John Lennon and Yoko Ono's lives during the first half of 1973 were chaotic. Between navigating the U.S. government's interference in their personal lives while elevating their message of non-violence and peace through their Declaration of Nutopia, the two somehow also found the time to record songs that eventually ended up as Ono's Feeling the Space and Lennon's Mind Games, both released in the fall of 1973.
Scheduled for release in June, the book John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Mind Games (Thames & Hudson) is a 288-page, richly illustrated exploration of this period. Presenting handwritten lyrics, unseen images, artwork by Lennon and Ono, commentary about the album's songs and contributions from the people who helped make the album, this narrative aims to celebrate Lennon's album, while documenting the tumultuous events surrounding the couple's relationship.
Allen Klein's relationship with Lennon had already begun to deteriorate by the beginning of 1973. However, Lennon had been reluctant to rock the boat legally as his status since moving to the U.S. in 1971 was on shaky ground. He had departed the UK in search a place when he could live a normal life and not be the famous 'Beatle John.' But with his public pronouncements on ending the conflict in Vietnam and releasing the much derided Sometime in New York City, Lennon and Ono were finding that the welcome mat would be pulled out from under their feet.
Opposing the re-election of Richard Nixon in 1972 was the starting point for the government harassment of the Lennons. The fear and paranoia prevalent in the White House, paired with the rampant distrust from the FBI and CIA that Lennon would lead some sort of youth revolt, led to the pair having their telephones tapped, 24-hour surveillance of their movements and the eventual notice that Lennon's visa would be revoked (due to his 1968 drug arrest) and he would be deported back to England.
Somehow through all of the outside legal fighting, Lennon managed to corral a group of seasoned New York City session musicians in the summer of 1973. Abandoning his hard-rocking back-up band Elephant's Memory, he began to embrace a more inward approach, attempting to leave the stress of legal battles and, as it later came to be known, marital strife with Ono.
Produced by Lennon and recorded in quick fashion during July and August, the 12 songs (including the three-second "Nutopian National Anthem") had reviewers opining that the collection contained "his worst writing yet" (Rolling Stone), and "sounds like out-takes from Imagine" (Creem), with even Lennon himself admitting later that "there's no clarity of vision."
However, since then, much has been made in re-evaluation of the album. Many contemporary viewpoints see Lennon's songwriting here (coupled with his 1974 Walls and Bridges) as an attempt to hone his skillset and pull back from the harsh realities he faced. While not a total success, it has nonetheless grown in appreciation and hopefully, John Lennon & Yoko Ono Mind Games - The Book will help reframe the album for a generation that can see his dedication to the U.S. and faith in the American Dream.