We're playing those mind games together
Pushing the barriers, planting seeds.
Playing the mind guerrilla
Chanting the mantra Peace on Earth.
We all been playing those mind games forever
Some kind of Druid dudes 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 got to let it, you got to let it grow.
So keep on playing those mind games together--
Faith in the future out of the now.
You just can't beat them, those mind guerrillas
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind.
Yeah we're playing those mind games forever
Projecting our images in space and in time.
Yes is the answer and you know that for sure!
Yes is surrender. You got to let it, you got to let it go.
So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun.
Millions of mind guerrillas
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel.
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love.
(I want you to make love, not war
I know you've heard it before.)
John Lennon explained the motive of Mind Games to David Sheff in an book of interviews titled All We Are Saying (published 1981): “The album’s working title was Make Love Not War, but that was such a cliché that you couldn’t say it anymore. So I wrote it obscurely, but it’s all the same story. How many times can you say the same thing over and over? When this came out, in the early ’70s, everybody was starting to say the ’60s was a joke, it didn’t mean anything, those love-and-peaceniks were idiots. ‘We all have to face the reality of being nasty human beings who are born evil and everything’s gonna be lousy and rotten so boo-hoo-hoo …’ ‘We had fun in the ’60s,’ they said, ‘but the others took it away from us and spoiled it all for us.’ And I was trying to say, ‘No, just keep doin’ it.’” The song referenced a book that had been influential on Lennon at the time, written by Robert Masters and Jean Houston, titled Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space. As Gary Tillery pointed out in his 2009 book The Cynical Idealist, p.135: “By means of the mind games in the book, participants could free themselves from negative attitudes and inhibitions and become more creative, more confident, and more mentally adventurous. In short, they could become more fully realized human beings. The training ignited Lennon's imagination. He saw it leading to a cadre of mentally liberated people infiltrating throughout a less-enlightened society -- 'mind guerrillas' working toward a higher purpose than their contemporaries and having a positive influence on them. To him, expanding legions of mentally liberated people would inevitably build the level of agreement necessary to bring into existence the peaceful society that was his goal.”
The Peace and Love movement (and the psychedelic music that had often been its soundtrack) had gone underground by late 1973, when America was daily faced with news from the Watergate hearings. Trust in the ability to effect social change was low. The song Mind Games urged listeners to keep the faith, to try to think positively in trying political times. “Yes is the answer” is striking enough in its simplicity to stick in the mind like “All you need is love.” However, the audience wasn’t exactly buying it with the eagerness it had shown in the Summer of Love, and Mind Games barely made it into the U.S. Top 20 charts. Maybe it was the music, the A section of which was built around the repetition of three notes like a mantra, without melody or humor. The odd way Lennon stretches out the words “mind guerrillas” does not encourage singing along. Maybe it was the production—Mind Games was the first of the Lennon singles that he produced himself without the assistance of Phil Spector. Spector’s production of Instant Karma, for instance, with Mind Game’s similar message stated more aggressively, had more radio rock and roll punch, and had sold better, reaching #5 in the U.S. Then again, it might have simply been the times—Instant Karma was released in February 1970, closer to the 60s, and before the Beatles had officially broken up. With the release of Mind Games, Lennon was recovering from the poor sales due at least in part to the strident political stance his previous album Sometime in New York City had taken. It certainly sold better than the previous single from that album, Woman is the Nigger of the World, which upon release in April 1972 didn’t make it into the U.S. Top 50.