First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2011, Volume 18, #7
Written by John Metzger
Mon October 17, 2011, 05:30 AM CDT
When he began working on Mind Games, John Lennon had no idea that the completed project would serve as the starting point for a storyline that eventually would span three albums. At the time, he really wasnít focused on anything. On the eve of recording the endeavor, Yoko Ono sent Lennon packing with the hope that he would sort through his demons and return a better man. Lennon documented his loneliness on Walls and Bridges, and he highlighted his reconciliation with Ono on Double Fantasy. Although both endeavors are more cohesive than Mind Games, the latter set truly is where his lengthy narrative began.
Yoko Onoís Feeling the Space served as the impetus for Mind Games. Lennon liked the supporting cast that Ono had assembled to help create her feminist manifesto. Some of the songs he wrote served as a response to her angry words. They sound like desperate pleas to rebuild a relationship that not only had begun to crumble, but also might have been beyond repair. Aisumasen (Iím Sorry) is, of course, a blatant apology for his misdeeds, but cuts like One Day (At a Time) and Out of the Blue feel like attempts to whitewash the emotional pain and suffering that he and Ono had endured.
After taking a lot of flak for the politically-charged discourse of Sometime in New York City, Lennon pared back his insights into the external world, burying them inside the playfulness of Bring on the Lucie (Freda People) and the melodic generalizations of Mind Gamesí title tune. Elsewhere, he simply reveled in the lighthearted rock of Tight A$ and Meat City. The end result, however, was that Mind Games felt scattered and unfocused. This likely was a byproduct not only of Onoís disappearance, but also of Lennonís deportation battle as well as the absence of an outside producer.
Lennon took full control over the creation of Mind Games. Although the act of plunging headfirst into the project served as a much-needed distraction from his problems, it clearly was more responsibility than he was ready to handle. The supporting cast of musicians did the best they could with Lennonís material ó mirroring the sonic substance of Phil Spectorís work on the title track and augmenting the gentle sorrow that flows through One Day (At a Time). Nevertheless, the distance that had crept between Lennon and Ono is reflected in the musical arrangements. The accompaniments never really elevate his lyrics; instead, they remain coldly detached from them.
Even so, as the opening salvo in a three-part opus, Mind Games has since carved out a space that is more favorable within Lennonís canon. At the time, the former Beatlesí troubles were just beginning to weigh heavily upon him, and not surprisingly, he hadnít yet grappled with them enough to put them into perspective. Walls and Bridges and Double Fantasy helped to accomplish this feat. In the process, they also highlighted some of the vulnerability that lurked within Mind Gamesí ballads. Lennon hit rock-bottom during the long, lost weekend that followed the release of Mind Games. In retrospect, the precipice on which he stood becomes apparent within the albumís flaws. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Mind Games is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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