Help Me Understand Lennon's "Mind Games"

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Skywheel, Mar 29, 2015.

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  1. Skywheel

    Skywheel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    southern USA
    While I think what Lennon did with "I am the Walrus" is amazing (making gibberish sound so effectively ominous),
    I 've mostly grown tired of the Lennon word game songs like "Love", "Give Peace a Chance" and "All You Need is Love".

    "Mind Games" however doesn't appear to be word play,
    more an attempt to communicate a legitimate thought,
    but it seems I'm too thick to grasp it.

    Can anyone tell me what this booger is about?
    If you know ... Great.
    If you're theorizing that should be fun too.


    MIND GAMES

    We're playing those mind games together
    Pushing barriers planting seeds
    Playing the mind guerrilla
    Chanting the mantra, peace on earth

    We all been playing those mind games forever
    Some kinda druid dude lifting the veil
    Doing the mind guerrilla
    Some call it magic, the search for the grail

    Love is the answer
    And you know that for sure
    Love is a flower
    You gotta let it, you gotta let it grow

    So keep on playing those mind games together
    Faith in the future, outta the now
    You just can't beat on those mind guerrillas
    Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind

    Yeah we're playing those mind games forever
    Projecting our image in space and in time

    Yes is the answer
    And you know that for sure
    Yes is surrender
    You gotta let it, you gotta let it go

    So keep on playing those mind games together
    Doing the ritual dance in the sun
    Millions of mind guerillas
    Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel

    Keep on playing those mind games forever
    Raising the spirit of peace and love.

    Love
    I want you to make love, not war
    I know you've heard it before.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
  2. cwitt1980

    cwitt1980 Senior Member

    Location:
    Carbondale, IL USA
    I reckon he means that thoughts exist and if we all believe in something, it does exist even if it's not physical. For example, religion or God can exist because it's been thought. Peace and love exist because it is thought. That's my two cents.
     
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  3. MONOLOVER

    MONOLOVER Forum Resident

    Location:
    UPPSALA, SWEDEN
    Politics, religion, war and ever changing opinions on everything - just games people play.

    Love is the only real thing.
     
  4. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    If you (we) think positive thoughts, you (we) can make those thoughts into reality. The power of positive thinking. If more people start thinking the same thoughts, then the accumulative power of all those thoughts can become an actuality.
     
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  5. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    The song was originally titled "Make Love, Not War" but changed after Lennon read a book called Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space that greatly influenced him.

    The mind games in the song are positive ones, not the negative ones usually associated with that term. Inspired by the Mind Games book, the song is about how groups of people can work together and through their actions change the world for the better. The ultimate goal, of course, is peace and love.

    EDIT: Or what Arnold Grove said above. :)
     
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  6. Om

    Om You can call me Benny!

    Location:
    Boston, USA
    I believe John is admitting that world peace is not possible but those mind games are what keeps us going, hope. It's a direct message to the cynics of his movement who are calling him out for preaching an impossible dream.
     
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  7. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    I always preferred the lyrics to the remake he recorded during the Lost Weekend:

    'Booze is the answer
    And you know that for sure'
     
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  8. john lennonist

    john lennonist There ONCE was a NOTE, PURE and EASY...


    Said like a true Scotsman, ajsmith! :laugh:

    .
     
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  9. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    One of the confusing things though about the title "Mind Games' is that most people (at least nowadays) think that "mind games" has a negative connotation. When someone is playing mind games with you, they are taking advantage of you psychologically and trying to fool with your head. But John is really meaning the exact opposite; his meaning of the term is all positive (peace and love, etc.).
     
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  10. Skywheel

    Skywheel Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    southern USA
    Thanks guys.
    I believe my big hold back on understanding was the negative connotations of mind games.
    So you've all helped my grasp of the lyrics immensely.
     
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  11. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    I am glad that we have helped. Especially since your avatar name is Skywheel, and you should be in tune with a song that has a line about "putting their soul power to the karmic wheel."

    John was always watching the wheels...
     
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  12. Crossfire#3

    Crossfire#3 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Burlington Vermont

    Our thoughts betray us as much as they enlighten us...
     
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  13. bward

    bward Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston, MA USA
    I absolutely love this imagery:

    "Millions of mind guerillas
    Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel"

    I wish he wasn't so quick to cut down his own poetic abilities. My favorite Lennon songs usually contain some unexpected whimsical flight.

    I'm sure, if his life wasn't stolen from him, Lennon would have produced more along those lines. It was just in him.

    Walls and Bridges had some great poetic lines too. Just look at #9 Dream.

    How great a book title is "Skywriting By Word of Mouth?" No one like him.

    Sorry to go off point.

    Back to Mind Games.

    It's one of those Walrus type songs that has its own internal logic. On paper, it's hard to decipher what he's getting on about, but when he marries music to the lyrics, and then his expressive voice, it all makes sense on a different level.

    So, for me, Mind Games is a song about pushing forward for peace and love. Even when the bastards get you down.
     
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  14. jeatleboe

    jeatleboe Forum Resident

    Location:
    NY
    "Mind Games" is my favorite Lennon solo single. And I love that it's not so played out like "Imagine" is .
     
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  15. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    Of course everyone knows who John was referring to as the gorilla. ;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
  16. JimC

    JimC Senior Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    Might not "Yes, is the answer..." Refer back to his first meeting with Yoko at her art show?

    Also, someone mentioned "Watching the Wheels": I hear the "Mind Games" organ lick in the chorus of that song. Anyone else?
     
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  17. SgtPepper1983

    SgtPepper1983 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    I think you got it the wrong way around. I Am The Walrus makes something serious sound like gibberish.
     
  18. Trixie Jones

    Trixie Jones Raining in my heart

    Location:
    L.A.
    John was a big fan of the book Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, which is where he got the idea for the lyrics. Here is a great short description of the book from another fan on Amazon: "The potential existing within the human brain and mind is infinite; it is only bound by the constraints that we as a society have placed upon it. Once these bonds are broken, we can truly learn to think and feel, thus allowing creativity, spirituality, and imagination to manifest at its highest ability within us to create an awareness far greater than one could ever conceive before this mental 'awakening.' After participating in these 'Mind Games,' a person will be better equipped to deal with the challenges we all face as humans."

    I have always thought that what John was saying is that this search for freeing one's mind has been with us since the dawn of civilization and that people have gone about it in different ways. But, no matter how you go about it, if you're positive and true, then we all find that "love is the answer."
     
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  19. Siegmund

    Siegmund Vinyl Sceptic

    Location:
    Britain, Europe
    I can agree with all of the interpretations given. This is a song I've always liked but have never 'thought much' about. Critics have tended to write it off, for it's 'flower power' sentiments; let's not forget, it comes from a 'dark period' in Lennon's life, when he was separated/about to separate from Yoko and in the wake of the commercial/critical failure of STINYC. Was his method in writing the song to keep his spirits up, when he might otherwise be sliding into depression?

    Also - if a song can have so many meanings to different people, does this make it one of Lennon's greatest songs? Possibly.

    I've always LOVED the vocal on this. As usual with this singer, 'total engagement' is what you get.
     
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  20. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    Yup! I always thought "trying to shovel smoke with a pitchfork in the wind" was sadly overlooked. Great line...
     
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