Timothy Leary's dead.
No, no, no, no, he's outside looking in. (2x)
He'll fly his astral plane,
Take you trips around the bay,
Brings you back the same day.
Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary.
[Repeat 1st verse]
Along the coast you'll hear them boast
About a light they say that shines so clear.
So raise your glass, we'll drink a toast
To the little man who sells you thrills along the pier.
He'll take you up, he'll bring you down,
He'll plant your feet back firmly on the ground.
He flies so high, he swoops so low,
He knows exactly which way he's gonna go.
Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary.
[Repeat italicized part of C section in the melody of 1st verse] Timothy Leary.
[Repeat italicized part of 1st verse] Timothy Leary. (5x)
Timothy Leary was a cultural icon of the hippie subculture with his adage to Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out. He was the chief proponent of LSD use for spiritual enlightenment in the 1960s, and about the time of this recording, was preparing to run for governor of California against Ronald Reagan. However, Leary’s point of view about the efficacy of LSD for enlightenment was beginning to slip away from the popular imagination by this time, quite possibly because of attacks by politicians and media to scare kids away from it. The imagery used in the lyrics of Legend of a Mind fall somewhere between Donovan’s 1966 album cut The Fat Angel and the Beatles’ late 1967 song Magical Mystery Tour, a naïve point of view by this time. The optimism of better living through chemistry had begun to wane with news of bad trips, flashbacks, and schizophrenia by the time In Seach of the Lost Chord was released. It is reported by Wikipedia that Legend of a Mind was the first song recorded for the album, back in January 1968. How much the psychedelic aesthetic had changed in just six months!
Legend of a Mind extends to nearly seven minutes in length and contains a two minute break featuring flute and acoustic guitar with warped accents on a mellotron that sound a bit like a cello. This swooping cello-like sound was unique and distinguishes Legend of a Mind from other psychedelic songs of the period. As it is brought more and more into the forefront, by the end of the song, it zooms through like a truck rushing past full speed on down a highway. However, the over-the-top effect of this new sound is balanced by a relatively complex musical structure, so that it is only one of several oddities about the piece. Another strange part of the composition is that some of the lyrics to the C section melody are grafted onto the melody of the first verse at one point in the song.
The most memorable quirk to Legend of a Mind however is the A section, which I call a chorus, even though it only recurs once and is abandoned before the first two minutes of the song are over. The thought that Timothy Leary is “dead” perhaps references the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as John Lennon had done in Tomorrow Never Knows. At the time of the song’s release, Leary was quite alive, but perhaps “dead” to the established political order which he saw as only an illusion. Leary is thought to be “outside [the established order], looking in”, apparently asking the listener to join him. Bruce Eder of allmusic wrote that the song is prophetic: when Leary did indeed die in 1996, he was cremated and his ashes launched into space on a privately owned satellite, with the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, another '60s pop culture icon.