun records, early... whatever you call it,
Tex-Mex or whatever sound which they're actually all doing now if you listen, you could
play that now and it would be au courant, but I don't think many people were
doing it then". Three drastically different rough mixes of Take 4, the
commercially released version, appear here prior to editing and overdubbing of the final
vocal. All feature a slick, extended guitar solo from "Spinozza", not to
mention some inspired steel from Sneaky Pete. On these rough mixes of the basic
track, you can hear drummer Jim Keltner lose his stick, but not the groove. And
groove it does. If you don't get the urge listening to this track, your feet must
have been nailed to the floor. The electric guitar demo on this collection opens
with the lick from the Walls And Bridges instrumental, Beef Jerky.
Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) first appeared in 1971 as "Call
My Name", several different demos of which are featured on this
collection. The first features John on solo electric guitar while Yoko
conceptualizes with an unknown associate in the background. The second comes from
the soundtrack of 'Clock', which was recorded in John and Yoko's suite at the prestigious
St. Regis Hotel, shortly after their September, 1971 arrival in New York City. The
final demo, on acoustic guitar, finds the composition near completion. The song
apparently made the transition to 'I'm Sorry' following John's reported indiscretion at
Jerry Rubin's apartment while watching the 1972 Presidential Election returns. John
commented to David Sheff in 1980 and Tony Prince in 1973: "Aisumasen means excuse me
or I'm sorry, that's the actual translation. It's my first attempt to speak
Japanese, and the first word I learn is I'm sorry Yoko. That's another I call your
name Yoko - a message to Yoko because I couldn't say it in real life maybe, I don't know.
I mean not real life, records are real life but, but I could express it in song.
Of course anybody that lives together you're bound to tread on each others toes now
and then right? So that was just one occasion and instead of just keeping it to
myself I just made a song out of it." Two rough mixes are included here in
addition to the collection of demo recordings.
One Day (At A Time): "Well, that's just a
concept of life, you know. How to live your life, one day at a time. You can
only deal with one at a time no matter what you think. I don't wanna spend too much
time on the future or the past, the future you can plan for, but there's nothing you can
to about it until you get there. It was Yoko's idea for me to sing it in falsetto, I
wrote it and recorded it and then I could hardly reach the notes, so she said sing it in
falsetto." The rough mixes appearing here thankfully lack Yoko's suggestion and
the annoying background vocals which all but ruined the commercial version. In July
of 1974, while leaving his mark on Elton John's cover of Lucy In The Sky With
Diamonds, John also contributed guitar to the B-side, Elton's own rendition of One
Day (At A Time).
Bring On The Lucie (Freda People) is undoubtedly a
leftover from Some Time In New York City, and first appears here as a dobro demo from
1971. Titled "Free The People", it consisted simply of
anti-establishment sentiments chanted over an endless, repeating chord pattern. He
recalled the track as "just another throwaway attempt. It didn't really work -
the sound of the track's not bad, I mean I wasn't clear in my mind on Mind Games.
There's some nice sounds on it, but obviously I'm not thinking as clearly as I was
before". And just what the hell is a Lucie anyway? "Well it could be
anybody, sometimes I just come up with a non-sequitur title, it could be any of those
political hacks or leaders that are messing around with our lives." The rough
mix consists of little more than the basic track before overdubs and lacks Sneaky Pete's
distinctive pedal steel, John's final vocal and the vocal talents of "Something
Side one of the Apple LP closed with the Nutopian
International Anthem, John and Yoko's inoffensive musical theme for their
conceptual nation. In keeping with the theme of the alternate album, we have chosen to
simply include the basic track in stereo.
Side Two opens with Intuition, of which
this collection features two demo takes on piano in addition to the rough mix of the basic
track. David Sheff had to prompt John with the lyrics, as the track obviously had a
lasting impression its composer. "Well what's it say I can't remember."
"My intentions are good I use my intuition, it takes me for a ride"
"'Cause I was gettin' confused, you know" "yeah it seemed like
suicide, as I play the game of life I try to make a better each and every day. And
when I struggle in the night the magic of the music seems to light the way"
"well it didn't did it? I had to get away from the music to, to get some
light into my life then" "But then it says Intuition takes me there,
so in a way was it music you were talking about then?" "Yeah, well and my
intuition. I have a good intuition which has saved me from many a disaster just, and
so I was talkin' to myself really, 'cause I was a bit confused then, and I was thinking
well I'll just have to rely on my intuition to get me out of this confusion".
Out The Blue is probably one of John's
most overlooked and underrated ballads. This collection is graced with three rough
mixes, two of which contain an extended instrumental coda which was excised from the
commercial release, the third being quite similar to the commercial version. Ever
humble, John simply remembered the track in 1980 as "just another kinda love song.
Nothin' special". At the time of the album's release, he described Aisumasen
and Out The Blue as "two aspects of one relationship. People
tend to think oh he's just always singin' about Yoko, but if somebody else sang it, it
would be about another woman."
