The Beatles are not only considered to be one of the greatest bands in history for their musical experimentation or for being masterminds that sparked a musical revolution; their lyrics showed the world that pop could be poetic and tell a heartfelt story in the space of a few minutes. On February 1963, they launched their debut album Please Please Me, and its classical pop structure defined them as the IT band, and so their path to greatness began.
Their first few albums sparked the Beatlemania, which spread across the globe, but to a certain extent this furor was short-lived. Three years after of their debut, they were already producing Rubber Soul, which thanks to the influence of The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, garnered the attention of the critics. The Beatles was more than fodder for teenage wet dreams; these four musicians from Liverpool showed there was a genius lurking behind their popular image. This marked the start of the experimental phase of the band.
A common ailment bands and artists share alike is the famous “writer’s block,” but McCartney and Lennon got over this by introspection and observing the absurdity of the world. Unafraid, they swam the waters of politics and resistance with “Revolution,” and they set off on psychedelic adventures in “Being of the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” They found their inspiration in the spiritual realm with ” Tomorrow Never Knows,” and showed their disappointment at the guru Maharashi Mahesh in “Sexy Sadie.” They observed the world ebb and flow, and they continued to release groundbreaking songs that touched people from all walks of life. McCartney focused on traditional narratives, while Lennon reiterated his passion for politics and desire for peace.
One of the most important themes in Lennon’s career as a solo artist was “Mind Games.” The iconic line “I want you to make love, not war” has been sung by millions and quoted by many, but very few actually know the story behind this song. Let’s have a look at the lyrics and listen to the song:
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 kinda 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 grow
So keep on playing those mind games together
Faith in the future out of 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 images in space and in time
Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender 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)
Like many of his songs, “Mind Games” advocates for change, and the “mind guerrillas” refer to the transformation an individual must go through to embrace a new ideology. As they say, “A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it,” and this mental uprising and turmoil is evocative of the social and cultural movements of the sixties and seventies. On the surface, this may encompass the full meaning of the song, but few realize that this song was inspired by two writers.
Curiously “Mind Games” was originally a song for The Beatles titled, “Make Love, Not War,” but Lennon was unable to complete it. The melody you hear was finished beforehand and called “I Promise,” but it wasn’t until he read the book Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space that he decided to finish the song and produce it. The authors of the book, Jean Houston and Robert Masters, were involved in the counterculture movement called “Human Potential Movement” during the sixties, which focused on the idea of cultivating and bringing forth the potential found in every individual. Under this premise, they believed that human beings could experience a superlative quality of life filled with joy, creativity, and satisfaction. In fact, Aldous Huxley temporarily formed part of the movement.
The book includes a series of mental exercises designed to venture into the four stages of the psyche: sensory, psychological, mythical, and spiritual. This left a big impression on Lennon because for years he had believed people had the potential to achieve everything they set to accomplish, but what was missing was a valid method. Finally, he was able to speak of the literal mind games described in the book. The book touches several subjects, such as problem solving, team work, concentration, productivity, creativity, among others. In a re-edition of the book, Masters mentioned that he once met Lennon at a restaurant and the singer told him, “I am a fan of yours. You wrote Mind Games.”
Bob Dylan would find inspiration from news clippings and his own imagination; Lou Reed would focus on counterculture and sickly love, and The Beatles delved into subjects, based on their own mental wanderings and what was going on in society. Since then, no one has been able to overcome the majesty of The Beatles and their ingenious lyrics, so it is no wonder we continue to talk about them 50 years later.