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John Lennon Mind Games (1973)


By 1973 John managed to somewhat cure himself of his political schizofrenia, concentrating more on his personal problems – the tensions between him and the American government had died down a bit, and he finally made the retro transition to normal activity without letting the current political situation overshadow the global message of his songs. Which is definitely a good thing for us the listeners who are not living in the Seventies and don’t give a damn about John Sinclair – and don’t even give a damn about Angela Davies, although hopefully listening to Sometime In New York City will at least induce somebody to browse through modern history and sociology textbooks.

Nevertheless, nothing ever passes without a trace, and there are still some washed-up remains of the old politically active stinker evident here. Thankfully, their number is limited to two tracks, and it’s a good thing, because they’re far worse than the ones on New York City. In particular, the main thing that unites the fake anthems ‘Bring On The Lucie (Freeda People)’ and ‘Only People’ is a totally phoney atmosphere.

It’s not that the melodies and lyrics are horrible: on the contrary, they’re pretty catchy and sometimes even infectious. Yet somehow, John manages to have forgotten to provide them with the kind of thumping energy and ‘universal sound’ that was so prominent on the previous album. The anthems on NYC sucked if you actually tried to take them and their messages close to heart on an objective level, but they worked – John had a talent of making you believe in all his idealist fantasies and prophetic ambitions just by the sheer power of melody and bombastic, overwhelming arrangement.

Here, the anthems sound as weak parodies. Weak parodies – nothing more! Have you heard ‘Only People’? A song based on an idiotic, repetitive chorus obviously standing there in the role of computer programs pronouncing the meaningless phrases ‘Only people know just how to talk to people… only people know just how to change the world… only people… only people…’ while John keeps shouting out his ‘hey hey’ and ‘come on now’. But who is he shouting at? It sounds as if he is shouting at this dumb chorus and all they can do in response is keep repeating the same pre-programmed lines.

Listen to it, if just out of curiosity! It’s a very weird song. I could write a whole article on it because it’s very metaphorical to me. I bet John just thought it would work out as a people’s rights anthem, but instead it works out like a parody on people’s rights anthems. Bizarre. Practically the same goes for ‘Bring On The Lucie’ which is at least more energized, although that’s not really saying much. Oh well, maybe he should have brought in a couple more saxophones.

Now the introspective stuff is really much much better. The title track is an absolute classic and it’s one of John’s best songs ever – an epic love hymn which really makes one think about one’s place in the universe. And ‘Intuition’ is one forgotten gem – maybe because it’s so quiet and short, with a nice lil’ bass riff that just seems to be sayin’ to ya: ‘well I’m here, but don’t you mind, I won’t be really boring you, just thought you would like me to hang around for a while’. So welcome it and let the song grow on you – and maybe you’ll feel about it just as I do. Indeed, these two songs are enough to buy the album – and you won’t find ‘Intuition’ on any hit collection in existence!

The rest of the album is either generic ballads or generic rockers, and I have mixed feelings about them. About half of them are nice and about half of them are certainly low-quality for John. Well, ‘You Are Here’ and ‘Aisumasen’ are pretty nice Yokosongs (and I don’t know who plays the guitar solo on ‘Aisumasen’, but it sure is the best moment of that one), but they’re nothing spectacular. ‘I Know (I Know)’ is slightly better, ’cause it’s also introspective, but ‘One Day (At A Time)’ (by the way, you don’t mind my using parentheses all the time? I have an excuse – every third song on this album uses parentheses, and if John is a friend of parentheses, why shouldn’t I be?) is a horrible song, mostly because of John adopting an ultra-sweet falsetto tune which doesn’t suit him at all.

Come to think of it, I now suppose that he really intended parts of this album to sound like a parody. A stupid parody at that. Just consider the lyrics: ‘You are my wisdom, I am your strength… you are my honey, I am your bee…’ Berk. [You are my ass, I am your hemorrhoids]. Elton John liked that song and did his own version (which is actually better), and it should have been his duty to convince John to leave it to him.

As for the rockers, one of them is quite OK (‘Tight As’, with blistering lead guitar parts), and the other one is named ‘Meat City’, features ununderstandable lyrics and sounds like a loathsoame heap of heavy metal bullshit loaded with uninspired sound effects; it’s one of my least favourite John songs ever. It does rock, but the muddy production gives me a headache, and a far more painful headache than the usual wall-of-sound production of Spector ever could (maybe John should have kept Spector for this album, after all). And to think of the fact that it is used as the album closer!

So you already see, there’s really a lot of dung here (“dung” according to John’s own standards – in the hands of a minor band, this could have been a real chef-d’oeuvre). If you’re not afraid of digging in, though, you’ll be rewarded – the title track, ‘Intuition’, ‘I Know (I Know)’, ‘Aisumasen’, ‘Tight As’ and ‘Out The Blue’ (a nice ballad I’ve forgotten to mention) are really worth the price.

But overall, Lennon’s sound is obviously deteriorating a little – this is the obvious point at which the title of “coolest ex-Beatle”, that was first awarded to Harrison and later clung on to John, finally was relegated to Paul. And there that title stayed right until December 1980, when it was finally understood that the coolest Beatle is the deadest. Par excellence.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | John Lennon Mind Games | | Leave a comment