Only People followed next on the LP, and
is represented here by two distinctly different rough mixes. The first lacks the
overbearing backing vocals and displays the strength of the melody. A strength John
was obviously aware of, as he commented to David Sheff in 1980: "That was a failure
as a song. It was a good lick, but I couldn't ever get the words to make sense.
It had possibilities of being a good hit record, but I could, I never got it to
work - it didn't work". One must wonder what John expected with lines like
"we don't want no pig brother scene". If one listens carefully, traces
from an earlier Lennon composition, Sally And Billy, can be picked out.
I Know (I Know) "It's sort of
complicated but sometimes you say things, but it's not really what you meant to say.
If I say something to you and you hear it different from what I've said it, and you
answer back and we're not really getting down to it. I'm really talking like that
you know. Like somebody says 'do you want ice cream?' and I'll say no, and actually
I meant yes. You find yourself saying the opposite of what you mean. This
happens to me quite a lot. I speak a lot, but what I say in not always what I
mean." He later described it as "Just a piece of nothing". One
wonders if he really meant it. Three single tracked acoustic guitar performances
appear here, and are followed by a lengthy demo sequence as John double tracks his lead
vocal. Listen for the "Beatlesque" harmonies present on the earlier takes.
Five rough mixes of the released take in various stages of completion are also
included, with slight but effective differences.
You Are Here lulls us into a relaxing
mood, and John's recollections of the track were equally hazy: "I sort of attempted a
Latinesque song in a ballad tradition". This unedited rough mix of the keeper
take contains an additional, albeit unfinished verse which was cut before release:
"From mystical to magical...From temple scenes to village greens, let there be
light". Once again, the dissonant "Something different" has yet to be
added, and the lack of this additional production only emphasizes the strength of the
Meat City also has its origins in 1971,
first appearing as Shoeshine (aka: Just Go To Get Me Some Rock 'N' Roll).
This one-off recording nonsensically combined football pools and rock 'n' roll in
an incomplete lyrical mess. The melody was re-worked with an equally obtuse lyric as
Meat City in 1973. A demo sequence consisting of two performances
on electric guitar appears here. John remembered the track as "A piece of
garbage, it's just an expression I picked up from somewhere and tried to make a song out
of it. Trying to play around with words and rhythm, it's got a peculiar rhythm on
it. We all go through different trips in our head. We think 'well it's if I
was in the countryside it would be better'. Then when you're in the countryside you
think 'well I miss the city, if I was in the city, that would be better'. It's sort
of saying I've been all over the place and it's all the same. The grass is
greener." Almost as groovy as Tight A$, an outstanding rough mix appears here,
and features a slick harmony lead vocal from John. The lyrics are actually
discernable as the vocals have yet to be bathed in echo. Also appearing on this
collection is the American single mix, a shocking reminder of the muddy production with a
Rock 'N' Roll People as performed by its
composer first appeared on the 1986 release Menlove Ave. The commercially
released version was a heavily edited composite of back to back takes recorded on August
4, 1973. Five takes of "the one left in the can" appear here. The
first evidence of the track comes from a piano demo recorded in late 1970 and found on the
same tapes as the Make Love, Not War and I Promise demos
appearing on this collection. An electric guitar demo recorded in 1973 along with
the demos for Tight A$ and Meat City is also included.
We then zoom ahead to Friday, August 1, 1973 and present two takes from that
session. The first, Take 6, can't break down for trying, and lacks David Spinozza's
lead guitar overdubs which appear on the second - Take 7. Three more takes, from
Monday the 4th follow, the last two (Takes 6 & 7) being used for the Menlove Ave.
release. The tune first appeared commercially on the blues guitarist Johnny Winter's
late 1974 LP, John Dawson Winter III which incidentally was produced by Record
Plant Engineer Shelly Yakus. John apparently never went on record about this
composition, and judging from his comments towards the tracks he chose to release it's
probably for the best.
Also included are a few bits of studio nonsense generated
by former Apple A & R man, Tony King. The two off the wall radio spots didn't do
a whole lot to generate sales, but they are certainly entertaining. Another Menlove
Ave. track, Here We Go Again, also dates from this era. This
Lennon-Spector composition was committed to tape towards the end of 1973 during the self
destructing Rock 'N' Roll sessions. This collection presents take 2 of
John's acoustic guitar demos (Take 1 was a false start), introduced by John as "Here
We Go Again, again". And wrapping things up are two takes of a previously
unheard Lennon composition titled "Just Because" which was
found tucked away at the end of the double-tracked demo tape for 'I Know (I Know)'.
The composing sequence consists of two "takes", the first relying heavily
on the lyrics of the Elvis Presley standard , while the second nearly hypnotizes the
listener with its repetitive workings. Just as we're about to drift off, John shifts
direction and begins work on the chorus of a more familiar title, the likes of which will
fill our next volume from the Lennon archives.