Mind Games

‘Madness is the first sign of dandruff.’

– Dr. Winston O’Boogie

John Lennon and The Plastic U.F.Ono Band
Produced & Arranged by John Lennon

Track Listing

  1. 4:13
  2. 3:39
  3. 4:45
  4. 3:10
  5. 4:12
  6. 0:04

  7. 3:11
  8. 3:23
  9. 3:29
  10. 3:51
  11. 4:13
  12. 2:53
John & Yoko, 1971 Photo by Bob Gruen ©1971 Bob Gruen

Every year of John Lennon’s adult life had seen upheaval of some sort. But 1973 – the year in which he would turn 33, and might have expected a little respite – turned out to be as traumatic as ever.

He entered it as a battle-weary radical, still inhabiting a small Greenwich Village apartment with Yoko Ono and still fighting the US authorities’ apparent wish to deport him. He suspected a conspiracy and was not, as it turned out, paranoid. There really were larger political forces out to get him. He needed support, and many prominent Americans did in fact lend their voices to his cause. But his popular appeal had been dented, as he knew better than anyone, by the poorly-received double album of instant polemics, Sometime In New York City. This brave, carelessly outspoken Liverpudlian was used to being in trouble, but he was just as human as anyone else. It got him down.

Mind Games album artwork detail

In April, he and Yoko moved uptown to the Dakota Building, in search of some comfort and badly-needed privacy. An instinctive democrat, he was disappointed by the radical comrades, who were lamentably short of the popular touch. He also wanted to persuade the powers-that-be that he was not anti-American. They should have known that from every rock’n’roll song he ever sang.

Recording was done in New York over July and August of 1973, with a select band of musicians (Jokingly named The Plastic U.F.Ono Band) including Jim Keltner, the guitarist David Spinozza and the celebrated pedal-steel player ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow. Production was by John alone, though there were echoes of his last collaborator, Phil Spector, in the spacious title track – even if its orchestral grandeur was, in fact, largely due to John’s slide guitar.

Original drawing by John Lennon

Mind Games’, the track, reflected John’s current interest in a book of that name (by Robert Masters and Jean Houston) which stressed the tapping of our mental potential to effect global change. Somewhat, therefore, in the tradition of Yoko’s ‘Imagine’ poems, it was suggesting, “mind games” as a positive and creative idea. The soaring chorus lends a huge emotional heft: in fact the song had started life with the far more anthemic title ‘Make Love Not War’. You may still hear these words at the fade.

Where ‘Mind Games’ rolls with a casual power, other tracks still pulse with the raw thrill he’d felt when he hit the New York streets: ‘Tight A$’ and ‘Meat City’ are cynical and ebullient by turns, the songs of a witty artist who was also intensely hopeful.

John & Yoko with immigration lawyer Leon Wildes, Declaration of Nutopia press conference, 1973 Photo by Bob Gruen ©1973 Bob Gruen

The radical sentiments of Sometime In New York City were not entirely forgotten, though they assume a more abstract form in ‘Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple)’ – another epic number, targeting the near-defunct Richard Nixon presidency – and more especially the entirely silent ‘Nutopian International Anthem’. Borderlines were anathema to John, in every sense, and a “Nutopia” free of visa laws must have sounded perfect.

Declaration of Nutopia (1973) by John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Yet a retreat from political engagement towards more personal concerns is also evident, evidenced by ‘One Day (At A Time)’ and ‘Only People’, both of which temper idealism with a focus on individuals over organisations. And of course there are outright love songs, from the devotional ‘Intuition’, ‘You Are Here’ and ‘Out The Blue’ to further declarations of Lennon’s penitence (a la ‘Jealous Guy’), in ‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’ and ‘I Know (I Know)’. On the sleeve of Yoko’s 1971 album Fly, John had offered the thought, ‘Love is having to say you’re sorry every five minutes.’ It’s clear that the course of true love never did run smooth, not even for John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Mind Games was released in November of 1973 to a generally quiet response. John himself was at a loss, personally and professionally. What to do next?

Sketch of the album cover for Mind Games (1973) by John Lennon

Yoko Ono: ‘Well, when you listen to Mind Games now, you realise what an incredibly good album it is. I just felt terribly responsible about our partnership. His songs were fantastic but his position as the “top pop star” was going down the drain.’

At her insistence, he took time off from their marriage and his life in the Dakota.

‘Yes. Because I really thought that we were being totally destructive about ourselves. It was not helping John. And it was not helping me. And we were artists who should have the space and the freedom to express ourselves without being hated.’

At the onset of winter in 1973, the modern world’s most famous lovers were now living on opposite coasts of America. As everyone eventually learned, John had a “Lost Weekend” to experience, and a further descent to make. Happily for us, neither of these would spell doom for Lennon’s creative genius…


Written by Paul DuNoyer
Included in EMI’s 2010 Lennon 70 Definitive Remaster of Mind Games.
Read Paul’s book: Working Class Hero: The Stories Behind Every John Lennon Song.
Recorded & Mixed: Record Plant East, NYC: July-August 1973
Released UK: 16 Nov 1973
Released USA: 29 Oct 1973

Sleeve notes

John Lennon: vocals
Ken Ascher: piano, organ, mellotron
David Spinozza: guitar
Gordon Edwards: bass
Jim Keltner: drums
Rick Marotta: drums on “Meat City” and “Bring On The Lucie”
Michael Brecker: sax
Sneaky Pete: pedal steel
Something Different: background chorus
Dr. Winston O’Boogie & Los Paranoias: extra sensory percussion, guitar, clavinet

Produced & Arranged by JOHN LENNON
Engineers: Roy Cicala & Dan Barbiero
Mastering: Tom Rabstanek
Special Thanks To: Shelley, Jimmy, Greg, Kevin, May, Jon and all at 321.

Disease by Denis.
Space by Yoko Ono.
Cover by John Lennon.
Mountain from Bob Gruen.
Recorded and Mastered at Record Plant, N.Y., N.Y. 1973

‘Madness is the first sign of dandruff.’ – Dr. Winston O’Boogie
‘Only people can change the world.’ – Yoko Ono

All tracks © Lenono Music.

Declaration of Nutopia
We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA.
Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA.
NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.
NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic.
All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country.

As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.

Nutopian Embassy
One White Street
New York, New York 10013
April 1st, 1973

First released: 29 October 1973

Versions Available

1973 – Original Stereo version: LP, 8 Track & cassette

1987 – First released on CD

2000 – Digital Remastered and Remixed: CD

2002 – Stereo Digital Remaster & Remix: CD, LP

2003 – 5.1 Stereo Digital Remaster & Remix: selected tracks on Lennon Legend DVD

2010 – Stereo Remaster of original J&Y Master: 24-96, CD, LP, Mastered for iTunes AAC, MP3


2000 Digitally Remastered and Remixed:
Producer: Yoko Ono
Remix engineer: Pete Cobbin

2002 Remix:
Producer: Yoko Ono
Remix engineer: Pete Cobbin

2003 5.1 Stereo Digital Remix for Lennon Legend DVD:
Producer: Yoko Ono
Remixed by Pete Cobbin

2010 – Lennon 70 Definitive Remaster:
Producer: Yoko Ono.
Remaster Engineers: Paul Hicks, Sean Magee