Welcome to the Beatles Rarity of the Week. The title of this week’s BROW may be somewhat misleading in the sense that at the time of this early demo, the song was not even close lyrically to the song we came to know as “Mind Games” a few years later. Although “Mind Games” was released as a single from the album of the same title on October 29, 1973, it was actually conceived, albeit in embryonic form, in 1970.
On February 11th, 1970, John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band appeared on the BBC television program Top Of The Pops to promote their latest single, “Instant Karma (We All Shine On).” Yoko Ono’s ex-husband Tony Cox happened to be there with his own personal video camera filming some of the production and whatever he found interesting. One of the items Tony caught on tape was John running through an acoustic guitar demo of “Make Love, Not War” which was later to become “Mind Games.”
Most reading likely already realize that John’s concluding words just as the finalized version of “Mind Games” fades out are make love not war/I know you’ve heard it before. These two lines, along with love is the answer/and you know that it’s true, are all the words that John had for the song at this point. The basic chord structure was already in place as well. While it still needed further development at this stage, its initial message was already in keeping with the sentiments from John’s other peace movement material of this period, such as “Give Peace A Chance” or “Power To The People.”
Over the next couple of years, the song remained in John’s memory and though it was played in the Imagine documentary film in 1971, it ended up being edited out of the final cut due to time constraints. John also sang a few lines of it on his and Yoko’s 1971 film Clock. At this point however, the song showed no change from the initial demo.
In 1972 Dr. Robert Masters and Dr. Jean Houston authored a book called Mind Games: The Guide To Inner Space and when John read this, he soon became intrigued with the mind training exercises and consciousness exploration the book described. He also explained later in his 1980 Playboy interview with David Sheff that by the early seventies, everyone was starting to say the sixties was a joke, that the love-and-peaceniks were idiots and the peace movement itself didn’t mean anything. Nevertheless he still liked the message of peace and love, so when he did finally get around to making a full set of lyrics for “Make Love, Not War,” John wanted to put the peace-love message out in a more obscure way that would not appear cliché. He used some of the subject matter from the Masters/Houston book to help get the message across in a way he felt was more in line with the current society’s point of view.
This week’s BROW takes us back to late 1970, long before John penned the lyrics we know the song by today. John plays the recognizable descending chords on piano in this home demo from his estate at Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, U.K. Some may recognize this early on, as it was released in the form of a 1:15 edit in November 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology box set. There the liner notes incorrectly state that it was recorded in 1973. This is the complete and unreleased 3 and a half minute demo showing us what John had of the song three years before he would share it with the world.
John Lennon - Mind Games
The Mind Games album was fairly successful in the United States, peaking at #9 on the Billboard LP chart and holding that spot for three weeks. The “Mind Games” single peaked at #18 on the Billboard singles chart. On the U.K. Melody Maker charts the album peaked at #6, while the single peaked at #23. The U.K. Record Retailer chart had the album peak at #13 and the single at #26.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music/literature related to this post:
1) Mind Games – 2010 CD remaster of original 1973 LP featuring finalized version of “Mind Games” recorded in the studio.
2) Anthology – 1998 4-CD set of John Lennon out-takes and extras after the breakup of The Beatles. Includes an edited account of the 1970 “Make Love Not War” demo heard above.
3) Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space – 1998 2nd edition of this book that inspired John Lennon’s lyrics to “Mind Games.”